Saturday, May 19, 2012

#176 Dave Righetti - New York Yankees

Topps shows Dave Righetti on his second card pitching in a spring training game.  The yellow coloring on the Yankees cards looks good on some of the cards and I think it works here.
Player: It's easy to forget that Dave Righetti started his career in the Rangers franchise.  A first round pick by Texas in 1977, Righetti opened eyes with a 21 strikeout performance for AA Tulsa in '78.  In the offseason, he was sent to New York in a ten player deal that saw Sparky Lyle head to the Rangers.

Righetti split '79 between AA and AAA and he debuted in September for the Yankees starting three games and lost his only decision.  His initial showing was decent but it was clear he needed to work on his control as he walked 10 in 17 innings.  The young lefty spent all of 1980 at AAA and struggled to find the plate walking 101 in 142 frames. 

After allowing just five runs in 45 innings at AAA Columbus, the Yankees called Righetti up in May of '81.  He was plugged into the rotation and the only thing that slowed him down was the players strike.  He made 15 starts and his control was much improved as he walked only 38 in 105 innings.  Righetti allowed just one long ball all year and just 6.4 hits per nine innings.  Had he thrown a few more innings his 2.05 ERA would have led the league.  He easily won the AL Rookie of the Year award ahead of Boston's Rich Gedman.
In the postseason Righetti excelled in the ALDS and ALCS but in the World Series he was roughed up in a Game 3 no-decision. 

Control problems dogged Righetti all year in '82.  He topped the AL with with 108 walks and spent three weeks back at AAA.  He still managed a 11-10 record with a 3.79 ERA (105 ERA+).  He bounced back with improved command in '83 as he walked just 67 in 217 innings.  He lost his last four decisions but still posted a solid 14-8 record. The highlight of the year was a no-hitter over the Red Sox on the Fourth of July.

With the departure of Goose Gossage the Yankees moved Righetti to the pen and he took over closing duties.  He was effective in his new role recording 60 saves over the '84 and '85 seasons with ERAs of 2.34 and 2.78.  In '86 Righetti set the major league record for saves with 46 (since broken) which is even more impressive if you consider that 26 of those saves were longer than one inning.  He recorded a 2.45 ERA, made his first All-Star team, and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting.       

Righetti continued to do well as the Yankees closer averaging 29 saves from '87 to '90.  He kept his ERA around three and a half and made a second All-Star team in '87.  By 1990, "Rags" was normally used in one inning stints as was becoming the norm around major league baseball.

Righetti was a free-agent after the '90 season and signed a four year deal with the San Francisco Giants.  He had an effective '91 season saving 24 games with a 3.39 ERA in 71 innings of work.  The veteran southpaw lost his closers job in '92 to young Rod Beck and made a four game attempt as a starter, but for the most part Righetti struggled mightily in middle relief over the '92 and '93 seasons. 

After his poor '93 season (5.70 ERA), the Giants released Righetti and he had forgettable stints with the A's and Blue Jays.  Righetti hooked up with the White Sox in '95 and returned to a starting role.  After proving himself in 15 starts at AAA Nashville, he returned the majors.  Although he had a 4.20 ERA, he didn't miss a lot of bats allowing 65 hits in 49 innings.  Righetti called it a career and retired after 16 major league seasons. 

Stuff: Mid 90s fastball, slider, sinker, change and a curveball.   

Flipside:  Righetti probably would have made the majors sooner if he had better control.  In the minors from '77-'82 he walked nearly a batter every other inning.

Oddball:  If the Twins had their way they would traded HOF'er Rod Carew to the Yankees in '79 and received Righetti, Juan Beniquez, Damaso Garcia, and Chris Chambliss in return.  The Yankees wouldn't bite however and the teams never did work out a deal.

History:  Two things jump out at me when I think about Righetti, his no-hitter and his 46 save season.  He had a 3.49 lifetime ERA (114 ERA+) and 252 saves was at one time a record for lefties. 
Righetti has been the pitching coach in San Francisco since 2000. 

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