Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#155 Dan Quisenberry - Kansas City Royals, 1982 Rolaids Relief Man of the Year

Dan Quisenberry's fourth Topps card is a great card in many facets.  The border colors for KC are appropriate and work great with their powder blue road jerseys.  The green background is nice and doesn't distract from the action photo which shows Quiz in his famous submarine delivery.  The torque on his arm is obvious and the blurriness gives the picture a sense of motion.

Player:  Dan Quisenberry was considered a non-prospect despite a stellar college career at Division-III University of LaVerne and was not drafted.  Quiz led his college mates to a third place finish in the NAIA tournament, using his rubber arm to complete both games of a double header in the final round.  He signed with the Kansas City Royals in '75 and although he advanced to Double-A in his first pro season, his low-80s fastball wasn't lighting up radar guns. Although he was extremely effective in the minors, he had to wait until '79 to make his MLB debut.

Quisenberry was called up in July of 1979 and earned his first save two weeks later.  He displayed superb control and his sinking deliveries induced many ground ball outs.  He finished the year with five saves, a 3.15 ERA, and only two un-intentional walks in 40 innings. 

It was around this time that Quisenberry dropped his sidearm delivery to his well known submarine style.  Quiz wasn't used as closers are now, and during the 1980 season Royals manager Jim Frey used him for three or more innings ten times.  Quiz was up to task and led the AL with 33 saves and added 12 wins.  He had a 3.09 ERA over 128.1 innings and won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. (Hey, it was a big deal back then!)  After a save and a win in scoreless relief in a successful ALCS against the Yankees, Quiz and the Royals faced the Philles in the World Series.  He pitched in all six games with mixed results, winning one with two losses and a save as the Phillies won it all.

Quisenberry had a fantastic '81 season with a 1.73 ERA in 62 innings.  He recorded 18 saves in the strike ravaged season and pitched a scoreless inning in an ALDS loss to the A's.  Over the next four years Quiz would establish himself as the best fireman in the AL.  He racked up 161 saves from '82-'85 while setting a new record with 45 in '83.  His ERA was 2.38 over this stretch and he pitched at least 129 innings each year.  He was an All-Star three times, finished second or third in Cy Young voting all four years, and won four more Rolaids Relief Awards.  He even finished as high as third in the MVP vote in '84. 

Quiz and the Royals experienced great success in the mid 80's, winning the AL West twice with a World Series win over the Cardinals in '85.  Quiz pitched in eight games in the '85 postseason allowing three earned runs in nine innings with a win, loss, and a save. 

Quisenberry was still effective but the Royals were just average the next two years.  He had a decent ERAs of 2.77 and 2.76 but his workload was reduced as he pitched only 140.1 combined innings in the '86 and '87 seasons.  He shared some of the closing duties with Steve Farr, lefties Buddy Black and Jerry Gleaton, and veteran Gene Garber, and recorded only 20 saves.

By 1988, more and more of Quisenberry's grounders were turning into line drives and he was released in July.  He was picked up by the Cardinals but pitched even worse for them and ended the year with a combined 5.12 ERA and only one save. 

Quisenberry got his groove back in '89 and thrived in a set up role for the Cardinals.  Logging 78.1 innings he had a 2.64 ERA and earned six saves.  In 1990 he signed a free agent deal with the Giants.  Unfortunately he tore his rotator cuff in his fifth appearance of the year and eventually retired.  In 12 seasons he saved 244 games with a 2.76 ERA (ERA+ 147). 

Stuff:  Low 80s sinker, curve, change up, and a knuckleball.

Flipside:  Quisenberry "Calmed the Twins uprising"? He gave up two hits, a walk, and gave up a run in 1.2 innings but did get the save.  Obviuosly he had better outings to choose from. 

Oddball:  Quiz was known for his sense of humor.  Here are some links to several of his quotes.

In his pro career Quiz only started one game on the mound and he threw a complete game. It happened in single-A ball in 1975.

The submariner had impeccable control.  In his career he pitched 1,043 innings but walked only 162 batters and 70 of those were intentional.  He had only four wild pitches, seven hit batters, and his catchers were never charged with a passed ball.

History:  Take a look at the stats of these two pitchers:

Pitcher A  12 years, 24.3 WAR, 2.83 ERA, 1042 IP, 300 saves
Pitcher B  12 years, 24.3 WAR, 2.76 ERA, 1043 IP, 244 saves

Pitcher A is Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, and pitcher B is Quisenberry.  I'm not advocating that either pitcher belongs in the Hall.  However it's rather odd that Sutter got in while Quiz got 3.8% of the vote in '96 and fell off the ballot despite very similar numbers. 

Quisenberry published several poems and this one titled "Baseball Cards" can be read here.

Quisenberry was a dominant relief ace and was the best in the AL from '80 to '85.  He wasn't overpowering but his motion and delivery kept hitters off balance.  Sadly he passed away in 1998 after battling brain cancer.


  1. I always tried to pitch side-arm as a kid, but I could never get it right. And pictures, like this one, of sidearmers (sp?) always make me queasy...