Former New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling had a tremendous 1985 season even with a league-leading 114 walks.
Darling was there in the 1980s when the team was at its best. In 1985, he pitched his way to the All-Star Game in unusual fashion.
Aside from his 1986 campaign, the 1985 season was Darling’s best year. He won 16 games and finished the year with a 2.90 ERA. No matter what era these numbers come from, they look pretty sweet.
The 1985 season did have one major flaw. Throughout much of his career, Darling struggled with his control. He averaged just slightly over six strikeouts per nine innings over his 13-year career. Early on, he also compiled a lot of walks.
We first saw how wild Darling was in 1984. In his first full season, Darling walked 104 batters. Back then, walks were a little more common than they are today. The total didn’t even lead the league.
Flash forward one season and Darling topped the previous season’s total. Darling walked a career-worst 114 batters that year, which ended up topping the league.
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It’s strange to look back thirty years and find a pitcher walk well over 100 batters and yet win 16 games with a solid ERA. Baseball was different back in the 1980s. Pitchers tossed more innings. Guys like Darling gave up fewer hits but also allowed a lot more walks.
Darling is different from a few other notable pitchers who walked triple-digit batters. Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson are two of baseball’s legendary strikeout masters. Early on in their career, they saw plenty of ball four calls.
This wasn’t the case for Darling. He never finished a season with more than 7.2 strikeouts per nine. His high is a low-end total for an average pitcher in today’s modern-day baseball world.
So we can wrap-up Darling’s run as a good pitcher with one major flaw, let’s look at the 1986 World Series.
Darling started three games for the Mets in the seven-game series. Much like the year prior, he was phenomenal but walking batters at an alarming rate.
The World Series wrapped up with Darling earning a 1-1 record and a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings. Unfortunately, this also included 10 walks.
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What should today’s fans take away from Darling’s performance? Maybe the next time you see a young pitcher walk the bases loaded, have a little patience. He could become the next Ron Darling.