Don’t look at the hitting numbers this week; it’s the pitcher’s grade I’m focusing on this time. With Dennis Eckersley’s groundbreaking 1990 performance, he not only got the rare A&B pitching grade from APBA but also the ZZ control rating. Eck gave up only five earned runs in 73 1/3 innings for Oakland Athletics. Almost as impressive are his three unintentional walks.
I said that Eckersley’s 1990 season was groundbreaking and I did mean that in a baseball sense. But for APBA, it truly was. The Z control rating just wasn’t enough to reflect Eck’s pinpoint control. The 1991 card set (which the 1990 season was based on) was the first year that implemented the ZZ rating. That most certainly wasn’t a coincidence.
Eckersley’s 1990 hitting card IS interesting, though. Baseball Reference shows that for the year of 1990, he had zero plate appearances (none in the postseason either). Yet despite that, he has a superfluous 5 at 66 (as well as an extra 14).
No doubt, this is reflective of his past years’ performances. In 1985, Eck hit one homerun in 65 plate appearances and in 1986, he hit two homeruns and three doubles in 73 plate appearances. This goes back to the age-old APBA question of accuracy vs. realism. Surely, Eck had the skills (at one point) to hit a homer. So it was realistic to think that if he were to bat, he MIGHT hit a homerun. On the other hand, in 1990 he hit zero homers in 1990 (albeit in zero PA) is it accurate that APBA give him the ability to hit one on his card?
APBA fans can correct me if I’m wrong but I think this is a trend that the card makers at the APBA Company got away from eventually.
Eckersley will go down in history as one of the premiere bullpen aces thanks in large part to his 1990 campaign. Personally, I think his role as a starter is pretty undervalued though. He won 149 games as a starter with Cleveland, Boston and Chicago and won in double digits ten times. His best year was with the Red Sox in 1978 when he went 20-8 with a pretty nifty 2.99 ERA (interesting bit of trivia: he led the AL by giving up 30 HR that year).