Sunday, June 18, 2023

Your 1981 Red Sox Pt. 29: Mike Torrez

In this series, I will look at each player who played in 1981, the year I was born. Because, why not?

Mike Torrez's legacy with the Red Sox is primarily giving up the home run to Bucky Bleeping Dent.  But that largely ignores the fact that Torrez was a serviceable starting pitcher for Boston for five years.  He had an 18-year career, winning 185 career games with a roughly league-average ERA.  That is a pretty valuable career.  His career WAR was a solid, if unspectacular, 22.9.  Had he played during the current era he would have easily made $10 million a year.

Torrez was one of the rare players to defect from the Yankees to the Red Sox.  He had been acquired by the Yankees early in the 1977 season and had a decent year, winning 14 games with a 3.82 ERA.  With Boston, he was expected to be a middle rotation starter, joining a rotation featuring Luis Tiant, Bill Lee, Dennis Eckersley and Reggie Cleveland.  Torrez did his job admirably, going 16-13 with a 3.96 ERA in 250 innings pitched.  He drew the start in Game #163, a one-game playoff against the Yankees to determine the A.L. East division winner.  He was pitching well too, with a lead in the seventh inning, before giving up the Dent homer.

The next season, his record was the same, but his ERA ballooned and he led the league in earned runs allowed and walks, not a good combination.  In 1980, his numbers declined even further, with an ERA of 5.08 and a record of 9-16.  Things were not looking great for Torrez at that time, having declined each season.  But then came 1981.

1981 was Torrez's best season with the Red Sox.  In the strike-shortened season, Torrez pitched in 22 games, starting all of them, and spanning 127 innings.  He had a 10-3 record, his best winning percentage of his career, with a 3.68 ERA.  He notched 54 strikeouts and 51 walks and threw two complete games.  Torrez had the best year on the staff, leading the team in victories and ERA.

The next season though, Torrez's numbers reverted to his 1980 form.  He was 9-9 with a 5.23 ERA.  After the 1982 season, he was traded to the Mets for a player who never made it to the Majors.  He led the league in losses, earned runs and walks.  He pitched for one more season with the Mets and A's before hanging it up.  

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