Lloyd Allen – 1974 Topps

March 22, 2012

Sometimes When It Goes, It Goes Fast…

Baseball’s a game of micrometers. Not inches, not even millimeters.

One small, itsy bitsy thing can spell the difference between success and failure.

Allen is living proof that the thin line separating a strike and a ball can dictate how a career arcs.

Lloyd was a #1 pick of the Angels in 1968 and zoomed up the ranks quickly. By 1971, Allen, then 21, was the relief ace for the big club. That was no small feat, as Mel Queen, Eddie Fisher and Dave LaRoche were also around and having excellent seasons. Had those California Angels totally cratered on offense (a familiar lament) they could have really made noise in the AL West.

Allen regressed a bit in 1972 but so did the entire bullpen. In fact, the 1972 Angels had 16 saves as a team (and remarkably just seven holds and only 10 blown saves) as manager Del Rice trusted his starters to finish what they started. Still, at age 22 Allen could be tabbed as a rising flamethrowing star (if anyone paid attention to any other Angels pitcher besides Nolan Ryan, that is…)

There were troubling signs, though. In 1971 Allen whiffed 72 and walked 40 (eight intentionally). In 1972, Allen struck out 53 and walked 55 (five intentionally) in 9 2/3 fewer innings.

He needed to throw strikes. He didn’t.

Pitching five times for the Angels in 1973, he was mostly a mess. The worst of it was a game against Cleveland, his penultimate Angel appearance, where Buddy Bell and crew tattooed him for five runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Sent to Texas as part of the Mike Epstein / Jim Spencer deal, the Rangers were hoping he could solve their myriad pitching woes.

No such luck.

Given a start in his first game for Texas (because, why not), he gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings to Cleveland. Because, why not throw him back in there against the team he just was crushed by?

His next start was against Baltimore and he lasted 3 1/3 innings giving up seven runs.

His third start as a Rangers was against Texas. Two hits, two walks, one out, four runs.

Banished to the bullpen, he was clobbered by Baltimore again (three runs in 1 1/3 innings), gave up two unearned runs in an inning against Minnesota, and then ‘earned’ another start for Texas. The Royals clubbed him for six runs in 2 2/3, where he gave up five hits and walked five. His mark for the season at that point was 0-3, 14.40.

On July 3, the Rangers got stomped by Chicago in game one of a doubleheader. Allen relieved Pete Broberg in the second and lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (four earned) and his ERA dropped to 12.52. On July 7, he allowed the last seven runs (three earned) as the mighty Milwaukee Brewers crushed Texas 17-2 in one of David Clyde’s starts.

The next day, success, finally! Allen pitched three scoreless innings in the second day of a doubleheader.

That earned him another start, with predictable results. Allen was lit up by Detroit, giving up six walks and four runs (only one earned) in 1 2/3 innings as the Rangers lost 14-2.

His line for Texas from the trade to that point? 24 innings, 40 hits, 46 runs, 30 earned runs (16 UN-earned runs, boy that was a bad team on all fronts), 28 walks, 14 strikeouts.

He didn’t pitch for a month (disabled list?) and when he returned he calmed down a bit. He had three pretty rocky outings in September but had seemed to find something. Then came his last appearance of the year, on September 24. Billy Martin was now in charge instead of Whitey Herzog, but the team still stunk to high heaven. Still they had some fight in them as was shown on this night. Down 6-2 after Broberg was beat up by California, Texas scored seven runs in the top of the ninth off of Clyde Wright and Aurelio Monteagudo (I juts love typing that name) and held a 9-6 lead. Bill Gogolewski started the ninth in fine style, retiring Mickey Rivers and Ken Berry. Winston Llenas walked and Bob Oliver singled him to second.

Martin hands the ball to Allen. Facing Tommy McCraw, Allen uncorks a wild pitch then walks the vet. He then walks Richie Scheinblum to score Llenas and then walks Charlie Sands to score Oliver. Martin hooks Allen and Jackie Brown comes in. Lee Stanton doubles off of Brown sending Allen and the Rangers to yet another defeat. I can’t imagine how that clubhouse was after that loss.

It was an awful end to an awful year for Lloyd. 0-6, 9.42, 73 hits and 69 runs (again, tons of unearned runs) allowed in 49 2/3 innings, with 44 walks and only 29 strikeouts.

Incredibly, Allen doesn’t spend time in the minors and breaks camp with Texas in 1974, spending three months there before being waived by the Rangers and claimed by the White Sox with a 6.55 ERA. Over the next two seasons he pitches sporadically for Chicago and spends time in AAA for the White Sox and Cards. Lloyd had a good year in 1976 for Tulsa (11-6, 2.81) but never gets back to the bigs thanks to injuries (it looks) and ends his career after a lackluster year at Iowa in 1979.

From just looking at the numbers, Allen seemed to lose command of the strike zone between 1971 and 1973. He threw some wild pitches but not an alarming amount and wasn’t a headhunter. Strike one became ball one, and then of course it all snowballs from there. You get a rep for being wild, you don’t get the calls, and then you either walk people or groove fat ones.

The strike zone’s wafer-thin lines never seemed so big for Allen.

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