Friday, November 18, 2011

#44 Don Robinson

Card:  Don Robinson appears here on his fifth Topps card.  His rookie card was in the '79 set.

Pic: With his hefty 6'4" frame and his crazy hair it's no wonder why they called him Caveman.  Those pants are awful, they look like sweat pants or pajamas.

Player: Don Robinson pitched three years in the minors before making the '78 Pirates.  The former third round pick made a few relief appearances and a spot start, and then earned a slot in the rotation with back to back complete games wins in late April.  Robinson was steady all year long and had a fine rookie year winning 14 games in 32 starts and pitching 228 innings.  Robinson with a 3.47 ERA and nine complete games finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and eighth in the Cy Young.

Robinson made only 25 starts in '79 after missing several starts in June and July and finished the year in the pen.  Caveman won eight with a league average 3.87 ERA.  Robinson was in the pen for the postseason and earned a relief win in the NLCS against the Reds and won game two of the World Series against the Orioles.  The "We are Family Pirates" prevailed and at age 22, Robinson was the youngest member of the World Champion Pirates.

Dealing with injuries, Robinson didn't pitch until rejoining the rotation in May.  His ERA spiked at 5.02 in June and he was sent to the pen.  He later returned as a starter and finished strong to get his ERA down to 3.99 and ended the year with a 7-10 record.  More injuries made his '81 season a wash as he pitched in only 16 games with two starts and a 5.87 ERA. 

Robinson won a career high 15 games in '82.  The burly, wild-haired righty re-injured his shoulder but pitched through the pain logging 227 innings. He lost his last five decisions and finished with a 4.28 ERA.  The injury riddled Robinson threw only 36 innings in '83. 

Robinson moved to the bullpen in 1983 and resurrected his career.  He stayed relatively healthy and appeared in 145 games over the next three years and earned 27 saves with ERA's between 3.02 and 3.87.

Robinson continued to excel as a reliever and was sent to the Giants for Mackey Sasser in a trade deadline deal in '87.  Robinson helped the Giants win the NL West and combined to win 11 and earn 19 saves for his two teams with a 3.42 ERA.  Robinson was hung with the loss in game three of the NLCS and the Giants eventually fell to the Cardinals in seven games.

Robinson had six saves through the first half of the '88 season when the Giants put him into the rotation.  The 31 year-old veteran did well winning eight as a starter with a 2.33 ERA.  The battled scarred hurler had endured injuries and surgeries to his toe, knee, elbow, and shoulder, taken numerous cortisone shots, and pitched with a knee brace but didn't miss a start in '89 until late September.  Robinson turned in a 3.43 ERA while winning 12 for the division winning Giants.  Robinson won game 3 of the NLCS against the Cubs as he helped the team advance to the World Series.  Robinson was moments away from starting game three of the World Series against the A's when the Loma Prieta earthquake decided to wreak havoc on the West Coast.  After the series was delayed for ten days, Robinson eventually got to start game four but was pounded early by the A's who swept the Giants.

Robinson scuffled the next two years for the Giants and posted ERA's of 4.57 and 4.38 and was granted free-agency after the '91 season.  Robinson pitched for both the Angels and Phillies in '92 couldn't stay healthy.  Caveman retired with a 109-106 record and a 3.79 ERA (ERA+ of 97).

Stuff: Early in his career, low 90's fastball, curve, and palm ball.  Later he ditched the palm ball and added a slider. The last few years he relied on a sinker, slider, curve, and change up.

Flipside: Those 228 innings as a rookie would prove to be a career high.

Oddball: Robinson could hit well for a pitcher as the highlights on the back of the card attest. Caveman wielded his club for 16 RBI in '82 and won the first of three Silver Slugger awards.  As his shoulder injury threatened his  pitching career, the Pirates seriously considered moving Robinson to the outfield.  In fact Robinson played winter ball in '83 alternating between the mound and rightfield.  Although Robinson remained a pitcher, he did make a start in leftfield on the last day of the '84 season.  Featuring a lineup with immortals like Eddie Vargas and Ron Wotus, Robinson batted third and went 1-3 with an RBI.  In 1990 Robinson hit a pinch homer to become the first pitcher do so since 1971.  Over 15 seasons Robinson hit 13 HR in 631 at bats with a .231/.252./.330 line.

History: Robinson was a warrior on the mound, pitching often in pain.  He was a crucial part of the '79 Pirates pitching staff and helped the Giants to the playoffs twice.
Now-a-days Robinson, along with former Pirate catcher Mike LaValliere, owns a baseball instructional facility in Florida.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Robinson did some good work for the Giants