Tuesday, October 30, 2012

#238 Bud Black - Kansas City Royals

This is Bud Black's Rookie Card!  Okay, so it isn't as glamorous as a Boggs, Gwynn, or Sandberg rookie, but it's always cool to view the rookie card of long time player and current manager.  He looks so different now sans mustache.

Player:  Bud Black was originally property of the Mariners who used him primarily as a relief pitcher in the minors.  He pitched two games for Seattle in '81 and was dealt to KC for Manny Castillo after the season.  The former 17th round pick was a spot starter and long reliever in 1982, but didn't do anything to distinguish himself with a 4.58 ERA in 88 innings.
Black started the '83 season in AAA but was called up in May and made 24 starts for the Royals and won 10 games with a 3.79 ERA (108 ERA+).  The lefty was the Royals opening day starter in '84 and won 17 games with a 3.12 ERA (128 ERA+). He had the lowest WHIP (1.128) among AL starters but took the loss in his only start of the '84 ALCS. 
He was tabbed again as KC's opening day starter in '85 but pitched more like a back of the rotation man.  He won 10 with a 4.33 ERA but did work 205 innings for the AL West winning Royals.  In the postseason, Black made two starts and relieved in three others, taking the loss in Game 4 of the World Series when the Cards blanked the Royals.  Although not his best year, Black got the pleasure of helping bring the Royals their first (and so far only) championship.
Used in middle and short relief in '86 Black did well with a 3.20 ERA and 9 saves.  He was used off and on as a starter in '87 and delivered a 3.60 ERA (127 ERA+) in 122 frames.  In 1988 Black was struggling in the pen when he was traded to the Indians in June for Pat Tabler.  He did no better for the Tribe and finished the year with a 5.00 ERA in 88 innings. 
With his career seemingly headed downhill Black got his groove back in Cleveland.  He made the Indians rotation and won 12 games with a 3.36 ERA (118 ERA+) in '89.  He had a similar year the follwoing season and the Indians traded high, swapping Black to the Blue Jays for three prospects in a September deal.
Now a free agent, Black signed with the Giants.  He sported ERA's just under four his first two years while winning 12 and 10 games for San Fran.  Injuries limited him to just 26 starts over the next two years and he was without a contract as the '95 season approached.  He signed with the Indians who had a potent offense but needed pitching.  Black was given 10 starts to prove himself but disappointed and was released in July with a 6.85 ERA which was how his career ended. 
Stuff:  Mid to high 80s Fastball, slider, curve, change.  Later in his career he added a cutter and forkball.
Flipside:  You can see on the back that the Mariners really didn't hold Black in high esteem.  When you see a minor league pitcher who is neither a full time starter or closer their future usually isn't that bright.  But Black had a decent career and the Mariners had pitching problem throughout the 80's and sure could have used him in Seattle.  
Oddball:  Black, like a lot of lefties had a great pickoff move but also balked.... a lot.  He balked 7 times in just 22 games his first year and the beleaguered rookie was quoted after his last one of the year: 
"I think I've balked every possible way. This time my foot crossed the rubber. Once you do that, you can't throw to first."
Black got things under control but was occasionally dogged by balks throughout his career, balking 43 times in total. 
In fact Black, now the Padres skipper, still seems confused on balk calls as he was ejected from a game in April for arguing Clayton Richard's balk. 
History:  Black was never an All-Star and never received any CY votes but he won double digits seven times en route to a 121-116 record.  He earned 18.8 WAR with a career 3.84 ERA (104 ERA+).  The southpaw had a 15 year career and won a World Series ring as a Royal. 
Through the 2012 season, Black has a 464-509 record as the Padres manager and won the NL Manager of the Year in 2010. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

#237 Dan Norman - Montreal Expos

Accidentally posted this last night before it was ready....I guess my Tigers had me distracted.  Here is the finished edition

Dan Norman appeared twice previously in Topps sets sharing three-player rookie cards, so this is his first Topps card of his own.  Since Norman didn't play in the majors after the '82 season, it's also his last Topps card.  The red and blue colors from his uniform and undershirt really pop out in the midst of a dim background.

Player: Dan Norman was drafted by the Reds in the 15th round in 1974 but never played in the majors for Cincinnati.
He was among the talent shipped to the Mets for Tom Seaver in the famous Midnight Massacre trade in 1977.  In September Norman was called up to New York and went 4 for 16.

Norman spent the 1978 season at AAA Tidewater putting up a .281/.354/.482 line and earned another promotion when the rosters expanded.   The young rightfielder got into 19 games and hit .266 with 4 homers in 64 at bats.  Norman split the year between Tidewater and New York in '79 and was used as a pinch hitter and occasional starter in the corner outfield spots with the Mets.  He batted just .245 with 3 HR in 122 plate appearances.

The 1980 season would prove to be the only one in Norman's career spent entirely in the majors.  He came off the bench in 56 of his 69 games and hit just .185 although he was five for five in steal attempts. 

Norman spent all of '81 in the minors splitting the year between Tidewater and Denver after May 29 trade to the Expos.  He started the '82 season on a .348/.429/.696 tear at AAA to earn an early season promotion to Montreal.  He didn't play much and hit .212/.288/.348 in 73 trips to the plate. 

The rest of Norman's pro career was spent in the minors bouncing around with four organizations until 1987.

Flipside:  These are Norman's career stats.  The bold print under the stats and highlights section pretty much cover it all.  Norman had a positive Win Probability Added in only 9 of his 53 games.
Oddball:  Norman continued to play in the minors through the 1987 season, a year in which he was player-manager of the Miami Marlins in the Florida State League.  He played in only 23 games batting .261 while his team struggled to a 44-89 record.  I wonder if we'll ever see a player manager in the majors again?
History:  Norman was a player on the fringe.  In the minors he would hit about .270 with 15 HR and would steal 10 or 12 bases a year.  In his major league career he hit .227 with 11 HR in 348 at bats. 

#236 Steve Renko - California Angels

Veteran Steve Renko graces his 14th Topps card in an Angels jersey, one he was no longer wearing by the time this card came out.  He displays a nice easy pitching form on the mound but has somewhat of a grimace in the inset.  At least it's not as bad as his '82 card.

Player: Steve Renko was drafted as a firstbaseman in 1965 and did not covert to pitching full time until 1968.  As his 1969 season unfolded the Mets traded the big 6'6" Renko to the Expos.  Although he had a 5.45 ERA at AAA Tidewater the Expos used him immediately in the big leagues.  He showed a propensity for missing bats but also missed the strike zone often, allowing just 94 hits but dishing out 50 freebies in 103 innings.  He finished his rookie year with a 6-7 record and 4.01 ERA (92 ERA+). 
Renko was a workhorse for the Expos with 28 wins and 498 innings pitched over the 1970-71 seasons.  He made 70 starts and also relieved in 11 games.  His ERAs of 4.32 and 3.75 were both marginally worse than average. These traits became an earmark of Renko's career, taking the ball whenever needed, both starting and relieving, and pitching around  league average.
He followed with the worst and the best year of his 15 year career.  He went 1-10 with a 5.20 ERA in '72.  Renko then had a 15 win season with a 2.81 ERA (135 ERA+) in 249 innings of work in 1973.  His 4.1 WAR would be more than double his next best season.  Renko had ERA's just over four the next two years and after a slow start in '76 he was traded with Larry Biitner to the Cubs for Andre Thornton. 
Renko finished the year strong for the Cubs and ended up 8-12 with a 3.98 ERA (96 ERA+).  An August trade send him across town to the White Sox where he finished with 4.04 ERA.  Renko was traded to Oakland during spring training in '78 and made 25 starts for the A's, with a 4.29 ERA in 151 frames. 
Now 34, the veteran free-agent hurler signed with the Red Sox in 1979.  He made 50 starts the next two years with ERA's of 4.11 (108 ERA+) and 4.19 (101 ERA+) winning a combined 20 games.  After the 1980 season he was traded with Fred Lynn to the Angels.   In and out of the rotation with the Halos, Renko had his lowest ERA in years, 3.44, and finished 8-4 for his new team.  Although his ERA jumped up a full run, he went 11-6 as the Angels won the AL West.  It was the first time his team made the playoffs but he did not appear in the postseason. 
Renko was released by the Angels and signed with his hometown Royals for the '83 season.  In typical fashion he made 17 starts, 8 relief outing and logged 121 innings with a 4.30 ERA.  Renko retired after the season with a 134-146 record and a 3.99 ERA (98 ERA+). 
Stuff: Cut fastball and knuckle curve

Flipside: Renko was actually drafted in the 24th round, not the 31st as listed in a tiny font here on the back.
Oddball:  Steve Renko was the starting quarterback for Kansas University where he specialized in handing the ball off to Gale Sayers.  It's a good thing baseball worked out for him as he completed just 33.7% of his passes.
Renko had to unearth his old first baseman's glove when he played three innings at first on 9/22/72.  During the '72 and '73 seasons Renko batted .292 and .273 and even batted in the 7th spot in a game on 8/26/73.  He responded with a single and double in three at bats. 
History:  Renko possessed enough size and talent to be drafted by both the Oakland Raiders and New York Mets.  In fact he was K-U's last three sport letterman as he excelled at basketball too.  
In his pro career he made the transition from first baseman to pitching and was in the majors to stay after just 53 appearances on the mound.  He never made an All-Star team or tasted the post season.  He toiled at the back end of major league rotations for 15 seasons and today might be labeled a league average inning muncherRenko was a pitching coach in the minors from 1995 to 2006. 
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Friday, October 26, 2012

#235 Claudell Washington - Atlanta Braves

Braves star Claudell Washington follows through with a left-handed swing here on his 9th Topps card.  The purple and light blue border match up well with the Braves blue jersey top and the blue dugout in the background.  Washington's expression in the inset makes me think he was just asked a dumb question by a reporter.

Player:  It's not terribly rare for an undrafted player to make it to the major leagues. At any given time there are 10-20 players on big league rosters who never had the honor of being drafted.  Not only wasn't Claudell Washington drafted, he didn't even play high school baseball.  Despite all this, Washington was playing in the big leagues before he turned 20 years old.  Not including international signees, most undrafted guys have to plug away in the minors, repeating levels and debut in their late 20's.  Not Washington, plucked by the A's from the California sandlots, he spent parts of three seasons in the minors before debuting at age 19 in 1974 for Oakland.
Prior to his call up Washington was destroying double-A pitching at a .361 clip.  The lanky outfielder proceeded to hit .285 in 73 games of major league action.  The young phenom had some big games in the postseason and helped the A's win a third consecutive World Series. 
He had an excellent second year as he started everyday for the A's, mainly in leftfield.  Washington hit .308/.345/.428 with 10 homers and 40 stolen bases, and had a hit in his only at bat in the 1975 All-Star game.
Washington would never quite duplicate the success of his '75 campaign but would have a lengthy career playing for seven different franchises.  He hit just .257/.302/.424 in '76 and was traded to the Rangers the following spring training when the A's dismantled their franchise.  Washington had a better year in Texas (.284 average), but lost his starting job and was traded again, this time to the White Sox.  He finished '78 with the worst rate stats of his career thus far.  He bounced back with a .280 average and new career highs in doubles (33) and HR (13) while playing everyday in rightfield. 
Despite his decent season the year before, with the 1980 season underway Washington found himself in a platoon arrangement and was then traded to the Mets for a minor leaguer.  He finished the year with familiar stats and headed into the offseason as a free agent. 
Washington signed with the Atlanta Braves with whom he is probably best remembered.  He spent five and a half years in Atlanta where he took advantage of the launching pad to hit around 15 homers a year while twice stealing over 30 bases.  Washington was a key part of the Braves division winning '82 season, establishing a career high with 80 RBI even though he led off in 71 of his 150 games played.
Washington's playing time dwindled in '86 and was traded to the Yankees for Ken Griffey.  Once again platooning, Washington hit only .237 for the Yankees in '86 as he adjusted to the new league.  He improved to .279 and .308 the next two years.  After the '88 season he signed with the Angels and turned in one more typical Claudell Washington season: .279 average, 13 HR, 13 SB.  
Time was running out on Washington's career as he hit just .167 in 1990 as he split time between the Angels and the Yankees.  New York released him as soon as the season ended and Washington, now 36 years old, retired with a career line of .278/.325/.420 with 164 HR and 312 SB.

Flipside:  Washington is listed at 6' and 190 lbs but in my memory he always seemed taller and thinner.

Oddball:  Who were the first three players in MLB history to hit three home runs in a game in both leagues?  Babe Ruth, Johnny Mize, and... Claudell Washington.

Mario Soto once punched Washington in the head... with a baseball.  You can read more about it here.

History:  Washington won a World Series ring as an Athletic and was a two-time All-Star.  He had a strange career arc, peaking during his age 20 season with 4.6 WAR.  He would have only two more seasons with more than 1.7 WAR and that came when he was 29 and 33. 
Most scouting reports during his career regarded him as a rangy defender with a good arm.  The defensive metrics today sure don't agree as baseball reference has him at -13.6 dWAR. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#234 Larry Andersen - Seattle Mariners

Larry Andersen pitched in the big leagues as early as 1975 but this is just his 3rd Topps card.  Brute and French's Mustard's received some free advertising in the background.  For some reason this card looks much brighter here than in person.  Maybe it's the hot pink and yellow border, but even the green grass and Anderson's uniform seem to glow.

Player: Larry Andersen was drafted by the Indians in 1971, but pitched just 36.2 innings spread across three seasons for the Tribe.  He debuted in '75 and had two more brief stays in Cleveland in '77 and '79.  Andersen was traded after the '79 season to the Pirates.  The Pirates had a solid and deep bullpen and and the 27 year-old Andersen spent the whole year at Portland with a 1.74 ERA in 93 innings.
As the 1981 season was about to start, Andersen was sent to Seattle to complete an earlier trade.  He stayed in the majors the entire year and pitched effectively out of the pen.  He saved five games and posted a 2.66 ERA.  The next year was a different story as the Mariners re-tooled their pen and used Andersen in long relief.  He experimented with a submarine delivery for a while to reduce the stress on his arm before returning to his sidearm / three-quarter arm slot.  He allowed 100 hits and 16 homers in 79.2 frames with a 5.99 ERA.  Used in low leverage situations, his 79.2 innings are still the most by a pitcher with no wins or losses. 
Andersen was sold to the Phillies and he spent the first half of the '83 season at AAA.  Called up in late July, he provided 26.1 innings of middle relief work with a 2.39 ERA for the division winning Phillies.  He did not pitch in the NLCS but appeared in two World Series contests, allowing one run in four innings.  He pitched effectively in '84 with a 2.38 ERA in 90 innings but regressed to 4.32 to in '85. 
After a poor start to the '86 season, Philadelphia let Andersen go and he signed with Houston.  He really found his niche as a set-up man with the Astros. After finishing '86 strong (2.78 ERA) he posted ERA's of 3.45, 2.98, and 1.54 while logging over 80 innings each year.  
In 1990 Andersen was zipping along with a sub-2 ERA when he was traded to the Red Sox for some prospect named Jeff Bagwell.  While Andersen helped the BoSox win the division, he took the loss in Game 1 of the ALCS when he allowed two runs in relief of Roger Clemens. 
Andersen spent the next two years with the Padres and was very good when healthy, saving a career best 13 games in '91.  He returned to Philadelphia after the '93 season and the 40 year-old helped them to the World Series.  During the regular season, Andersen sported a nifty 2.92 ERA but he was hammered for nine runs in six postseason innings.   
He fought injuries and declining skills in '94 as his 4.41 ERA suggests and he retired after the season.
Stuff:  Slider, sinker.  The older Anderson got the more he relied on his slider. 
Flipside:  The 1 in the GS column indicates the only game that Andersen started in the majors.  It didn't go well.  He allowed 9 hits and 4 runs in 4.2 innings and left the game tied at 4.

Oddball:  Andersen is quite a character and is known for his off-beat humor while working the airwaves on Phillies radio.  Here is more on Andersen's quirkiness.

History:  Anderson had a long career and seemed to improve with age.  His ERA and ERA+ by age group through his career:
20s: 4.65 / 89
30-34: 3.20 / 117
35+: 2.48 / 149
Andersen was able to pitch in the postseason four times but never won a World Series ring.  He was the only Phillie to play in both the '83 and '93 Series.  His career stats include a 40-39 record with 49 saves. 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#233 Wayne Gross - Oakland A's

What a great action shot! This is Wayne Gross snagging a grounder at the hot corner on his 7th Topps card.  I could be wrong but it seems like it was taken during a spring training infield practice rather than during a game.  I blast Topps at time for lame photos but I have to give them credit, this is a good one no matter what the situation.
Player:  Wayne Gross was a 9th round pick of the Oakland A's during the height of their dynasty in 1973. Gross debuted three years later with a 4 for 18 late season performance. Primarily an outfielder and firstbaseman in the minors he had been learning to play thirdbase at AAA Tucson in '76 and it paid off the following year.  He won the starting job at third in '77 and had 15 home runs by the All-Star break. His hot start got him added to the AL squad when teammate Vida Blue was a late scratch, but Gross did not play in the contest.  He slumped in the second half and ended the year with 22 HR and a .233/.352/.416 line.  

Gross suffered through a poor sophomore season batting only .200 as he lost playing time to Taylor Duncan and hit just seven homers.  Gross regained the starting job in '79 and hit .224 with 14 homers.  He platooned with Mickey Klutts in 1980 and improved his average to a career best .281, again hitting 14 homers but in 100 fewer plate appearances.

The A's continued to platoon the lefthanded-hitting Gross at third but his power and average waned (wayned?, ha!).  After three years of failing to slug higher than .392 he was traded to the Orioles for pitcher Tim Stoddard in December of '83.   

Gross' power returned in Baltimore as he hit 22 out of the park for his new team.  Hitting for average still eluded him though as he hit just .216.  His playing time was cut in half in '85 as was his home run out put and he was released the following spring.  Gross returned to the A's organization but spent '86 in the minors before earning three hitless at bats at the end of the year.  Oakland released Gross and that spelled the end of his playing career. 

Flipside:  Although Gross didn't hit for a high average he was able to work the count for a fair number of walks.  At this stage in his career he had 331 walks against 326 strikeouts. 

Oddball:  Gross pitched 2.1 scoreless innings on 5/18/1983 in a 16-5 blowout loss to the Twins.  Although that was his only pitching performance in the pros, it wasn't the last time he took the mound in a major league ballpark.  It turns out when the 1994 Disney movie "Angels in the Outfield" was being filmed, producer Erbie Smith asked Carney Lansford to help out as an advisor.  Lansford brought former teammates Steve McCatty, Mitchell Page, and Gross along to help out.  Gross looked the part of an intimidating relief pitcher and he selected to portray a White Sox hurler. His part can be seen at the 2:20 and 3:03 mark of this clip.  Steve McCatty wasn't so lucky, his part ended up on the cutting room floor. 

History:   Gross appeared in the 1981 playoffs with the A's.  His three-run homer in Game 1 of the ALDS gave Oakland a three run lead en route to a 4-0 victory.  Gross and the A's eventually lost to the Yankees in the ALCS as he got on base just twice that postseason. 
Although he only had a .233 career batting average, Gross had enough power and patience to produce a 106 OPS+. His fielding at third was poor during his first few years but improved with time. He retired with 121 career home runs and 13.5 WAR.

By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter @989baseball. Besides notifying followers of new posts, I tend to tweet off-the-wall comments and other things about baseball, sports, and life in general.

Monday, October 22, 2012

#232 Tom Brunansky - Minnesota Twins

This is Tom Brunansky's first solo Topps card as he was part of a three player rookie card as an Angel in the '82 set.  Bruno is showing good form with his head down on the ball.  The dugout and dark shadow in the background makes Tiger Stadium the likely setting.  Check out Bruno's classic 'stache  in the inset. 
Player:  Tom Brunansky was part of an impressive core of Minnesota Twins who emerged in the 80's that included Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and Frank Viola all of whom were key parts of their '87 championship team.  It's easy to forget that Bruno came up with the California Angels.  In fact he was the Angels opening day leftfielder in 1981 but was sent down after he whiffed ten times with just five hits in 33 at bats.  The former first round pick couldn't crack the veteran laden Angels roster in '82 and was struggling at AAA Vancouver when he was traded to the Twins with Mike Walters and cash for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong on 5/12/82.
The Twins used Brunansky in rightfield and he had an impressive rookie year with a .272/.377/.471 stat line and 20 homers in 127 games.  He didn't garner any ROY votes competing against a bumper crop of Wade Boggs, teammates Hrbek and Gaetti, and eventual winner Cal Ripken.
Brunansky was a consistent source of Power for the Twins but he never hit for a high average with his mark usually settling in the .240-.250 range.  The next five years he hit between 23 to 32 homers and drove in 75 to 90 runs a season.  Bruno wasn't one dimensional as he provided good range and a strong and accurate right field arm.
When the Twins won the AL West with 85 wins in 1987, they were underdogs when they faced the Tigers who surged at the end of the season to win the East with 98 wins.  Brunansky went the 7 for 17 with 4 doubles, 2 homers, and 9 RBI as the Twins upset the Tigers in the ALCS.  Teammate Gaetti, who also hit two home runs, was named ALCS MVP but it's hard to imagine a better series than Bruno's.  He came back down to earth in the World Series knocking just five singles but the Twins knocked off the Cardinals in seven games. 
Brunansky got off to a slow start in '88 and was traded to the Cards for Tom Herr in May.  He kept up his slugging ways with two 20 HR seasons in St. Louis.  He was traded by St. Louis in early 1990 to Boston for closer Lee Smith.  Bruno's power was never returned to the level he had as a Twin but he was consistent if nothing else.  He had three remarkably similar years for the Red Sox hitting 16, 15, and 16 homers with 71, 70, and 74 RBI.     
Brunansky left Boston via free agency after the '92 season and landed in Milwaukee.  He struggled greatly with a .183 batting average in 80 games for the Brewers which earned him a bench role for the '94 season.  After just 29 plate appearances in two and a half months he was sent back to the BoSox for Dave Valle.  He had a bit of a power surge upon returning to New England with 10 homers in 48 games.  Brunansky retired after the '94 season with 271 HR, 919 RBI and a .245/.327/.434 line. 
Flipside:  Believe it or not, Brunansky was offered a scholarship to Stanford to play wide receiver on the football team. While he doesn't conjure up memories of a swift runner but he did have two inside the park homers noted here on the back of his card as well as two 20 SB seasons in the minors.

Oddball:  Despite having that speed in his youth he wasn't a good base runner when it came to stealing bases.  Perhaps his managers thought he was faster than he was-although he stole 69 bases in his career he was gunned down 70 times.      
Bruno's inside the park grand slam is the only one in Twins history.  That must have been a terribly frustrating moment for the Brewers as Brunansky's ITPGS came with two outs and was preceded by two Paul Molitor errors and a walk. 

History:  Brunansky was one of those players who seemed destined for stardom.  Following some excellent minor league seasons he had a fine rookie year.  However he peaked early and although he had a decent career he never lived up to the hype laid on him while an Angel prospect.  As pointed out in this article on High Heat Stats, Brunansky is one of 27 batters who had an OPS+ of 125 or greater in one of their first two seasons and finish their career with an OPS+ of 110 or less. 
Brunansky is remembered by most fans as a Twin from the '87 team.  He also played in one All-Star game in 1985 but went hitless in one at bat.  Following his playing days Brunansky managed high school ball for a while before returning to the minors to coach. 
Brunansky was named the Twins new hitting coach on 10/22/12.

By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter @989baseball. Besides notifying followers of new posts, I tend to tweet off-the-wall comments and other things about baseball, sports, and life in general.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

#230 Fergie Jenkins - Chicago Cubs

Fergie Jenkins deserves better.  At the time this card was released he had pitched in the big leagues since 1965 and amassed 278 career wins.  C'mon Topps, give him an action shot.  He started 34 games in '82 which gave them plenty of opportunity.  This is Jenkins 17th Topps card and he seems perturbed about having to pose with an empty fist in his glove. 
After calling him Fergie on his rookie card, Topps called him Ferguson for six cards before reverting back to Fergie.

Player:  Fergie Jenkins was signed by the Phillies in '62 but pitched only 14 innings in parts of the '65 and '66 season before he was traded to the Cubs.  The 4/21/66 deal sent Jenkins, John Herrnstein, and Adolfo Phillips to the Windy City in exchange for Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson.
Jenkins pitched in long relief and made 12 starts with a 3.31 ERA across 182 innings to close out the '66 campaign.  He then had a tremendous six year run of 20-win seasons from '67 to '72.  The best year in the bunch came in 1971.  All he did was complete 30 of his 39 starts and log 325 innings which led the NL.  Jenkins wasn't just eating innings, he K'd 263 batters, walked just 37, posted a 2.77 ERA, and won 24 games along the way.  For his efforts he won the NL Cy Young award.
After a 14 win season in '73, the Cubs traded Jenkins to the Rangers for Vic Harris and Bill Madlock.  Fergie had a stellar season for his new club, winning a career best 25 games with a 5 to 1 K/BB ratio.  He had similar stats to his '71 season but this time finished second in the league in CY voting to Catfish Hunter.  Jenkins had a bit of a down year in 1975 but still won 17 games.  His 3.93 ERA was a new high and his 96 ERA+ was the first time his rate had dropped below 101. 
The Rangers traded Jenkins to the Red Sox for three players, but he missed the last month of both the '76 and '77 seasons with injuries.  Boston traded him back to Texas and Jenkins stayed healthy and won 46 games over the next three years.  During the 1980 season he was found with drugs at the Toronto airport, suspended by Commissioner bowie Kuhn, but later reinstated by and independent arbiter. 
Jenkins struggled through the '81 season, posting a 4.50 ERA, easily the worst of his career.  He signed with Cubs in the offseason and the 39 year-old rebounded with 14 wins, a 3.15 ERA in 217 innings.  Jenkins won only six games in '83 despite making 29 starts and having an ERA that hovered around four all year before settling at 4.30. 
Jenkins was released the following spring and retired with a 284-226 record, 3.34 ERA (115 ERA+), and 3192 strikeouts.

Flipside:  Tiny stats!  I've mentioned Jenkins' 278 career wins through the '82 season.  According to Bill James' career assessment tool, Jenkins had a 18% chance after the '82 season of reaching 300 career wins.

Fergie JenkinsOddball:  Jenkins played for the Harlem Globetrotters in the offseason from 1967-69.

When looking at his career as a whole, he was not a great hitter (.165 BA), but he had one heck of a '71 season.  He hit .243 with 6 HR and 7 doubles in 115 at bats.

History:  Jenkins never appeared in the postseason despite his long career.   He ranks 23rd all time in WAR among pitchers with 77.4 and seems to be overlooked when discussing all-time great pitchers.  He along with Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling are the only pitchers with 3,000+ K's and less than 1,000 walks.  Jenkins was elected to the Hall of Fame in '91. 
Be sure to check out the next post featuring Jenkins' Super Veteran Card.

By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter @989baseball.  Besides notifying followers of new posts, I tend to tweet off-the-wall comments and other things about baseball, sports, and life in general.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

#229 - 1982 Philadelphia Phillies

The 1982 Phillies finished 89-73, three games back of the first place Cardinals.  As pictured, Bo Diaz led the team with his .288 average.  There is no picture for the HR leader otherwise we would get a look at the Phillies best offensive player, Mike Schmidt who led the team with 35 HR.  Steve Carlton was still setting the pace for the rest of the pitching staff.  He led the team with his 3.10 ERA and most of the other meaningful pitching stats.  

Flipside:  Topps shows 28 Phillies on the back including Pat Corrales who was let go halfway through the '83 season.  Hall of Famers listed here are Schmidt and Carlton.  Pete Rose would have been three.  No one on the club was snubbed as everyone with at least 39 innings or 39 at bats got a card...even Len Matuszak who batted .077.
The Starting Nine: 
C  Bo Diaz
1b Pete Rose
2b Manny Trillo
SS Ivan DeJesus
3b Mike Schmidt
LF Gary Matthews
CF Garry Maddox
RF George Vukovich
A veteran bunch, Phillies batters average age according to baseball reference was 31.1 years of age.  Diaz had a career year with a .288/.333/.450 line while starting 135 games behind the plate.  He was backed by Ozzie Virgil who hit .238.  Corrales loved playing his regulars everyday.  Rose and Matthews played in all 162 games and DeJesus missed just one.  Rose and Trillo both hit .271 with 3 and 0 homers respectively.  Schmidt had a fine year but often lacked runners to drive in.  He batted .280 with 35 dingers but drove in only 87. 
In the outfield Matthews hit 19 HR and stole 21 bases.  Maddox and Vukovich batted .284 and .272 and were backed up by Bob Dernier who stole 42 bases. 
Pitching Staff:
SP Steve Carlton 38 GS
SP Larry Christenson 33 GS
SP Mike Krukow 33 GS
SP Dick Ruthven 31 GS
SP Marty Bystrom 16 GS
RP Ron Reed 14 Sv
RP Ed Farmer 6 Sv
RP Sid Monge 2 Sv
RP Tug McGraw 5 Sv
The top four starters all logged over 200 innings with ERA's between 3.10 and 3.79.  Carlton was a true workhorse with 295 innings and 286 strikeouts both tops on the NL.  No one since then has topped Carlton's inning total, not bad for a 37 year old! Bystrom had a rough year (4.85 ERA) but was the only pitcher besides the top four to make more than four starts.
The bullpen was a bit of committee led by Reed and his 2.66 ERA in 98 frames.  Sparky Lyle was on the team until he was sold to the White Sox in August.  Monge had the next lowest ERA at 3.75, no one else in the pen was below league average.  John Denny came over late in the year via trade and started four games.
Oddball:  DeJesus hit just .239/.309/.313 and the Phillies would have done well to get rookie Julio Franco (8 for 29) a few more at bats.  Franco spent most of '82 hitting over .300 for the fifth consecutive season in the minors.  Of course at the time the Phillies thought he was 21 years old when he was actually 23.  That the Phils thought he was so young may have delayed the start of his major league career and who knows maybe cost them a win or two. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

#228 Joaquin Andujar - St. Louis Cardinals

Joaquin Andujar's 7th Topps card is a posed shot, which is unusual considering he pitched 265 innings in '82, plenty of time to snag an action shot.  I think that might be infielder Mike Ramsey in the background.  As far as posed shots go, this isn't terrible but they should have used a different inset picture.

Player:  Joaquin Andujar was signed by the Reds out of the Dominican Republic in 1969.  Just 17 years old when he started his pro career, he spent six unremarkable years in the minors before being he was traded to the Astros after the '75 season. 
Andujar spent his time in Houston battling injuries as he was in and out of the rotation.  He made 86 starts and relieved in 49 others in his first four years and was impressive enough to make the NL All-Star team in '77 and '79.  His in-season performance was up and down but taken as a whole his production was pretty good with ERA's of 3.60, 3.69, 3.42, and 3.43.
Pitching mainly out of the bullpen in 1980, Andujar logged 122 innings with a 3.91 ERA and earned a save in the NLCS against the Phillies.  Andujar, self dubbed "One Tough Dominican",  got off to a terrible start in '81 and was traded to the Cardinals midseason.  St. Louis put Andujar in the rotation and he went 6-1 with a 3.74 ERA in 55 frames for the Redbirds.
Andujar broke through with a fantastic season in 1982.  He made 37 starts with a 2.47 ERA (148 ERA+) while winning 15 games.  He won three more games in the postseason including the decisive Game 7 over the Brewers in the World Series.  Andujar followed it up with a mediocre campaign losing 16 with only 6 wins and a 4.16 ERA.
Andujar was volatile and unpredictable in both style and personality.  He dropped down sidearm at times, brushed back hitters often (led NL twice in HB), and often got into confrontations with opposing batters and umps.  He however parlayed his talents into back to back 20 win seasons in '84 and '85 with ERA's of 3.34 and 3.40.  Established as one of the premier pitchers in the Senior Circuit, Andujar finished 4th both years in Cy Young voting.  The postseason in '85 was a disaster this time around.  He pitched poorly in the NLCS and World Series and was ejected from the one-sided Game 7 loss to the Cardinals for arguing with home plate umpire Don Denkinger.  The Cardinals had lost Game 6 after the Royals benefited from a blown call by Denkinger who was working first base at the time, and the Cards' rage boiled over into Game 7. 
The Cardinals traded Andujar to the A's after the '85 season and although he wasn't bad (12 wins, 3.82 ERA) his best years were behind him.  Injuries really took a toll on Andujar and he tossed only 60 ineffective innings in '87.  He returned to Houston in '88 but lasted only 78 innings.  He tried to comeback with Montreal in '89 but did not make the team and retired.
Stuff: low 90s fastball, slider

Flipside:  The '82 season shown at the bottom of the card was the first of four seasons in which he threw an impressive 1021.2 innings. 
Oddball:  Andujar was a source of many great off-the-wall quotes.  My favorite -

"You can't worry if it's cold; you can't worry if it's hot; you only worry if you get sick. Because then if you don't get well, you die."

History:  Andujar had a 13 year career in the big leagues and had a 127-118 record with a 3.58 ERA (99 ERA+).  He won a World Series in '82 and was a four time All Star and even won a Gold Glove.  Most fans probably remember him more for his blow up and poor pitching in the '85 World Series than his excellent work in the '82 Classic.

Monday, October 15, 2012

#227 Chris Bando - Cleveland Indians

This is the second card in a row featuring a player who had an older, more successful brother.  Chris Bando, the younger brother of Sal, seems to be flirting with the camera in the cameo picture.  I don't recall if this was a highly sought after card in 1983 or not, but nevertheless, it is Bando's rookie card. 

Player:  Chris Bando was a switch-hitting catcher who played in the majors from '81-'89.  Drafted in the 2nd round out of baseball hot bed Arizona State University in 1978, the Indians had high expectation for Bando.  After back to back .300+ seasons in the minors he was given a call up in August of '81 and he hit .213 in 47 at bats.  The Indians used Bando as a reserve catcher in '82, getting him at bats against lefties when Ron Hassey needed a day off.  Bando failed to take advantage of the opportunity and posted a .212/.299/.304 stat line in 212 plate appearances. 

Bando didn't play much in '83 as he batted .256 with four homers in 121 at bats.  He failed to make the Indians opening day roster in '84 and started the year back in the minors.  Perhaps it was a wake up call, since upon his return in June he hit .291/.377/.505 with 12 HR in 260 plate appearances. 

Bando's fine performance over the second half of the '84 season helped him earn the starting job in '85 but he quickly lost it with a 1 for 25 start to the season.  In fact his average was below .100 as late as July 30.  He raised it to .139 by the end of the season but even his moderate power disappeared as he failed to homer in 199 plate appearances.

By all accounts the '86 season was a make or break year for Bando and he hit .268 as he split time with up-and-comer Andy Allanson.  Bando regressed to .218 in '87 and spiraled down to .125 the next year.  Finally the Indians gave up on Bando and released him in August of '88.  He was picked up by Detroit but played just one inning for the Tigers.

Bando returned to the minors in '89 and appeared just once more in the majors, getting a hit in two at bats for the A's in October of '89.  He retired with a .227/.300/.329 line in nine seasons. 

Flipside:  At first glance Bando's 1980 season in the minors seems pretty impressive.  He hit .349 with a .530 slugging percentage.  It helps to know that Bando was 24 years old at the time and a bit "old" for AA.  Besides it was his third year in a row at Chattanooga.

Oddball:  Chris and Sal Bando's major league careers barely overlapped.  Sal, who is 12 years older, rounded out his career with the Brewers in 1981.  Chris' MLB debut was on 8/13/81 against the Brewers, but Sal did not play, and they never played in the same game.

History:  Bando never filled the expectations of a 2nd round pick.  In all fairness he suffered through some injuries early in his minor league career which slowed his progress. His defensive was more than adequate but other than his 1984 half season, he struggled to hit.  He is currently the manager at San Diego Christian College.

Friday, October 12, 2012

#226 Enrique Romo - Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh hurler Enrique Romo actually looks like a pirate on his 6th and final Topps card.  All he needs is an eye patch. I wonder what that is in the background?

Player:  The Seattle Mariners first year in the majors was 1977 and like all expansion franchises, they really needed pitching.  So they dug deep and purchased the contract of Enrique Romo from the Mexico City Reds where he had won 20 games with a sparkling 1.89 ERA in '76.  He was the #2 starter as the Mariners set sail to their maiden season but after three starts, an injury sidelined him for three weeks.  Upon his return he assumed duties as the ace reliever and saved 16 games with a 2.83 ERA in 114 innings.
Romo continued with the Mariners and resumed his bullpen role in '78.  He again led the team in saves (10) and logged 107 innings with a 3.69 ERA.  After the season he was peddled to the Pirates in a six-player deal.
Romo was part of a fine bullpen in Pittsburgh as he and Grant Jackson set up for Kent Tekulve.  Romo appeared in 84 games, won ten, and saved five others.  He pitched 129 innings with a 2.99 ERA to help the Pirates to the postseason.  Once there, he pitched in two games in both the NLCS and World Series as the Bucs brought home the championship. 
He put up more workman like numbers in 1980 with 123 innings, a 3.27 ERA, and 11 saves.  He was rather mediocre the next two years as his walks and gopher balls increased and he posted ERAs of 4.54 and 4.36.
Although Romo had been a moody presence and hadn't pitched well in recent years, the Pirates were surprised when he was a no show in 1983.  Romo stayed home in Mexico where some said he was discontent over a fine manager Chuck Tanner levied during the '82 season and others rumored that there was a threat on his life if he returned to the states.  Romo never pitched in the majors again and "retired" with a 3.45 ERA, 55 saves and a championship ring. 
Stuff:  A live fastball, and like many Mexican pitchers Romo threw a wide assortment of pitches including a screwball, palmball, and probably a spitter.
Flipside:  Since Romo never reported to the Pirates in '83 these are his career totals.  Romo's brother Vincente who pitched eight years in the majors also had 33 career losses and 52 career saves.  Enrique has him beat in the win column 44 to 32. 
Oddball:  What more do you want?  You've got a surly spitballin' Pirate who looks like a pirate who went AWOL amid death threats...
Ok, one more tidbit. Romo hit a grand slam against the Mets on 10/1/1980 to give the Bucs a 10-3 lead.  Romo who entered the game in the sixth inning pitched the last four innings for the save.  Romo hit .270 (10/37) in his career with two doubles and his grand slam.
Career:  Romo bookended a brief but successful major league career between two stints in his native Mexico. Seattle fans will remember him as an original Mariner while Pittsburgh fans recall his days on the '79 champion Pirates.