#39 - GARY PETTIS, OF
There were years where Angels fans would ponder just who was the greatest defensive outfielder in Angels history. By the time Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout were making waves, Angels fans had so many awesome centerfielders to compare them to: Darin Erstad in recent memory, Jim Edmonds and a hundred highlights beyond the one they show on ESPN ad nauseum. Going back further there was Devon White and before that Gary Pettis. Sure Mickey Rivers and Torii Hunter get a shoutout, too...
Who was the best? It was always hard to say but new defensive metrics give us greater insight. I would have put my money on Pettis. The Defensive Wins Above Replacement stat is a complex look into many factors surrounding an outfielder's abilities and results. The Angels all time single season dWAR Top Ten contains one season each by Erstad, White and Pettis. It is not kind to Edmonds. Erstad takes the prize with many single season marks in the Top 50.
Pettis ranks eleventh all time in club history with 6.3 dWAR - White has 6.8 but in more playing time that it could be called a draw. Erstad has 10.5, most of it as a CF so the longtime debate is solved and yet not totally resolved.
Gary Pettis played four full seasons and parts of two others bouncing up and down from the minor leagues. He was a crucial part of the 1986 American League West champions and had the Angels won the ALCS would have easily been named the MVP of that series, batting .346 with a .914 OPS in seven games.
While his defenisve wizardry ensconces him in Angels lore, his 7.5 Offensive Wins Above Replacment is in the franchise Top 40 and his 187 Stolen Bases was the club record for almost two decades and still ranks second most ever by an Angels player, and while Chone Figgins upset that applecart six seasons ago, it was just this past year that Mike Trout passed his club-record for the best stolen base percentage. Three single season top ten SB marks are also his, including the #3 best for an Angel in one year - 56 SB in 1985.
I called Angel Talk with Bob Rowe to plead against the madness of trading Pettis for pitching but to no avail (I have about the same influence with the front office now, i.e., zero), he was sent to Detroit for Dan Petry, a move that gained the Angels nothing but breathed new life into the man a few months before his 30th birthday. Call me sentimental but I don't even get mad that he is a base coach for Texas Rangers - where he made sure to congratulate Figgins on the day his SB record was broken. Gary was once voted the best-dressed player off the field by his MLB peers, and that was in the era of Members only jackets, so we can all be assured he was somethinng special on both sides of the chalk line and reaching over the centerfield wall to grab back a home run, the defensive highlight reel of the 1980s.