Fan Favorites By The Numbers: Rick Reuschel

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The next entry in the Fan Favorites series looks at an oft overlooked hurler.

Big Daddy. That was the nickname for Rick Reuschel, who was listed at 6'4" and 225 pounds, with a portly physique.

Before I go into the bio or the stats, I feel I owe something of a confession: I remember thinking Rick Reuschel sucked. Why? Because I was a kid looking at a pitcher with a less than optimal body who wasn't a flame thrower. And like most smart ass kids, my thing was to say that everything, and everyone, "sucked." But after looking into Rick's career, I was wrong. So I'm sorry, Rick. On to the bio.

Rick Reuschel is an Illinois native, born in Quincy. He was selected in the third round of the 1970 amateur draft out of Western Illinois University by his home-state Cubs. He played a total of 19 big league seasons for the Cubs, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, and San Francisco Giants. He had two stints as a Cub: from 1972 through part of the 1981 season and then rejoined the club for injury-shortened seasons in 1983-84.

He compiled a 214-191 won-lost record while sporting a 3.37 ERA. But, by my eye (now, at least), he was an under-appreciated hurler. He made just three All-Star teams, with only one nod coming as a Cub in 1977 (his last selection was as a 40-year-old for the Giants). He finished third in Cy Young voting twice, including that '77 season for the Cubs. Known as a man who could field his position well despite his size, he won a pair of Gold Gloves as a Pirate (one as a Pirate/Giant). He pitched in the postseason (though not well) three times (never as a Cub, of course), with his 1981 Yankees and 1989 Giants teams falling short in the World Series.

So how does Reuschel stack up via sabermetrics? Really well.

His Fangraphs page shows how valuable, and consistent, Big Daddy was. Including a shortened debut season, as a Cub Reuschel put up nine straight seasons of 4.3 WAR or better, including five seasons over 5 WAR (two of which were over 6!). For his career, Rick posted 69.1 WAR over the course of 3500+ big league innings.

Now, it is worth noting that WAR is something of a "counting stat" and Reuschel pitched in an era of four-man rotations (so he had more opportunity to build numbers). He had eight straight seasons of 234+ innings pitched, topped by 260 innings in 1976.

There are no xFIP calculations for this era, but FIP liked Rick, too. He had a 3.33 FIP or better every season but one during his first stint with the Cubs. Those FIP numbers are even more impressive considering he wasn't a strikeout pitcher.

Given the contract explosions this offseason, I imagine Reuschel wishes he had been born two generations later. Rick finally earned a seven-figure salary his last three seasons with the Giants. Take a look at Big Daddy's stats: what would a pitcher like that make on today's open market??

Chat about that and any memories you may have of Reuschel.

And, again Rick... I'm sorry I thought you "sucked." I was very, very wrong.

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