Tuesday, July 31, 2012

#408 - Charlie Hough

Like the subject of the last post, Charlie Hough had an absurdly long career although Charlie does seem more deserving of one, at least stats-wise. Also, Like Jim Wohlford, this is Charlie’s first solo card as he had a rookie card in ’73. That was a pretty good rookie season for Charlie, who put up nice numbers as a set-up guy including nearly a strikeout an inning. He seems awfully tight-lipped at Shea in this photo. Maybe someone just asked him the secret to throwing an effective knuckler and he doesn’t want to give it up.

Charlie Hough was raised in Hialeah, Florida, where he was a baseball prodigy. He pitched American Legion ball, normally a 16 and over league, when he was in junior high school and played in the Cape Cod League – a summer college one – after his sophomore year in high school. His senior year at Hialeah High he went 11-2 with a 0.68 ERA and hit .368 as an outfielder. That year was 1966 and Charlie was drafted and signed by the Dodgers for a decent-sized bonus with the intent of trying him out at both positions. That summer in Rookie ball he hit .244 and it was pretty much decided he would be a pitcher and even though his 4.76 ERA seems high, it was one of the better ones in the league. The following year he had nice numbers in Single A but his ERA floated up a bunch in a couple games at Double A Albuquerque. He stayed at that level the next two seasons putting up mediocre numbers. The winter following his '69 season he started dabbling with the knuckler and it helped him move up a level where he posted much better numbers – including 18 saves - and later made his debut in LA. ‘71 was a bit of a slowdown and master knuckler Hoyt Wilhelm was brought in to help a bit. Charlie got things ironed out and put up excellent stats, including 14 saves. That season got him pushed up top in ’73 for good.

In ’74 Hough did more set-up work, now for Cy winner Mike Marshall, and had a 9-4 record even though his ERA climbed by a run. In ’75 the ERA came in again, but so did the innings and the wins as his record fell to 3-9. Then, after Marshall lost his effectiveness and was traded to Atlanta, Charlie became the stopper, probably recording his best season in that role in ’76 when he went 12-8 with 18 saves and a 2.21 ERA. In ’77 he went 6-12 with a 3.32 ERA and 22 saves and his strikeouts jumped a bunch. Then in ’78 Terry Forster took the closer role while in ’79 staff injuries and ineffectiveness forced Charlie into 14 starts which helped up his innings a bunch and his record to 7-5, but with a 4.76 ERA was not exactly a successful transition. After a poor beginning to the ’80 season he was sold to the Rangers.

Hough had a better second half to the ’80 season with Texas, again primarily in relief. He picked up that role again in ’81 and even though he only got into 21 games he posted much better numbers, going 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA and adding a few spot starts. So in ’82 Texas decided to move Charlie to the rotation and this time it worked as over the next seven seasons he averaged a record of 16-14 with a 3.58 ERA. In 86 he won 17 and was an All-Star. In ’87 he won 18 while leading the AL in starts with 40 and innings pitched while posting 223 strikeouts, the only time he topped 200. In ’89 and ’90 his stats tailed off a bit as his ERA climbed above 4.00 – though it was still better than league-average – and he went a combined 22-25. After the ’90 season he moved to the White Sox as a free agent, going 16-22 in two seasons. In ’93 he went the free agent route again, this time hooking up with the new Marlins, for whom he started their first game ever. He finished out his career for Florida in ’94 at age 46, becoming one of a few guys who both started and relieved in 400 games. He went 216-216 for his career with a 3.75 ERA, 107 complete games, 13 shutouts, and 61 saves. In the post-season, all with LA, he had no decisions with a 4.82 ERA in eight games with three walks and 20 strikeouts in 19 innings. He has a very detailed “Bullpen” bio on the baseball-reference site.

Hough pretty much immediately returned to baseball through coaching, primarily in the LA organization: in the minors (’96-’98 and 2007-’10); and up top (’98-’99). He also coached for the Mets in NY (2001-’02), minor league ball for the Padres (2003), and in independent ball (2006). Since 2011 he has been working with LA on the player development side.

Here we get some star bullets on Charlie’s then extensive minor league career. He had a few contemporaries born in Hawaii as well: Mike Lum, Milt Wilcox, and Doug Capilla.

These two guys traveled so let’s see if that helps:

1. Hough and Von Joshua ’70 to ’71 and ’73 to ’74 Dodgers;
2. Joshua and Jim Wolford ’77 Brewers.

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