Sep 9, 2016

2000 NLCS MVP- Mets Pitcher: Mike Hampton (2000)

Michael William Hampton was born on September 9, 1972 in Brooksville, Florida. The five foot ten left handed pitcher was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 6th round of the 1990 draft . Hampton had a modest minor league career, winning a high of 13 games (13-8) with a 3.12 ERA at A ball San Bernardino in 1992.

In 1993 he made the Seattle staff out of Spring Training. He debuted in Detroit allowing four runs to the Tigers & taking a loss in four innings of work. That day the Mariners lost 20-3. On April 23rd he earned his first big league win, it was a middle relief appearance against the A.L. New York team. He remained on the staff through July going 1-3 with a save & two holds with a 9.53 ERA. He was sent down to AA Jacksonville, where he went 6-4 the rest of the year. In the off season he was traded to the Houston Astros along with Mike Felder in exchange for Eric Anthony.

He spent six seasons in Houston gradually developing into a top starter. Hampton kept his ERA under four every year with the Astros although he did give up a large number of hits & walks throughout his career. He gradually increased his victories each season, going from nine in 1995 to ten in 1996. That year he was 10- 10, striking out 101 batters pitching in 160 innings, while posting a 3.59 ERA.

In 1997 he won 15 games (15-10) second on the first place Astros staff to Daryl Kile (19-7). Hampton posted a 3.83 ERA, throwing a pair of shut outs, striking out 139 batters while pitching 223 innings (9th in the NL). His 34 starts & seven complete games were both third most in the league. On his down side he allowed 217 hits (4th in the league) 77 walks (6th in the league) & 95 earned runs (8th in the league). In the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, he took the loss in Game #2 allowing six runs in 4.2 innings.

In 1998 he was 11-7 getting to the NLDS again , this time losing to the NL Champion San Diego Padres. He earned no decision in the series. By 1999 he was one of the league’s top pitchers, leading the NL with 22 wins, and a .846 winning percentage. He was third in the NL with a 2.90 ERA, striking out a career high 177 batters (9th in the NL) in 239 innings pitched (4th in the NL). He threw three complete games with two shut outs.

He was the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year, coming in runner up to Arizona's Randy Johnson for the Cy Young Award. Hampton made his first ALL Star appearance that year as well. He was one of two twenty game winners on the Astros staff, the other being Jose Lima (21-10). The Astros got to another post season but exited in the first round once again. Hampton was always a good hitting pitcher and was one of the best of his era. In 1999 he hit .311 with seven walks and 10 RBIs. 

Houston took advantage of Hampton's big season; with it being the final year of his contract they put him on the trade block. In order to not pay out a big contract they traded him to the New York Mets in December 1999. In the deal the Astros insisted the Mets take along Derek Bell who had been nothing but trouble for Houston. In exchange the Mets gave up Octavio Dotel & Roger Cedeno. He may have had a short career in New York but the one season he pitched here, was an important one. He was the last piece Bobby Valentine needed in order to get his team to the World Series.

Hampton’s 2000 season didn’t start out so well, on Opening Day in a game played in Japan, he lost to the Chicago Cubs, allowing two runs over five innings pitched. He started out the year at 0-3 before getting his first win, which came at Shea Stadium on April 18th against the Milwaukee Brewers. In May he won four straight game going 4-0 in the month. In the first three of those games he allowed just one run in 18 innings of work. He tossed one complete game while going into the 8th inning or beyond three times.

On May 20th he came to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 4th inning facing Omar Dahl with the Mets down 1-0. He singled driving in the first two runs, in what turned out to be a 15-8 Mets win over the Chicago Cubs. Later in the year on August 7th, he helped his own caude & drove in two more Mets runs with a single in Houston, leading to a 6-5 win.

On June 25th he pitched a five hit shutout at Shea Stadium, striking out nine Pittsburgh Pirates. He won another three straight from there into July. On July 9th he pitched seven innings of shutout ball, to beat the AL New York team 2-0 in the subway series at Shea. On July 27th he pitched another complete game in the second game of a double header, beating the Montreal Expos. From there he went on another four game win streak throughout the month of August, topped off by an eight inning, three hitter against the Arizona Diamondback.

He was 13-7 entering September but had a rough 0-3 start to the September pennant race. On September 2nd he pitched into the 9th inning but took a tough 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. In his next start he pitched into the 8th inning but the Mets were shut out by Vicente Padilla & the Phillies. On September 23rd he beat the Phillies & then in his last start of the regular season, he pitched five shutout innings to beat the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium.

He finished up the year at 15-10, second on the Mets staff to Al Leiter's 16 wins & tenth most wins in the NL. He struck out 151 batters, also second on the staff to Leiter’s 200 strike outs. Hampton led the club in ERA 3.10 (the 5th best in the NL) innings pitched (217) complete games (3) & one shutout. For the second year in a row he also allowed the fewest HRs per nine innings (0.414) in the National League. At the plate he hit .274 driving in 8 runs, leading all NL pitchers.

Post Season: In the NLDS he opened up the Series in San Francisco but gave up five runs taking the loss to the Giants. Hampton made up for it & secured his place in Mets history in the NLCS. In the series opener at St. Louis' Busch Stadium, Hampton pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just six hits while striking out four Cardinals. The Mets took the Opener 6-2. He saved his best outing of the year, for the pennant clinching Game #5 at Shea Stadium.

Hampton went the distance pitching a three hit complete game shutout, striking out eight Cardinals in front a wild sold out, Shea Stadium crowd. (centerfieldmaz was in attendance that historic night) It ranks as one of the best Mets post season pitching performances in the clubs history. He got the last out when Cardinals pinch hitter Rick Wilkins flew out to centerfielder Jay Payton. As the Mets celebrated, Hampton was lifted off the ground by Mike Piazza as the Mets advanced to the World Series. Hampton was voted the MVP of the NLCS.

In the World Series, he took the loss in Game #2 giving up four runs, on eight hits & five walks in six innings pitched of the 6-5 Mets loss. After the 2000 season he upset Met fans by signing with the Colorado Rockies.

The air in Colorado made him an even better hitter; he hit 10 HRs & batted over .300 in two seasons playing there. He won 14 games in the Rocky Mountains but lost 13 and had an ERA of 5.14. Next season he battled injuries and his ERA ballooned over six as he lost 15 games while only winning seven.

He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2003 and went 14-8 with a 3.84 ERA getting to another post season. In the NLDS he pitched two games taking a 5-1 loss in the final Game #5 to the Chicago Cubs. That season he won the gold Glove Award, breaking Greg Maddox record of 13 straight.

In 2004 he was 13-9 posting a 4.28 ERA and got no decisions in two games pitched in the NLDS against Houston. In 2005 he had arm trouble and needed Tommy John surgery that September. He missed the entire 2006 season rehabbing his arm. In 2007 he returned but then tore an oblique muscle and had to miss the rest of that season as well. In April 2008 he was to make a highly anticipated return, but while warming up he strained a pectoral muscle & was placed on the DL. He finally returned almost three years later, in July of 2008.

In his first start he allowed six runs to the Phillies in Philadelphia, exiting after four innings. In his next start he allowed four runs in five innings of work. On August 5th he earned his first win in nearly three years, beating the San Francisco Giants. He would go 4-5 with a 4.85 ERA for Atlanta in 2008.

In 2009 he signed with his old team in Houston, taking the role as the number two starter behind the Astros; Roy Oswalt. He went 7-10 with an ERA of 4.07. By the end of the season he needed rotator cuff surgery and missed most of 2010, returning in September with the Arizona D-backs.

In his 16 year career he was 148-115 (249th most wins all time) with a 4.06 ERA. He struck out 1387 batters (226th all time) with 901 walks (157th most all time) in 2268 innings pitched over 409 games. Hampton made 355 starts (183rd all time) with nine shut outs & 21 complete games. He has given up 200 HRs with 1024 earned runs (212th all time most). Hampton has thrown 75 wild pitches (210 all time) Hampton is the only pitcher to win five Silver Slugger Awards.

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