Sunday, October 30, 2011

#27 Doug Corbett

Card: Doug Corbett appears here on card #27, his third Topps card.  His rookie card is in the '81 set.

Picture: Corbett is getting ready to let loose with one of his sidearm deliveries.  Corbett's left arm is really torqued in a strange way.  If you don't believe me, get up outta your chair, bend your elbow and point your palm to the sky.

Player: Corbett was signed out of the University of Florida by the Royals in '74 as an undrafted free agent and immediately put to use for their rookie league team.  Although he had a 3.00 ERA in 42 innings he was released the following spring.  I guess undrafted players don't have a lot of rope.  Maybe he parked in manager Jack McKeon's parking spot, or maybe he sat in John Mayberry's favorite chair or maybe he just wasn't that impressive. We may never know. 

Corbett was picked up by the Reds and spent the '75 and '76 seasons coming out of the pen and fooling single-A hitters while posting ERAs of 1.48 and 2.22.  In 1977 Corbett was promoted to double-A and pitched 88 innings with a 2.76 ERA.  Corbett split the next year between double and triple-A ball and had a combined 2.13 ERA with 14 saves in 93 innings of action.  Corbett didn't light up the radar gun and as a result wasn't at the top of anyone's prospect list.  Corbett spent all of '79 at AAA and posted a 2.95 ERA in 110 innings of relief. 

While Corbett languished in the minors, the Minnesota Twins were seeking help in their bullpen and selected Corbett in the rule-V draft.  Corbett made his debut in a scoreless game in the 8th inning of the opener against the A's and pitched five scoreless one-hit innings to pick up the win in relief.  At the end of April he was 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA.  By May, Corbett had moved into the closer's role and continued to pitch well.  The rubber armed Corbett pitched 136.1 innings, saved 23 games, and posted a 1.98 ERA.  Corbett finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.

Corbett's second year was excellent as well.  In the strike shortened '81 season Corbett led the league in games and games finished with 54 and 45 respectively.  Corbett earned another 17 saves and ended the year with a 2.57 ERA.  The undrafted Corbett who had toiled seven years in the minors finally got some recognition when he was selected to the AL All-Star team.

Corbett started the '82 season as the Twins closer but was traded in May with Rob Wilfong to the Angels for Tom Brunansky.  Corbett had a rough year going 1-9 with a 5.13 ERA.  Corbett's struggles continued into '83 and after a blown save on May 1, he was sent down to to AAA Edmonton.  Corbett had mixed results in Edmonton but pitched well enough to get called back up in September.  Corbett ended '83 having pitched 11 games for the Angels with a 3.63 ERA. 

After a two game stint at Edmonton to start the '84 season, Corbett re-joined the Angels and got his groove back.  Corbett earned four saves in 85 innings with a 2.12 ERA.  Corbett slipped back to mediocrity in '85 with a 4.89 ERA in 46 innings.

In '86 Corbett would bounce back again.  Working in an excellent bullpen with fellow veterans Donnie Moore, Terry Forster, and Gary Lucas along with rookie Chuck Finley, Corbett contributed 10 saves and a 3.66 ERA in 78.2 innings.  Corbett pitched three games in the ALCS against the Red Sox and earned the win in game 4 with 3.2 innings of scoreless relief.  The Angels would go on to lose in seven games.

Depsite his successful year, as the '87 season started, Corbett was an unsigned free-agent until hooking back up with the Angels in May.  Corbett pitching again at AAA Edmonton had a 1.69 ERA in 10 games when the Angels released him a month later.  Corbett caught on with the Orioles and was roughed up in 23 innings with the Birds yielding a 7.83 ERA.

Corbett got into coaching at the high school and college levels.  In spring training of '95, the 42 year old Corbett pitched briefly for the Atlanta Braves as a replacement player during the strike of '95.

Stuff: Corbett featured a side-arm sinker in the mid to low 80's, a slider and a change up.  Corbett was know to throw a spit ball from time to time and with the natural movement on his sinker probably got accused of throwing it much more than he actually did.  Corbett started throwing a split-finger in '86.

Flipside:  I have to wonder how Topps picked out the highlights on the back of the cards.  Corbett had a scoreless three inning save in a 3-2 game on May 5 against the Red Sox which seems more impressive than the 0.2 innings he pitched as mentioned on 6/29.

Oddball:  Corbett caused a bit of a fuss by wearing red shoes during the '81 All-Start game when everyone else wore black.  It was thought to be a jab at the Reds organization where Corbett spent the '75-'79 seasons in the minors.

History:  Corbett waited a while to make his mark in the majors.  He had three excellent seasons and one good one mixed in with some rough patches.  Corbett had a very durable arm and often was asked to throw two, three, or even four or more innings out of the pen in pressure situations.  An informative interview with Corbett can be found on on the blog.