Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #195, Ed Figueroa (Article 37)
by Paul Semendinger
They called him “Steady Eddie.” And he was steady. He was better than steady, in fact, Ed Figueroa was a big time winner for a longer period than most people probably remember.
Check out these numbers:
1975: 16-13, 2.91
1976: 19-10, 3.02
1977: 16-11, 3.57
1978: 20-9, 2.99
Over that four year period, Ed Figueroa averaged 17.75 wins a year. That’s more than impressive. It is top notch stuff.
In that period, Ed Figueroa pitched 993.2 innings (averaging 248+ innings each season) and had an overall ERA of just 3.12.
Ed Figueroa was a really good pitcher in that period. Really good.
The Yankees acquired Figueroa in a deal that helped change their team’s fortunes and set them on the path to greatness. This was a deal the Yankees absolutely stole. On December 11, 1975, the Yankees sent Bobby Bonds (who played just one season in New York) to the Angels for Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers.
Mickey Rivers would be placed atop the Yankees’ batting order and would be the spark plug on teams that went to three consecutive World Series (1976-78), winning two (1977 and 1978). Ed Figueroa would slot into the starting rotation, and, as we saw above, just win, win, and win some more.
In 1976, Catfish Hunter was the Yankees ace starter. Dock Ellis (who would be traded for Willie Randolph in another great trade for the Yankees) was probably considered their #2 starter. Both has solid years, each winning 17 games. That year though, Figueroa bested them both by winning 19.
In the 1977 Championship year, the winningest pitchers on the staff were Ron Guidry and Ed Figueroa who both won 16 games that year.
And in 1978, Figueroa won 20 games (becoming the first pitcher born in Puerto Rico to ever be a 20-game winner in the big leagues) which placed second on the team behind Ron Guidry’s 25 wins (in his own magical season).
In those three World Series seasons, the Yankees pitcher who accumulated the most wins was Ed Figueroa, by far:
Figueroa = 55 wins
Guidry = 41 wins
Hunter = 38 wins
While today, people remember Catfish Hunter and Ron Guidry as the aces of those teams, it can reasonable be said that the pitcher who was the steadiest and possibly the most important was Ed Figueroa. He was the most consistent Yankees starter over that three-year period.
In 1979, Figueroa had a down year going just 4-6, 4.13 in 16 starts. That year Figueroa found himself on the disabled list, and in August he had bone spurs removed from his right (pitching) elbow. Like so many in that time period, the many innings pitched probably caught up to him.
Figueroa was sold to the Texas Rangers in 1980.
After leaving New York, he never won another game. He went 0-7 with the Rangers and had a brief two-game cameo with the A’s in 1982.