[Taylor's Note: We are happy to announce that Rays blogger and Fangraphs.com author R.J. Anderson has graciously agreed to write a guest article for SoDoMojo, and we are even happier to announce that said article is about the sexiest fourth outfielder currently on the Seattle Mariners roster.]
Truth be told, I never had a soft spot for Ryan Langerhans.
I took full advantage back when the Braves were always on TBS. Langerhans broke onto the scene for more than a cameo in 2005, hitting decently by today’s standards, but not by the standards my uneducated self carried back then. Langerhans’ best asset, defense, was something I almost completely ignored – shy of the nightly Web Gems – and so it’s easy to see why the 6’3” lefty was unimpressive to me.
Before I read Moneyball in 2007, Billy Beane went out and acquired Langerhans before flipping him to Washington. From there, Langerhans toiled between Triple-A and Washington’s minor league system. At some point along the way I became exposed to defense and positional adjustments and all the stuff the smart folk talk about. This lead to me becoming a fan of guys like Gabe Gross and Langerhans, and heck, when Endy Chavez went down, I applauded the Mariners quickly acquiring the 29-year-old journeyman for what amounted to a spare penny.
Langerhans didn’t hit well in 38 games with the M’s. Not through batting average, on–base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA, whatever. That doesn’t mean he can’t hit better, but he didn’t do it last year for a number of reasons. Old me would say “Only three home runs from a corner outfielder? Ew.” Well, yeah, and one of those home runs was more disgusting than any other that Langerhans’ bat has thrown up.
It was the seventh night of August. The Rays were in town and looking to get back into the playoff race, defending their 60-49 record against the Mariners’ 57-52 mark. The Rays had jumped out to a 5-1 lead through six-and-a-half innings before the Mariners stormed back to tie it up. Eventually, the Rays would go ahead with a Jason Bartlett home run in the top of the eleventh.
The Rays’ best reliever, J.P. Howell – the suave lefty with a pimp’s walk and unassuming combination of mid-80s fastball and devastating off-speed pitches – was already on the hill from the previous inning. He would walk the leadoff man on six pitches. The next man up would bunt the runner over, and the next would send a fly out to shallow center – Franklin Gutierrez may be fast, but he was no match for B.J. Upton’s arm, and stayed at second. Up came Langerhans.
Howell would gain a 1-2 advantage as a pattern emerged. The Rays were intent on getting Langerhans to chase something down and out of the zone. If Howell’s change-up is the Isis of his repertoire, then his curveball must be the Osiris – the Egyptian God of the dead – unfortunately for Howell, the only thing dead would be his stellar season to date as Langerhans took the fifth pitch of the at-bat and delivered it deep into the Seattle night. Mariners win, Rays lose, season officially on the brink.
Normally I don’t buy into superstition, momentum that carries beyond a game, or anything of the ilk. But, you know, Howell’s season really went to hell after that home run. Entering that game he had appeared in 52 games, striking out 63, walking 20, and allowing three homers. All good for a 1.86 ERA. After that night, Howell appeared in 17 games, striking out 16, walking 13, and allowing four homers amongst a confluence of offensive events that lead to a 6.75 ERA.
I’ll never forget the look on Howell’s face following Langerhan’s shot. One of pure shock, resulting in his mouth agape, pupils dilated, and breathing intensified. At this moment, Howell was like a kid on Christmas day, only his XBOX 360 box contains sand and little more. Langerhans left another substance in Howell’s box. You’re a mean one, Mr. Langerhans.
You really are a heel.