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A Tribute To Randy Jones: The Short-Reigning King of

the Crafty Lefties


During the 2014 season, the average length of a major league baseball game was a
record 3 hours and two minutes. According to an ESPN.com article, this has
increased by 29 minutes since the 1981 season when the average time was 2 hours
33 minutes. This steady increase has been a topic of discussion over the past few
years with Major League Baseball finally taking action with its new pace-of-play
rules being instituted for the 2015 season.
As we embark upon this new season and David Ortiz stays late in the batting cage
practicing doing his spit-take while keeping one foot in the box - lets pause for a
moment to honor a man whose pace of play was never called into question. Im
talking about Mr. Randy Jones.
Based on his stats, Randy had a decent career. He pitched for 10 seasons for some
pretty bad Padres and Mets teams. He finished with a won-loss record was 100-123,
but with a respectable 3.43 ERA. When all was said and done, he had allowed fewer
hits than innings pitched and had a career WHIP of 1.25. On baseball-reference.com
(as of 3/16/15), Jones is listed as the #507th best pitcher of all-time.so, hes got
that going for him.which is nice.
HOWEVER, for two seasons, Randy was the most successful pitcher in the National
League. After a terrible 1974 season in which he finished 8-22 with a 4.45 ERA,
Randy turned it all around in 1975, going 20-12 with a 2.24 ERA. Jones finished 2 nd
to Tom Seaver in the NL Cy Young voting and he won a well-deserved Comeback
Player of the Year award.
In 1976, Randy really stepped up his game. He went 4-1 in April, 6-1 in May and 4-1
in June. On July 13th, as he took the mound to start the All-Star Game in
Philadelphia, he had a record of 16-3. He even managed to snag the cover of that
weeks Sports Illustrated.

Unfortunately, Randy had a less than stellar second half, going 6-11, as he finished
with a record of 22-14 and a 2.74 ERA. Although he fell short of the lofty goal of 30
wins that Sports Illustrated had set for him, Randy did take home the NL Cy Young
award.
Randy made the NL All-Star team in both 1975 and 1976. He earned the save in the
1975 All-Star Game (played in Milwaukee) and he was the winning pitcher as the
starter of the 1976 All-Star Game.
During his two years in the limelight, Randy appeared on the cover of The Sporting
News twice. On 9/6/75, he was hailed as a Fast-Working Ace and then on 6/19/76
he earned the caption Premier Pitcher. He appeared on the cover of Baseball
Digest in August 1976 and he was one of several cover boys for the 1977 Street &
Smiths Baseball Yearbook.

Randy was not a hard thrower by any means. The November 1975 Sporting News
article quotes unnamed teammates as saying he had a 27-mile-an-hour fast ball.
This is a bit of hyperbole, but more accurate sources indicate he rarely broke the 75
mph barrier. He relied on impeccable control, a good slider, and a great sinker that
resulted in a lot of ground balls. He also controlled the tempo of the game by
working fast.really fast.
Jones career strikeout ratio was a measly 3.4 per 9 innings - during 1975 & 1976
this ratio actually dropped to 2.94. His career walks per 9 IP was a very good 2.68 dropping down to a remarkable 1.59 during 75 & 76. During 1976, Randy tied an
NL record by pitching 68 consecutive innings without issuing a walk.
What is truly amazing, are the stats that support just how fast Randy got his job
done. The average length of games during the 1970s was approximately 2 hours,
30 minutes. Below is a summary of Randy Jones game times (courtesy of baseballreference.com) for all of his complete games during his two big seasons:
1975 In his 18 complete games, the average game time was 2 hours (on the dot).
In his 6 shutouts, the average time was 1:48. On May 8 th, he shut out the soon-tobe world champion Reds 3-0 in a game that lasted 99 minutes. Randy shut out the

Eastern division champion Pittsburgh Pirates twice once requiring only 68 pitches
to do so. He had yet another complete game that year that lasted just 97 minutes.
Its hard to even fathom a game today starting at 7:05 and ending at 8:42.
1976- In his 25 complete games, the average game time was 2:03. In his 5
shutouts, the average time was 1:50. He had 3 complete games that year (2 of
them shutouts) that lasted less than 100 minutes. On July 20th, Randy shut out the
Eastern division champion Phillies 3-0 in 91 minutes.
I cant seem to find any comprehensive numbers about Randy Jones percent of
ground balls, but the cover story from the June 19, 1976 issue of The Sporting News
states that His super sinker had accounted for 161 ground-ball outs in his first 98
1/3 innings (of 1976).
Any pitcher that relies so heavily on ground balls would certainly need to be able to
field his position. In 1976, Randy fielded the Hell out of his position. He set a major
league record for pitchers by fielding 112 chances without making an error all
season. He also tying a record by starting 12 double plays.
In a complete miscarriage of justice, the 1976 NL gold glove for pitchers went to Jim
Kaat with his 2 errors in 39 chances and a mere 3 double plays. It was Kaats 15 th
straight gold glove and he would add one more in 1977. Apparently the Gold Glove
voters back then also didnt like to think too hard about who they voted for.
Randy made 40 starts in 1976, tossing 315 innings. In the very last start of his
great 1976 season, Randy left the mound after just an inning and a third. He had
suffered nerve damage in his pitching arm that required exploratory off-season
surgery. He returned to the hill for the 1977 season (and five more seasons after
that) but he was never able to recapture the magic he had bottled for 2 seasons.
Randy went from 8-22 with a 4.45 ERA in 1974 to king of the hill in just one off
season and just as quicklyit was gone. But then again, not everyone gets two
whole seasons at the top like Randy enjoyed.
Heres a breakdown of his best two seasons as compared to the rest of his career:

1975 & 1976: 42 Wins, 26 Losses, 2.50 ERA, 1.036 WHIP, 7.74 hits per 9 IP,
11 Shutout s (14% of his starts), 43 Complete Games(57% of his starts). For
these two seasons, the rest of the Padres pitching staff was 102-154 (.398)
His 8 other seasons (73-74 and 77-82) Randys record was 58-97, 3.84 ERA
(not terrible), 1.348 WHIP, 9.45 hits per 9 IP, 8 Shutouts (4% of his starts),
and 30 Complete Games (14% of his starts).

One might describe Randys short-lived success as capturing lightening in a bottle,


although a 75 mph fastball doesnt exactly evoke an image of lightening.

Jones left San Diego and joined the Mets for the 1981 season. After going 10-18 in
two season, he was traded from the Mets to the Pirates, but was released before the
1983 season started.
His #35 has been retired by the San Diego Padres and he was inducted into the San
Diego Padres Hall of Fame in 1999.
According to Wikipedia, Randy is the only Cy Young Award winner to finish his career
with a losing record.
As I wrap up my little tribute, I would like to urge the new MLB commissioner to
honor Randy Jones and his mid-70s accomplishments by dubbing the new pace-ofplay rules as the Randy Jones Rule. Over the years, rule changes in many sports
have been unofficially associated with a particular player and I believe Randy is the
right man to be the namesake.
I would also like to lobby for a re-count on the one award that Randy did not capture
during his magical run. He basically fielded a perfect season in 1976, setting two
records in the process. This injustice is nearly four decades old and I will not rest
until Randy Jones can add the Gold Glove that he clearly earned to his trophy
caseassuming he has a trophy case.
I mean, lets say a shortstop plays every game in a season and only makes 3
errorswhich is a record. He would obviously win the Gold Glove, no
question.waitexcept Cal Ripken did this in 1990 and the Gold Glove
went to..uhOzzie Guillen.
(sigh) fing gold glove voters.
---------------------------------------------------------RANDY JONES CAREER STATS

Stats from baseball-reference.com

Until next time, I leave you with a photo of my favorite piece of Randy Jones
memorabilia:

All items pictured are from my personal collection of stuff.


Written by Dean Gearhart (3/17/15)