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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Eldred - Announced Retirement

P Cal Eldred announced his retirement from baseball.

Eldred burst on the scene in 1992, going 11-2 down the stretch for the last winning Brewers team.  Midway through 1993, Eldred tied Boo Ferriss, Russ Ford, and Nick Maddox for quickest to 20 wins, only needing 30 appearances.  Surprisingly, none of the quartet made 100 wins.

Garner really worked Eldred in 1993, allowing his 25-year-old pitcher to throw 258 innings.  Garner’s been much better about young pitchers since then, but it didn’t keep Eldred from blowing out his arm in ‘94.  The next time Eldred was both healthy and effective?  2003.  After being healthy for only 1 season in 8 and already announcing his retirement once, Eldred, resurrected as a reliever, had 3 fairly solid years for the Cardinals.  The most recent one was marred by a rather scary viral infection of his heart.  Luckily, Eldred wasn’t an actor leaving NYPD Blue, so he survived the infection.  Eldred’s last game was Game 1 of the NLDS.  Not a pretty one as he allowed the Padres a run in the 8th and left Isringhausen with a mess to deal with in the 9th.

Dan Szymborski Posted: November 29, 2005 at 03:02 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Sparkles Peterson Posted: November 29, 2005 at 08:52 PM (#1751804)
Three games into the 2003 season, Eldred's ERA stood at 135.00. He made such an impression in those first two appearances that three straight solid years of relief work weren't enough for most Cardinals fans to relax when he came into a close game.
   2. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: November 29, 2005 at 09:00 PM (#1751820)
I still can't believe the White Sox got Eldred and Jose Valentin for Jaime Navarro.
   3. esseff Posted: November 29, 2005 at 10:30 PM (#1751995)
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this a couple of days ago, and noted that the Cardinals' declining to offer him a guaranteed contract for '06 played a part in his decision.
   4. Steve G. Posted: November 29, 2005 at 11:42 PM (#1752154)
Given the current state of the Cardinals bullpen...

Isringhausen
King
Thompson
Flores
Tyler Johnson (?)

...that's pretty sad.
   5. DTS Posted: November 30, 2005 at 01:42 AM (#1752363)
Eldred was a pretty decent reliever for three years as a Cardinal. He went through a lot of crap to get those three years, including a heart injury, but I'm glad he did. Happy trails Cal.
   6. danup Posted: November 30, 2005 at 05:13 AM (#1752503)
I felt plenty relaxed when he came into a game... as relaxed as I get, I mean. Honestly, to the Cardinals fans I know, at least, he made enough of a positive impression as the only effective reliever during about half of 2003 to more than cancel out that ugly start.
   7. Don Guillote (The Cheat) Posted: November 30, 2005 at 05:29 AM (#1752510)
He gave his elbow to the 2000 White Sox. Thanks Cal.
   8. Voros M. Posted: November 30, 2005 at 07:12 AM (#1752564)
One of the things that happens when a guy like Eldred retires is that you now get to go back to the player Cal Eldred was way back when: a hard throwing power pitcher with a bright future for the Brewers. I remember watching Eldred for the first time in 1992 and noticing what a live fastball he had. Thought he would be a good one. He was, but only for a year and a half or so.

The last few years with the Cardinals you could see glimpses of the starter Eldred could have become with a better medical history. Good luck to Cal in whatever he decides to do.
   9. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: November 30, 2005 at 07:33 AM (#1752574)
One of the things that happens when a guy like Eldred retires is that you now get to go back to the player Cal Eldred was way back when

Right. I hadn't really thought back on Eldred's early career in years, and it was nice to do so today. Especially since my new roommate is a longtime Brewer fan. He really seemed like something special in the early '90s, and it's sad that he flamed out like that.
   10. Anthony Giacalone Posted: November 30, 2005 at 02:27 PM (#1752682)
I don't blame Garner for Eldred's injury anymore. It's not like Eldred was 20 years old or anything. He was 25 when he threw 258 IP. The man had a bum arm (elbow and shoulder problems) and he was gonna blow up. It's a shame, though. He's a good guy, or at least seemed that way during his years with the Chisox.

Guys who pitched at least 250 IP in a year before the age 26 since 1980
INNINGS PITCHED YEAR IP
1 Dave Stieb 1982 288.1
2 Fernando Valenzuela 1982 285
3 Mike Norris 1980 284.1
4 Roger Clemens 1987 281.2
5 Dave Stieb 1983 278
6 Dwight Gooden 1985 276.2
T7 Oil Can Boyd 1985 272.1
T7 Fernando Valenzuela 1985 272.1
9 Mark Gubicza 1988 269.2
10 Fernando Valenzuela 1986 269.1
11 Mike Witt 1986 269
12 Dan Petry 1983 266.1
13 Roger Clemens 1988 264
14 Greg Maddux 1991 263
15 Bret Saberhagen 1989 262.1
16 Tom Browning 1985 261.1
17 Fernando Valenzuela 1984 261
18 Bret Saberhagen 1988 260.2
19 Cal Eldred 1993 258
T20 Frank Viola 1984 257.2
T20 Mario Soto 1982 257.2
T22 Bret Saberhagen 1987 257
T22 Fernando Valenzuela 1983 257
24 Roger Clemens 1986 254
25 Jack McDowell 1991 253.2
26 Moose Haas 1980 252.1
27 Charles Nagy 1992 252
T28 Jim Clancy 1980 250.2
T28 Frank Viola 1985 250.2
T30 Matt Keough 1980 250
T30 Jack Morris 1980 250
T30 Mike Witt 1985 250
T30 Dwight Gooden 1986 250
   11. Rob Base Posted: November 30, 2005 at 03:00 PM (#1752701)
Viola was a hell of a pitcher.
   12. Dizzypaco Posted: November 30, 2005 at 03:12 PM (#1752709)
I know we are supposed to be writing nice things about a guy who just retired, but I don't think he was destined to be a particularly good pitcher even if he had a better medical history. He was real good for about a third of a season, but that was largely due to a very low BABIP, which I think was mostly luck. He was about average for the next year and a half before he got hurt. He wasn't particularly young, and his strikeout figures weren't particularly impressive.

Of course, he could have blossomed - I didn't see him enough to rate his fastball. But there's nothing in the numbers that suggests he was destined for anything special.
   13. caprules Posted: November 30, 2005 at 04:39 PM (#1752812)
My first baseball video game was Tony Larusa 93 for Sega, so it was based off the 92 season. The Brewers were one of my favorite teams to play, with Molitor, a young speedy Listach and a dominant young Eldred. Little did I know that would be the last Brewer winning team for at least 13 years.
   14. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: November 30, 2005 at 04:39 PM (#1752814)
Guys who pitched at least 250 IP in a year before the age 26 since 1980

That's an ugly list of guys who flamed out pretty early:

Browning (last threw 160+ IP at 31)
McDowell (30)
Nagy (32)
Clancy (32)
Stieb (32)
Boyd (31)
Gubicza (32)
Keough (26)
Witt (28)
Norris (27)
Haas (29)
Petry (26)
Soto (28)
Eldred (29)
   15. Spahn Insane Posted: November 30, 2005 at 05:33 PM (#1752975)
Eldred burst on the scene in 1992, going 11-2 down the stretch for the last winning Brewers team.

Well, the last until this year.
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 30, 2005 at 05:40 PM (#1753001)
Kal-El Dred: Krypton's last son returns home, to a well-deserved rest.
   17. Not Marv Cook Posted: November 30, 2005 at 06:49 PM (#1753221)
You did Iowa proud Cal! Good work!

Quite probably the best career for anyone from the U. of Iowa.
   18. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 30, 2005 at 06:56 PM (#1753247)
Quite probably the best career for anyone from the U. of Iowa.

Mike Boddicker was much, much better. Jim Sundberg is also a Hawkeye alum. There is still time for Wes Obermuller to turn things around.
   19. Not Marv Cook Posted: November 30, 2005 at 07:05 PM (#1753279)
Forgot about Boddicker for some reason, which is VERY odd because my mom went to prom with him.
   20. Not Marv Cook Posted: November 30, 2005 at 07:06 PM (#1753284)
*In a group that included Mike Boddicker, not WITH Mike Boddicker. Realized my mistake right away.
   21. Voros M. Posted: November 30, 2005 at 09:37 PM (#1753608)
He was real good for about a third of a season, but that was largely due to a very low BABIP, which I think was mostly luck.

That's a good point, except how was I supposed to know this at the time?

I mean, when I first started even mentioning things along these lines in 1999, people took turns stomping on my head for doing so. Hell, they still do.

Don't I get a pass for not knowing this in 1992? :)
   22. esseff Posted: November 30, 2005 at 10:51 PM (#1753799)
Forgot about Boddicker for some reason, which is VERY odd because my mom went to prom with him.

I'm having a Geritol moment.
   23. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 30, 2005 at 10:57 PM (#1753811)
Well, the last until this year.

This year wasn't a winning year, just a non-losing year.

-- MWE
   24. My guest will be Jermaine Allensworth Posted: December 01, 2005 at 02:01 AM (#1754190)
I was at the game where Eldred blew out his elbow in 2000. The crowd just knew.
   25. PayRod Posted: December 01, 2005 at 03:13 AM (#1754283)
Don't I get a pass for not knowing this in 1992? :)

"Pass."
   26. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: December 01, 2005 at 03:45 AM (#1754322)
What is easily forgotten is that Eldred had a very solid curveball to go with with low 90's fastball.

I think anyone who posts a league average ERA (1993) with an infield defense of John Jaha, Bill Spiers, Listasch/Juan Bell/Dickie Thon!, and BJ Surhoff (yes, BJ Surhoff) deserves a tad more respect from the folks around here. Oh, and don't forget guys like Greg Vaughn and Tom Brunasky (oh yeah, we took all the teeming refuse back then) were roaming in the outfield.

Eldred came out of the University of Iowa where he pitched between snowstorms.

He pitched 160 minor league innings at age 22.

He pitched 201 innings (185 at triple A, 16 with the Crew) at age 23.

He pitched 241 innings between Triple A and the Crew at age 24. (1992)

Then the 258.

Then he was leading the league in batters faced and third in innings pitched when the strike hit.

So no, I won't give Phil or the organization a pass on this one.

Eldred had the makings of being a solid starter capable of 15-18 wins with a decent team around him. Instead they trashed him.

I am glad he fought his way back. I am thrilled he was able to cash some more paychecks despite the poor judgement of those entrusted with his well-being.

The effort was appreciated Cal. Congratulations on the career and best of luck.
   27. Anthony Giacalone Posted: December 01, 2005 at 03:11 PM (#1754756)
That's an ugly list of guys who flamed out pretty early

I originally thought that too, Chupacabra. But, now, I don't think that this is a good way to look at the list.

First, your list of guys with the oldest for 160 or more innings is a good list list but, of course, you were cherry picking. To show that the list was a bunch of flameouts you left Clemens, Maddux and Morris off the list. Plus, do you have any idea how few guys are still throwing 160 IP at age 30+? Only 193 pitchers in the last 25 years over the age of 30 have thrown any 160 IP seasons over the age of 30. That's 7.9% of all major league pitchers ever throw a single seson over 30 with 160 innings. Even on your list, selectively chosen to show flameouts, 46% of those pitchers threw 160 or more IP after 30.

Here's the same list as before with their total career innings pitched and that rank over the last 25 years (list includes guys

Roger Clemens -- 4704 (1)
Greg Maddux -- 4406 (2)
Jack Morris -- 3474 (3)
Fernando Valenzuela -- 2930 (T11)
Frank Viola -- 2836 (16)
Dwight Gooden -- 2800 (18)
Dave Stieb -- 2766 (20th)
Bret Saberhagen -- 2562 (27)
Jim Clancy -- 2517 (32)
Mark Gubicza -- 2223 (51)
Mike Witt -- 2108 (57)
Dan Petry -- 1982 (66)
Charles Nagy -- 1942 (70)
Tom Browning -- 1921 (73)
Jack McDowell -- 1889 (82)
Mario Soto -- 1730 (101)

Moose Haas -- 1655
Oil Can Boyd -- 1389
Cal Eldred -- 1368
Matt Keough -- 1190
Mike Norris -- 1100

So, of the 21 guys who have thrown 250 or more IP by the age of 25 (some were much younger), 11 still went on to throw 2000 IP in their careers. That's huge. In the last 60 years, less than 200 pitchers total have thrown 2000 IP in their career, but over half our list of guys with at least one large IP total under the age of 25 have done so. When I confront this question, I usually ask something like, "How many innings did you expect these guys to throw in their career?" Dave Stieb was worked as hard early in his career as anyone (and his best pitch was the one hardest on one's arm allegedly -- the slider) but he still threw very near 2900 IP in his career (55th out of more than 5000 pitchers). How much better could he have possibly been if he had been worked lightly? I mean, was he going to be one of the best ever?

To argue that these 250 IP totals under 25 hurt players you have to ignore that the guys that finished 1-2-3 in total IP over the last 25 years are on this list. BTW, #$ is Glavine who thre 246 IP at 25 years old. #5 is Dennis Martinez who threw 276 IP at 23 and 292 at age 24. Langston is #10 (after Finley, Big Unit, Hershiser and Hough) and he threw 225 at age 23, plus 239 at 25 and 272 at 26 and 261 at 27 . . . To put things in perspective, Mario Soto, a classic case of burnout having never pitched after 28, Threw more innings in his career than 96% of all pitchers from 1980-2000.

I know that this idea is bucking conventional wisdom, but I've come to believe in what I call "The Foxhole Theory of Pitching." That is, every pitcher has a certain number of innings in their arm and when their number is up, it is up. Personally, I don't care if a pitcher I develop gets his 2000 IP from age 20-30 or from 25-35. If any pitcher gets 2000 IP that organization should jump for joy and not be castigated beause they guy only threw 2200 IP but might have thrown 2700 IP with better care.
   28. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: December 01, 2005 at 04:08 PM (#1754835)
I originally thought that too, Chupacabra. But, now, I don't think that this is a good way to look at the list.

Thanks for the comments. Mine was just an observation - I recognized so many names on that list as guys generally known for being done before their (expected?) times, it surprised me.

And I did cherry pick - I saw Maddux, Clemens, Morris, etc., but I wasn't looking to make a full list. Just the guys who were done by their early 30s.

How much better could he have possibly been if he had been worked lightly? I mean, was he going to be one of the best ever?

I think that's the question here. We can say that X or Y threw more than 2000 innings and that's about all you can expect from 99% of major league pitchers. But for that 1% is it:

(a) they're just going to have 3500+ IP no matter what you do to them (Clemens, Maddux, Morris 1-2-3 on the list despite some big inning totals early in their career, or a guy like Nolan Ryan who pitched until he was 88 without his arm falling off); or
(b) they came up some number of innings short of a stratospheric total for some reason (everyone else on this list).

I'm not saying that everyone on this list would have thrown 3800 IP if they hadn't been worked like dogs before they were 25. I wasn't even saying that there's necessarily a correlation between 250+ IP seasons before age 25 and early career flameout (that's well-travelled territory). I was just surprised that the list included so many of the guys I personally remembered as "should have been great" pitchers who never panned out.
   29. Dan Szymborski Posted: December 01, 2005 at 06:30 PM (#1755145)
The subject of Cal Eldred's early career has come up the last few days with the announcement of his retirement. On a lark, I played with the game logs and Tangotiger's really good pitch count estimator. Surprisingly, it underestimated Eldred's actual pitches by a little under 10% (pitch counts for the whole year are available, I haven't seen individual game logs). Knowing that, I used the estimator to estimate a likely distribution of his 4250 pitches (118 pitches per start) in 1993.

159, 154, 147, 143, 138, 137, 136, 133, 130, 129, 127, 125, 123, 122, 121, 120, 120, 119, 117, 117, 116, 114, 114, 113, 112, 110, 108, 101, 97, 96, 93, 84, 83, 82, 73

If the big numbers are anywhere near right, there were some pretty ugly games in there.

And it's even worse than that. Starting with the 10 inning start he had on 8/20, he had 132 estimated pitcher per start over the rest of the season. On the morning of 8/20, the Brewers were in 7th place, 22 1/2 games out, 8 games behind 6th. It's one thing to work a pitcher hard in a tight division race, but the Brewers season was all but over by the time Garner kicked Eldred's workload into overdrive.

And it's even worse than that. Even if the games were in the thick of the pennant race, Eldred was frequently left in even when it was nearly pointless.

8/20 - 10 IP, 159 est. pitches. Game was tied 2-2 after 9. The Brewers scored 5 in the top of the 10th to take a 7-2 lead. After 140-some pitches, do you pull your starter? Not if you're Phil Garner! Eldred was kept out to protect the razor-thin 5-run lead.

8/25 - 8 IP, 143 est. pitches. Brewers have an 8-0 lead going into the 6th inning. Do you give your heavily used starter a break? Phil Garner doesn't. How about when you have a 12-0 lead in the 8th? Scrap Iron don't play that. Not until Eldred finally allowed 2 runs in the 9th inning did Eldred hit the showers.

8/30 - 9 IP, 138 est. pitches. Defensible if the game means something - Eldred beats Tom Gordon in a pitcher's duel. Of course, the win gets the Brewers to 19 games out.

9/4 - 7 1/3 IP, 125 est. pitches. Eldred had a poor game and allowed 5 runs in the 4th inning. Despite being down 5-0, Eldred pitches into the 8th inning and isn't lifted until he allows run number 6.

9/11 - 7 2/3 IP, 154 est. pitches. Eldred gets walktastic and is eventually relieved after the Mariners are up 4-0 in the 8th and Cal's allowed 5 walks.

9/17 - 9 IP, 122 est. pitches. Eldred was efficient and the game was close.

9/22 - 4 2/3 IP, 93 est. pitches. Tigers get 7 runs off of Eldred in the 5th. Amazingly enough, Garner decides that expanded roster means that someone else besides Eldred can pitch the rest of the lost game.

9/27 - 9 IP, 127 est. pitches. Complete game 2-runner for Eldred, but a loss as Hentgen pitched well (though was lifted in the 7th since Gaston realized that the relievers were there for a reason).

10/3 - 8 1/3 IP, 129 est. pitches. Eldred took a 3-1 lead into the 9th inning. Who comes in to close out the win? Your anointed, but crappy closer, Doug Henry? Any of your big 3 relievers, Mike Fetters, Jesse Orosco, or Graeme Lloyd. Nope, Cal Eldred! Eldred promptly allows 2 runs, blowing the lead. Then Mark Kiefer comes in and the bullpen holds the Red Sox scoreless for 5 2/3 more innings as the Brewers win in the 14th.
   30. greenback calls it soccer Posted: December 01, 2005 at 06:40 PM (#1755162)
So that's why they made a big deal about pitch counts.
   31. Maltodextrin Posted: December 01, 2005 at 06:47 PM (#1755182)
He totally saved my Scoresheet Baseball fantasy team at the end of 1992. He put me over the top to winning a championship that year.
   32. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: December 01, 2005 at 06:57 PM (#1755211)
Dan:

Great work. With your permission the next time some twit insists that Phil Garner was "just dealt a poor hand in Milwaukee" or some such nonsense I will post this as part of my rebuttal.

Garner destroyed Cal's chance for fortune and glory. I am glad he didn't destroy Cal's will to succeed at the major league level.

That little meltdown in the World Series exposed that perky dwarf for the the fraud that he is.

And yes, I do believe he also poops his pants.
   33. Greg Franklin Posted: December 01, 2005 at 09:56 PM (#1755634)
Dan, great work on the game logs. Mark Kiefer.. Listach... Jaha ... gawd.

HW, is it OK if I put that Garner comment on the wiki?

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