Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Mark Eichhorn, 1995 Donruss #475
What? Don't even pretend that you'd forgotten the 52nd birthday of one of the foremost relief pitchers of the 1980s and early 1990s. Whatever you do, don't tell me that you weren't aware that today marks the momentous anniversary of the birth of Cabrillo Junior College's greatest athlete. I just can't bear to have you toy with my emotions.
All sarcasm aside, Mark Eichhorn was a mighty fine pitcher. The stat line for his 1986 rookie season in Toronto is the kind of thing we might never see again. Despite the fact that all 69 of his appearances that year came in relief, he tossed 157 total innings...leaving him just 5 shy of qualifying for the league's lowest earned run average. That's especially notable because he posted a 1.72 ERA that would've bested Mike Scott's official major league-leading mark by a half a run! If you like the counting stats, Mark had a 14-6 record to tie Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy for the team lead in wins, and he also wrested 10 saves from the grasp of closer Tom Henke. Eichhorn's 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings and 3.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio were also the kinds of numbers his parents could brag about, if they were boastful-type folks. If Wins Above Replacement (WAR) had existed in 1986, the Eichhorns could have trumpeted his 7.1 figure, which trailed only Teddy Higuera and Roger Clemens among all A.L. pitchers. All of that was enough to get him a third-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Canseco (2.8 WAR) and Wally Joyner (2.9 WAR). Imagine the field day that sabermatricians would've had with THAT vote!
Mark was never quite so otherworldly in any other season, but he had several other good-to-great years before throwing his last pitch in 1996. That includes his 1994 season with the Orioles, in which he had a 2.15 ERA (17 ER in 71 IP). He was no longer missing many bats (4.4 K/9 IP), but the then-33-year-old still found a way to keep runs off of the board. Happy Birthday, Ike!