#36 - Gary Pettis, CF
I've seen a lot of Angels baseball and loved Erstad in Centerfield, was held breathless by Showboat Edmonds hotdogging it out there at the expense of the team, loved Devo, but for my money, Gary Pettis was the greatest defensive outfielder in Angels history.
Yes that was me, screaming hysterical on Bob Rowe's show at the end of the 1987 season when talk surfaced that they were going to trade Pettis for the Tigers' Dan Petry - what an awful thing it was - Pettis won three of his five gold gloves after being traded.
Gary Pettis still holds the record for most Stolen Bases (186) by any Angel (Erstad is only 17 behind him, Figgins is 75 back and Kennedy 79). Three of his SB season totals are in the club's single season total Top Ten.
Had Dave Henderson swung and missed in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, Pettis would have been named the series MVP, batting .346 with a homerun and 9 RBI. But with a post-Angel career in underachieving Detroit and Texas, there seemed to be that wistful almostness to Gary's days in the pros. At least he held the rank of best-dressed Major Leaguer in a 1990 Baseball Digest poll of 200 players.
In the Top 40 balloting, yeswecan picked Gary as 28th All-Time and I had him 27th, his two highest rankings in this poll. In an all-time Angels team, if it is the final game and we have a lead and I'm managing, Gary Pettis is pinch-running in the 5th inning and coming in as a defensive replacement, I don't care who gets juggled out of the lineup.
And now The Chronicler will take some time off from his Chronicles of the Lads blog to say a few words about Gary...
Gary Pettis' career OPS+ with the Angels was 80, which is going to make you think he was a lot worse than he was. So, the rebuttal:
1. That OPS+ is heavy on the OBP. His on-base percentage was above the park-adjusted league average every year he was a regular until1987, when he was 29 years old. He could draw a walk, averaging 67 per 500 at-bats during his time with the Angels.
2. He was a fantastic basestealer, stealing 186 bags with the Halos while only being caught 47 times. That's a success rate of 79.8%, and likely added somewhere between 14 and 28 runs to his teams.
3. He was an even better center fielder than he was a basestealer; we're talking Darin Erstad 2002 here, and then some. I have no way of knowing this, but I wouldn't be surprised if he stole around as many homers in his career as he hit (21). He won two Gold Gloves with the Angels, and they were no-brainers.
Don't get me wrong, he wasn't a great player. He struck out a ton and had no power at all. After his atrocious 1987 season (208/302/259), which nicely coincided with the emergence of Devon White (Pettis - Walks + Power = Devo), he got traded to Detroit for Dan Petry. He finally righted himself with the bat in 1989, and still had enough in him for three more Gold Gloves before being done in 1992.