25th ANNIVERSARY: The Cardinals’ 1985 Pitching Staff

Yesterday, I-70 Baseball took a look at the1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals starting lineups. Today, we will take a look at their respective pitchers. Here are the starters and relievers from the National League Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Starting Rotation

Most of the Cardinals 1985 starting rotation were returning from the 1984 season, and as such were largely a known quantity. The one exception was the lone lefty in the group, Dave LaPoint. LaPoint had come to the Cardinals in the blockbuster trade with the Milwaukee Brewers following the 1980 season. He had become a very dependable pitcher, both in long relief and finally in the rotation, always posting a winning record. With the addition of another left handed starter in John Tudor, LaPoint became a part of the five player deal that brought slugger Jack Clark to St. Louis. LaPoint would pitch well for the Giants in 1985, but suffer a severe case of lack of run support.

Even with only one change, the Cardinals had some questions about their rotation entering the 1985 season. Would Danny Cox take the next step after a somewhat inconsistent sophomore season ? Did Bob Forsch have enough left in the tank to contribute, and if not, who would be the fifth starter ? And what about this Tudor guy – will he be any good ?

Spring training did not provide many easy answers, although the one that was answered turned out to be significant late in the season. Bob Forsch was able to earn the fifth spot in the rotation, at least to begin the season. The rest took a while to sort out.

Joaquin Andujar (21-12, 3.40 ERA, 10 CG, 2 SHO, 269 2/3 IP)

One Tough Dominican

When the Cardinals acquired Joaquin Andujar from the Houston Astros, they knew they had gotten “One Tough Dominican”. After all, it was Andujar himself that made the proclamation. He backup up that bold claim when he returned to pitch Game 7 in the 1982 World Series after being knocked out in Game 3 by a wicked line drive off the bat of former Cardinal, Ted Simmons, and pitched well enough to win the game.

He had struggled in 1983, but had returned to form in 1984, winning 20 games and logging over 250 innings for the first time in his career. It was hoped that Andujar could repeat some of that magic in 1985.

From the first pitch of the season, Andujar was a force in the National League. By early June, he had run his record to 12-1, the best record since Elroy Face’s improbably 17-0 in 1959, but those were all in relief. Andujar was logging a huge number of innings.

That’s when some of the trouble started. He had been experiencing shoulder pain, but each time the concern was raised, he would go out and shut down the opposition with a stingy performance. As a result of his 15 wins, Andujar was invited to the All Star Game. San Diego’s Dick Williams, manager of the National League squad, did not name Andujar immediately as his starter, leaving open the possibility of the Padres newly acquired LaMarr Hoyt (12-4) starting instead of Andujar. The two would face each other just before the All Star Game break, with Hoyt getting the better of the two in an amazing pitching duel. Prior to the game, Andujar announced that he would not attend the All Star Game, leaving everybody scratching their heads. It was at this point that Andujar lost any chance he had at the Cy Young award for 1985.

Determined to get some of his reputation restored, Andujar pitched the best game of his 1985 season, an 11 inning win against those same San Diego Padres. He only allowed on run in 11 innings, but that win took it’s toll. From that point, Andujar would be less effective and his ERA would soar from 2.31 to 3.40 by the end of the season. August would be rough month, and September would be just brutal. Andujar would earn his 20th win against the Braves at the end of August, and it would take almost three weeks for him to win his 21st, against Pittsburgh.

Andujar’s late season fade would continue during both the NLCS and World Series. After being almost unhittable in 1982, he was anything but that in 1985. In two starts against the Dodgers, Andujar would post an 0-1 record with a 6.97 ERA. In one start and one relief appearance, Kansas City would rip him to a tune of a 9.00 ERA in just 4 innings of work.

That would be the end of Andujar’s career as a player in St. Louis as he would be traded following the World Series to the Oakland A’s.

John Tudor (21-8, 1.93 ERA, 14 CG, 10 SHO, 275 IP)

John Tudor

In a deal that went largely unnoticed by the national sports media, the Cardinals sent fan favorite, “Silent” George Hendrick to the Pittsburgh Pirates for left handed pitcher John Tudor. Manager Whitey Herzog and pitching coach Mike Roarke had been impressed by Tudor when he pitched in Boston. They noticed that he was not afraid to throw inside to right handed hitters, which was somewhat lost in Fenway Park but might be a huge advantage in the cavernous Busch Stadium.

Initially it did not appear that the trade was a good one. Tudor would be hit hard during spring training, but would earn the number two spot in the rotation on the hopes that he would figure it out. Eventually. In his first two starts, it appeared that he, like the pitcher he was replacing, would be the victim of no run support. In two games, Tudor would allow just three runs, but would walk away with an 0-1 record.

In early May, Tudor would turn heads with an eye-popping complete game, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and striking out 5. For the first time in 1985, he had some run support and showed that he knew what to do with it. Unfortunately that was short lived, and he would go back to his tough luck losing ways, eventually running his record to 1-6.

This would all change on June 3 when Tudor made a minor correction to his pitching motion, and he had immediate success, beating Houston on another outpouring of run support, 9-5. That would earn him his second win of the season. He would follow that up with a brilliant 3 hit shutout against the Mets, in New York. This would not be the only time the lefty would beat the Mets by a score of 1-0 in their home ball park.

Tudor and his amazing changeup would continue baffling National League hitters for the remainder of the 1985 season. He would only lose one more game in 1985, a 3-0 shutout against the Dodgers in late July. Once again, lack of run support proved to be the difference.

Tudor would save his best for last. His 10 shutouts were the most since Bob Gibson’s legendary 1968 season, but it was the 4 shutouts in September when the division title was still up for grabs that earns makes Tudor’s season all the more unbelievable. Tudor’s greatest pitching performance would come in New York, against the eventual Cy Young winner, Dwight Gooden. The two pitchers were unbelievable. Neither pitcher would budge, but Gooden tired in the 9th, and that was the difference in the game. Cesar Cedeno would hit a solo home run against Jesse Orosco in the 10th, for the only run in the game. Tudor would strike out Darryl Strawberry, with the tying run on first base to end the game, and ultimately the Mets playoff chances.

Tudor would continue his mastery in both the NLCS and the World Series. He would take a hard luck loss in the first game of the NLCS, but would come back and earn a win in the now infamous “tarp” game in Game Four. Tudor would also throw two impressive games in the World Series, winning Game One and throwing a shutout in Game Four. He would be the unfortunate victim in Game Seven, but we will be talking more about that later in the week.

Danny Cox (18-9, 2.88 ERA, 10 CG, 4 SHO, 241 IP)
After an impressive start to his career in 1983, Danny Cox had become inconsistent in 1984, sometimes relying on his fastball a bit too much. Occasionally he had to be reminded that he had three other pitches, that honestly were much better than his heater. He had shown that he might be an inning eater on the mound, and it was hoped that he would take the next step in 1985. He did that, and more.

Never really going into a prolonged slump, Cox would throw a career game on May 31 against Cincinnati. He would take a perfect game into the 8th inning, against former Cardinal John Stuper. Cox would only give up two singles in that inning, before finishing strong and earning a shutout.

More important than that near-perfect game, as Joaquin Andujar faded late in the season, Cox became the other big game guy, eating up a ton of innings and giving his team a chance to win in nearly every start.

Cox would extend his reputation as a big game pitcher in the postseason. He would throw a gem and earn the win in NLCS Game Three, the first win against the Dodgers. He was also ready to go in case there was a Game Seven, but Jack Clark and Ozzie Smith put an end to things before we got that far. With Andujar’s continued struggles, Cox took over the number two spot in the rotation for the World Series, with Andujar moving down to number three. He would throw a gem in Game Two, keeping the Royals damage limited to just two runs. Ken Dayley would earn the victory in relief, but it was Cox throwing inning after inning of zeros that made that possible. And speaking of throwing zeros, the infamous Game Six blown call overshadowed another brilliant performance by Cox. What wasn’t known at the the time was that the big right hander was in considerable pain while he threw all of those innings. Big game pitcher, indeed.

Arm troubles and freak injuries would impact the rest of his career, but in 1985, Danny Cox was a big time pitcher.

Bob Forsch (9-6, 3.90 ERA, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 2 SV, 136 IP)

Bob Forsch

One of the questions entering spring training, the elder statesman of the pitching staff showed still had some game left in his right arm. He would start the season as the fifth starter, but would struggle early on. He would bounce between the bullpen and rotation until mid-June when he was permanently assigned as the right handed long reliever. With John Tudor, Danny Cox and Joaquin Andujar pitching well, Whitey Herzog went with a 4 man rotation for most of the summer. As Andujar started to fade in August, Forsch was put back into the rotation and he responded with some of his best pitching of the year. He would win five of his last six decisions, running his record on the season to 9-6. He would also throw a masterful 4 hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies in September when the team really needed a win.

In a bit of an unusual move, Herzog would keep Forsch in the rotation for both the NLCS and World Series. He would get one start in each, but not pitch particularly well in either. Maybe if Andujar had been more effective, Herzog might have gone with a three man rotation, but he wasn’t and Forsch was given the ball.

The dean of the staff would catch a second win after the 1985 season and turn in two more solid season, nearly all as a starter. His biggest contribution in this period would come in the 1987 NLCS when he plunked the notorious Jeffery Leonard. That woke up the Cardinals and they turned the series around, eventually winning in seven games.

Kurt Kepshire (10-9, 4.75 ERA, 153 1/3 IP)

Two words describe the season Kurt Kepshire had in 1985. Jeckyll and Hyde. You never knew from one game to the next, which Kepshire you would get. One of them might only last an inning, putting a terrible strain on the bullpen. The other might take a shutout into the 8th inning.

To appreciate how frustrating this was, you just need to look at the game against the Phillies on August 10. Kepshire gives up a home run to Von Hayes in the first inning, which is not necessarily the makings of a bad outing. When the Cardinals score 4 runs the next inning, the young right hander responds with two walks and an RBI single. Herzog immediately removes Kepshire in favor of Rick Horton. Horton goes on to throw a gem, finishing the game with 8 innings of relief. The Cardinals offense would explode and make this a laugher, to every but Kepshire and Herzog. He would follow that poor performance up with a brilliant 8 inning game against Pittsburgh, only to have an early exit in his next start. He would take the next game into the eighth inning with another win, but leave after 1 inning the next game. After two bad starts on September 9 and 14, Kepshire would be moved to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, and only used in a mop-up capacity. He would also be left off the post-season roster, in favor of another bat to supplement an ailing Jack Clark.

Bullpen

While the starting rotation sorted itself out rather quickly, the bullpen was the exact opposite. In a move that surprised everybody in Cardinals Nation, Bruce Sutter signed a big free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. While he maintained early on that it was his best chance to return to post season, everybody knew that it was the size and length of the contract that lured him out of St. Louis and down to Dixie.

While that move proved to be disastrous for Sutter, it left a huge hole in the bullpen that needed to be filled. For the last three years, the starting rotation has been just the opening act for the Bruce Sutter show. Now, Herzog and Roarke found themselves in need of a closer. And quickly. Or a Plan B.

Jeff Lahti (5-2, 1.84 ERA, 19 SV, 68 1/3 IP)

The hard throwing and fidgety Jeff Lahti was the first choice as a closer. The problem for the Cardinals was that he had been experiencing severe neck and back troubles throughout spring training, and that bled over into the start of the regular season. As a result, Herzog would go with a “Bullpen by Committee”, using a combination of Lahti, when healthy, and left hander Ken Dayley. It was hoped that Neil Allen would be a part of that, but his troubles continued until he was finally sent to the Yankees for a player to be named later, which turned out to be just some cash to offset the bulk of his huge contract that the Cardinals ate in the deal.

As for Lahti, he was absolutely brilliant in a Ryan Franklin way. He would post a 5-2 record with 19 saves. It was his low ERA, under 2 runs per game, that made people take notice. The problem was that he was wasn’t striking out a lot of batters, and a pitch to contact type hurler could be a scary thing in the postseason, when the opposition gets to see you night after night. All of this would sort itself out in late August, but that is the story of another hurler.

Lahti would pitch two scoreless innings in the NCLS, earning a win in Game Three. He would not fare so well in the World Series as Kansas City would light him up. He would develop arm troubles after this and would only throw 2 1/3 more innings as a major leaguer.

Ken Dayley (4-4, 2.76 ERA, 11 SV, 65 1/3 IP)

Ken Dayley had been one of the best gambles in Cardinals history. Originally a starter in the Atlanta system, and an unimpressive one at that, the Cardinals picked up the quirky left hander midway through the 1984 season. The Cardinals put him in the bullpen, and that’s when the career of Ken Dayley took off. He had absolutely electric stuff. His fastball was overpowering, and his curve was as good as anybody in the game. Left handed hitters feared him, and righties weren’t exactly thrilled to face him either.

For most of 1985, Dayley and Lahti would alternate as closers, with the other being the setup man. Dayley’s vast repertoire of pitches allowed him to be used for longer outings, not quite long relief, but a three inning save was not out of the question.

If Dayley was good in the regular season, he was super-human in postseason. He would appear in 9 games, for a total of 12 innings. He would not surrender a single run in either series.

Dayley would undergo Tommy John surgery after the 1986 season. He would come back even stronger than before, and in an amazing 7 months. His fastball had more life and his curve had even more bite. He would continue to pitch well for the Cardinals for the rest of the decade, and would nearly duplicate his postseason domination again in 1987.

Todd Worrell (3-0, 2.91 ERA, 5 SV, 21 2/3 IP)

The experiment with the “Bullpen by Committee” would all come to an end on August 28. Three days before the postseason roster eligibility deadline, Dal Maxvill gambled and called up a young hard throwing right hander named Todd Worrell. He had been looking for another bullpen arm, and had tried Pat Perry, Joe Boever, and there was even talk of Doug Bair coming back (in a Jeff Suppan kind of way). Shortly before his callup, Worrell had been moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen, and he became a totally different pitcher. His control improved, and he started striking out batters at a frightening pace.

That would continue for the rest of the 1985 season, but with the big club. In just 17 appearances, Worrell would earn 5 saves to go with a nice 3-0 record. He wasn’t striking out major leaguers at the same rate as he did in AAA, but that would come soon enough. More than anything else, it gave Herzog a strikeout type of closer and it allowed him to move Ken Dayley into the setup role. And the two were brilliant together. If the starters could get to the sixth inning with a lead, the game was over. And for the times they didn’t, Herzog still had Jeff Lahti, Bill Campbell and Rick Horton to get it there. And they often did just that.

As the bullpen settled in, a pattern started to develop – one that would play itself out in the postseason as well. A good start would get Dayley and Worrell in the end, and a poor start would get Lahti, Campbell and Horton. The problem was that between Danny Cox and John Tudor, there just weren’t that many bad starts in September (and the postseason for that matter).

Worrell would not accumulate enough innings to qualify for Rookie of the Year consideration. That would go to the other super-sub of 1985, Vince Coleman. Worrell would earn those honors with an outstanding full-season performance in 1986.

The big right hander’s biggest moment in postseason would come in Game Five of the NLCS, the now famous “Go Crazy Folks” game. He would combine with Ken Dayley to throw five shutout innings, eventually giving way to Jeff Lahti who would take the win, thanks to Ozzie Smith’s miraculous home run. Worrell was also the pitcher victimized in the infamous blown call in Game Six of the World Series.

Worrell would continue to dominate the National League until developing arm troubles in 1990. He would rehab in the Cardinals farm system, losing two years before returning as a setup man. He would move on to Los Angles where after a few mediocre seasons, he would return to his previous form, leading the league in saves with 44 in 1996. He would pitch one more year with the Dodgers, retiring after the 1997 season.

Bill Campbell (5-3, 3.50 ERA, 4 SV, 64 1/3 IP)

Bill Campbell was the wily veteran in the bullpen and defined the term, journeyman. Soup was a dependable arm out of the bullpen and frequently led the league in appearances. He had logged an incredible number of innings the previous two seasons. The right hander came to the Cardinals as part of a defensive trade when the Cardinals acquired shortstop Ivan DeJesus from the Phillies, in case they were not able to resign Ozzie Smith. Just before the home opener, Smith signed a long term contract, making DeJesus a utility role player for the Cardinals. As it turned out, Campbell was best part of the trade.

As he had done before with the Cubs and Phillies, Campbell became one of the go-to arms out of the bullpen, appearing in nearly the same number of games as Jeff Lahti.

Like Ken Dayley, Campbell was untouched in the NLCS, sporting a cool era of 0.00. He was nearly as good in the World Series, until getting hit hard in relief of John Tudor in Game Seven.

Rick Horton (3-2 2.91 ERA, 1 SV, 89 2/3 IP)

Rick Horton was the unsung hero of the bullpen in 1985. He didn’t have the flash of Ken Dayley, the quirkiness of Lahti or the electric stuff of Todd Worrell. But he methodically went about his business and excelled in each role he was asked to perform. To begin the season, he was the long reliever, which meant a lot of appearances in Kepshire and Forsch starts. He continued to rack up lots of quality innings. When Kurt Kepshire was eventually removed from the starting rotation in September, Horton would take his place. That seems somehow fitting as it was Horton relieving him most of the season.

Next Up

Now that we have looked at the two teams lineups and pitching staffs, it is time to look more into a few of the individual performances.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at Throatwarbler’s Blog. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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