Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stan Belinda

A key reliever during the last installment of the Pittsburgh Pirates glory days (early 1990s), Stan Belinda turns 45 years old today. Known for his side-arm delivery, Belinda was a key component of the Pirates bullpen as they reeled off 3 straight NL East championships between 1990 and 1992.

Drafted in the 10th round in 1986 by the Pirates out of a virtually unknown college in Maryland, Belinda worked his way through every minor league level and in 1989, dominated at both AA and AAA before getting the call up to big club as a September callup that season. He pitched a solid 7th inning against the Mets in a 7-2 loss, getting Darryl Strawberry, the first batter he faced, to fly out to left field.

Though he would be a solid performer for the Pirates through their championship runs, he would eventually be known as the pitcher who gave up the Francisco Cabrera single. After starter Doug Drabek loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th, thanks in part to a key error by Jose Lind at 2b, manager Jim Leyland called for Belinda with the Pirates still ahead 2-0. Though he managed to keep the score 2-1 by the time he got to two outs, the bases were still loaded and the Braves turned to backup catcher Cabrera, having used most of their key pinch hitters already. Cabrera laced a single to left field scoring both Dave Justice and slow-footed Sid Bream.  Bream's was quite memorable as it was a close play followed by an emphatic reaction by the Braves.

Belinda had a good 1993 season for the Pirates but was traded at the deadline to Kansas City as the team started their rebuilding process and he had fell out of favor with the city of Pittsburgh after the 1992 NLCS. He remained a good Major League reliever for a few more years until the age of 33, when he struggled with Colorado and then Atlanta.

He never finished a season with an era under 3.00 yet often found himself in the 3s with good WHIPs and good strikeout numbers. Never a dominant statistical reliever, the most saves Belinda earned in a season was 19 in 1993 with the Pirates, the year he only made to the end of July. He was prone to the home run and sometimes, his control wasn't that great, but its not easy to last 12 seasons as a reliver in the Majors and Belinda did accomplish that.

Since his retirement, Belinda has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and hasn't resurfaced in baseball since he retired. It would be nice if he was remembered more for his side-arm delivery and his longevity in the Majors as a solid reliever but he will likely always be known as the pitcher at the other end of the Sid Bream slide.

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