Mark Mulder announced his retirement earlier this week without much fanfare, making official what has been assumed since he sat out all of last season following disastrous stints with the Cardinals in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Mulder won 16 games with a 3.64 ERA as a 27-year-old in 2005, but then injuries hit and he won just six more games while posting a 7.73 ERA in 106 innings and was finished at age 30.
Because of how poorly and prematurely Mulder’s career ended it’s easy to forget just how good he was before all the health problems. Looking at all left-handed pitchers since the mound was lowered in 1969, he ranks tied for sixth with 97 wins through the age of 27:
THROUGH AGE 27 W
Vida Blue 124
F. Valenzuela 118
CC Sabathia 117
Don Gullet 109
Frank Tanana 106
MARK MULDER 97
Mark Buehrle 97
Tom Glavine 95
Jerry Reuss 95
Ross Grimsley 87
Interestingly, his former “Big Three” rotation-mate Barry Zito ranks 11th with 85 wins through age 27.
Decades from now when people stumble across Mulder’s stats and see just 103 wins they probably won’t give him much thought, but he was one of the most successful early career lefties in baseball history and would probably be a 31-year-old with around 175 wins right now if not for the injuries.
Last month, free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon told reporters that he’d be open to taking a minor league deal in 2018, but only if he was guaranteed a return to the Mets’ system. The 44-year-old starter is nearing the end of a 20-year career, and it makes sense that he’d want to have one last hurrah in the city where he had some of his most productive years.
Now, Twins starter Ervin Santana tells Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, it looks like the Mets might also be open to a reunion. It’s doubtful that Colon has all that much left in the tank, especially following a combined 7-14 record and 6.48 ERA for the Braves and Twins last year, but he’s not necessarily looking to reproduce the 15+ win, sub-4.00 ERA totals of years past.
Instead, Santana says, Colon is seeking the opportunity to win just six more games. He’ll enter the 2018 season five wins shy of the all-time record for a Latin American-born player, and is hoping to claim that title for himself before he enters retirement in 2019. Former Orioles and Expos hurler Dennis Martinez currently holds the record after clinching his 245th win back in 1998. While it took Colon a full season of starts to come up with even seven wins in 2017, he’s only one year removed from a 15-win campaign in 2016. Provided that the Mets are willing to gamble on him again, the milestone may not be that far out of reach.