Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 13, 2009
BASEBALL: More Farewells

Rest in peace, Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych, both of whom died suddenly, Kalas collapsing in the broadcast booth at age 73, the Bird in an accident on his farm at 54.

I looked a little at Fidrych's celebrated rookie season in this post.

UPDATE: Following up on a point in that post - Fidrych, of course, is best known and will be most vividly remembered for his offbeat personality, but from a numbers point of view the great unanswered question of his career was whether, if he hadn't gotten hurt, Fidrych would have continued to be a highly successful pitcher, given his extremely low strikeout rate. As I noted in that 2008 post, he may well have struck more guys out as he matured as a pitcher, but if he hadn't, could he have sustained anything like his career 126 ERA+ with his career K rate of 3.71 per 9 innings? Well, I ran the numbers, and among pitches who threw 1000 or more innings after World War II while striking out fewer than 4 batters per 9 innings, there were a few successful pitchers, albeit almost all of them relievers. Leaving aside the guys this picks up who were already in mid-career by 1945, only six managed an ERA+ of 110 or better:

Dan Quisenberry (146)
Mel Parnell (125)
Bob Stanley (118)
Greg Minton (118)
Dave Rozema (117)
Ned Garver (112)

although other reasonaly successful pitchers on that list included Bill Lee, Larry Gura, Ed Figueroa, and Randy Jones. Then again, only six pitchers since 1960 have thrown 1000 innings with a lower HR/9 rate than Fidrych's 0.5 (one of them being Minton); combine that with Fidrych's career rate of 2.16 BB/9, and you have a highly unusual combination; since 1945, only two other pitchers besides Fidrych have thrown 250 career innings while allowing as few as 0.5 HR and 2.2 BB/9, those being Mariano Rivera and Steve Howe. Both of those guys were relievers with good K rates - another way of saying that Fidrych's skill set as an extreme low-K, low-BB, low-HR starting pitcher was somewhat historically unique. Whether he could have sustained it, like so much about Fidrych, is a question that remains frozen in time in the mid-70s and unanswerable, just as Fidrych will remain in our memory, forever 21, lanky and eccentric.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Chien-Ming Wang (0.5 HR, 2.6 BB, 4.0 K) might be the best recent example of a player with similar skills to Fidrych.

Presumably, if Fidrych had remained healthy, he'd have benefitted greatly from the arrival of Trammell and Whitaker in 1977.

Posted by: Jerry at April 13, 2009 7:54 PM

I just saw an old Fidrych MNB game vs the Yanks from June 76 a few days ago on MLB network. Very strange to hear that he died. I was 9 when he was a rookie, and I remember the excitement his starts generated. As a Met fan, I compare it to Doc's starts in 84-85

I then looked up his stats. Houk killed him. Not only did he throw all of those complete games in 76(one game he pitched into the 12th inning!), but look at 77. He came back at the end of May, and proceded to throw CG after CG until he finally burned out in July, including a CG in his first game back! His few starts in 78 were also marked by CGs and high innings per start. What might have been.

Posted by: DS at April 13, 2009 9:50 PM

I really think the White Sox have a shot this year. Anybody agree? I am Christian finance writer, but grew up in Chicago. I will probably visit and see some Sox games this summer. I have cousin that works for the the White Sox organization.

Jim Paris
Daytona Beach, FL

Posted by: Jim Paris at April 13, 2009 9:56 PM

Base ball wow, I live in Easton Pa and I am proud of my Phillies, that is were you learn about a come from behind victory no one thought it would be done but they had heart and tenacity, this year thy will display the same so let be supportive.

Posted by: sam wilson at April 13, 2009 10:57 PM

"Chien-Ming Wang (0.5 HR, 2.6 BB, 4.0 K) might be the best recent example of a player with similar skills to Fidrych. "

Jerry, I think you jinxed him!

Posted by: MVH at April 14, 2009 9:07 AM


Posted by: joyce at April 14, 2009 9:39 AM


Posted by: joyce at April 14, 2009 9:39 AM

I remember listening to the radio as a kid when Fidrych retired Remy, Burleson (I think) and Lynn to start the game on a total of 3 pitches.

I rooted for him in his 1982 comeback attempt with the Sox and while he pitched okay for the most part it was more of a sideshow than a real bid. How would you have liked to have seen his minor league match-up against then-demoted reigning AL ROY Dave Righetti?

Posted by: jim at April 14, 2009 11:12 AM

The Bird is one of those great stories of baseball's the people in the game that really make it unique...and this post is why a Democrat like myself keeps coming back to this site...good post...

Posted by: Austin Divorce Lawyer at April 14, 2009 11:41 AM

The Bird brought a lot of life to baseball that summer of '76. There has not been anyone like him since and not many before. RIP Bird, we loved you.

Posted by: maddirishman at April 14, 2009 1:11 PM
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