Minor League Workhorses:  1976-1980

We’re ready for another update on the heaviest minor league workloads. Our prior explorations have focused on 1946-1950, 1951-1955, 1956-1960, 1961-1965, 1966-1970 and 1971-1975. This time we’ll see what was going on while Star Wars, Fleetwood Mac and Three’s Company were going on.

As a reminder, to reveal the top end of pitcher usage levels in the minor leagues, 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.

First we’ll look at the Triple-A leagues, including the Pacific Coast League, which operated under a unique “Open Classification” status from 1952 through 1957.

Triple-A 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
    1971   32   36   29   16  223   16   12  216   58  140 3.03 3456
    1972   23   40   29   15  216   15   11  205   68  147 3.16 3407
    1973   26   33   29   14  213   16   11  202   78  136 3.17 3401
    1974   31   35   28   17  227   16   12  213   70  135 2.87 3535
    1975   33   35   30   18  240   16   13  226   70  142 2.50 3717
    1976   29   34   30   18  233   16   10  215   67  131 2.54 3577
    1977   28   36   33   21  252   19   13  229   74  153 2.39 3889
    1978   35   37   31   20  247   18   11  227   67  150 2.47 3788
    1979   32   33   32   22  255   20   10  237   63  157 2.37 3886
    1980   26   28   27   10  191   12   10  197   72   93 3.67 3080

 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
 1971-75   29   36   29   16  224   16   12  212   69  140 2.94 3503
 1976-80   30   34   31   18  236   17   11  221   69  137 2.64 3644

As we saw last time, the Mexican League’s impact is extreme here. The great majority of the heaviest-worked AAA pitchers in this era were Mexican Leaguers, who were typically veterans in mid-career, not prospects on the way up. Still, it’s interesting that Mexican League top aces were worked a little heavier in the late ’70s than they had been early in the decade.

The explanation for the sudden dropoff in 1980 is quite simple: A players’ strike ended the Mexican League season in July. So the line for 1980 we see above was compiled entirely by pitchers north of the border. We thus see the distinct difference between the usage pattern of Mexican Leaguers and U.S. Triple-A aces in this period.

Double-A 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
    1971   24   27   27   13  197   13   10  166   66  132 2.76 3059
    1972   22   30   26   12  191   13    8  165   64  149 2.74 3006
    1973   21   28   28   11  192   11   11  179   76  146 3.36 3127
    1974   22   27   26   12  186   13   10  172   80  124 3.25 3031
    1975   21   27   27   12  193   13    9  179   74  114 2.89 3077
    1976   21   28   27   12  191   12   12  184   70  106 3.22 3040
    1977   22   27   27   11  190   13    9  170   72  119 3.29 3012
    1978   22   28   28   13  197   12   11  176   75  129 3.20 3136
    1979   22   27   26   13  191   13   10  187   76  107 3.35 3086
    1980   22   28   28   11  201   14    9  188   75  124 3.31 3208

 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
 1971-75   22   28   27   12  192   12   10  172   72  133 3.00 3060
 1976-80   22   28   27   12  194   13   10  181   73  117 3.27 3096

The usage of aces at this level was amazingly stable over the 1970s: The average lines of 1971-75 and 1976-80 are essentially identical.

Single-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   33   ?    14  216   15   10  201   78  138 3.05 3433
    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
    1971   19   29   27   13  202   14    9  182   75  141 3.07 3226
    1972   21   29   26   13  193   14    9  176   70  152 3.00 3104
    1973   20   29   27   12  202   13    9  168   74  168 2.75 3208
    1974   20   28   27   14  208   14    8  169   73  156 2.56 3252
    1975   20   26   26   13  191   14    9  171   71  130 2.95 3039
    1976   21   26   26   11  189   12   10  173   85  122 3.25 3095
    1977   20   27   27   14  197   14    9  178   61  123 2.85 3051
    1978   21   27   27   12  197   13    9  178   67  140 2.91 3116
    1979   21   28   27   11  198   13   10  193   73  125 3.20 3180
    1980   21   27   27   12  198   16    7  161   74  139 2.64 3108

 1946-50   24   35   ?    18  238   16   12  222   96  148 3.15 3838
 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
 1971-75   20   28   27   13  199   14    9  173   72  149 2.86 3166
 1976-80   21   27   26   12  196   14    9  177   72  130 2.97 3110

The usage pattern here was also essentially unchanged from the early ’70s. We see only the most subtle decrease in top-end workload.

Rookie/Summer A 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
    1971   19   14   13    6   94    7    4   80   41  103 3.04 1575
    1972   19   13   13    6   94    6    5   82   42   88 3.14 1560
    1973   20   14   13    6  100    7    4   88   41   94 3.02 1653
    1974   19   15   14    7  102    8    5   88   44   82 2.97 1667
    1975   18   14   14    5   95    7    4   87   33   71 2.93 1514
    1976   20   14   13    5   98    7    4   85   36   81 2.86 1574
    1977   21   15   13    5   94    6    5   96   43   75 4.25 1595
    1978   21   14   13    5   94    6    5   91   39   70 3.44 1547
    1979   20   14   14    5   96    8    4   90   38   90 3.11 1592
    1980   22   14   13    4   91    8    3   85   30   75 2.62 1458

 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
 1971-75   19   14   13    6   97    7    4   85   40   88 3.02 1594
 1976-80   21   14   13    5   94    7    4   90   37   78 3.25 1553

Again we see almost no change in the way these young prospects were deployed. There’s a slight decline in the complete-game rate, but beyond that the pattern held entirely steady.

Triple-A Top 10 Workloads

Pitcher            T  Age Year    League     G   GS   CG   IP    W    L    H   BB   SO  ERA   EP
Ernesto Kuk Lee    R   ?  1979    Mexican   37   35   24  277   19   14  285   70  174 2.53 4329
Aurelio Monteagudo R  35  1979    Mexican   38   34   24  276   21   12  280   73  159 2.45 4296
Luis Mere          R   ?  1978    Mexican   40   35   24  276   18   13  245   64  195 2.51 4185
Mike Nagy          R  29  1977    Mexican   35   35   27  284   17   16  231   76  114 2.22 4163
Aurelio Monteagudo R  34  1978    Mexican   42   29   23  275   17   12  236   58  222 2.26 4153
Bobby Castillo     R  22  1977    Mexican   34   32   22  255   19   11  216  110  199 2.22 4141
Roger Hambright    R  28  1977    Mexican   36   33   22  263   21   12  272   64  158 2.94 4090
Aurelio Monteagudo R  33  1977    Mexican   37   33   15  264   16   18  235   77  168 2.76 4065
Arturo Gonzalez    R   ?  1979    Mexican   36   34   18  243   12   18  253  105  144 3.67 4034
Roger Hambright    R  27  1976    Mexican   36   32   17  250   17   11  248   91  133 2.70 3993

In the early 1970s, just one Mexican League ace achieved as many as 4,000 estimated pitches. In the four seasons from 1976 through 1979, that mark was exceeded nine times.

Interesting stories abound here. Monteagudo was the son of Rene Monteagudo, one of the early Cubans to play in the big leagues. Aurelio had a pretty good screwball, and was given a shot with 10, count ‘em, 10 different U.S. organizations in the ’60s and early ’70s, but never managed to stick in the majors. But then he went to Mexico, and blossomed in his 30s with the outstanding seasons we see above.

Nagy finished second in American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 1969 (though he didn’t pitch nearly as well as his 12-2 record suggested), but then struggled. Hambright appeared briefly with the Yankees in 1971, but didn’t last. Both found significant success, several years later, south of the border.

Castillo was a Californian of Mexican heritage. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1974 at the age of 19, but for reasons unknown to me, never played in their organization. His first professional experience occurred in the Mexican League in 1976, and he then presented the tremendous season we see above, prompting the Dodgers to acquire him. He had a pretty decent major league career, appearing in all or part of nine seasons.

Though he never pitched an inning in the majors, probably the most interesting story belongs to Won Kuk Lee. His profile in The Baseball Library, written by Merritt Clifton:

A Korean, Kuk Lee was signed in 1964 by the San Francisco Giants organization, who also signed Masanori Murakami that year. He pitched ambidextrously, earning brief looks in spring training. After the Giants released him, he concentrated on pitching righthanded, changed his name to Ernesto, married a Mexican woman, grew a handlebar mustache, and, playing into the 1980s, won more than 150 Mexican League games.

Double-A Top 10 Workloads

Pitcher            T  Age Year    League     G   GS   CG   IP    W    L    H   BB   SO  ERA   EP
Steve Brown        R  23  1980     Texas    27   27   16  209   14   12  215   81  103 3.66 3379
Terry Sheehan      R   ?  1978   Southern   30   30   11  213   17    8  182   84  136 3.17 3375
Steve Schneck      R   ?  1978    Eastern   28   26   18  205   15    7  142  106  180 2.15 3351
Bob Veselic        R  23  1979   Southern   28   28   13  201   11   10  220   71  151 3.58 3333
Steve Bedrosian    R  22  1980   Southern   29   29    9  203   14   10  167   96  161 3.19 3330
Alan Wirth         R  20  1977    Eastern   27   27   15  210   15    5  180   77  149 2.87 3320
D. Leatherwood     L   ?  1979   Southern   28   26   15  202   15   11  180  103   95 3.07 3303
Brian Holton       R  20  1980     Texas    27   27   16  207   15   10  204   65  139 3.43 3289
Jon Perlman        R  23  1980     Texas    30   30    9  200   13    7  230   76   78 4.28 3274
Dave Stewart       R  21  1978     Texas    28   28    5  193   14   12  181   97  130 3.68 3237

Brown, Veselic, Wirth and Perlman all had big league cups of coffee, of various sizes. Holton had a fair major league career, appearing in 185 games.

But both Bedrosian and Stewart became substantial major league stars, “Bedrock” primarily as a reliever and “Smoke” as an ace starter. Each was a remarkably durable and resilient pitcher, and each lasted into his late 30s.

Single-A Top 10 Workloads

Pitcher            T  Age Year    League     G   GS   CG   IP    W    L    H   BB   SO  ERA   EP
Bob Veselic        R  22  1978    Calif.    29   28   13  215   18    8  214   98  160 3.35 3614
Mike Griffin       R  20  1977   W. Carol.  27   27   19  209   17    9  189   75  201 3.49 3407
Greg Heydeman      R  24  1976    Calif.    27   27   12  195   11   10  198   99  159 3.46 3367
Andy Hawkins       R  19  1979    Calif.    27   27    7  188    8   13  232   97  130 5.60 3355
Ron Woods          R   ?  1978    Calif.    27   27   11  189   13   13  211  115   91 5.52 3336
Steve Crawford     R  21  1979   Carolina   29   28   15  211   11   11  208   67  127 2.94 3334
Steve Wagner       R   ?  1979    Calif.    27   26    5  196   13    9  214   84  143 4.27 3323
C. Wickensheimer   R   ?  1980  Fla. State  26   26   15  200   15    8  167   93  162 2.21 3286
Bill Tallman       R   ?  1976    Calif.    27   27   10  184   11   10  213  101  135 5.04 3283
Jim Lewis          R  22  1978    Calif.    26   26   14  212   12   11  166   61  189 2.12 3266

We see Veselic again, quite the minor league workhorse. Heydeman and Lewis also had sips of major league java. Griffin and Crawford became big league journeymen.

The most substantial major league career was achieved by Hawkins, who was never especially effective, but was solid and durable enough to log more than 1,500 innings in 10 seasons. The Padres’ organization allowed him to work 188 Class A innings at the age of 19 despite his being regularly pounded.

Rookie/Summer Single-A Top 10 Workloads

Pitcher            T  Age Year    League     G   GS   CG   IP    W    L    H   BB   SO  ERA   EP
Mario Mudano       L   ?  1978    Pioneer   17   14    8  100    6    8  125   61   63 5.85 1833
John Altman        R   ?  1977    Appal.    22   10    3  100    4   10  122   48   72 5.67 1765
Scott Budner       L   ?  1977    Pioneer   14   14    7   99    9    3   91   54  121 3.36 1759
Mark Dempsey       R  22  1980    Pioneer   15   14    9  114   14    1   96   27  109 1.58 1757
Rich Rodas         L  19  1979    Pioneer   13   13   11  113   12    0   81   18  148 1.12 1707
James Nobles       L   ?  1977    Pioneer   13   13    4   95    9    4  100   49   92 4.17 1678
Warren Mertens     R   ?  1977    Appal.    14   14    7  103    4    7  118   27   68 4.19 1660
Ken Angulo         L   ?  1978    Appal.    15   15    8   97    9    4   90   46   97 3.43 1656
Mark Smith         R  21  1977    Appal.    14   14    8   98    7    5   75   53   89 3.03 1643
Miguel Torres      R   ?  1979    Pioneer   14   14    3   92    6    7  121   44   59 5.67 1641

In 1977, the name of this classification was changed from “Rookie” to “Summer A,” but it still primarily deployed first-year signees fresh out of school.

Most of these youngsters never made the majors, and those who did (Dempsey, Rodas and Smith) made only the briefest of appearances.

Were Dempsey and Rodas effective at this level, or what? Combine their records, and this is what you get: 27 starts, 20 complete games, a 26-1 record with a 1.35 ERA in 227 innings, 177 hits allowed, 45 walks and 257 strikeouts.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: THT Links: Games!
Next: The Best Young Shortstops of 2007 »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *