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Andy Messersmith - Top 100 Angels #41

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A great 1960s pitcher who went on to notoriety with the free agent wars of the 1970s

THIS Andy was famous for more than 15 minutes in the 1960s...
THIS Andy was famous for more than 15 minutes in the 1960s...


Born on the same day the United States dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Andy Messersmith is best known as one of the players who brought about free agency - but that was many years after he had exciting seasons for the Angels. He was drafted in the first round of the 1966 draft out of UC Berkeley, the twelfth player taken. He would make his major league debut on the Fourth of July, 1968. In his rookie campaign he pitched mostly from the pen, starting only five games - but his first start turned out to be a complete game shutout and that little bit of fire at the end of the season sealed him a place in 1969 starting rotation where he would start 33 games.

Messersmith got an MVP vote or two for his amazing 1969 where he led the American League in fewest hits surrendered over 9 innings - his 6.1 H/9 in was followed by a league-leading 6.7 H/9 in 1970 - and that was the season of his highest ERA as a Halo: 3.01... His other four seasons all featured ERAs below 3.00; meanwhile his WHIP only went above 1.2 one year - 1971 where it was 1.247 and he won 20 games and was named to the All Star Team.

He pitched 972 innings in five seasons for the Angels. His 2.78 ERA ranks #1 all time in club history for Angels pitchers who logged more than 500 Innings Pitched. His 1.140 WHIP ranks second best (behind Troy Percival, and is thus the best ever by a Halo starting pitcher). His 42 Complete Games are tied for seventh and his 11 shutouts are tied for eighth best in franchise history. His 118 ERA+ is tied with Frank Tanana and Chuck Finley for sixth best ever by an Angels pitcher (albeit in substantially fewer innings pitched).

He pitched five seasons for the Angels and was the centerpiece of a big trade after the 1972 season with the Dodgers. The Angels got five players for Messersmith and infielder Ken McMullen. They got three players (Bobby Valentine, Billy Grabarkewitz and Mike Strahler) who made no impact (1.4 WAR total) and who yielded them nothing in trades. The Angels got two seasons of great offense from Frank Robinson and three seasons of starting pitching from Bill Singer, one of which was outstanding. They got nothing out of the players they traded these two for. The total WAR of Singer and Robinson in their time with the Angels was 15 Wins Above Replacement. Messersmith would produce 15.5 WAR for the Dodgers over four seasons and then 8 WAR in two years with the Braves, the team that signed him as a free agent. He would have been a lot higher on this list with those numbers in Anaheim, but history needed him to fight the free agent wars instead...