Detroit Tigers Rookie Pitcher Review, 1982-1990
Jerry Ujdur, RHP. 25 years old, considered a decent prospect, drafted in the 4th round in 1978 from the University of Minnesota. Went 10-10, 3.69 in 25 starts, but with a weak 86/69 K/BB ratio in 178 innings. Unimpressive component ratios warned that he had little margin for error. Collapsed in 1983 (7.15 ERA) and never pitched effectively in the majors again.
Larry Pashnick, RHP. 26 years old, journeyman type, used as a swingman. Was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan in 1979. Went 4-4, 4.01 in 94 innings, 19/25 K/BB ratio. Good command but very low strikeout rate was a big red flag. Fell apart in 1983 (5.26 ERA) and drifted out of the majors.
Dave Gumpert, RHP. 25 years old, sinker/slider pitcher, posted 2.64 ERA in 44 innings out of the bullpen, with a 14/7 K/BB ratio. Like Pashnick, he showed excellent control but a very low strikeout rate, and didn't last very long. Also like Pashnick, he was a native Michigan kid signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tigers.
None. No rookie pitchers threw significant innings for the Tigers in their glorious 104-58 season.
Randy O'Neal, RHP, 24 years old. First round pick in 1981, from the University of Florida, considered a top prospect. Used as a swingman and had a good year, going 5-5, 3.24 in 28 games, 12 starts, with a 52/36 K/BB in 94 innings. A solid campaign overall, but a low strikeout rate was a warning that future success was not guaranteed. His ERA rose to 4.33 in 1986. Traded to the Braves, then had a few mediocre years as a swingman in the National League. Career 4.35 ERA in 440 innings.
Eric King, RHP, 22 years old. Solid campaign as a swingman, went 11-4, 3.51 in 33 games, 16 starts, with 79/63 K/BB in 138 innings. Good stuff but command and control were erratic, with a low K/IP for a guy who threw pretty hard. Had originally been signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 1980. Had an erratic but OK career, going 52-45, 3.97 in 863 innings, though his K/BB was unimpressive at 459/333.
Jeff Robinson, RHP, 25 years old. Drafted by the Tigers in the third round in 1983, out of Azusa Pacific University. Went 9-6 in 21 starts, but with an unappealing 5.37 ERA. 98/54 K/BB in 127 innings. Threw pretty hard but had command issues. 47-40, 4.79 ERA in 709 career innings.
Mike Henneman, RHP, 25 years old. Fourth round pick in 1984 out of Oklahoma State. Fine year in the Tigers bullpen, went 11-3, 2.98 with 7 saves, 75/30 K/BB in 97 innings. Successful sinker/slider bullpen guy, had a good career.
Paul Gibson, LHP, 28 years old. Minor league journeyman, drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1978 out of high school in Southampton, New York.Went 4-2, with 2.93 ERA in 92 innings, 50/34 K/BB. Junkball guy, but pitched OK at times in the early 90s.
Kevin Ritz, RHP, 24 years old. Fourth round pick in 1985 by the Giants, out of William Penn University. Went 4-6, 4.38 in 12 starts for the Tigers, 56/44 K/BB in 74 innings. Decent stuff but had control problems. Won 17 games for the Rockies in 1996, but another journeyman type.
Steve Searcy, LHP, 26 years old, third round pick in 1985 by the Tigers from the University of Tennessee. Another guy with decent stuff but troubles throwing strikes. Went 2-7, 4.66 in 16 games, 12 starts, 66/51 K/BB in 75 innings. Never gained consistency and career over at age 29.
Brian Dubois, LHP, 23 years old, fourth round pick in 1985 by the Orioles. Went 3-5, 5.09 in 11 starts, 34/22 K/BB in 58 innings. Never pitched in the majors again.
Not an impressive group, at least compared to what the Twins and Dodgers produced in the same time period.
Guys with 500 or more innings:
Eric King: 52-45, 3.97 in 863 innings, 459/333 K/BB. Style: if memory serves, he had above average stuff but didn't strike a lot of guys out since he didn't change speeds well.
Kevin Ritz: 45-56, 5.35 in 753 innings, although pitching in Colorado inflated his ERA. 462/377 K/BB. Style: similar to King and Robinson: above average velocity but low strikeout rates.
Mike Henneman: 57-42, 3.21 in 733 innings, collected 193 saves, 533/271 K/BB. Style: Sinker/slider guy, one of the better examples of that style in the late 80s and early 90s. The only pitcher developed by the Tigers in this period who could be described as above average.
Jeff Robinson: 47-40, 4.79 in 709 innings, 425/347 K/BB. Style: Power pitcher, used a slider a lot. But like King, he didn't strike many guys out despite throwing hard.
Paul Gibson: 22-24, 4.07 in 557 innings, 345/236 K/BB. Style: Junkball finesse pitcher.
Notice a pattern here? Both in the type of pitcher the Tigers seemed to like, and in the fact that these guys with "good stuff" but not many strikeouts didn't last very long. That's one of the reasons I tend to be suspicious about that type of pitcher.