As we count down the days to 2018’s opening day, we take a look at the greatest Braves to wear each jersey number that’s been worn. Before we get to today’s #45, we quickly look at the weekend’s numbers.
The best Brave to wear #47 should be no surprise – it’s Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.
Instead of discussing Glavine’s background and career – which you probably already are intimately familiar with – let’s just watch a quick video of the greatest game he ever pitched.
The best Brave to wear #46 is also not a big surprise – it’s Craig Kimbrel.
In basically 4 1/3 seasons as #46 for the Braves, Kimbrel saved 186 games and struck out 476 batters in 289 innings. He had a career 1.43 ERA when Atlanta traded him to San Diego. Y’all know how good he was.
The best Brave to wear #45 is Terry Mulholland. #45, needless to say, hasn’t had quite the success in Atlanta as the numbers which surround it.
A 1st round pick in 1984 by the San Francisco Giants, Mulholland reached the big leagues in 1986. He struggled for a few years, and the Giants eventually included the lefty in a trade to Philadelphia for Steve Bedrosian in 1989. Mulholland’s first full year in Philly proved to be a breakout. He threw a career high 180.2 innings and for the first time posted a better than league average ERA (3.34). He’d be a reliable starter for the Phillies for several years. From 1990-1993 he went 50-43 with a 3.52 ERA. In 1992, he led the NL with 12 complete games. Mulholland was named to the NL All-Star team in 1993 en route to a NL pennant. He didn’t pitch particularly well in the postseason, giving up 13 runs in just 15.2 innings.
In February 1994, the Phillies traded Mulholland to the Yankees for a trio of players. His single season in the Bronx was an unmitigated disaster; Mulholland went 120.2 innings, but allowed a 6.49 ERA over the span. He became a free agent at year’s end. He signed a one-year deal with the Giants and was again terrible, with a 5.80 ERA in 149 innings. He returned to Philadelphia on a one-year deal, and after 133.1 innings at a 4.66 ERA, Mulholland was traded to Seattle for the stretch run. In 12 starts for the competing Mariners, Mulholland allowed a 4.67 ERA, which in the 1996 AL was actually kind of good. The Cubs signed him as a starter for 1997, where he again ate some innings with limited effectiveness (157 IP, 4.07), and he went to San Francisco in August on a waivers claim, where the Giants tried him out in a relief role for a limited stretch. Mulholland returned to the Cubs on another single year contract, but this time the Cubs used him for the first time in an almost uniquely relieving role. 1998 would see him collect the first 3 saves of his MLB career as he posted a 2.89 ERA in 112 innings, enjoying his best season since before the strike. The Cubs asked Mulholland to return to the rotation in 1999, and it went poorly – a 5.15 ERA in 110 innings. On July 31, 1999, the Cubs dealt Mulholland to the Atlanta Braves.
For the 1999 stretch run, Atlanta split Mulholland’s duties, as he made 8 starts and 8 relief appearances. He had a 2.98 ERA with the Braves and made 6 postseason appearances out of the pen. In 2000, the Braves relied on Mulholland to eat innings out of the pen and as an occasional swingman. He wasn’t as consistent as you’d hope (5.11 ERA), but consistency is hard for a guy pitching in multiple roles – he had both a complete game and a save that year. The ERA wasn’t even that bad considering 2000 was one of the greatest offensive seasons in MLB history. Braves fans will remember Mulholland more fondly than his stats, though, simply for the way he was happy to be Bobby Cox‘s swiss army knife. He would move back and forth, doing what the team needed, and doing it about as well as you could expect from someone constantly switching roles.
He would leave Atlanta after 2000, and he’d transition to more of a permanent bullpen role, though he was still a regular swingman as late as 2004, where he started 15 games at age 41. Mulholland pitched with the Pirates, Dodgers, Indians, Twins (he pitched for Minnesota in the 2004 ALDS), and finished up with the Diamondbacks in 2006.
Who is the best ever to wear #45?
This is a tough one. First off, let’s take a moment to recognize and appreciate the guy who is NOT the pick, St. Louis Cardinals legend Bob Gibson.
Man, it’s tough to think the answer is NOT Gibson. But another pitcher wore #45, and he was better.
Pedro Martinez posted Gibson-like numbers, except he did it during an era of offensive explosion and small parks. His 2000 season might be the most well-pitched season in MLB history. He’s the best to wear #45.