Thursday, April 19, 2012

#158 Rob Wilfong - California Angels

This is Rob Wilfong's fifth Topps card and his first in a California uniform.  It looks like he is trying to check his swing.  In the cameo pic it looks like Wilfong just realized Booby Grich is the man, and that his own playing time will be limited.
Player:  Rob Wilfong was drafted by Minnesota in the 13th round in 1971, and he made the Twins opening day roster in 1977.  The young second baseman batted .246 in 171 at bats but had only three extra base hits.  Wilfong's left-handed bat got him some starts against right-handed pitching and he appeared in 92 games in 1978.  He improved to a .266 average and added 15 sac bunts. 

1979 would prove to be Wilfong's best year as he managed to start everyday against righties and batted .313 in 485 plate appearances.  He hit nine home runs, added eleven steals, and finished with a .313/.352/.458 stat line.  He led the AL with 25 sac bunts and was fourth with ten sac flies. He was unable to build on his success and in 1980 he took a step back, hitting just .248.  The sure-handed Wilfong made only three errors leading to a .995 fielding percentage.
After hitting .246 in 1981 and a .160 start to the '82 season the Twins had seen enough and sent Wilfong to the Angels in the Doug Corbett / Tom Brunansky deal.  Wilfong played a backup role with the Angels and hit .245 for his new team.  He batted .254 in '83 and with an aging Angel infield, Wilfong received increased playing time.  He did little to change disprove his backup role as he batted .248, .189, and .219 over the next three seasons.  He hit well in the '86 playoffs going 4-13 including a game tying hit in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5.  The Angels eventually lost the game and the series to the Red Sox.

Wilfong was released in the spring of '87 and was signed by the Giants but played just two games before he was released again ending his career at age 33.  Wilfong played 11 seasons and retired with a .248/.303/.345 stat line.

Flipside:  That '79 season is by far his best season.  He produced 3.2 WAR that year and never had a season before or after with more than 0.9.

Oddball:  The Twins tried to cut Wilfong's pay in '82 by more than the allowable 20%.  By tendering him an invalid contract he could have become a free agent.  Instead he signed a three-year deal.  A few months later he was dealt to the Angels.

Wilfong hit a homer in his first pro at bat as a minor leaguer in 1972.  He also homered in his last at bat in the majors in '87 which is a heck of a way to start and end a career.

History:  Wilfong was a backup most of his career and his managers seemed to like having his left handed bat on the bench.  He was fairly predictable hitting around .250 and playing steady defense.   
After his playing days he was a scout for the Tigers and Angels. 

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