Monday, January 4, 2016

TOT: Braves Add A Projection System's Namesake

Transaction of Today - January 4, 1993...The Atlanta Braves signed Bill Pecota as a free agent.

For many, the name "Pecota" makes us think less of the third baseman, who played in nearly 700 career games, and more the projection system developed by Nate Silver that helps estimate future performance. The system is used primarily by Baseball Prospectus and it's pretty decent...as far as projection systems go.

Mitchell Layton | Getty Sports
But there's this whole guy named Bill Pecota and hey, he was a Brave for two years. You may have missed it because he was a backup to Terry Pendleton and didn't even get 200 plate appearances in his two seasons.

Originally a Royals product out of California, Pecota made it to the majors in 1986 and would spend the next four seasons in a largely backup role while shuffling all over the field. In '89 alone, despite playing in just 65 games, Pecota appeared at seven different positions. He hit as high as .276 and as low as .205 from '86 until '90 and hit 12 homers and stole 25 bases in 784 PA.

1991 would change things slightly for Pecota. He appeared in career highs in games with 125 and his 448 plate appearances were 136 more than his next highest total. He stuck to third base mostly, starting 88 games there because of Kevin Seitzer's injury and, ultimately, a decision by management to play Pecota over Seitzer. The latter started 47 games during the first half, 8 after. Hal McRae was a big fan of Pecota's, though Pecota did slash a respectable .286/.356/.399 so there's that.

After the season, with Pecota a year away from free agency, the Royals packaged the third baseman with Bret Saberhagen in a trade to the Mets for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, and Keith Miller. The Mets were trying to reclaim their former glory. They signed Bobby Bonilla (yes, you can laugh) and Eddie Murray to help jumpstart the NL's 5th worst offense. It...didn't work. They finished as the 4th worst offense and Saberhagen pitched less than a hundred innings more than Pecota. Oh, yeah, Pecota appeared on the mound in the season's final weeks in a game that the Pirates had already blitzed the Mets to a 18-2 lead. Pecota gave up a homer to Andy Van Slyke, but retired the next three. It was actually Pecota's second effort on the mound. He had thrown two innings the previous year in a late June game and gave up one run. I'd mention Pecota's efforts at the plate in 1992, but really he was better on the mound.

The Braves still signed Pecota following their loss to the Blue Jays in the World Series. Reuniting with his former general manager, John Schuerholz, Pecota was expected to compete with other right-handed bench bats like Brian Hunter and Francisco Cabrera. Utilized in nearly half of his 65 games as a pinch hitter, Pecota was a pretty decent option (8 hits in 30 AB). He was so relegated to a particular role that he started 4 games the entire year (2 at third, one each at second and in right). Maybe the two biggest events of 1993 for Pecota came on May 28 and and October 13. The first included an odd moment when Terry Pendleton walked off the field in the middle of an inning. Facing the Reds, Pendelton was furious with his own team's pitchers for not protecting Deion Sanders after the latter was hit. Deion, who had walked out on the Braves a few weeks before upset about playing time, had been hit in the back in the seventh by Tim Belcher. It came one inning after Greg Maddux threw high-and-inside to Chris Sabo. Still, nobody thought Belcher was trying to hit Sanders...except Pendleton. After Marvin Freeman's first pitch to Belcher in the bottom half of the seventh was a strike, Pendleton left the field and went to the clubhouse. The Braves, stunned, sent out Pecota. And if you think this story was a long ride to relate it to Pecota, you're right. But it's still a fun story.

Pecota's other big 1993 moment was striking out against Mitch Williams to end the NLCS. That's all I'm saying about that.

In 1994, Pecota was used a bit more frequently as Pendelton's legs were giving out on him. He started 21 games and Jose Oliva got 16 starts while Pendleton started the other 77 games of the strike-shortened season. A bigger role didn't mean Pecota was more productive, though. He hit just .214 with his only 2 Braves homeruns. He appeared in the season's final game, just hours before baseball went on Strike. He logged two innings at third base in the 13-0 three-hit shutout by Maddux, and threw out Dante Bichette to end the game. His career was over as well.

Since retiring, Pecota had a second career in bass fishing.

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