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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #98 Mark Thurmond


Drafted by the Padres out of Texas A&M in the fifth round of the 1979 draft, pitcher Mark Thurmond was the heir-apparent to the “crafty lefty” mantle shouldered proudly in previous seasons by Randy Jones.

He appeared equal to the task upon reaching the big club in 1983. Hitting the ground running, Thurmond posted a 7-3 win-loss mark, to go with a stingy 2.65 ERA. His lack of strikeout stuff - just 49 punch-outs in 115 1/3 innings - went unnoticed in a baseball community that had yet to notice a young sabermetrician named Bill James.

Mark continued to trick NL hitters with smoke and mirrors in 1984, logging a big season for the World Series-bound Padres. He notched the second most victories on the club, going 14-8, en route to a 2.97 ERA. The left side of the ’84 squad’s infield, comprised of Graig Nettles and Garry Templeton, helped the stuff-challenged lefty turn numerous ground balls into outs, enabling him to allow less hits than innings pitched. It would be the last time Thurmond would accomplish such a feat as a Friar, however, as his alarmingly low 57 K’s in 178-2/3 innings served as an indicator that his days as an effective starter were coming to an end.

The wheels came off in the 1984 World Series, as Thurmond lost Game One 3-2, and was bounced after retiring only one hitter in the first inning of Game Five, having been touched up for three runs.

In 1985 the ERA rose by a full run, the win-loss record flip-flopped to 7-11, and the man who had just a year earlier been among the top lefties in the NL began to fall out of favor with the Padre brass. In July of 1986, Mark Thurmond was sent to the Detroit Tigers, who had battered him senseless in the World Series less than two years prior, in exchange for Dave LaPoint.

Thurmond finished his career performing mop-up duties in Detroit, Baltimore, and finally in San Francisco, for whom he threw his final pitch in 1990. His prominent role for the Padres’ first pennant-winning club remains the crowning achievement in an otherwise-undistinguished career.


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