Thursday, May 23, 2013

#8 Mark Wohlers

About the Front: It's our first instance of pitcherface, the endlessly amusing phenomenon of pitchers contorting their faces into gruesome and goofy expressions in the process of hurling a ball at great speeds. Mark Wohlers has only mild pitcherface - puffing of the cheeks and scrunching of the chin. All kidding aside, the side angle and the up-close zoom make for a pretty good photo.

About the Back: Mark's 1991 season is a master class on climbing two levels to reach the majors. Five earned runs allowed in 57.2 innings at AA and AAA, with 66 strikeouts. It looks like he was being groomed to close games, as he finished 48 of the 51 games he appeared in that year in the minors.

Triple Play:

1. Wohlers claimed the Braves' closer role in 1995 and saved 97 games in a three-year span. Most impressively, he struck out 100 batters in 77.1 innings in 1996 while walking only 21.

2. In 1998, he completely and inexplicably lost the ability to throw strikes, colloquially known as "Steve Blass Disease". He issued 33 walks in 20.1 innings with Atlanta, posting a 10.18 ERA. The Braves optioned him to the minors, where he walked another 37 batters in just 13.1 innings with a sky-high 18.90 ERA. Mark eventually worked his way back, but wasn't nearly as effective as before. He spent a few seasons as a mediocre reliever with the Reds, Yankees, and Indians, and retired after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery on his elbow in 2003.

3. Wohlers had a memorable cameo with several other MLB players on the December 13, 1997 episode of Saturday Night Live. He had a few lines of dialogue, questioning the sexuality of a young boy played by Chris Kattan after the latter took issue with his lackluster attempt at inspirational advice.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Though I've always been a fan of my hometown Orioles first and foremost, I also followed the Braves rather closely during the mid-1990s due to their ubiquitous appearances on TBS. I was disappointed when they lost to the Phillies in the 1993 NLCS. I can only imagine how I'd have felt if I'd been watching and rooting for them in the two prior World Series.

Bill James Said: "He pitched far better than his 4.50 ERA would suggest, and will again this year." Bill was a year off on this one. He had a 4.59 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 1994, but lowered it to 2.09 with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 1995.

On This Date in 1993: May 23. Ramon Martinez tosses a three-hitter as the Dodgers beat the Rockies 3-0. Eric Davis hits a home run for Los Angeles.

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