The Cincinnati Reds used their 3rd round pick of the 1969 Major League Baseball draft to select Rawly Eastwick out of Haddonfield High School in New Jersey. The school had a pretty good run around that time, with Eastwick leading the way as the schools first draft pick ever. His teammate Norman Jones was drafted in the 25th round that same year by the Washington Senators, but didn’t sign and headed off to college. The Reds would draft him the following year in the January draft, but he didn’t sign then either. Over the next three seasons another three players would be selected from the high school, but only Eastwick signed among the group (both Bryan Jones and Eric Magee would go to college and later be drafted and see time in the minors). The high school is still open, but hasn’t had a player drafted since 1972.
The first few seasons of his career in the minors with the Reds didn’t exactly go well for Rawly Eastwick. But the 21-year-old broke through in 1972 when he was sent to join the Trois-Rivieres Aigles for a second season. And it was a heck of a season, too. The 6′ 3″ right-hander pitched in 66 games that season and picked up 20 saves. Let’s remember, too, that in the minors they only played 136 games that season – Eastwick pitched in 66 of them.
Across the 66 games that he pitched in, Eastwick threw 119.0 innings with a 2.34 ERA. He would allow just three home runs on the season among the 86 hits that he allowed. He did walk 37 hitters, which on it’s own would be a low rate. But of those 37 walks, an absurd 16 of them were intentional. His manager, Jim Snyder, didn’t get the memo from the future that baserunners are bad. It worked out for Snyder and Eastwick that season, though, as he dominated in relief while racking up 90 strikeouts for the first place Aigles in the North Division of the Eastern League.
The future closer for the big league Cincinnati Reds led the league in saves that season with his 20. Only three other pitchers in the league were in double digits, and the next closest only had 15 of them. He finished 32nd in the league in innings pitched, which isn’t impressive on the surface. But then you look at the guys ahead of him and every last one of them started at least 16 games, while Eastwick started as many as I did. That’s zero, as I wouldn’t be born for another 12 years.
Stacking up with the contenders
There were a few very strong contenders for 1970’s relief season of the decade, including some from a few future big leaguers. Let’s take a look at some of the other contending seasons.
Michael Odum has the best ERA+ of the entire group, and it wasn’t particularly close, either. Billings seems to be at the top of that list for every decade as the league is high scoring and there are guys that stay in the league that are simply too good for it. That was the case for Odum in 1976. The undrafted free agent was old for the league, coming in at 22 with the average age in the league being just under 20 – but he dominated, posting a 1.34 ERA in 47.0 innings with 46 strikeouts and just 17 walks. He was pretty good the next two seasons, too. In 1977 he posted a 2.84 ERA for Tampa in the Florida State League. Then in 1978 he was in the Rangers organization – no clue how he got there – and posted a 2.89 ERA in the Western Carolinas League – but that would be his final season of professional baseball.
In 1975 Doug Corbett put together a real strong season for Tampa in the Florida State League. It was his second year as a pro and his first with the Reds organization. After being released by Kansas City in early April, the Reds picked him up as a minor league free agent in early May and he didn’t disappoint as he put up a 1.48 ERA in 61.0 innings that year while allowing just one home run and posting a 1.03 WHIP for the season. He remained in the Reds system, working his way up the ladder until the Minnesota Twins took him in the Rule 5 draft following the 1979 season. He’d go on to pitch in parts of 8 seasons in the Major Leagues. His rookie year saw him post a 1.98 ERA and throw 136.1 innings with 23 saves for Minnesoa. The next year he was an All-Star, posting a 2.57 ERA with a league best 54 appearances and 45 games finished.
Manny Sarmiento is the only teenager on the list. The Venezuelan right-handed pitcher signed with the Reds at age 16 in 1972 and immediately found success, posting a 2.93 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Reds. The following year he went to Seattle to pitch for the Rainiers, who were Cincinnati’s Northwest League affiliate at the time and Sarmiento was even better that season. With Seattle he posted a 2.15 ERA in 67.0 innings and picked up 14 saves despite being just 17-years-old. He continued dominating in the minors out of the bullpen and was in Cincinnati when he was 20-years-old. In his frist two seasons with the Reds in 1976 and 1977 he posted a 2.25 ERA in 84.0 innings – not including his 1 inning pitched in the 1976 playoffs that saw the Reds win a World Series. He’d go on to throw 513.2 innings in a 7-year Major League Career with a 3.92 ERA.
Larry Rothschild had a big year for Trois-Rivieres in 1976. He didn’t exclusively pitch out of the bullpen that season – he started 12 games and relieved in 18 more. But he was really good overall, posting a 2.05 ERA in 123.0 innings while picking up five saves. More impressive was that he also threw 10 complete games, with half of them being shutouts. He was selected by the Detroit Tigers from the Reds in the Rule 5 draft in December of 1980. He stuck with them, but barely pitched in 1981, throwing just 5.2 innings while walking six batters with just one strikeout. In 1982 he threw another 2.2 innings for the Tigers with two walks and no strikeouts. That would be his final year in the big leagues as a player. He’d later go on to manager the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 1998-2001 before being fired 14 games into the 2001 season.
I didn’t include him on the above list, but William Winchester warranted a little bit more research after posting a 2.48 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Reds in 1972. It led me to one of the cooler, more wild things I’ve ever come across. There have been two different players named William Winchester according to Baseball Reference. Neither player reached the majors. Both players only played in the minors for one season. And both players played professional baseball in 1972. With not-so-great record keeping my initial thought was that it was the same player and he was simply traded. But the two players have birth dates three years apart. And one was a pitcher, while the other was a position player. Crazy.
Whatever happened to the William Winchester that was born in 1953 and pitched for the Cincinnati Reds affiliate in 1972 with a 2.48 ERA and never seemed to appear again, I have no idea. But this fun story was worth sharing and maybe one day someone will find this post on the internet trying to track down information on their father or grandfather and have something to add to it (if this is you, use the contact form).
Now, as to why I picked Rawly Eastwick over the others, well, it wasn’t an easy decision. But ultimately I kept going back to the number of total games he pitched in, the level at which he did it, and how many innings he threw along the way. The entire combination of those things along with how successful he was just all added up in a totally arbitrary way in my head that gave him the edge of the others. There’s a good argument for just about anyone on the list above, and if your choice would be different – that’s fine, your argument holds plenty of water.
As for Eastwick, he’d reach the big leagues two years later in 1974, and he’d lead the National League in saves in both the 1975 and 1976 seasons. In total he’d spend parts of eight seasons in the Major Leauges with a 3.31 ERA over his 326 games and 525.1 innings pitched.
Here are the other winners for Season of the Decade:
|2010’s||Devin Mesoraco||Tony Cingrani||Donnie Joseph|
|2000’s||Adam Dunn||Travis Wood||Robert Manuel|
|1990’s||Jason LaRue||Curt Lyons||Victor Garcia|
|1980’s||Danny Tartabull||Mike Dowless||Clem Freeman|
|1970’s||Gary Redus||Keefe Cato||Rawly Eastwick|