Sunday, April 8, 2012

#153 Jerry Koosman - Chicago White Sox

Here is Jerry Koosman on his 16th Topps card.  I am a bit surprised Topps didn't give Kooz a card ending in 0 or 5 which is the case for most stars, semi-stars and veterans. 
Player:  At this point in his career Jerry Koosman was the proverbial crafty veteran lefty.  He started his career with the Mets as an amateur free agent back in 1964.  When he reached the big leagues in '67, he had trouble finding the plate walking 19 in 22 frames and went 0-2.  Koosman broke camp with the Mets in '68 and started the year with back to back shutouts.  He was stellar all year with a 2.08 ERA (145 ERA+) and a 19-12 record.  He earned a save by striking out Carl Yastrzemski to preserve the NL's win in the All-Star game.  The young southpaw lost a tight vote to Johnny Bench for NL ROY. 

The Mets franchise grew up in the 1969 season.  Led by  the righty-lefty 1-2 punch of Tom Seaver and Koosman, the Mets won it all defeating the Braves in the NLCS and the heavily favored Orioles in the World Series.  Koosman was roughed up in a no-decision in Game 2 against the Braves but was sharp against the O's, earning victories in Game 2 and the clinching Game 5.  Koosman's regular season had been another All-Star performance with 17 wins and a 2.28 ERA (160 ERA+) in 241 innings.

Despite missing three weeks in June with a broken jaw sustained in a batting practice mishap, Koosman was solid in 1970.  He won 12 games and registered a 3.14 ERA in 212 innings.  Koosman struggled with injuries over the next two years.  He won 17 combined games and made 24 starts each year. 

Koosman and the Mets both came back strong in '73.  Kooz won 14 with a 2.83 ERA in 263 frames and the Mets won the NL East.  He won Game 3 against the Reds in the NLCS and the Mets matched up against the A's in the Fall Classic.  Koosman got the hook after allowing three runs in 2.1 innings in Game 2, a contest the Mets came back to win in 12 innings.  Koosman and Tim McGraw teamed up on a three-hit shutout to to defeat Oakland in Game 5 but the A's eventually won in seven. 

Koosman was effective and consistent the next two years winning 14 and 15 with ERAs of 3.36 and 3.42 in the '74 and '75 seasons.  He won 21 in '76 with a career high 200 K's and a 2.69 ERA.  He was runner-up to Randy Jones in the NL CY voting.  A year after winning 21, he lost 20 in '77 to lead the NL despite a decent 3.49 ERA.  At this point the Mets had a putrid offense and Kooz posted a 3-15 record in '78 while posting a 3.75 ERA. 

Over the off-season the Mets traded the 36 year-old Koosman to the Twins for a young Jesse Orosco.  Now in his home state of Minnesota, and backed by a better team, Kooz reversed his fortunes and was a 20 game winner once again in '79.   His ERA climbed a bit to 4.03 but he still won 16 games and ate up innings (243).  Koosman was traded in August of '81 to the White Sox for three bit players and cash.  His ERA was steady at 4.01 but he led the AL with 13 losses in the strike shortened campaign. 

Now 39 years-old, Koosman started 1982 as Chicago's long reliever.  After a rocky start, he settled into the role and worked his way into the rotation in July and stayed there through the end of the season.  He finished with 11 wins, three saves, and a 3.84 ERA in 173 innings.  Again he started the year in the pen in '83.  He soon was back in the rotation.  After some initial success he faded in the second half and finished with a 4.77 ERA.  He recorded just one out in the '83 ALCS as he was hit hard in a mop-up role in Game 3 against the Orioles.

In a trade of 41 year-old hurlers, the White Sox sent Koosman to the Phillies in February of '84 for Ron Reed.  Kooz showed he still had some life in his high mileage left arm and logged 224 innings with a 3.24 ERA.  He was pitching fairly well in '85 when he injured his knee.  He missed over a month and and after re-injuring the knee on August 21, he walked off the field for the final time.  He was 6-4 with a 4.62 ERA at the time.

Koosman retired after 19 seasons with a 222-209 record, 3.36 ERA, and 2556 strikeouts.

Stuff: Fastball (low 90s early in career), curve, change, slider

Flipside:  Koosman threw those 7.2 innings in relief of Dennis Lamp on 7/3.  On 9/1 he threw a four-hit shutout.  Why did Topps capitalize victory?

Oddball:  According to this bio, Koosman was nearly deployed to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot but was able to play ball and get noticed by the Mets. 

History:  Koosman seems largely underappreciated by all but the older generation of Mets fans who remember him fondly for his big role on the stunning '69 championship team.  He had a fine career and although he wasn't flashy he was very effective for a long time. 

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