Local legend lauded as baseball pioneer: Mike Mohler

Three decades have elapsed since he toed the slab at what would become Johnny Ambeau Park, the lanky lefty who baffled batsmen with a nasty hook making a sneaky-fast fastball appear even faster.  Mike Mohler’s baseball legacy, secure in the hearts of all who witnessed the early days, continues to grow.

Mike Mohler with Single A Madison Muskies

Mohler, one of the good guys, enjoyed a nine-year big league career that ended before the Sabremetrics Revolution transformed The Grand Old Game, before big league analytics departments infused a never-ending stream of information into decision-making.  He can’t tell you the spin rate for his four-seamer.

The National Pastime has reached the digital age.  For us, the hardcore baseball fans, it can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is MLB Now, MLB Network’s daily fix “for the thinking fan.”  Host Brian Kenny is a leading proponent of the new way, lobbying the baseball world to discount all those statistics on the back of baseball cards.  Batting average, once the barometer of batting greatness, means little to nothing; RBIs even less, the home run reduced to one of three “true outcomes” to figure out FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, the others are walks and strikeouts).

It’s all about OPS (On base + slugging).

Mike Mohler Fun Fact: In the 2000 season his OPS was an unheard of 2.000.

On April 20, 2000 he singled off Will Cunnane of the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.  Mohler can recall all five of his plate appearances in the big leagues.

Kenny and his ilk, who happen to run every major league front office, care little about “the win” credited to one pitcher in every ballgame since Henry Chadwick invented the box score.  “Kill the Win” is a real movement among baseball intelligentsia who are about to award the 2018 National League Cy Young award to a pitcher with a paltry eight wins (and a losing record).

At the revolution’s vanguard was our two-time All Stater from East Ascension HS.

Mike Mohler was the Oakland As 42nd round pick in the 1989 Amateur Draft after three years on the bump at Nicholls State University.

Nicholls State Colonels: Mike Mohler (r) with another local legend, Jody Amedee

He was called up to the big club in 1993.  His manager in Oakland, and then with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, was Hall of Famer Tony La Russa.

La Russa, long-renowned as one of baseball’s most original thinkers, appeared on MLB Now earlier this week to discuss “bullpenning.”  The practice, being implemented to great effect by the Tampa Bay Rays this season, eliminates the starting pitcher.  It was tried before…by Tony La Russa who tabbed rookie Mike Mohler as “the opener” in a series of games during the 1993 season.

“I was not very happy about it because there was no way I could get the win,” Mohler recalls.  “The plan was for me to go for three innings, and only three innings.”

One of baseball’s longest-standing statistical rules is that no starting pitcher can be awarded the sacrosanct “W” unless he lasts five innings.  Little did Mohler suspect that he was at the vanguard of the revolution.  Genius, like prophesy, is never recognized in its own time.

The baseball legacy of Mike Mohler is solidified.

By the way, he also has one of these…

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks World Series ring