Blurry batters always give pitchers trouble.
Why we like him: Scott Erickson was one of my favorite pitchers from my early teenage years. He'll always be a Twin to me, but he also had stints in Baltimore, New York (AL & NL), Texas, and Los Angeles. His delivery had more awkward hitches and uncomfortable moments than a British soap opera, and that's probably a considerable factor that allowed him to achieve some early success. When he first broke into the league 1991, Erickson was as effective as any starting pitcher in baseball. He didn't throw exceptionally hard or have a dynamic, sharp-breaking off-speed pitch, but he was a just big, bulky guy (6'4" 220 lbs.) that could eat innings and get a lot of batters out by not giving them anything on the fat part of the plate.
Erickson possessed a repertoire of pitches that included a so-so low-90s fastball with pretty good control, a a slider/curve thing that could be best described as "spinning sort of sideways and moving slower than the fastball," and a hard sinker that produced a ton of ground ball outs. From what I remember, that hard sinker was his bread and butter pitch. He wasn't a strikeout pitcher (he only got close to 200 Ks once - 186 in 1998 when he faced a whopping 1102 batters in 251.1 innings), but he was really good at letting a hitter get himself out with good pitch locations and keeping the ball down and away. He also led the majors in double play balls five times. It's amazing what a young guy can learn from a legend like Jack "Why-am-I-not-in-Cooperstown?" Morris in the clubhouse.
Despite having decent stuff and the ability to pitch well enough to hang around the league for 15 seasons, the best part of watching Erickson pitch wasn't necessarily the pitching, but just how different the guy looked on the mound. His freakishly wide and angular jaw mixed with his craggy, Ted Danson-esque brow made him look like some kind of ancient inhabitant of Easter Island. His wardrobe was equally fascinating. His cleats were as black as a Spinal Tap album cover by design, going so far as to paint all the white trim on his cleats black for reasons I can't fathom. In any event, the all-black cleats with the all-black socks always gave him the appearance that he was pitching in his socks. His mullet was also a treasure to behold. It was always inexplicably sweaty on TV close-ups, even in the first inning, and was a great addition to those torturous yet hilarious faces he made while throwing every pitch.
Erickson finished 1991 with a 20-8 record and came in second in Cy Young voting behind everyone's favorite 'roided jerk, Roger Clemens. Just two years later, however, he piled up 19 losses on a pretty lousy Minnesota team, and his ERA was becoming more bloated than Andruw Jones at Denny's. He was traded to Baltimore for garbage midway through 1995 and stayed in the organization until 2003, finding moderate success there by winning 16 games twice and even leaving town with a winning record (79-68). He also batted .400 in 2000 (2 for 5), so make room, Teddy Ballgame. Scott Erickson is joining the .400 Club! He bounced around for the next three seasons as a mop-up man/emergency starter for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, and Rangers and ultimately called it a career in 2006 at the ripe old age of 38, settling down with his wife, renown sideline reporter Lisa Guerrero.
Scott Erickson was a pitcher's pitcher. He knew the value of a groundball was far higher than the value of a strikeout. He also knew that the blacker your cleats were, the better you pitched. He wasn't the greatest, but he wasn't the worst either. He was just a man. A pitcher. One who could eat inning after inning and get a groundball when he needed it. A pitcher's pitcher.
Ladies and gentlemen, Scott Erickson, Ballplayer.