Sunday, February 9, 2014

#395 Scott Garrelts

Card thoughts: Garrelts in generally stone-faced and pensive looking on his cards, so it is nice to see him in action for once. Obscure reference: He grew up in tiny Buckley, Illinois, which was indicated by a sign on I-57 “Buckley Roberts.” My roomates in college had a band called “Buckley Roberts.”

The player: A number one draft pick by the Giants, Garrelts had a brief, but memorable career both in the bullpen and as a starter.

Fairly ineffective as a starter in the minors, he was tried in that role briefly in 1984, but he wasn’t much good. Converted into a reliever in 1985, Garrelts pitched often (74 games, third in the league) and effectively (2.30 ERA, 13 saves). On a terrible Giants team, he was their lone representative in the all star game.

In 1986, he pitched in both starting and relieving roles, amassing enough innings to qualify for the ERA title (in a high offense year, his 3.11 ERA was ninth in the league). A true swingman, he was involved in 22 decisions, going 13-9 with 10 saves. 1987 and 1988 saw him pitching solely out of the bullpen, mostly in the closer role.

In a surprise move, Garrelts was moved full time into the starting rotation in 1989 in a desperation move. But by the end of the season, he was the Giants undisputed ace. Mixing in more off-speed stuff (and a split finger fastball—after all, #111 Roger Craig was his manager), he went 14-5—good for a league leading .737 winning percentage. He also won the ERA title with 2.28 ERA. Key to his success was not allowing base runners—he allowed just over 1 runner per inning, another league lead.

For his efforts, Garrelts was tapped to pitch both the first game of the NLCS and the World Series. He turned in a decent winning Game 1 performance in the NLCS, but got knocked around for 5 runs in the World Series opener.

Perhaps regularly starting for the first time wore out his arm, but Garrelts was never the same after that 1989 season. Although he came within 1 out of throwing a no-hitter in 1990, his ERA was almost 2 runs higher than the year before (4.15), and his 12-11 record was more befitting of a fifth starter than an ace.

Even worse, Garrelts blew out his elbow in July of 1991. Before the days of effective Tommy John surgeries, this could end your career—and with Garrelts it did. He was out of baseball by age 30.

Rear guard: Less than 5,000 people saw Garrelts first win against Atlanta. He pitched 8 innings walking 7 and striking out 6 for the win. 

I always think of Billy Pierce as a White Sock, rather than a Giant. Pierce would have 38 career shutouts, and the one he hurled in '62 was one of his last. Jack Sanford was the top Giant hurler in 1962, going 24-7. He got a late start in his career, due to time spent fighting in Korea, so he wouldn't be effective for long after that season (his seventh). For his career, Sanford had just 14 shutouts. Here are Pierce's and Sanford's cards from that season.

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