Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#253 Larry McWilliams - Pittsburgh Pirates

Larry McWilliams' 5th Topps card is a bit of a snoozer with an up close pose and near identical inset picture.  However we get a good look at the Pirates' old pillbox style hat.  McWilliams has quite the collection "Stargell Stars" going for him.
Player: Larry McWilliams was a first round pick (6th overall)of the Braves in 1974.  The tall lefty reached Atlanta in '78 and fared well with a 2.81 ERA (146 ERA+) in 99 innings.  He was hit hard early in '79 and was on the shelf for half the year recovering from injury.  McWIlliams returned but was ineffective in '80 with a 4.95 ERA in 30 starts.  He spent most of 1981 back in AAA, but threw a two-hit shutout among his five late season starts.

McWilliams was getting blown up (6.21 ERA, 37 innings) as the Braves mop up man when he was traded to the Pirates in June '82 for Pascual Perez.  Braves coach Johnny Sain had been working with McWilliams on a quick, no wind-up delivery but it didn't really work for him until he got to Pittsburgh.  The southpaw joined the Bucs rotation, made 18 starts, and posted a 3.11(121 ERA+). 

The 1983 season would be a career year for McWilliams.  He went 15-8 in 35 starts, with a 3.25 ERA and 199 strikeouts across 238 innings.  He tossed four shutouts and finished 5th in NL Cy Young voting.  He followed it up by winning 12 games in 32 starts in '84. Although he allowed more runners than the year prior (WHIP 1.227 to 1.337) his ERA went down to 2.93. 

McWilliams struggled mightily the next two years as his ERA exploded to 4.70 and 5.15.  The Pirates let him go before the '87 season and he was picked up by the Braves.  After nine appearances he was released and spent the rest of the year at the Rangers AAA affiliate. 

He made the St. Louis pitching staff in '88 as a long man and spot starter.  He showed flashes of brilliance as he had a six game stretch that included a two-hit shutout and a four hit complete game.  He soon returned to the pen and ended up the year with a 3.90 ERA (90 ERA+) in 136 innings.  He filled the same role in '89, pitching for both the Phillies and Royals and ended the year with a 4.11 in 153 frames. 

Kansas City tried using McWilliams as a lefty bullpen specialist in 1990 but it didn't work. 19 of the 43 opposing batters reached base and he was cut five weeks into the season.  That spelled the end of the line for McWilliams whose career line shows 78 wins, 90 losses and a 3.99 ERA.

Stuff:  Fastball (high 80s), forkball, slider, curve, occasional knuckle ball
Flipside:  McWilliams also pitched a five-hit shutout on 9/26 against the Expos.  But the best was yet to come as he would throw 3 two-hitters and a one-hitter in 1983.

Oddball:  McWilliams was nicknamed McCloud due to his resemblance to Dennis Weaver's character in the McCloud TV series.

History:  McWilliams never pitched in the postseason or made an All-Star squad.  He had a strong two year peak with 3.8 and 3.5 WAR but his 13 year career was troubled with inconsistency. 

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