Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #530, Rick Reushel (Article 105)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Let's have some fun to begin and list the Top 5 eligible pitchers (by WAR) who are not in the Hall of Fame:
Roger Clemens - 138.7
Curt Schilling - 80.5
Jim McCormick - 76.0
Kevin Brown - 68.2
Rick Reuschel - 68.1
We all know the reasons that the top two pitchers are that list are not yet enshrined. Jim McCormick might never get in because he played a long, long time ago (1878-1887 and his numbers should probably be considered with the era in which he pitched), and then there are Kevin Brown and Rick Reuschel, two pitchers who were probably better then they are remembered, but who will probably never get serious Hall of Fame consideration.
Kevin Brown is listed as the 35th best pitcher of all-time. Rick Reuschel is just behind at 36th.
The following is a quick list of some legendary pitchers who rank below Brown and Reuschel on the all-time WAR list:
Were Brown and Reuschel better pitchers than those (and other) legendary greats?
Or, is this a problem with WAR?
For the purposes of this article, we're going to focus on Rick Reuschel.
Rick Reuschel pitched for 19 seasons, 1972 to 1991. In that time, he pitched for the Chicago Cubs (1972-81), New York Yankees (1981), Cubs (again) (1983-84), Pittsburgh Pirates (1985-87), and the San Francisco Giants (1987-91).
In his career, Rick Reuschel went 214-191, 3.37. In the history of baseball, 119 pitchers have won 200 or more games. The active leader, Max Scherzer (195) should get there this year. Rick Reuschel is tied for 92nd on that list.
Quick question - When reflecting on the career of Rick Reuschel, does his career strike you as a pitcher who was the 36th best pitcher of all-time or as the 92nd best pitcher of all-time?
Quicker question - Does this pitchers win total tell a better picture of his career than WAR?
Quickest question - Is one even allowed to say that an old stat like wins better reflects a pitcher than WAR?
In his career, Rick Reuschel won 20 games once (1977). He won 19 games once (1988). He won 18 games in 1979 and 17 games in 1989.
Reuschel led the league in the following pitching categories:
Loses (17), 1975
Games Started (38), 1980
Complete Games (12), 1987
Shutouts (4), 1987
Games Started (36), 1988
This is an interesting case. Here we have a pitcher, who by an industry standard ranks as one of the greatest ever, as a sum total, but the individual parts just don't seem to be so strong.
In 1977, Rick Reuschel was definitely a top pitcher. In that season, the one in which he won 20 games, he finished third in the National League Cy Young voting.
Reuschel was a durable pitcher. He threw made 35 or more starts every season from 1972 through 1980.
Later in his career, he would do this again making more than 30 starts in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989.
Reuschel won Gold Gloves in 1985 and 1987.
In 1987 and 1989, he was an All-Star and finished both years in the Top-10 in Cy Young voting.
As a Yankee, Rick Reuschel's career was not very noteworthy. He pitched in 12 games making 11 starts in 1981. He won four games and he lost four games. His ERA was a nifty 2.67.
The Yankees acquired Rick Reuschel in a trade with the Cubs giving up pitchers Doug Bird and Mike Griffin (who was a "player to be named later").
After the 1981 season, Reuschel had rotator cuff surgery. His comeback in 1983 with the Columbus Clippers was slower than the Yankees probably wanted and he was released after.
I doubt that Rick Reuschel will ever reach entry into Cooperstown. By one standard, at least, he is among the all time greats. By the standards of the time, and in looking at his career, it seems he was a very good pitcher who was strong and durable. Teams need pitchers like Rick Reuschel. He was the "every man." He was the guy who went out there game after game and did what was necessary - he kept his team in the games. At times, this meant, especially when the teams he played on were good, that he'd win his fair share of games, but when the teams behind him weren't so great, his win totals weren't either.
As a pitcher, Rick Reuschel's career is probably underrated. He was better than he is remembered. His one year with the Yankees didn't enhance his legacy. Neither does the fact that in the post season he went just 1-4, 5.85.
Still, a 19 year career, 200+ wins, a solid-ERA, and three To-10 Cy Young Award finishes, is something quite noteworthy and impressive. If Rick Reuschel had pitched for the Reds, A's, Yankees, Orioles, or Pirates in the 1970s, he just might remembered as a pitcher among the all time greats...