Saturday, February 2, 2013

#304 Dave Rucker - Detroit Tigers

Whoa, check out that cameo pic!  Dave Rucker looks like he rolled into the Tigers spring training complex in Lakeland after a hard night of drinking. 
I usually blast Topps for posed shots but I appreciate Tiger Stadium in the background.  This is Rucker's first solo card as he shared a card with fellow Tigers "suspects" Howard Bailey and Marty Castillo.

Player: Dave Rucker was drafted by the Tigers in the 16th round of the 1978 draft.  He played college ball at UCLA where he was a teammate of recent post Floyd Chiffer.  Rucker moved quickly through the Tigers system and made the team in '81 but made just two appearances before he was sent down to AAA Evansville for the rest of the year.
Rucker had to wait until July of '82 to get another chance and worked in middle relief with a few spot starts.  He tossed a one run complete game win over the Indians in the second to last game of the year. The gem lowered his ERA to 3.38 in 64 innings.  For the fourth year in a row Rucker started the campaign at AAA, this time getting a promotion in May.  He imploded though and allowed 17 runs over nine innings and was sent packing to the Cardinals in exchange for veteran reliever Doug Bair. 
After Rucker tuned things up at AAA, the Redbirds called him up and he was a serviceable arm out of the pen.  In 37 innings he posted a 1.459 WHIP with a 2.43 ERA.  He had his best year in '84, logging 74 innings in 50 games with a 2.10 ERA.  While he sometimes put runners on, (1.315 WHIP), he was helped by keeping the ball in the park as he didn't surrender a gopher ball all year.
The Philadelphia Phillies were impressed with Rucker and traded veterans Bill Campbell and Ivan Dejesus to the Cardinals to get him.  The left-handed Rucker wasn't as effective in Philly as he allowed more than one-and-a-half runners per inning in a career high 79 frames.  The next year saw his ERA balloon to 5.76 in 35 innings in '86 and he was sent down to the minors in July. 
Rucker spent the '87 season at the Rangers AAA affiliate and signed with the Pirates after the season.  He resurfaced in the majors in June of '88 as a lefty specialist and stayed with the team through the end of the year with a 4.76 ERA in 28 innings.  Rucker spent all of '89 back in the minors and then hung up the cleats for good.  

Flipside: Pretty strange how Topps doesn't mention his complete game win October 2, which was easily the best game of his career.

Oddball: Rucker was a bit of a klutz on the mound making 10 errors in 83 chances in his fielding career.

History: Rucker had a decent fastball with a lot of movement that tailed in on right handed hitters.  He struggled with his breaking pitches early in his career and wasn't as effective against left handed hitters as he should have been.  Rucker falls into a large group of pitchers in my mind who came up with the Tigers in the early 80's and never panned out.  Guys like Rucker, Howard Bailey, Larry Pashnick and others never made an impact as the Tigers groomed few home grown arms in the decade. The Tigers were fruitful in the mid-to-late 70's producing Mark Fidrych, Dave Rozema, Jack Morris, and Dan Petry who all found some success despite varying measures of health.
Rucker career stats: 16-20 record, 1 save, and a 3.94 ERA (95 ERA+) in 319 innings.   


  1. I'm getting the sense (both here and with Terry Leach) that Topps' highlight comment policy must have been to ignore brilliant starts by pitchers who were primarily relievers during the year in question. Either that or their researchers were completely incompetent

  2. Good point, I think both theories are probably correct. Of course they may not have had access to all the data we have now, but it seems a subscription to the Sporting News would have been sufficient to come up with proper highlights.