Chuck Finley - Top 100 Angels #3

FIN TO WIN - Topps

Simply The Greatest Pitcher in Angels History

#3 - CHUCK FINLEY, P

If you just say 14 seasons with the Angels and 52.2 Wins Above Replacement (the most WAR of any Angels player, not just pitcher) you make the case for Chuck Finley as one of the top of top of the Top 100 Angels.

He started out a product of the Louisiana swamps and ended up the punchline victim of a celebrity marriage but in between he was the Lefty Ace of many an offense-starved Angels season. While he shared a co-Ace load co-shouldered by Mark Langston for a few seasons, throughout it all he was the man the Angels fans always liked best, he was the kid we drafted, he was our guy on the mound, he was the last link to the 1986 division champions, he was the man they called Fin To Win.

His edge over Nolan Ryan as the greatest pitcher in franchise history comes down to his pitching longer for the franchise, pitching better than Ryan based on total WAR (52.2 to 40.2) and if the argument points out that he tossed about 500 more innings than the Express, looking even deeper at the numbers still puts Chuck on Top (Finley had .0195 WAR per inning pitched to Ryan's .0184 WAR / IP). And then we have loyalty. Nolan left Anaheim and went to the top bidder, than to a division rival, then he became an executive with direct competitors. While Finley pitched for other teams after his Halo tenure it was not as if he ditched Anaheim... In fact the club abandoned Chuck, not even offering him arbitration in December, 1999 which would have at least yielded them a draft pick. How is that for gratitude?

When it comes to advanced stats, Chuck Finley's tenure with the Angels is revealed to have outshone Ryan's by an even greater margin. 187 Adjusted Pitching Runs ranks first in club history with Ryan a distant third at 113. Similar distances are evidenced in Adjusted Pitching Wins and Base-Out Runs Saved, although Jered Weaver takes first place here to the 2-3 of Finley/Ryan. As the statistical analysis gets finer the question is less one of Finley Versus Ryan to one of "How many seasons will The Weave need to match Fin?".

More Chuck Finley numbers: Six seasons (1989, '90, '91, '93, '96 and '98) in the franchise Single Season Top Fifty for WAR with his 7.6 WAR 1990 season ranking sixth best ever by an Angels pitcher. He won fifteen or more games as an Angel six times. When it came to K/9 he ranks sixth all time in club  history for pitchers with 500 or more IP but he ranks second if it is just among pitchers with 1,500 or more IP. That is because there have only been five in club history - Jered Weaver was close after the 2013 season, but regardless, Finley's ranks on alt of the all time lists are with players who pitched under a thousand innings with the club while Chuck and his mullet threw 2,675 Innings under the Halo.

The secret to Chuck's success was his sinkerball - while it led to many a Wild Pitch (and he threw an Angel record of 117 of them), it was a strikeout pitch that embarrassed big league hitters who flailed pathetically at what they thought was there or stood and took the bait and got caught looking. The dip in that Fin-tossed sinkerball was so great that batters would swing and miss as catchers dove for the ball and missed - which is bad enough except when men are on base they can score... or when the uncaught strike was #3 and the batter hustled down to first base as the catcher ran toward the backstop. The sinker made him the only pitcher in baseball history to strike out 4 batters in an inning twice in his career.

And don't mock the mullet, man, it was the marker of cool for almost three decades. David Bowie had one, U2 had them when they were a band that sounded like nothing else you had heard before and Chuck Finley, the greatest pitcher for our franchise. And give credit where its due, he cut it at the right time.

Fin pitched for the Indians and then was traded late in 2002 to the Cardinals for a playoff push. He helped them get there. The last game he ever pitched professionally was an NLCS win against the San Franciso Giants on October 12, 2002. Here is an eerie one for you: Finley was a rookie in the Angels bullpen in 1986 and was in the pen with Donnie Moore the afternoon on the day the Angels blew a game when they were one strike away from going to the World Series.The date: October 12, 1986. Finley's final appearance sixteen years to the day of that tragic Angels episode marked the last time a player from the Donnie Moore Game played in a major league baseball game. The next day, October 13, 2002, the Angels won the ALCS on the same field they had been so soundly defeated sixteen years prior. The loss to Finley was the only game the Giant lost in that NLCS prior to them facing the Angels. It would be the only playoff win in Finley's career. See, he had to get the beating of the Giants started before the rest of the Halos got a chance. Fin to Win indeed.

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