Sometimes the 1993 Finest set captured a player living up to the set’s name and putting in a career year. Braves pitcher Steve Avery was one such player, generating by far his highest level of wins (18) and wins above replacement (5.1). He was a key component of the best pitching rotation in baseball history, and at only age 23 appeared on his way to being potentially the member with the longest runway. Avery joined Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz in a rotation that did not miss a single start all season while en route to the National League Championship Series. Avery was a solid #2 behind Maddux that year and even displayed better control than his notoriously accurate teammate (43 walks to 51).
While their performance was clearly one for the books, I find the Braves’ consistency of starts and innings pitched to be the most intriguing aspect of the team. Each of the four primary starters threw the first pitch of each assigned game. They all went deep, each averaging 6-7 innings per start and clocking well over 200 innings for the season. Their combined 1,011 innings of work accounted for 112 full 9-inning games of pitching in a 162-game schedule. Add in the post season and there are even more innings put away by the Atlanta staff.
Avery led the team in 1993 post season innings, showing a continuation of the performance that got the team to that position in the first place. The following season would see injuries and fatigue begin to set in. Within a few short seasons his trademark stamina was faltering and batters were beginning to hit the ball further against him. Shoulder problems took Avery out of the game by the end of the decade. Outside of 16 innings played for Detroit in 2003, he was done.
A New Car?
In 2011 Avery was a spectator in the bleachers at a high school football game. A local car dealership sponsored a raffle in which a random participant would have the opportunity to win a car if they could hit a set of targets with a football. Avery’s ticket was drawn and he proceeded to the field. Showing the accuracy of a big league starting pitcher, he hit the first target presented. The crowd erupted in cheers as he celebrated. Unfortunately, the contest required him to hit multiple targets. He was so busy celebrating that he failed to throw at more targets in the remaining time. No car was awarded.