Who was the better Steve Ontiveros?

One was an obscure, oft-injured Phils righthander who, as an Oakland Athletic, would lead the AL in ERA in 1994. The other was one of the Cubs’ revolving post-Santo third basemen who walked 81 times for a .390 OBP in 1977.

One was born in Tularosa, NM, best known for the Rio Tularosa, Tularosa Canyon, and a bunch of Western novels. The other was born in Bakersfield, CA, best known for its honky-tonk, Buck Owens, “Mexicali Blues,” and a Frankensign on the 405 North outside of LA that read BAKERMENTO.

One was drafted by Oakland and debuted in 1985, the other by San Francisco and in 1973.

One was a pitching coach for the Chinese National Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The other was a Seibu Lion from 1980-1985.

Both were named Steve Ontiveros.

Whoever confuses Chase Utley with Chase Headley, believe me, this was worse (though it wasn’t quite as bad as Bobby Jones and Bobby Jones, or Greg Harris and Greg W. Harris).

Who was the better Steve Ontiveros? Obviously, it’s tough to compare a pitcher– especially one who began as a reliever, became a starter but never exceeded 150 2/3 IP in a season (when he led the AL in ERA, he only pitched 115 1/3 IP but qualified for the title because of the strike)– with a utility infielder and occasional outfielder who twice exceeded 500 AB in a season. We can, however, compare WAR. BaseballReference has Ontiveros the pitcher at 7.6 career WAR; FanGraphs has him at 8.5. Ontiveros the third baseman is at 4.3 and 7.7, respectively. FanGraphs has them much closer, but “Onto” the ex-Phil beats the ex-Cub twice overall. FanGraphs also has Ontiveros the pitcher with a career 3.96 FIP and a somewhat lucky .275 BABIP (with a career-low .242 BABIP, as one would expect, in 1994, hence the 2.65 ERA and 167 ERA+). Ontiveros the batter had an unexceptional .335 career wOBA; FanGraphs also has him with a brutal -27.0 career fielding runs below average.

Ontiveros the pitcher wasn’t a star– he only played for the A’s (twice), Phils, Mariners and Red Sox but spent time in the Tigers, Twins, Angels (twice), Cardinals, Orioles, (Devil) Rays, Brewers, Rockies and Mets organizations before retiring in 2001, meaning he belonged at one time or another to 13 of 30 major league teams– but he was an All-Star with Oakland in 1995. Ontiveros the third baseman was also an All-Star– in Japan, where he hit .312 with 82 HR and 390 RBI. Nonetheless, a similarity score of 981 with Luis Aquino beats a similarity score of 942 with Randy Ready. Ontiveros the pitcher was the better Steve Ontiveros, at least in the majors.

One other Phils-related note: both Ontiveroses (Ontiverii?) will be forever immortalized in the boxscores: Ontiveros the pitcher for his 3 2/3 mopup innings in the Phils’ 10-run comeback win that caused Jim Rooker to walk to Pittsburgh, Ontiveros the batter for his 1-for-7 with two runs scored in the even more memorable 23-22 slugfest at Wrigley Field. Without a doubt, the A’s, Cubs, Giants, and Phils could use another Steve Ontiveros. At least Oakland now has a DeJesus.


One Response to “Who was the better Steve Ontiveros?”

  1. […] AL in 2010 despite an AL-best SLG), the O’s Justin Duchscherer as the new Steve Ontiveros (the pitcher– Duchscherer: 33-25, 454 IP in 8 seasons, former A, most of past two full seasons missed to […]

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