Thursday, March 19, 2009

#78 -- Steve Arlin

We hear a lot now about how expansion has watered down the pitching. I happen to agree with that and think it's one reason (including bat technology, smaller dimensions in the ballparks, stronger ballplayers and wussified training techniques for pitchers) that baseball has more offense now than 40 years ago. That debate was going on in the early 1970's as the mound had just been lowered and there was another round of expansion that increased by 25% the number of teams -- and pitchers -- in the league. We went from 20 teams to 24 teams. I happen to think that's still a perfect number of teams in the league, but I know we won't go back to that.

Steve Arlin might have been the kind of guy to be pointed at as an "expansion" pitcher. I remember him for 2 things: he wasn't very good, he lost a lot of game and he was a dentist. I guess that was 3 things, but I lumped the first 2 together. Check out his stat lines:

1971 228 9-19 211 103 156 3.48
1972 250 10-21 217 122 159 3.60

Those were his best years. Granted, the ERA and the H/IP numbers aren't bad (ERA was slightly above league average), but the other numbers are bad. They got worse. Arlin was traded to Cleveland in 1974 where he finished off a 3-12 year to complete his career at 34-67 .337. He played on some really bad San Diego teams, but his stats would only neutralize to 33-51 .393. That's bad, too.

He did have 11 career shutouts in his 34 wins. Playing for San Diego, you almost had to toss a shutout to get a win. In 1972 he went at least 9 innings and allowed 1 or 2 hits 5 times. His record: 3-1. That includes a loss and a 10 inning no-decision where he only allowed 1 hit and a 2-hitter where no hits were allowed until 2 outs in the 9th. Three of those low hit games came in a 4 start stretch in June-July.

If you just looked at the numbers, like I did when I was 8, you'd be like me and think Arlin wasn't a very good pitcher. However, looking a little deeper, you'd see why the Padres kept throwing him out there. You just didn't know when he was going to "get it," turn the corner and become a superstar. Unfortunately for Steve, that never happened in the big leagues. He wore out guys like Willie Mays (3-24, 10 Ks), Lou Brock (2-15) and Willie Stargell (5-27, 8 Ks). But he got beat around by guys like Dal Maxvill (8-12), Wayne Garrett (7-19, 3 HRs) and Willie Crawford (7-23, 3 HR, 9 BB).

I joke with my wife when I try a home improvement project like, "You know, if this law thing doesn't work out, I could go into laying ceramic tile." Steve went ahead and studied dentistry for when the baseball thing didn't work out. In fact, he missed his first Padre Spring Training in 1969 because he was in dental school. I have to repeat my sorry comment from a Stats on the Back post, but I think he played a character in some North Pole claymation special on TV where he told Preston Gomez, "I don't want to pitch for the Padres and lose 20 games a year. I want to be a -- a -- a -- dentist!"

1 comment:

  1. 24 teams is the perfect number. It was the number of teams when I first started following baseball in 1974, so it seems like that's the way it always should be. :)