Rob Dibble and His Angry Neck Vein Featured in ’93 Finest

Rob Dibble appears near the end of the 1993 Finest checklist, which is fitting since he pitched every one of his 385 games as a reliever. One of Cincinnati’s famed Nasty Boys, he did his best to live up to the name with a temper reminiscent of a mentally disturbed 7-year old. He got into a lot of scrapes for a guy who pitched in less than 500 innings in a MLB career. There was the famous fistfight with Lou Pinella (good for him), a tendency to throw baseballs directly at runners when he was clearly beaten (not so good), and even a throw into the stands that hit a lady. He brought intensity to the game along with the visual representation of things bulging out of his neck when he threw the ball. Topps made sure to get a shot of this for its ’93 Finest Dibble card.

Pictured above is an entirely misleading representation of Dibble’s career. My pitcher ranking system has trouble with relievers due to the small number of innings they rack up over the course of a career. Dibble pitched in only 477 innings before injuries ended his 7-year career. Many of the relievers appearing in my ranking of the ’93 Finest checklist were troubled starters that were converted to the position. Dibble, on the other hand, was always a reliever and took over the Reds’ closer role when Randy Myers departed for the Chicago Cubs. Given this backdrop, his relative rank of 63 out of 65 pitchers understates his ability.

On an inning for inning basis, Dibble may have been the best pitcher in a set containing Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux. He struck out more than a dozen batters per 9 innings and is still the third fastest pitcher to 500 career strikeouts. He averaged more than 14 K’s per 9 innings the year before this card was produced. Walks were a much more rare occurrence, coming in at about one third his career strikeout rate. Batters couldn’t do much with their bats either, hitting just .192 against him. Dibble logged a career adjusted FIP of just 60, an insanely low number that measures pure pitching skill.