Monday, November 28, 2011

#53 Mike Witt

Card:  Mike Witt appears in his second Topps card, one year after his '82 rookie card.

Pic:  Witt is following through with his delivery.  It gives a glimpse at his 6'7" frame.  Witt appears to be seducing the camera man in the inset.

Player:  Mike Witt was a drafted in the fourth round by the Angels out of local Servite HS in Anaheim in 1978.   Despite having never pitched above double-A ball and still only 20 years of age, Witt made the Angels rotation to start the '81 season.  Witt had a nice rookie year winning eight with a 3.28 ERA. Witt completed seven of his 21 starts and did not allow more than 4 earned runs in any game.  For his efforts Witt finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.

Witt had a solid year in '82. Although he won only eight games he posted a 3.51 ERA for the division winning Angels.  He made 26 starts but at times was squeezed from the rotation by the elder members of the Angels rotation such as Ken Forsch 35 yrs old / 35 GS, Geoff Zahn 36 yrs old / 34 GS, Steve Renko 37 yrs old / 23 GS, Tommy John 39 yrs old / 7 GS, and Luis Tiant  41 yrs old / 5 GS.  The veteran Angels won the AL West but Witt only saw action out of the pen, as the Angels lost to the Brewers in five games.

1983 was a setback for the lanky hurler as he bounced in and out of the rotation going 7-14 with a 4.91 ERA.  Witt had his breakout year in '84 winning 15 with a 3.47 ERA.  He made history by pitching a perfect game against the Texas Rangers on the last day of the season.  Witt had a similar year in '85 winning another 15 with a 3.56 and firmly establishing himself as the staff ace.

Witt had a career year in '86 setting career bests with 18 wins, 208 strikeouts, 269 innings, 14 complete games, and three shutouts.  Witt and the Angels won the AL West and faced off against the Red Sox.  Witt stymied the Sox in game one allowing one run in complete game 5-1 win.  Witt started game five with the Angels up three games to one. Witt again pitched well and carried a 5-2 lead into the ninth.  After allowing a one-out, two run homer to Don Baylor, Witt retired the next batter on a pop fly.  One out away from clinching a World Series berth manager Gene Mauch went to the pen and they could not hold the lead famously losing the game in 11 innings and the Series in seven games.  Personally it was a rewarding year for Witt as he was named to his first All-Star team and finished third for the Cy Young award.

Witt remained the Angels workhorse logging 247 and 249 innings over the '87 and '88 seasons winning 16 and 13 games respectively.  Witt had lost some effectiveness though as his ERA crept over four both years.  Witt no longer was fooling hitters in '89 as he went 9-15 ERA with a 4.53 ERA.  Perhaps the workload over the prior years finally caught up with him.  From '84-'88, Witt averaged 252 innings and ten complete games. 

In 1990 Witt tried to work out his problems from the bullpen and was effective in that role. On April 11, Witt pitched the last two innings of a combined no-hitter started by Mark Langston.  Witt had a 1.77 ERA in 20.1 innings when he was traded to the Yankees for Dave Winfield.  The Yankees moved Witt to the rotation and he made 16 starts the rest of the year.  Witt was less successful as a starter winning only five for the Yanks with a 4.47 ERA. 

Witt struggled with injuries the rest of his career and pitched in only 11 games over the next three seasons before hanging it up for good at age 32. 

Stuff: Witt had a plus fastball but relied heavily on a hard curve ball.  In his perfect game he threw 55 curves, 37 fastballs and 2 change-ups.

Flipside:  Witt gave up two hits, a walk, an unearned run over 2.1 innings to get the win in relief on May 15 as mentioned here on the back.  Why Topps chose to highlight that I have no idea.  They could have mentioned his four hit shutout on August 7 against Oakland.

Oddball:  Witt was (is?) very thin at 6'7" and is listed at only 185 lbs.  Has there ever been a thinner major leaguer?  Using his 6'7" and 185 vitals his Body Mass Index is 20.8.  Answer in the comments if you find one.

History:  Mike Witt was a workhorse for the Angels staff in the mid-80's.  Witt will be remembered for his perfect game, finishing a combined no-hitter, and as the starter of the famed game 5 of the '86 ALCS.  Witt has since been coaching high-school baseball in his native California.

1 comment:

  1. Mike Witt also gave up Reggie Jackson's last two HR's as a major leaguer, #562 (in Oakland) and #563 (in Anaheim).