Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All-Time Bluefield Team - David Dellucci

Up next on the All-Time Bluefield-to-the-Bigs Team is outfielder David Dellucci. With 2.8 bWAR*, he makes the squad as a fourth-outfielder/lefty-bat-off-the-bench, a role he filled very well for 13 seasons from 1997-2009.

* Dellucci had a solid career with a just-about-league-average 98 OPS+. He tallied 2.8 Wins Above Replacement over that span. It took Blue Jays 3B phenom Brett Lawrie only 43 games to reach that in 2011. Still only 22 and starting his first full major league season...yeah, he's going to be amazing.

A Baton Rouge native, Dellucci graduated from Catholic High School, two years ahead of longtime NFL running back Warrick Dunn. He played college ball in the SEC but not at hometown LSU. He attended Ole Miss and was selected by the Twins in the 11th round of the 1994 draft. He chose to stay in Oxford and it paid off. He was an All-American in 1995 and was taken in the tenth round by the Orioles that June.

Jeff Fassero and Don Kessinger are the former Rebels with the longest MLB careers (16 seasons), we'll see if Drew Pomeranz, Lance Lynn, Zack Cozart and 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan will pass them one day.

Dellucci made his professional debut with Bluefield right after the draft, but he didn't stay there for long. In 20 games he posted a .333/.390/.522 slash line before being moved all the way up to the high-A Frederick Keys in the Carolina League. He hit .324 for the Keys for half a season in '96 and after another promotion to Double-A Bowie, his .327 average in 1997 was second-best in the Eastern League.

His major league debut came at Camden Yards on June 3, 1997. He started at designated hitter and batted eighth for the Orioles. He was hitless in his first three at bats with two strikeouts against Yankees starter David Cone. With the O's down 5-3 in the seventh, Dellucci came up against Ramiro Mendoza with runners at second and third and two outs and drew an intentional walk*. Mike Bordick was up next and he tied the game with a two-run double. Rafael Palmeiro would win it for the Orioles in the tenth inning with a two-run homer off Jim Mecir.

* Dellucci is one of 37 players since 1918 to be issued an intentional pass in his major league debut. Others on the list include Frank Robinson, Lyman Bostock, Juan Samuel, Alvin Davis, Adam Dunn and Brian McCann.

It took him ten at bats, but he finally got his first major league hit on June 11 at Fenway Park. With two outs in the ninth inning, he singled to drive in Roberto Alomar and break up Tom Gordon's shutout in an eventual 10-1 Red Sox win. His first home run came two weeks later in Milwaukee, when he followed a Jeffrey Hammonds homer with a shot off Cal Eldred.

He was left unprotected by Baltimore in the 1997 expansion draft and the Arizona Diamondbacks snatched him up. He got 103 starts in the outfield in their inaugural season in the desert and led the National League with 12 triples. I thought the expansive ballpark in Phoenix played a big part of that league-leading total, but it turns out that the home-road split in 1998 was an even 6-6. The dozen three-baggers have only been surpassed once in Arizona history, with Tony Womack's 14 in 2000.

Dellucci is one of only eight players since 1948 to hit 12 triples in as few as 124 games played:

Year Team Player 3B G
2001 MIN Cristian Guzman 14 118
1998 ARZ David Dellucci 12 124
1995 CLE Kenny Lofton 13 118
1994 CWS Lance Johnson 14 106
1994 KC Vince Coleman 12 104
1992 ATL Deion Sanders 14 97
1981 SD Gene Richards 12 104
1981 HOU Craig Reynolds 12 87

Before the 1999 season, Arizona picked up Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley, relegating Dellucci to bench duty. He did very well in the role that was mostly pinch hitting, batting .394 in 109 at bats.

He battled injuries in 2000, but bounced back with another great year off the bench in 2001. In 65 pinch-hit plate appearances, his slash line was .321/.415/.607 for an OPS of 1.023.

That year there was a bizarre ending to this game on August 4. With the D-Backs trailing the Mets 4-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mark Grace, representing the tying run, hit a grounder to short. Dellucci was running from second to third on the play and was hit by the ball. The runner was ruled out to end the game and Grace was credited with a single.

He was with Arizona for their postseason run and was involved in one of the greatest games in baseball history, Game Seven of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees. The Yanks were on the verge of an amazing series win to nab their fourth straight championship with Mariano Rivera on the mound.

Mark Grace led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to put the tying run aboard before Dellucci pinch ran for him. Damian Miller laid down a bunt, but Rivera made a poor throw to second base and everyone was safe. Jay Bell laid down another bunt, and this time Rivera made a good play to get the force and retire Dellucci at third. Tony Womack was next and he tied the game with a double down the line and Luis Gonzalez won it two batters later on a bloop over the drawn-in infield to give the Diamondbacks their first title.*

* A very painful loss for this Yankees fan, but still...what an incredible series with the three games in New York in the aftermath of 9-11 and an all-time classic finale.

Dellucci played for the D-Backs during their title defense before being swept in the 2002 NLDS by the Cardinals. He homered in Game Three, but St. Louis came back to finish the sweep.

He struggled to begin the 2003 season and was dealt to the Yankees on July 29 for Raul Mondesi. He had a forgettable tenure in New York, batting .176 (9-for-51) down the stretch. He still made the postseason roster for all three series that fall, including the six-game World Series loss to the Marlins.

Dellucci signed with the Texas Rangers in 2004 and got regular playing time again, starting 93 games in '04 and 111 games in 2005. He was terrific in '05, clubbing 29 home runs* with a .367 OBP and 126 OPS+. His 76 walks ranked tenth in the AL and his AB per HR rate of 15 ranked ninth.

*I thought it was unusual that he hit 29 homers, but only had 65 RBIs. Here are the lowest single-season RBI totals by a hitter with 29 or more home runs:

Year Team Player RBI HR
1992 DET Rob Deer 64 32
1964 BOS Felix Mantilla 64 30
2001 STL Mark McGwire 64 29
2005 TEX David Dellucci 65 29
2008 FLA Hanley Ramirez 67 33
2004 MON Brad Wilkerson 67 32
2007 ARZ Chris Young 68 32
1987 CLE Brook Jacoby 69 32
2007 CHN Alfonso Soriano 70 33
2004 CWS Jose Valentin 70 30

That season, he batted leadoff as the designated hitter 55 times, becoming one of only five players to hit first at DH 50 times in a season. The others are Brian Downing (four times), Paul Molitor (twice), Cesar Tovar and Pat Kelly (70s version).

Although he never hit a walk-off homer, he had two big homers in 2005. He knocked a pinch-hit, game-tying, two-run homer for Texas in the bottom of the ninth off Jorge Julio to force extras in an eventual win. Earlier that season, he snapped a 1-1 tie in Baltimore with a ninth-inning solo homer to win it for the Rangers.

He was traded to the Phillies after the '05 campaign and found himself in a crowded outfield that already had Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Bobby Abreu (and Shane Victorino as well after Abreu was traded at the deadline to the Yankees). He made 59 starts and put up a slash line of .292/.369/.530 and a 123 OPS+.

Dellucci signed on with Cleveland in 2007 and played there during his final three seasons, batting .238 with an 85 OPS+. He was released by the Indians in May of 2009 and caught on with the Blue Jays in July. He went 1-for-25 in eight games for Toronto, the only hit being his last in the majors, an RBI double off fellow former Bluefield Oriole Brad Bergesen.

His last at bat was on July 22, 2009 in Toronto against Cleveland, the team that cut him earlier in the season. He grounded out in the fifth inning against Carl Pavano and was replaced in left field by Jose Bautista before he came up again.

Dellucci retired after 13 major league seasons with a career batting line of .256/.338/.435, 101 career homers and a 98 OPS+. He was a good bat off the bench and platoon player so long as he wasn't facing lefties. His slash line against southpaws was a meager .194/.257/.293. That mostly kept him from being an everyday player, but he still had a solid career and earned a World Series ring. It's very appropriate that one of his closest similarity scores is to John Vander Wal, another lefty pinch-hitter extraordinaire who hung around for 14 years and bounced around for nine teams.

An avid outdoorsman, Dellucci established Catch 22 for Blue, a charity for Hurricane Katrina relief.

He is married to The Price is Right model Rachel Reynolds.

Dellucci began his long journey in professional baseball in Bluefield and he's earned his spot on the All-Time Bluefield-to-the-Bigs roster.

All-Time Bluefield Roster
SP 1 Dean Chance
SP 3 Bill Monbouquette
Setup TBA
Setup TBA
Closer TBA

C Gregg Zaun

SS Cal Ripken

LF Don Baylor
OF David Dellucci

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