Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Top 100 Red Sox: 25-27

We're about to get into the reader-participation segment of the list; make sure your voice is heard!

37. Jimmy Collins, 3B
36. Bill Dinneen, P
35. Derek Lowe, P
34. Jason Varitek, C
33. Jackie Jensen, RF
32. Rico Petrocelli, SS/3B
31. Johnny Pesky, SS
30. Bill Lee, P
29. Dom DiMaggio, CF
28. Harry Hooper, RF

Did somebody say something about a Monster?

27. Dick Radatz
Jim Murray put it best: "Dick Radatz brings one weapon. It's like saying all a country brings to war is an atom bomb."

In just his second career outing in 1962, Radatz struck out the side against Baltimore in the eighth inning, including an in-his-prime Brooks Robinson. A day later, he struck out Robinson again with runners in scoring position en route to his first career save; a day after that he struck out Norm Cash and got Rocky Colavito to ground to second en route to his second career save.

Just like that, a legend was born.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Radatz didn't give up his first earned run until May 15 -- and even in that outing, he struck out four Yankees, including Mickey Mantle twice, in three innings of work. By the end of the season, he had 144 strikeouts and a 2.24 ERA in 124 2/3 innings of work and already was the most terrifying relief pitcher in the American League.

He only got better in 1963 -- he had a 1.97 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 132 1/3 innings, all in relief. And in 1964, he had an ERA of 2.29 and 181 strikeouts in 157 innings, again all in relief. Only six pitchers in baseball history have struck out at least 140 hitters in a season in which they made zero starts. Five of those pitchers did it one time. Radatz did it three times.

In 1963, Radatz even put together a 33-inning scoreless streak in May and Juene, including a remarkable 8 2/3 innings of relief in a 15-inning game against Detroit. He came into the game with one out in the seventh inning and proceeded to induce an Al Kaline groundout to get out of a jam. He had just two strikeouts to his credit at the end of the ninth inning, but he turned up the heat in extras -- he whiffed Kaline in the 10th and had at least one strikeout in every inning the rest of the way.

His line for the game was Ernie Shore-esque: 8 2/3 innings, 3 hits, 11 strikeouts.

And while the Yankees went to the World Series every year from 1962-64, even they couldn't touch Radatz. In 25 appearances against the Bronx Bombers spanning those three seasons, Radatz allowed nine earned runs in 52 2/3 innings (a 1.40 ERA) and struck out 57.

26. Fred Lynn
Plenty of young players when they first get to the major leagues. It's only natural. Some play badly; some play OK. It's all part of learning how to be a professional baseball player.

Here's Dustin Pedroia in his first cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 2006: 17 hits in 89 at-bats (.191)
Nomar Garciaparra in 1996: 21 hits in 87 at-bats (.241)
Dwight Evans in 1972: 15 hits in 57 at-bats (.263)
Jim Rice in 1974: 18 hits in 67 at-bats (.269)
Carlton Fisk in 1971: 15 hits in 58 at-bats (.313)

And here's Fred Lynn in 1974: 18 hits in 43 at-bats (.419).

He went hitless in his first three games; not so much on Sept. 15 against Milwaukee. He hit a solo home run in his first at-bat; he doubled home Carl Yastrzemski in his second at-bat. Three days later, he went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and three RBI against Detroit. The night after that, he went 2-for-3 with another home run.

Seven months later, he again went hitless in his first two games of the 1975 season. On April 16, though, in front of 8,854 fans at Shea Stadium against the Yankees, he singled to lead off the game, homered to lead off the third and homered to lead off the fifth inning.

Red Sox history would never be the same.

25. Tim Wakefield
As aggravating as it is to watch at times, we all know what the knuckleball has done for the Red Sox franchise:
* A 16-8 record with a 2.95 ERA in 1995;
* 10 seasons with 10 wins or more;
* The flexibility to start, relieve or close;
* 3 1/3 selfless innings in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS.

But, really, what we'll always remember about Tim Wakefield is the endless parade of catchers who tried so valiantly to get a glove on that knuckleball. You might be interested to see how they did -- and, more importantly, how Wakefield did with each of them behind the dish:
(OPS: on-base percentage plus slugging percentage)
* Jason Varitek: 1,850 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .779
* Bill Haselman: 633 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .770
* Scott Hatteberg: 772 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .735
* Doug Mirabelli: 3,856 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .717
* Kevin Cash: 673 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .709
* Mike Macfarlane: 659 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .673
* Josh Bard: 130 at-bats; opponents OPS'ed .670

Sure, it's a small sample size -- and there's only so much you can glean from a stat that's got so much background noise. (Macfarlane ought to have seen hitters compile low on-base-plus-slugging numbers; he caught Wakefield during that sensational 1995 season.) But it's still a little interesting to see who's got the best opponents' OPS, isn't it?

Coming up: The franchise's all-time leader in saves.

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