Throughout this week, we have been looking back at the best player who have worn the numbers 99-90 and 89-80. Today, as the logical progression would follow, we look at the next 10 jersey numbers, 79-70.
NOTE: We are NOT looking for the total career statistics of players, just their stats while wearing the number listed.
#79 Justin De Fratus, RP (2012-2013)
De Fratus was assigned the number 79 as a September call up in 2012, and continued to wear that number as he became a stalwart in the Phillies bullpen in 2013. In his first full season, De Fratus appeared in 58 games, posting a 3.86 ERA with a 100 ERA+. However, next season, De Fratus will change his number to 30, the number he wore throughout his minor league career.
While there are three players who have worn 78 — Guillermo Rodriguez in 2009 with the O’s, Blaine Boyer in 2006 with the Braves, and Justin Thomas in 2012 with the Red Sox — none of them saplayed more than 7 games while wearing that number. To pick a “best” player to wear this number would make little sense, as none of them played either long enough or well enough to deserve this accolade.
#77 Rico Carty, OF (1963-1964)
After playing in 2 games with the Milwaukee Braves in September 1963,the Dominican-born Carty won then starting left field job in 1964, while wearing the number 77. Playing in the same outfield as superstar Henry Aaron, Carty had a star-caliber season of his own. His rookie year was phenomenal; his triple-slash was .330/.388/.554, and despite playing in only 130 games, he hit 22 home runs, third on the team behind only Aaron and another Hall of Famer, Eddie Mathews. His performance on the year was good enough to earn him second place in the rookie of the year voting. Midawy though the 1964 season, Carty changed his number to 43, a number he would wear several times throughout a career that could have been exceptional had it not been derailed by injuries. But Carty’s time wearing the number 77, though brief, is good enough to anoint him as the best player to ever wear the number.
#76 Mike Koplove, RP (2005)
In 2005 , Diamondbacks’ sidearmer Mike Koplove changed his uniiform number from 22 to 76, to accommodate the recently-acquired Jose Cruz. Koplove had had a very solid career with the Diamondbacks before 2005, with a career 3.44 ERA and a 134 ERA+. But 2005, was the beginning of the end of Koplove; having a 5.07 ERA in 49 innings. After the 2005 season, Koplove was essentially finished; he appeared in 6 more games in the rest of his major league career. While Koplove doesn’t appear to be a great choice for best player to have worn 76, the only other player who wore the number for more than a handful of games was Daniel Garibay, who in 2000, wore 76 in his only MLB season. Garibay was signed as an international free agent by the Cubs and was used as a spot starter in 2000. That season didn’t go well for Garibay; after he posted a 6.03 ERA, he never played in a MLB game again. So Koplove, almost by default, gets the title.
#75 Barry Zito, SP, RP (2001-2013)
Barry Zito came up from the minors wearing number 34, as a nod to pitcher Kris Benson, a player whom he wanted to emulate. However, after the A’s retired that number to honor Rollie Fingers, Zito opted to wear 75, because 75 “creates a really nice shelf under my name“. Since 2001, Zito has worn 75 for both the A’s and Giants. During his time with the A’s, Zito was one of the top pitchers in the league, posting a 3.63 ERA over the course of 6 seasons. In 2002, Zito won the Cy Young when he went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA and a 158 ERA+. When Zito became a free agent in 2006, he signed a 7 year, $126 million deal with the Giants. He was a disappointment in San Fran, going 63-80 with a 4.68 ERA, with only an 86 ERA+.
#74 Kenley Jansen, RP (2010-2013)
Jansen has always worn 74 because his street address growing up in Willemstad, Curacao was Kaya Kokolishi 74. It is a reminder to him of where he came from and how far he has come. Since coming up in 2010, Jansen has been a key part of the Dodgers bullpen. While he has spent most of his time as their set up man, Jansen has seen a lot of time in the past two years as the Dodgers closer. This year was Jansen’s best year in the majors, after being named closer in May, Jansen converted 28 saves in 32 opportunities, compiling a 1.88 ERA and a 2.6 WAR.
#73 Ricardo Rincon, RP (1997-2008)
When Ricardo Rincon came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997, he became the first player in Pirates history to have worn number 73. Rincon, a career journeyman, wore 73 for every team he played for. Rincon is most notable for being the last piece in a combined no hitter in 1997. Rincon first two seasons with the Pirates were his best two, pitching in 122 games with a 3.17 ERA.
#72 Carlton Fisk, C, 1B, DH (1981-1993)
After wearing 27 for his entire career with the Red Sox, Fisk was forced to change his number when he moved to the White Sox because pitcher Ken Kravec wore 27. Even though Kravec was traded only 10 days after Fisk was signed, Fisk kept his new number, and wore it for his entire career with the White Sox. Despite signing with the White Sox at age 33, Fisk managed to put together 12 very productive years with the Sox, including a well deserved All-Star appearance at age 43. Throughout his tenure with the White Sox, Fisk hit .257 with 214 home runs, amassing 28.8 WAR. Fisk is the first Hall of Famer on this list, and the first player to have their number retired.
#71 Scott Linebrink, RP (2008-2010)
After playing with the Brewers in 2007, Linebrink signed a 4 year deal with the Chicago White Sox in the 2007 offseason. After he signed that deal, Linebrink decided to change his number to 71 to honor his former bullpen catcher with the Padres, Mark Merlia, who was battling a brain tumor. Linebrink’s first year with the White Sox went well, pitching a 3.69 ERA in 46.1 innings. However, over the next two years, his ERA was a full run higher. After his 2010 campaign, the White Sox decided to move Linebrink to Atlanta, where he changed his number from 71 to 19.
#70 George Kontos, RP (2011-2013)
George Kontos’s major league career started in late 2011, when he was a September call-up for the New York Yankees. While Kontos only pitched in 7 games in that September, the Yankees liked what they saw from him and put him on their postseason roster, though he didn’t see any action. After 2011, Kontos was traded to San Francisco, in exchange for catcher Chris Stewart. Kontos’s 2012 season was strong, as he posted a 2.47 ERA and a 144 ERA+ in 44 appearances. However, like many Giants, Kontos regressed in 2013; his ERA ballooned to 4.39, forcing the Giants to option him to the minor leagues (on his birthday, no less).