Thursday, January 5, 2012
Jose Mercedes, 2001 Upper Deck Vintage #72
Jose's tenure in Birdland is hard to figure. He'd spent parts of each season from 1994-1998 with the Brewers, without much success. He was released three times in the next year, which brought him to the Orioles. Mercedes was on the big league club throughout the 2000 season, starting 20 games and relieving in 16 more. On a staff that still included Scott Erickson and Mike Mussina, the 29-year-old journeyman from the Dominican Republic led the team in wins, going 14-7 with a 4.02 ERA. He seemed to get better as the year wore on, posting an 11-3 record and a 3.03 ERA. But looking at the raw stats, I'm not sure how he did it. Jose had an underwhelming 4.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2000, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 1.09. He allowed 1.47 walks + hits per nine innings, so he wasn't keeping opponents off the bases. All he did was win baseball games, including a two-hit gem against the Tigers on August 30.
Mercedes got a harsh reality check in 2001. Though his WHIP of 1.53 was a bit higher, he improved his K/9 to 6.0 and his K/BB to 1.95. It looks like Jose's luck just changed for the worse. He spent the entire season in the O's rotation, going 8-17 with a 5.82 ERA to lead the American League in losses. That he made 31 starts with such poor numbers should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the 2001 Orioles. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball is not a forgiving enterprise. Aside from five scoreless relief appearances for the Expos in 2003, Jose's ugly 2001 campaign spelled the end of his big league career.
There's no quit in Jose Mercedes, though. Since bowing out of the majors for good in 2003, he's been plying his trade in Mexico. Last year, he pitched in 21 games for Saltillo at age 40. His stats were not pretty (5-8, 5.51 ERA, 4.6 K/9), but he's kept at it, nearly a decade after his last game in the bigs. Go figure.