This weekend, Kevin Millwood announced his retirement from professional baseball. Kevin Millwood played in the big leagues for many years and many teams. He was an All Star once and won the ERA title once. We could say Kevin Millwood wasn’t very good at baseball, just consistent and predictable.
That would be wrong, and dumb.
That Kevin Millwood made 443 starts at the big league level is nothing short of a miracle. That anyone survives long enough to take the hill more than 440 times in a big leagues is a miracle. This is not unique to Kevin Millwood who, as a 6’4, 230lb pound stands a better chance of accomplishing this rare feat that most humans.
Kevin Millwood started 28 games or more 12 times in his career. He pitched 2700 innings and faced 11616 batters. That is astounding.
For his trouble, Kevin Millwood earned nearly $90 million for his career. The baseball economy rewards players like Kevin Millwood, pitchers who might not win you a title all on their own but pitchers who certainly have a place.
It is important to remember Kevin Millwood’s name over the next few weeks, as prospect season begins in earnest. Number three starter is not a dirty word. While all fans want their prospects to take the world by storm and break records and pitch one-hitters in their first career start but that just isn’t the way. It isn’t the way of prospects and it isn’t the way a Major League pitching rotation is built.
You need stalwarts. You need innings. You need Kevin Millwood and Mark Buehrle and players who don’t seem that great until you look up at the end of the season and realize they pitched 180 innings for a good team. Or a bad team. The innings just keep piling up.
Kevin Millwood wasn’t much more than a number three starter for the bulk of his career – nor was he much less. The Texas Rangers, when they signed him to a five-year, $60 million deal in 2006, might have thought higher of Millwood than he deserved. It is part of the condundrum of durable innings eaters. Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement looks at Millwood’s career with disdain – ranking him 27th among “active” pitchers with just under 26.8 for his career.
That is less than Cole Hamels in more than double the seasons, slightly more than the injury prone but brilliant Josh Johnson, who would have to pitch for 30 years to reach Millwood’s career starts mark. Fangraphs has a a completely different take on Millwood with their flavor or WAR, assigning more than 50 Wins for Millwood.
fWAR loves the innings – loves them. It loves the volume of Millwood’s work and it loves his ability to most things pretty well – at least close to average. Fangraphs gives him 50 fWAR for his career, putting him in the same neighbourhood as Roy Oswalt and ahead of higher peaked players like John Santana.
Kevin Millwood was a mostly average pitcher for a very long time – which makes him elite in his own way. Only 18 pitchers managed to throw 2500 innings between the strike and today – Kevin Millwood is one of them. That, alone, makes for a successful career – one that earns him a little bit of leeway when it comes to showing up his teammates.
And the rest
Hey, I’m excited for baseball, too. But slow your roll, MLB. This is Lebron’s time.
Are you ready? twitter.com/MLB/status/298…
— MLB (@MLB) February 4, 2013
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