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Cespedes not the first slugger to excel after changing leagues

A reflection on recent sluggers who changed leagues and carried their new teams to the playoffs; some seemingly good news for Mets fans.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets appear to be playoff bound in 2015, at least in some part due to their midseason acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes. Since August first, New York has a 30-13 record, and are primed for their first National League East title since 2006.  Although there are a number of contributing factors for their new(ish) found success, the interleague trade for Yoenis Cespedes has proven to be one of those transcendent moments when everything seemed to fall into place for New York, and the Mets haven't looked back since.

Plate Appearances Average On Base Slugging Home Runs wRC wRC+ fWAR
Cespedes - DET 427 .293 .323 .506 18 61 123 4
Cespedes - NYM 197 .295 .345 .661 17 39 173 2.8

In under 200 plate appearances, Cespedes has already amassed two-thirds of the value he put up in over 400 plate appearances in Detroit. He started the year strong with Detroit, posting a wRC+ 23 percent better than league average. He hit for power and average, but since coming over the Mets, has been an even better hitter.

Cespedes is not the only hitter to change leagues midseason and mash with his new squad. While it's impossible to predict whether or not he will keep this up for the next 20 games, and into the postseason, what we have here is a brief a look back at some other heavy hitters who switched leagues at the deadline and carried their teams into the postseason.

Since 2000, there have been several mid-summer deals where players have changed leagues and played in the playoffs with their new team. For the most part, these guys slugged their new teams into the playoffs and continued to mash in October.

Here's a look at how each player traded performed with their new teams as well as how they fared in the playoffs.

Carlos Beltran - 2004

Year Player Team Plate Appearances Average On Base Slugging Home Runs wRC wRC+ fWAR
2004 Carlos Beltran KC 309 .278 .367 .534 15 50 122 2.4
2004 Carlos Beltran HOU (NL) 399 .258 .368 .559 23 69 133 4.0
2004 Carlos Beltran HOU - Playoffs 56 .435 .536 1.022 8 21 284 ----

It seems so long ago that Carlos Beltran was a Royal (remember the days of the hapless Kansas City team that never competed and traded all their talent in their prime?). In 2004, Beltran started the year excellently in KC, hitting 22 percent better than league average and compiling nearly 2.5 wins. In late June of 2014, the Royals dealt Beltran to the Astros where he hit even better. He excelled in the National League, hitting 33 percent better than league average, and in only 399 plate appearances, put up 4 wins. Beltran kept this pace in the postseason as well.

In the playoffs, Beltran was a monster; he hit eight home runs in just 56 of his plate appearances (that's a near 15 percent home run rate for those keeping score at home). Houston made it to the World Series and Beltran tied Barry Bonds record for the most homers in a single postseason. He hit a homer run in each of the first four games of the NLCS (against St. Louis) including a game winner in the fourth game of the series. Houston ultimately lost the NLCS in seven games though it's hard to think Beltran could have done anything more to help.

Manny Ramirez - 2008

Year Player Team Plate Appearances Average On Base Slugging Home Runs wRC wRC+ fWAR
2008 Manny Ramirez BOS 425 .299 .398 .529 20 76 141 3.0
2008 Manny Ramirez LAD 229 .396 .489 .743 17 60 210 3.0
2008 Manny Ramirez LAD - Playoffs 36 .52 .667 1.08 4 15 331 ---

2008 was the end of the road for the ‘Manny being Manny' period in Boston. Despite hitting 41 percent above league average, and posting a 3.0 fWAR over the course of 400+ plate appearances, the Boston brass had enough, and shipped him to Los Angeles on July 31.

As well as Ramirez played in Boston, he played even better in SoCal. Manny was named Player of the Month in his first 30 days in LA; he hit .415 (44-106), with seven doubles, and nine homers. Ramirez finished fourth in NL MVP voting despite only being in the league for two months.

Ramirez carried the Dodgers to an NL West pennant, and helped propel them to the NLCS. In the playoffs, he continued to rake, hitting an astounding .520 and belting four home runs. The Dodgers ultimately lost to the eventual World Series Champion Phillies in the NLCS.

Mark Teixeira - 2008

Year Player Team Plate Appearances Average On Base Slugging Home Runs wRC wRC+ fWAR
2008 Mark Teixeira ATL 451 .283 .39 .512 20 76 136 3.4
2008 Mark Teixeira LAA 234 .358 .449 .632 13 52 183 3.5
2008 Mark Teixeira LAA - Playoffs 20 .467 .55 .467 5 184 ---

While Manny went from the AL to the NL, Mark Teixeira started  in the NL and ended up in the AL. Teixeira began a strong season with the Braves, hitting 36 percent higher than league average and belting 20 home runs in 103 games in Atlanta. In July it was clear the Braves weren't going anywhere (they finished fourth in the National League East) and they traded Teixeira to the Angels, who appeared to have a good shot at making it to the World Series.

In only half as many plate appearances, Teixeira put up nearly an identical fWAR in LA as he did in Atlanta (3.5), and he hit 83 percent higher than league average. He took his hot bat into the postseason, and in his playoff debut, nearly hit .500 in a four-game series loss to the Red Sox.

Matt Holliday - 2009

Year Player Team Plate Appearances Average On Base Slugging Home Runs wRC wRC+ fWAR
2009 Matt Holliday OAK 400 .286 .378 .454 11 60 123 2.8
2009 Matt Holliday STL 270 .353 .419 .604 13 55 168 2.6
2009 Matt Holliday STL - Playoffs 13 .167 .231 .417 1 1 69 -----

In Holliday's walk year with Oakland, the Athletics had an excellent outfield on their hands...unfortunately, they knew they probably had to deal him in the summer months. Holliday did not disappoint in the first half, as he provided the A's with power, average, and speed. Knowing full well they would not be able to sign him after his contract expired, they traded Holliday to the Cardinals on July 24th. As good as Holliday was in Oakland, he too improved when he went to the National League. In less than two thirds of the playing time, he amassed pretty much the same value.

Hitting cleanup in the Cards lineup, Holliday helped St. Louis to a 20-6 August record, and a first place finish in the NL Central. The Cardinals were shut down completely by hte Dodgers in a 3-0 NLDS sweep in which Holliday barely hit a lick. He represents the only example of a second half power surge that did not carry over into October.

Good News for Mets Fans?

All of this brings us back to the Cespedes and the Mets. With the exception of Holliday, all of the players analyzed above carried their second half success into the playoffs. This is by no means a scientific exercise; it's a small sample size with a cherry-picked group of players who possess the criteria of sluggers changing leagues. In any case, it's never a bad thing when a midseason acquistion absolutely smashes the ball for his new team.

Cespedes has already made his mark by posting huge numbers in  a second half surge for the Mets. He can go down as a New York sports hero if he helps bring them to the World Series.


Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score and a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.