Bob Shirley – 1979 Topps

February 2, 2012

Please, I’ve Heard That Joke 1,421,487 Times Already…

I just wanted to pass along something when researching Mr. Shirley’s career after filing away some of my recent trade booty.

In 1979 (the year of this card), Mr. Shirley pitched in 49 games, starting 25 times.

Not that unusual for that era. Swingmen were common. Many teams had a guy that was the fill-in starter / long man (pull cord in case of injury or ineffectiveness).

Bob’s 1978 line was 50 games, 20 starts, 8-11 record, five saves.

So here comes 1979, and there was hope in Padres land after an 84-78 record the year before. Shirley was slotted into the same swingman role.

But San Diego and Roger Craig couldn’t settle on a rotation. Randy Jones started 39 times (and you wonder why he was out of the league within a few years). Gaylord Perry started 32 times.

Bob was third on the list with 25. Remember he pitched in 49.

The Padres also used guys like Bob Owchinko, Eric Rasmussen, John D’Acquisto, Steve Mura, and the corpse of Mickey Lolich as starters, filling in when needed. Not the deepest bunch in the biz. So when Shirley wasn’t starting he was probably pretty busy.

Rasmussen and Owchinko were used in a similar was to Shirley. Rasmussen threw 156 2/3 innings and Owchinko toed the slab for 149 1/3.

Shirley hurled 205.

As a swingman, he pitched 205 innings. That’s with just four complete games.

He wasn’t mollycoddled at all. Mainly because there weren’t many options or alternatives for a 68-93 team.

But that was his life. In his career, per 162 games, he pitched 50 games, 18 starts and 163 innings .

I…I did not realize that!


Gary Serum – 1979 Topps

December 22, 2011

Part Of The Bounty

During my recent (and still continuing) madcap days (daze) I received a nice haul of cards from Bo, who blogs on this great site. Of course, every package from Bo is stellar. I’m going to send his return package tomorrow before I fly back to Minnesota to see my girls for Christmas.

BTW, it takes a lot more suitcase space to pack winter clothes than my Florida garb.

So I leave you with this, a player signed out of a tryout camp, and somehow made the bigs (and pitched one full season and parts of two others) despite being undrafted AND amassing an 8.10 ERA in Rookie League with just two strikeouts and five walks in 10 innings.

Serum now owns a wings and beer joint in Anoka. Sounds like a good life.

You’d Have Put It In Your Spokes As Well…

I ‘stole’ the image from the wonderful Baseball Card Cyber Museum, because the card I just received from Spastik Moose seemed a bit…worn.

He sent me a great bunch of cards on the back of his Grab Bag, and included were a bunch of 1979’s. Now, when I was a lad of 13 1/2, I bought a complete set of 1979 cards for $26 (I think). I sold them later for beer money after college. Now, I want ’em back!

A lot of his 1979 cards seemed worn. That’s not a complaint at all. They will go into my binder and I’ll keep the most worn on my want list (with the appropriate tag), but cards from this era probably should be a bit worn. That meant that the kids were using them for all kinds of things, including using guys like Mike Lum, Vern Ruhle and Mr. Picciolo as noisemakers. They weren’t gathering dust in some old man’s binder waiting for a big payoff…


Moving along…Picciolo was probably my first introduction to advanced metrics. Yes, I had devoured the Baseball Encyclopedia by the time this card first entered by ecosystem. But I hadn’t really moved beyond the BA / HR / RBI mentality (even though I knew that a player on the Mariners or A’s would have to be amongst the greatest players ever to have 100 RBIs with that wretched lineup). Leon Roberts’ 92 RBI in 1978 for the M’s was remarkable considering he had to bat amongst five players with over 250 ABs that had an OPS+ of under 70. Mitchell Page’s 1978 mark for the A’s would have been about 120 RBI had he played for a team that didn’t employ guys like Rob Picciolo.

I think it was 1979. I know it was Monday Night Baseball or something like that; it was a national TV broadcast. And the A’s were on it, for some reason. Maybe it was the ‘rain game’. I know it was summer. Anyway, Picciolo came up to the plate and the yakker said something like “Picciolo has only drawn one walk all year.”

“That can’t be good,” I thought to myself. “I know a walk is as good as a hit – in fact – that’s all I CAN do against the 15-year olds. And the announcers always talk about how valuable Joe Morgan is because he walks 100 times a year.” (They really did, but only because he was Joe Morgan. They didn’t mention any one else who was patient.)

That innocuous observation stuck with me. So when Bill James came out with his Baseball Abstracts, I was a ready consumer, and willing to question analysis and convention. To this day, I think that’s the best case. It’s probably why I’ll never be a conservative (small ‘c’ you political junkies) because if you don’t take risks, take chances, or question conventional wisdom you will never grow and thrive, much less survive.

If walking wasn’t a skill, Picciolo should have had normal walk totals along the way. Nope. He drew 25 in 730 games. He was a -4.4 WAR in his career. As bad as his offense was (especially in 1979), he was worse on defense (-1.2 DWAR that season). And as bad as he was, he spent just 2 full seasons and 2 very partial seasons in the minors. So he had some people fooled in that era because he LOOKED like a decent major league infielder.

But the kids knew. At least the kid that had the card first that Spastik Moose finally got and then passed along to me so I can put it in my binder as a placeholder. He kept Dave Concepcion pristine. He let Picciolo exposed to the elements.

BTW: He actually drew three walks in 1979.

The first was July 4 against the Angels. The A’s lost 17-6.

That’s right, Picciolo went more than half a season (that was game 83 for the A’s – though Rob had played in just half of them due to some nagging injuries, I think) and 111 plate appearances before walking. The A’s were 9-31 when he played until that July day (where they went 9-32 with Picciolo in the game) and that can’t be a coincidence.

Anyway, Don Aase walked him in the bottom of the 3rd with one out and Tony Armas on first. On the next play Rickey! forced out Picciolo at second and the Angels doubled up Armas as he tried to score from second. Yes, you read that right. It was actually a close game until Mike Norris and Craig Minetto gave up 10 runs in the 8th.

The last walk was against the White Sox on September 14. The A’s beat the Pale Hose 8-3 and Ross Baumgarten walked Picciolo to lead off the third. Rickey! forced Rob at second, then Rickey! stole second and third and scored on a sac fly.

So that’s walk one and three. What about walk #2.

Remember when I posted about Alvaro Espinoza?

Keep that in mind.

The day was September 8, 1979. It was the bottom of the ninth. Rookie manager Tony LaRussa’s White Sox were matched against the hapless, hopeless, helpless A’s. Baumgarten had cruised through seven shutout innings but gave up a run in the eighth on a Jim Essian single. Mike Proly got the last out of the eighth and was left in to start the ninth. (This, of course, was before LaRussa had 217 relievers at his disposal.)

Jeff Newman hit a grounder to Kevin Bell at third that Bell booted. (See how bad this A’s team was. You had two career backup catchers in the game AT THE SAME TIME in Essian and Newman.) Derek Bryant pinch ran for him. Wayne Gross hits a single to right to bring up Picciolo.

Runners on the corners. No one out. Tie game.

What does LaRussa do?

He intentionally walks a man who had drawn only one walk all year to load the bases.

He intentionally walks a man who never walks to load the bases for a player who walked ALL THE TIME.

Yes, Rickey! drew a bases loaded walk off of Proly. All because Picciolo was walked intentionally.

“Geniuses” need to learn that hard way, I guess.