Minor League Workhorses:  1966-1970

We’re happily ready to go with another installment in this series. To review what we’re doing here: in an attempt to discover what has been the top end of pitcher usage levels in the minor leagues over the past decades, we:

- Record the top 10 pitchers in innings pitched in each minor league classification each season
- Compute the average stat lines of these top workhorses
- Compare the year-to-year changes

Remember that EP = Estimated number of pitches, using Tangotiger’s pitch estimation formula.

So far, we’ve done this for four five-year periods: 1946-1950, 1951-1955, 1956-1960, and 1961-1965. Now it’s time to get ourselves into the Nixon administration.

Our first category is the Triple-A leagues, including the Pacific Coast League, which operated under a unique “Open Classification” status from 1952 through 1957.

Class AAA/Open Top 10 Average Innings Leaders
   Year  Age   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
   1946   31  39   ?  24  280  18  15  262   78  157  2.69  4303
   1947   32  39   ?  21  277  17  15  286   77  117  3.39  4290
   1948   30  38   ?  18  251  16  13  268   93  122  3.93  4062
   1949   30  41   ?  23  282  21  13  271   98  147  3.35  4448
   1950   29  41   ?  21  283  19  14  270  102  133  3.46  4447
   1951   28  36  32  18  249  16  12  220   98  123  3.22  3912
   1952   31  40  34  20  270  18  14  238   79  135  2.76  4094
   1953   29  42  34  18  266  19  13  253   84  115  3.30  4094
   1954   29  39  34  17  258  17  13  229  101  162  3.15  4111
   1955   29  39  34  19  259  19  13  237   76  129  2.88  3956
   1956   28  38  32  17  245  16  13  244   85  133  3.43  3905
   1957   25  35  31  14  233  16  11  215   92  139  3.29  3730
   1958   28  35  30  14  226  15  11  209   76  127  3.31  3536
   1959   29  36  31  13  233  15  11  226   73  122  3.31  3639
   1960   27  38  30  13  225  14  12  226   66  121  3.37  3512
   1961   28  36  30  11  218  14   9  214   65  123  3.47  3401
   1962   28  35  30  13  225  14  10  219   67  139  3.28  3527
   1963   26  38  30  14  224  15  13  220   61  143  3.50  3491
   1964   24  36  30  12  217  13  12  198   65  166  3.08  3406
   1965   24  33  30  11  215  14  11  209   65  140  3.61  3381
   1966   23  33  31  13  224  14  11  218   67  151  3.36  3528
   1967   26  35  31  14  231  15  12  226   65  131  3.05  3585
   1968   25  35  32  17  241  16  11  220   60  151  2.77  3664
   1969    ?  41  31  18  239  18  12  224   72  146  2.65  3719
   1970   28  40  32  14  226  16  12  223   75  133  3.49  3587

1946-50   30  40   ?  21  275  18  14  271   90  135  3.37  4310
1951-55   29  39  34  18  260  18  13  235   88  133  3.06  4033
1956-60   27  37  31  14  232  15  12  224   78  128  3.34  3664
1961-65   26  35  30  12  220  14  11  212   64  142  3.39  3441
1966-70   26  37  31  15  232  16  12  222   68  142  3.05  3617

The trend toward the elimination of semi-independent, for-profit Triple-A leagues which had so changed the nature of these ace pitchers was abated somewhat in this period, as the Mexican League became a Triple-A league in 1967. The Mexican League had long operated outside the network of North American “Organized Baseball” (including its notorious attempt in 1946 to raid the major leagues of players), but in 1963 it was incorporated into the National Association as a Double-A league, and promoted to Triple-A status in ’67.

The Mexican League was a thriving and growing economic enterprise in these years, quite in contrast to the U.S. minors, which were generally struggling financially, utterly dependent upon major league subsidization for survival. Though some Mexican League players were acquired by major league organizations, none of its teams were owned or fully-affiliated farm teams in the manner of their U.S. counterparts. Thus most of the Mexican League ace pitchers were veterans, career Mexican League stars, and their influence can be seen in the bump upward in average age and average workload of these top workhorses beginning in 1967. (Indeed in 1969, nine of the top 10 Triple-A innings leaders were Mexican Leaguers whose ages are unknown to me, and so I can’t even calculate an average age for that season.) It is the case, however, that even the heaviest-worked Mexican Leaguers in these years had more moderate workloads than were common across Triple-A baseball until the late 1950s.

North of the border, Triple-A aces were younger prospects being groomed for the majors, and they were deployed in the more cautious manner that we saw emerging in the early 1960s.

Class AA Top 10 Average Innings Leaders
   Year  Age   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
   1946   29  38   ?   ?  252  19   9  227   80  132  2.42  3874
   1947   28  36   ?  20  253  18  11  238   77  132  2.83  3909
   1948   25  40   ?  17  244  16  14  239  102  115  3.53  3938
   1949   29  38   ?  17  239  16  11  242   85   99  3.57  3785
   1950   27  40   ?  18  244  19  11  220   98  148  3.15  3908
   1951   26  37  32  20  258  16  14  227  113  130  2.92  4123
   1952   30  38  31  19  256  18  12  234   80  109  2.82  3913
   1953   28  39  31  17  251  16  12  246   99  129  3.21  4036
   1954   27  40  31  15  246  17  12  237   99  149  3.89  3982
   1955   29  39  32  18  254  19  11  226   92  146  3.03  3985
   1956   28  37  32  15  240  17  10  229   80  135  3.27  3775
   1957   29  39  31  15  243  17  12  224   88  132  3.25  3826
   1958   27  36  32  16  247  17  11  235   86  154  3.30  3920
   1959   28  39  31  17  243  16  12  241   75  137  3.48  3820
   1960   24  38  29  13  227  15  10  221   94  151  3.53  3716
   1961   24  34  27  12  217  14  12  205   80  130  3.51  3462
   1962   22  36  28  12  213  14  11  226   77  141  4.01  3485
   1963   28  33  30  16  227  16  10  218   63  156  3.09  3551
   1964   28  34  31  14  226  15  11  221   69  166  3.56  3592
   1965   26  35  30  13  233  17  10  214   69  168  3.02  3645
   1966   28  38  30  14  226  17  11  211   80  176  2.84  3642
   1967   22  29  28  13  198  12  11  170   77  139  2.68  3153
   1968   24  30  24   9  185  12   8  152   51  120  2.37  2791
   1969   23  29  26  10  188  13   8  173   68  125  3.22  2992
   1970   21  29  28  11  197  12  11  172   67  134  3.01  3086

1946-50   28  38   ?  18  246  18  11  233   88  125  3.10  3883
1951-55   28  38  32  18  253  17  12  234   97  133  3.17  4008
1956-60   27  38  31  15  240  16  11  230   85  142  3.37  3811
1961-65   26  34  29  14  223  15  11  217   72  152  3.44  3547
1966-70   24  31  27  11  199  13  10  176   69  139  2.83  3133

The promotion of the Mexican League from Double-A to Triple-A in 1967 is starkly evident here: the increase in both average age and workload that had begun with the Mexican League’s 1963 arrival immediately vanished. Indeed, over the rest of this period we see a group of Double-A aces that were younger and more less heavily worked than ever before. It became a rarity for a Double-A pitcher to make as many as 30 starts or work as many as 200 innings.

Class A Top 10 Average Innings Leaders
   Year  Age   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
   1946   24  33   ?  19  235  17   9  213   93  177  2.76  3805
   1947   23  35   ?  14  227  15  11  213   80  144  3.05  3610
   1948   25  38   ?  19  245  17  13  235  106  152  3.48  4013
   1949   22  36   ?  18  245  16  13  223  100  140  3.11  3916
   1950    ?  34   ?  21  250  16  13  236  105  132  3.34  4025
   1951   23  36  31  21  254  18  12  223  103  156  2.95  4056
   1952    ?  40  31  22  268  18  14  263  109  160  3.46  4360
   1953    ?  41  31  21  264  18  15  279   98  115  3.77  4245
   1954   23  37  31  21  254  18  11  227  101  157  3.07  4056
   1955   23  33  29  19  229  16  10  216   91  141  3.15  3687
   1956   22  35  28  16  227  15  12  195  103  160  3.18  3690
   1957   23  36  30  19  240  16  11  227   93  154  3.42  3874
   1958   20  35  30  13  229  16  10  211   96  140  3.16  3705
   1959   23  36  29  15  226  16  11  216   69  147  3.29  3546
   1960   21  31  29  12  207  14  11  187   91  146  3.41  3383
   1961   23  31  28  15  213  14  11  190   74  137  3.02  3345
   1962   22  32  27  15  210  14  11  190   79  173  3.28  3398
   1963   19  33  29  16  225  16   9  198   85  194  3.03  3641
   1964   22  32  27  15  214  14  11  194   81  203  3.40  3504
   1965   20  33  28  15  222  15  11  195   91  194  2.98  3634
   1966   21  32  28  17  222  15  10  195   63  159  2.76  3420
   1967   20  32  27  14  208  14  10  184   79  173  2.68  3365
   1968   21  31  26  13  209  16   9  182   66  180  2.67  3305
   1969   21  32  27  14  209  15   9  182   65  154  2.39  3265
   1970   21  30  27  14  214  14  11  185   67  148  2.34  3322

1946-50   24  35   ?  18  240  16  12  224   97  149  3.15  3874
1951-55   23  37  30  21  254  18  12  241  100  146  3.28  4081
1956-60   22  35  29  15  226  15  11  207   90  149  3.29  3639
1961-65   21  32  28  15  217  15  10  193   82  180  3.14  3504
1966-70   21  31  27  14  213  15  10  186   68  163  2.57  3335

The major restructuring of the minor league system which had taken place in 1963, eliminating Classifications B, C, and D, created a larger Class A than had existed previously. While the nomenclature of “High A” and “Low A” wasn’t in use at the time, it was clearly true that not all of the leagues classified as A were really equivalent. Still, even though they were all below Double-A, and all existing entirely as feeder farm clubs for the higher classifications, the sheer number of Class A leagues allows us to identify top ten innings leaders each season that are somewhat more elite, and thus heavier-worked, than those in Double-A.

The Mexican League had several of its own minor leagues within Class A in this period, but like their U.S. counterparts these leagues were stocked only with young prospects. The top pitcher workload patterns of the Mexican Class A leagues weren’t different from those in the U.S.

Rookie Class Top 10 Average Innings Leaders
   Year  Age   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
   1963   18  15  12   3   80   5   4   74   59   85  4.32  1486
   1964   19  16  12   5   94   7   5   83   53  100  3.72  1642
   1965   18  18  11   5   91   7   4   92   39   99  3.93  1562
   1966   21  15  12   5   91   7   4   73   41  106  2.97  1523
   1967   19  14  11   4   81   6   4   73   33   72  2.82  1328
   1968   20  15  12   5   87   6   4   74   35   83  2.94  1415
   1969   19  15  13   6   95   7   4   80   38  104  2.77  1569
   1970   18  15  13   6   98   7   5   85   35  100  3.06  1593
  
1963-65   18  16  12   4   88   6   4   83   50   95  3.99  1563
1966-70   19  15  12   5   90   7   4   77   36   93  2.91  1486

This late-June-to-September league format, created in 1963 to accomodate newly-signed prospects as they left their high school or college programs, showed little change in the deployment of its top pitchers through 1970. However, it is notable, though perhaps it’s simply a coincidence, that these aces from 1966-70 were significantly more effective those those of 1963-65, as measured by baserunners allowed and ERA.

Class AAA Top 10 Workloads
Pitcher           T  Age  Year     League   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
Jim Horsford      R    ?  1969    Mexican  37  34  30  276  20  13  254   86  199  2.12  4342
Salvador Sanchez  L    ?  1969    Mexican  45  35  22  274  22  12  214  110  194  1.84  4315
Jim Horsford      R    ?  1968    Mexican  34  34  28  278  20   9  210   66  212  1.59  4126
Salvador Sanchez  L    ?  1970    Mexican  49  39  21  250  16  15  228  114  154  2.99  4085
Rich Robertson    R   23  1968  Pac Coast  34  33  18  256  18   9  217   77  216  2.36  3998
Bill Whitby       R   22  1966  Pac Coast  35  33  14  247  13  11  276   63  163  3.46  3947
Jim Ollom         L   20  1966  Pac Coast  33  33  17  247  20   8  275   64  137  3.43  3910
Ramon Arano       R    ?  1967    Mexican  40  31  17  249  15  11  265   53  153  2.78  3861
Bob Garibaldi     R   28  1970  Pac Coast  32  32  20  254  15  10  248   52  131  2.87  3816
Julious Grant     L    ?  1967    Mexican  38  31  14  229  11  16  244   89  169  3.27  3815

I don’t know anything about Horsford or Sanchez, other than that obviously they could really pitch, and were enjoying some big years in this period. In Horsford’s head-shot photo in the 1969 Sporting News Baseball Guide he appears vaguely Latino, though he sure doesn’t have a typically Mexican-sounding name.

Whitby and Ollom were both in the Minnesota organization, but neither was able to crack those excellent, deep Twins’ staffs of the mid-60s for much more than a cup of coffee. They were pitching their home games in Denver in ’66, which may help explain those very high hits allowed totals. For 1967, Ollom was given a spot on the Minnesota major league staff, but used in just 35 innings all year, while Whitby, still in Triple-A, put up a 4.21 ERA in 156 innings and was never again considered a serious prospect. Ollom was sent back to Denver in 1968, and he suffered through an 8.24 ERA meltdown in 71 innings in the unforgiving environment, and his days as a prospect were through as well.

Robertson and Garibaldi were both Bay Area products signed by the Giants out of Santa Clara University, Garibaldi to a $150,000 Bonus Baby contract. Neither would pitch an inning for the Giants’ organization below Triple-A, but neither would come close to fulfilling his promise at the big league level.

In the case of Garibaldi, San Francisco’s hesitance to give him a full big-league shot is somewhat explainable: after fulfulling the bonus-rule-requirement of spending his first pro year sitting on the major league bullpen bench, when farmed out to the Pacific Coast League Garibaldi didn’t impress, putting up so-so league-average-ish seasons every year from 1963 through 1967. But as Garibaldi matured he developed excellent control, and in 1968 he had a good year in Triple-A. Then it became odd that the Giants, who undertook a rather major overhaul of their pitching staff in 1969-70, never allowed Garibaldi a meaningful major league opportunity, despite his leading the PCL in wins in ’69, and putting up the very solid workhorse year in 1970 that we see above. In October of ’70 they traded Garibaldi to Kansas City, he failed to make the Royals’ staff, and never again saw the big league light of day.

Robertson’s case is even more puzzling. In his first pro year, 1966, he was excellent in the PCL, going 13-6 with a 2.80 ERA, but this didn’t gain him a promotion to the majors for 1967. Instead he spent another season in Triple-A, and this time led the league with 184 strikeouts in 190 innings. But still, the Giants decided that the 30-year-old Ron Herbel was more deserving of a spot on their staff, and left Robertson in the PCL for yet another full year in 1968, allowing him to compile the tremendous line we see above.

Finally in 1969, and especially in 1970, the Giants gave Robertson some serious big league innings, but it became increasingly clear that he’d left his best fastball behind somewhere in all that Triple-A work. By 1971 his shoulder was pretty close to shot. The White Sox gave him a tryout in the spring of ’72, but weren’t impressed, and at the age of 27 Robertson’s baseball career was finished.

Class AA Top 10 Workloads
Pitcher           T  Age  Year     League   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
Ramon Lopez       R   33  1966    Mexican  47  32  22  266  17  18  195   96  309  2.50  4268
Camilo Estevis    R    ?  1966    Mexican  43  28  17  254  17  10  246   53  162  2.87  3861
Felipe Leal       R    ?  1966    Mexican  39  30  13  224  18  11  194  121  217  2.77  3849
Jose Pena         R   23  1966    Mexican  37  32  12  235  19   7  209   96  161  2.80  3786
Julious Grant     L    ?  1966    Mexican  37  30  17  226  20  11  230   94  171  2.67  3770
Vicente Romo      R   23  1966    Mexican  38  27  13  220  17   7  199   93  206  2.41  3655
Leon Everitt      R   20  1967      Texas  32  30  16  222  15  13  195   83  200  3.45  3598
Jim Flynn         R   21  1970      Texas  31  31  15  228  19   4  204   77  135  2.64  3556
John Duffie       R   21  1967      Texas  29  29  22  229  16   9  208   53  171  2.40  3502
Evelio Hernandez  R   34  1966    Mexican  40  31  15  215  18  10  221   69  143  3.35  3452

Last time, I speculated that perhaps we’d seen the last of the 300-strikeout minor league pitchers. Señor Lopez proves me wrong here. (So did an alert reader who reminded me that Dwight Gooden had a 300-K season in the early ’80s … ) A veteran minor league star from Cuba, Lopez had worked in the Cleveland organization from 1958-62 before landing in Mexico, and was given a few games in the majors by the Angels as a result of the spectacular work we see above.

Hernandez was another Cuban veteran, who’d had a chance with the Senators in the mid-1950s.

We saw Julious Grant above in his 1967 Triple-A Mexican League work, as well as last time for his 1965 toil. I don’t know anything about him other than that he was the brother of longtime big league standout pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and that his nickhame was “Swampfire,” making the Grant family the undisputed all-time champion family for weird and funky nicknames.

Pena and Romo would both get picked up by major league teams, and Romo would have a pretty nice big league career.

Everitt, Flynn, and Duffie were all Dodger organization prospects, putting up big numbers for their Albuquerque farm club. None would achieve more in the majors but the merest cup of coffee.

Class A Top 10 Workloads
Pitcher           T  Age  Year      League   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
Mark Schaeffer    L   19  1967    Carolina  31  30   9  204  12   8  173  172  226  3.13  3876
Jon Warden        L   20  1967    Carolina  31  30  14  219  15  11  175  137  196  2.88  3793
Jim Moyer         R   20  1968  California  26  26  19  225  18   7  185   86  269  2.24  3715
Roberto Diaz      R    ?  1966  Mex Center  33  27  19  231  16  11  279   52  108  4.75  3656
Steve Luebber     R   20  1970   Fla State  34  30  17  237  17  11  184   79  172  1.78  3646
Lynn McGlothen    R   20  1970    Carolina  31  29  16  229  15   7  166   91  202  2.24  3618
Gustavo Guerrero  L    ?  1966  Mex Center  34  29  20  224  20   8  230   65  175  4.22  3597
Tim Sommer        R    ?  1966  California  32  30  15  226  11  17  213   67  179  2.87  3577
Julio Imbert      L    ?  1969     Mex S.E. 32  28  20  230  22   7  191   72  170  1.68  3558
Joe Henderson     R   21  1968  California  29  28  11  213  17   8  188  100  186  2.49  3558

Of all these substantial young prospects, only McGlothen would achieve a significant major league career. Schaeffer and Warden would each work just a single big league year in short relief, while Luebber would kick around the fringes of several seasons without much success.

I remember both Moyer and Henderson. The former was a hugely regarded Giants’ prospect, who was never quite the same after the prodigious effort we see above; he would rise as high as Triple-A, but was never especially impressive after this. Henderson was the ace of my hometown San Jose Bees in the season we see above, and I followed his exploits daily. I was certain huge stardom awaited him. Instead, he spent the entire following season on the Disabled List and then on the Voluntarily Retired List. A year later, the Angels’ organization released him; he would catch on in the Mexican League and eventually work his way up to a few major league chances in the mid-1970s.

Rookie Class Top 10 Workloads
Pitcher           T  Age  Year      League   G  GS  CG   IP   W   L    H   BB   SO   ERA    EP
Larry Hutton      R    ?  1966     Pioneer  17  17   5  119   9   3   90   74  142  3.03  2095
Bob O'Brien       L   20  1969     Pioneer  22  15  10  120  11   3   73   49  186  1.65  1977
Sandy Vance       R   21  1968     Pioneer  18  15  10  118  14   3   91   51  150  2.52  1974
John Ferri        R    ?  1970     Pioneer  17  13   7  117   3   9  115   37  124  3.85  1927
Rich Zinniger     L    ?  1969     Pioneer  15  15  13  114  13   2   80   52  164  1.82  1925
Dick Lange        R   21  1970     Pioneer  14  14  10  111  13   0   70   54  151  1.95  1853
Bruce Raible      R    ?  1970     Pioneer  15  14   7  113   9   4   87   38  119  2.71  1793
Mike Wallace      L   18  1969 Appalachian  14  14   7  102   6   6  102   47  123  3.97  1789
Alonso Olivares   R    ?  1966     Pioneer  14  12   8  102   9   3   80   53  131  2.47  1762
Dean Burk         R   18  1966     Pioneer  18  15   7  110   9   5   79   38  107  2.54  1719

The Ogden, Utah, operation of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization in the Pioneer League featured some highly impressive youngsters in this period. Hutton (was he related to Tommy Hutton? I don’t know), O’Brien, Vance, and Raible were all there as Dodger farmhands. None would succeed as major leaguers, though Vance and O’Brien each had a Chavez Ravine Venti.

It’s too soon to make a judgment yet—I need at least another five-year period worth of data—but at this point it appears as though the correlation between huge workhorse pitcher achievement at the Rookie League level and at the major league level is quite small.

Next Installment

Minor League Workhorses: 1971-1975

References & Resources
A rather small private Jesuit school, Santa Clara University has had a first-rate baseball program for decades, and never better than in the 1960s. Within the space of a few years in that decade , it produced both Garibaldi and Robertson, as well as Pete Magrini (whom we saw with a top AA workload season last time), plus Nelson Briles, Tim Cullen, John Boccabella, Alan Gallagher, Ernie Fazio, Bob Spence, Jan Dukes, Larry Loughlin, and Pat Jacquez.

I’m glad to say that I’ve known Robertson for over twenty years, since we met while working together at Hewlett-Packard. If you’re reading this, Rich, knock it off and get your lazy butt back to work.

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