Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Top 100: 32. Rick Rhoden

Rick Rhoden was a 6’3” pitcher from Boynton Beach, FL. Born on May 16th, 1953, the right-hander was initially drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 1971 amateur draft, 20th overall. Later that year, he made his professional debut with the “A” level Daytona Beach Dodgers in the Florida State League, posting a 4-6 record with a 3.98 ERA. He then split the 1972 campaign between the “AA” level El Paso Dodgers in the Texas League (6-4, 3.31) and the “AAA” level Albuquerque Dukes in the Pacific Coast League (7-1, 3.82).

1973 would see Rhoden spend the entire season with the Dukes, racking up a 4-9 record with a 4.50 ERA. In 1974, he went 9-10 with a 4.40 ERA for the same organization. He also made his first major league appearance with the Dodgers, allowing a hit and a walk in 0.2 innings in an 11-6 loss to the Montreal Expos on July 5th. After spending a little more time with the Dukes, he rejoined the Dodgers in September, allowing four hits, three walks, two earned runs, and striking out seven in 8.1 innings pitched over three games. He spent a total of five seasons in Los Angeles, going 42-24 with a 3.40 ERA. He also hit .213 with four home runs and 26 RBI in 251 plate appearances.

Just before the start of the 1979 season, the Dodgers traded Rhoden to the Pirates for fellow pitcher Jerry Reuss (86-69, 3.11 over nine Los Angeles seasons). He made his debut in Gold and Black on May 8th, allowing four earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two in five innings in a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The 7.20 ERA he earned that night would be his final figure of the season, as he underwent shoulder surgery soon afterward.

In 1980, Rhoden made 10 starts for the Pirates PCL affiliate, the Portland Beavers, posting a 6-3 record with a 2.94 record in preparation for his big league return. After five appearances (three no-decisions, one loss, one relieving), he finally earned his first Bucs win on July 18th, 6-4 over the Dodgers. He allowed four earned runs on nine hits and two walks, striking out three in six innings. Although hardly his best day, his first non-Dodgers victory coming over his former club had to be icing on the cake of a long comeback. On August 17th, in game one of a doubleheader against the Expos, he earned a 5-1 complete game victory, allowing seven hits and striking out five. A week later, he pitched 8.1 innings, striking out five and allowing four hits in a 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. In total, he logged a 7-5 record that season with a 3.84 ERA, finishing two of his 19 starts with the club. He hit .375 in 45 plate appearances, hitting 11 singles, three doubles and a home run with 11 RBI. The Pirates managed to squeeze out a winning record, going 83-79 on the season.

Rhoden started the 1981 campaign as Pittsburgh’s number two starter behind Big Jim Bibby. The season was shortened by 60 games due to the midseason players strike. Rhoden wound up with a 9-4 record (NL fifth with a .692 winning percentage) in 21 starts, collecting a 3.89 ERA in the process. He tossed four complete games, earning two shutouts. The first was on April 28th, an 8-0 decision over the New York Mets in which he allowed two walks and nine hits with five strikeouts. His second was much more deserved, coming in the front half of a twin bill on September 28th against the Chicago Cubs. He allowed two walks and four hits while striking out seven and earning a 4-0 win. Pittsburgh managed to go 15-5 when Rhoden pitched, but only 31-51 while he sat (team MVP much?) on their way to a 46-56 split-season record.

In 1982, Rhoden’s fourth with the Pirates, he finally got the opportunity to pitch a full Pirates season. He went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA, starting a career high 35 games (NL sixth) and completing six. He finished in the league top five with 21 putouts and 44 assists from the pitcher’s position without an error. He also hit .265 with six doubles and three home runs for 12 RBI in 89 plate appearances, striking out only eight times. On July 23rd, he earned a complete game shutout over the Atlanta Braves, 6-0, by allowing two walks and six hits while striking out five. He also hit a single and a double, knocking in two. On August 17th, he earned a 4-1 complete game win over the San Francisco Giants, allowing two walks and two hits for his seventh win of the season. The Pirates went 84-78, finishing fourth in the six-team NL East Division.

1983 would see Rhoden go 13-13 with a 3.09 ERA (NL ninth), completing seven of 35 starts (NL fifth) and earning a save in his only relief appearance. He pitched 244.1 innings (NL sixth), striking out 153 (NL eighth) and facing 1012 batters (NL sixth). On September 13th, he pitched a five-hitter and struck out six in a 6-0 win against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates again finished at 84-78, six games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 1984, Rhoden went 14-9 (NL ninth in wins)with a career best 2.72 ERA (NL fourth). He completed six of 33 starts (NL seventh) with a 1.166 WHIP (NL eighth), allowing 8.2 hits per nine innings pitched. He also won his first Silver Slugger Award, hitting .333 in 92 plate appearances, hitting 22 singles and six doubles with four RBI. He ranked fifth in the NL with a 6.2 WAR rating, and second for pitchers WAR, at 4.9. He ranked fourth in the NL with three shutouts. In five of his six complete games on the season, he allowed five or fewer hits. On June 26th, in game one of a doubleheader, he allowed a walk and four hits, striking out seven in a 9-0 win against the Cubs. August 9th would see him limit the Mets to two walks and two hits, striking out 10 in an 11-0 whitewash. On September 11th, he allowed two singles and a double and walked zero in a 5-1 victory over the Expos. He earned his 14th win of the season on September 29th by striking out six in a four hit shutout over the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-0. Pittsburgh limped to a 75-87 record, finishing last in the NL East.

In 1985, Rhoden earned his second Silver Slugger Award, although it was arguably his worst season at the plate (78 plate appearances, 11 singles, three doubles, six RBI, .189 average). From the hill, he posted a 10-15 record (his losses equaled a career and NL fifth high) with a 4.47 ERA. He allowed a league worst 106 earned runs. He completed two of 35 starts (NL eighth). Still, he spun the occasional gem, as on August 16th, when he held the Mets to one unearned run while striking out seven in a 7-1 win. The Pirates were terrible, posting a 57-104 record.

1986 would be Rhoden’s final season in Steel City, and maybe his best. He won his third consecutive Silver Slugger Award (101 plate appearances, 15 singles, nine doubles, one home run, 10 RBI), earned his second career all-star selection, and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He posted a 2.84 ERA (NL fourth) with a 15-12 record (NL eighth in wins), with a career low 1.131 WHIP (NL sixth) and only 7.5 hits allowed per nine innings (NL seventh). He also struck out a career high 159 batters. He ranked second in the NL with both pWAR (6.3) and oWAR (7.4). He completed 12 (NL second) of 34 starts (NL 10th). Consecutive starts in June would see him in two of the best games of his career. First on the 21st, he struck out 10 and allowed only an unearned run on three hits in a 14-1 laugher in Montreal. Just six days later, he struck out 11 Expos and allowed one run on a walk and five hits in the rematch, a 7-1 victory. His win-loss record was more remarkable considering the team posted a 49-86 record when he did not earn the decision, finishing at 64-98. After the season, the Pirates packaged him with Pat Clements (3-3, 5.09 ERA in New York) and Cecilio Guante (8-8, 3.93 ERA with the Yankees) to the New York Yankees for Doug Drabek (92-62, 3.02 in Pittsburgh), Logan Easley (2-1, 5.12 as a Pirate), and Brian Fisher (19-22, 4.72 with the Bucs).

Rhoden pitched two seasons with the Yankees, going 28-22 with a 4.09 ERA. He finished out his career with the Houston Astros, going 2-6, 4.28 in 1989.

All-Time Statline: Eight seasons, 79-73, 3.51 ERA, 215 games, 213 starts, 39 CG, nine shutouts, one save, 1448.0 innings pitched, 1461 hits allowed, walked 440, struck out 852, 1.313 WHIP, 23.2 wins above replacement (18.8 as pitcher, 4.4 as a hitter).

Next time around: A guy they called "Little All Right."

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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