Dave Duncan and Ponson Possibilities
By Keith Glab,
In July of 2003, Sidny Ponson was perceived as the most valuable commodity in
baseball. Someone will have to explain
to me why. But this week, the Cardinals
signed him for relative peanuts, not in the hopes of resurrecting his career,
as it was never that good to begin with, but in the hopes of Cardinals’
pitching coach Dave Duncan being able to work his veteran magic on
You see, Duncan and Manager Tony LaRussa,
who are as inseparable as Trammell and Whitaker, have an uncanny history of
turning ostensibly past their-prime pitchers who never reached their potential
into solid workhorses or even Cy Young
candidates. Although this dynamic duo
has been together since the White Sox’ division title in 1983, let’s cite
examples beginning when they turned around an
The A’s acquired 29 year-old Dave Stewart from the Phillies in mid-1986. Before 1987, Stewart had never pitched 200 innings, struck out 120 batters, or won over 10 games in a single season before. He had been toggling between starter and reliever, and had played for four different clubs in a four-year span. Then beginning in 1987, the 30 year-old Stewart began a streak of four 20-win seasons. In each season, Stewart threw over 250 IP, struck out over 150 batters, and had an ERA at least 10% better than the league average. He went from being a faceless swingman to having the most famous eyes in all of baseball.
In ’88, Duncan and LaRussa got 31
year-old Bob Welch. Welch had more
success than Stewart prior to joining the A’s, but as recently as 1986 he had a
losing record (7-13) and as recently as 1984 he posted an ERA 7% below the
league average (3.78), and he’d never won more than 16 games in a season
before. He proceeded to log three
straight 17+ win seasons with
in ’89, 29 year-old Mike Moore came over from
trio led the A’s to three straight World Series and four playoff appearances in
five years before
When the 28 year-old Andy Benes came to the Cardinals in 1996, his ERA had risen for four straight years. In 1996, he posted his lowest ERA (3.83) since he was 25 and in ’97, his lowest since he was 23 (3.10). His 18 wins in ’96 were the most of his career, and his HR ratio of one every 19.6 innings in 1997 was easily the lowest of his career.
1999, The Cardinals signed competent reliever Kent Bottenfield
and began converting him into a starter.
The next year, the 30 year-old Bottenfield
performed so well (18-7 3.97) that the Cardinals were able to parlay him into
Jim Edmonds the very next year.
In 2000, 31 year-old Daryl Kile had been coming off of two understandably miserable seasons with the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals turned Kile into a 20-game winner in his first season there. In his second Cardinal Season, he went 16-11 and posted the second-best ERA of his career at 3.09. Tragedy of course struck in 2002, and I recommend reading 3 Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger for a very well written account of that.
Cardinals got 34 year-old Woody Williams from the San Diego Padres at the trade
deadline in 2001. He went 8-8 with a
4.97 ERA with
Coming into 2004, 29 year-old Jeff Suppan had only won more than 10 games once (13 the year before). He won 16 games in each of the next two seasons with the Cardinals, and posted a career-best 3.57 ERA in 2005.
And before Chris Carpenter signed with the Cards in 2004, he’d never won more than a dozen games or posted an ERA below 4.00. He missed most of 2002 and all of 2003 with an injury, but at the age of 29, he went 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA for Duncan and Co. Last year, he won the Cy Young award by going 21-5 2.83 and struck out 56 more batters than his previous career high.
So what can we expect from 29 year-old Sidney Ponson, who with two 14+ win seasons and two sub-4.10 ERA seasons already under his belt looks better than several of the other pitches on this list? The best seasons of his career, of course. 16 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA sounds like a pretty good deal for a couple million dollars in this era of overpaying for pitching.