Opening Day (April 1, 2013) is 75 days away. We are counting down the 100 Walk Off Home Runs in Angels franchise history. Today we look at #75...
June 25, 2000 - Tom Kelly's Twins had a five-run sixth inning in this Sunday night game, chasing starter Brian Cooper and taking a 6-4 lead. The Angels added two in the bottom of the seventh and then it was a drawn out battle of the bullpens. Eddie Guardado pitched the bottom o the ninth and Shigetoshi Hasegawa followed him with a scoreless top of the tenth. The pair exchanged another round, bottom of the tenth for "Everyday" and top of the eleventh for "Shiiggy.
The pattern looked like it might repeat when Orlando Palmeiro and Matt Walbeck were retired by Guardado on five pitches. But Eddie's second pitch to Darin Erstad landed in the seats. It was a 7-6 Angels victory in eleven innings.
But for Darin Erstad in the 2000 season, it was just another day. The man could do no wrong that year, perhaps to the detriment of his career overall. Erstad had 240 hits in the 2000 season. It ranked eleventh all time in baseball history at the time and as of this writing ranks thirteenth in the single season record book. The most he ever had before or after was 177. He batted .355 that year, sixty points more than he would ever manage in his subsequent nine big league seasons. He would hit 10 homeruns in 2002, the closest he would ever get to his 25 in 2000.
Erstad was a soldier in Mike Scioscia's smallball army. Grounding out to the right side to advance a runner was his calling card after the 2000 season. Were he not integrally playing for the team on the orders of a sacrifice-loving manager, his career numbers might have small boost to them. But there is one category in which Erstad improved after 2000 - his defense.
Thanks to advanced stats, primarily Range Factor, Erstad's 2000, 2001 and especially his 2002 seasons in Centerfield rank as some of the greatest ever played at the position - Range Factor gages defensive play since 1954 - Erstad ranks as the fourth greatest Centerfielder with a 3.05 RF per 9, his 81 Total Zone runs saved in CF rank 12th all time - and note this was done in two full seasons in center and parts of a few others. His hamstrings forced a switch to 1B by 2003.
But his record stands - a .997 career fielding percentage as a Centerfielder ranks #1 in baseball history. June 25, 2000 might have been the climax of Erstad's offensive greatness. His Game Six solo homerun in the 2002 Wolrd Series might have been his most legendary accomplishment. But the legacy among the greats of the game will be that glove in the outfield. The numbers don't lie.