Friday, April 27, 2012

#162 Mark Clear - Boston Red Sox

Mark Clear is shown here on his 4th Topps card.  The blurry spring training background gives the appearance that he could be throwing in a local wooded park. 

The Phillies selected Mark Clear in the 8th round of the 1974 draft but had little patience with the 18 year-old after he gave up 69 runs in 51 innings in Rookie ball and released him.  He was signed by the Angels whose uncle Bob Clear was a long-time scout and coach in their system. 

With the Angels organization Clear made steady progress through the minors, mainly as a relief pitcher.  He made the opening day roster and was a vital part of the Angels AL West winning squad.  Clear pitched 109 innings, all in relief, with a 3.63 ERA (112 ERA+).  He shared closing duties with lefty Dave LaRoche.  Clear’s penchant for putting runners on base (1.422 WHIP) made for some nerve racking late innings.  His 11-5 win-loss record and 16 saves was enough to get him an All-Star selection, third place in ROY voting, and a few MVP votes.  In the ALCS, Clear appeared once against the Orioles and provided 5.2 innings in relief of Dave Frost in Game 2.  He gave up three runs but kept it close, though the Halos lost the game 9-8 and the series 3-1.

In 1980, Clear worked in what we would call now a bullpen by committee, earning nine of the teams saves in a pen that had seven hurlers earn between one and ten saves.  He K’d 105 in 106.1 innings, once again with a WHIP around 1.4.  That he let only two balls leave the yard helped keep his ERA at 3.30.  The Angels traded Clear, Carney Lansford, and Rick Miller to the Red Sox in December or 1980 for Rick Burlson and Butch Hobson.

Clear led his new team with nine saves in ’81 but it wasn’t easy.  He gave up 11 HR and walked 51 in 76.1 innings and he allowed a runner and half per inning.  Somehow he managed an 8-3 record and a lucky 4.11 ERA.  The next year he matched fellow reliever Bob Stanley with 14 saves and was selected to his second All-Star team.  Again his WHIP pushed 1.5 yet he kept his ERA at an even 3.00 and won 14 games in relief.  By striking out 109 batters, Clear became the first pitcher to strike out 100+ in two seasons without having started a game.

The wheels came off the Mark Clear roller coaster ride as he collapsed to a 6.28 ERA in ’83.  In 96 innings he gave up 101 hits and 68 walks.  Through 1983 Clear had averaged nearly two innings per appearance which may have taken a toll on the curveball specialist.  He was wild but marginally effective in a setup role the next two years with ERA’s of 4.02 and 3.72.

After the ’85 season Clear was dealt to Milwaukee for infielder Ed Romero.  While with the Brewers Clear shared closing duties with rookie left-hander Dan Plesac and tied a career best with 16 saves.  His 2.20 ERA was by far a career best as were his success could be traced to his improved control, walking less than one per two innings for the first time in his career. 

The wildness returned and Clear's ERA went up to 4.48 in ’87 as he saved six in in 78.1 innings in support of Plesac.  In 1988 he had a 2.79 ERA over 29 innings but elbow pain sidelined Clear for the next year and a half.  He made a comeback with the Angels but pitched only 7.2 innings before retiring.

In eleven seasons, Clear saved 83 games with a 3.85 ERA.

Stuff:  Curve, fastball, slider

Flipside:  Clear came into the July 17 game in the 8th inning with a runner on and no outs.  He got out of the jam without allowing a run.  The Red Sox exploded for six in the bottom of the inning.  Backed with a 8-2 lead, Clear then gave up solo homers to Frank White and Hal McRae.

Oddball:  Clear seemed to have low ERA's relative to the amount of runners he put on base.  Check out these ERA and WHIP rates.  It goes to show ERA probably isn't the best way to define a relief pitcher's effectiveness.

1982 3.00 ERA, 1.457 WHIP
1984 4.03 ERA, 1.746 WHIP
1985 3.72 ERA, 1.707 WHIP

History:  Clear had a rough start to his career. It seems improbable that a player released after one year of Rookie ball would go on to a productive major league career but that's just what he did.  Once in the majors he had an up and down career.  When his control was decent he flourished.  Other times he got it done with smoke and mirrors.

1 comment:

  1. heh, cool. We both featured Red Sox bullpen hurlers today.