John D’Acquisto – 1977 Topps

February 17, 2012

The Perils Of Being Poor At Pitching

You may not realize this, but John D’Acquisto had one of the fastest fastballs in the 1970’s. Bill James claimed he was the runner up to Nolan Ryan on an official radar gun reading for MPH in the 70’s.

I can believe that.

He wasn’t Nolan Ryan because while Ryan had control issues, D’Acquisto had full-on control maladies. The combination of the heat and wildness made for some fun stats.

In 1970, at Great Falls, at age 18,  in 55 innings he walked 74.

In 1971,  at Class A Clinton, he whiffed 244 and walked 124 in 233 innings.

In 1972, at Fresno, he whiffed 245 and walked 102 in 209 innings.

After a pretty nifty year in 1973 at Phoenix, he was in the bigs in 1974. It was a pretty nifty year, too. 215 innings, 167 whiffs, 2.5 WAR. Oh, and 124 walks.

“Man, if he could harness that heat, he was going to be great,” the wags thought.

It didn’t happen. He had elbow problems, but his wildness problem became out of control (as it were).

In 1975, he made six starts before hitting the DL. It was uggggly. 1-4, 11.19, 23 1/3 innings, 23 hits, 31 walks, 20 strikeouts.

He made some relief appearances at the end of 1975, and then pitched the entire year in 1976 for the Giants.

Oof.

Splitting time between starting and relieving, he had a 5.35 ERA and walked 102 in 106 innings while striking out just 53.  Through May, his ERA was 9.00.

As you can bet, the Giants said, ‘enough with you’ at the end of the season and included him in deal that send Mike Caldwell and Dave Rader to the Cards for Willie Crawford, Vic Harris and John Curtis. Detrius for detrius (though Caldwell had some great years for the Brewers, he wasn’t much of a commodity at that point).

Then the Cards sent him to the Padres for the burned out shell of Butch Metzger.

After another rough 1977 (6.54 ERA, 44 innings, 49 walks, 47 K’s), he somehow found it and more in 1978. 4-3, 10 saves, 2.13 ERA, 93 innings, 104 whiffs and only 56 walks.

He regressed in 1979, recovered to replacement level in 1980, and was done after pitching poorly in 1981 and 1982. He was just another burned out phenom.

Now, you would think the Giants would have moved him to the bullpen full-time after his elbow injury. That’s not how they rolled back then. But his performance in 1978 showed that he could have been pretty well served throwing his BB’s in the late innings. Why the Padres moved him to the rotation in 1979 for a bit is a question, but as I noted in the Bob Shirley post they didn’t have that many options and his splits were equally poor as both a starter and a reliever.

No matter what, the classic axiom holds for D’Acquisto:

“Oh, those bases on balls…”

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