Tim Wallach, Relief Pitcher (and Third Baseman)

The Montreal Expos have a history of briefly having great pitchers and then letting them get away. Randy Johnson appeared in less than 60 innings across 11 games for the club in 1988-1989. Another top-10 pitcher, Pedro Martinez, had a run of four good seasons before becoming the ace of the Boston Red Sox.

These were incredible pitchers, both notching some of the best fielding independent pitching (FIP) stats in the record books. Relief pitchers often post eye-popping FIP metrics, with one particular Montreal Expos player beating both of them in terms of career FIP. Expos third baseman Tim Wallach was brought into a couple games as a reliever in the late 1980s and ended the experience with a FIP of 2.82 vs. 2.91 for Pedro and 3.19 for Randy Johnson. Sure, Tim had an ERA of 4.50 (1 run in 2 innings) but in his defense he didn’t have a gold glove winner patrolling the third base line to keep the offense in check.

When Tim’s Not Pitching…

Wallach presents an interesting statistical study. Pitchers seemed to consider it a coinflip in deciding to hit him or issue an intentional walk (89 IBB vs. 77 HBP). He was a fast runner but was more likely to be thrown out than successfully take a base. He hit 260 home runs (the same as Derek Jeter and more than the combined career totals of Thurman Munson and Carlos Baerga). Despite this, his offensive numbers were overall about the same as an average player (102 career wRC+).

It was defense that provided a steady tailwind to his career numbers. Wallach is widely considered the second best NL third baseman of his time, behind Mike Schmidt. Bill James even referred Wallach as “the poor man’s Brooks Robinson,” a complement any young ballplayer should be happy to aspire to. Overall, my rankings have Tim Wallach sitting right at the cusp of the Top-500 position players of all time, a rank that feels about right.

Wallach Has a Super Collector

There are a lot of players appearing in the 1993 Finest set with super collectors chasing their cards. A few are even actively seeking out every example of their favorite player’s refractors. While I guess that is the technically the case with a particular collector in New Mexico, he has a larger goal in mind. The author of a particular Wallach-themed blog is attempting to collect every Tim Wallach card produced. He isn’t going after just one of each card, but rather wants to reunite the entire print run of every Wallach card made.

His website includes contact information where readers can add their Wallach cards towards his collecting goal, as well as write-ups on each card. I love this idea and fully support the idea of this guy getting all but one ’93 Finest refractor in the process. I’m on the lookout for how I can help and will hopefully have something on the way across the country later this year.


From what I have gleaned from my reading the Wallach collector isn’t a big fan of shiny cards like ’93 Finest. To him they amplified the most undesirable parts of modern cards (made with synthetic materials, manufactured scarcity, most often encountered inside a PSA slab, etc.). I agree with parts of this sentiment, but find this particular set appealing because it concentrates so many of these developments into a single point in time. With these cards you can pinpoint the exact moment the hobby shifted away from the junk wax era and began lurching into the modern age. There is no substitute for these cards, no alternative set to build in which you can tell the same story.

Wallach is shown as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in this set, a team for which he was playing for the first time in the 1993 season. This is my second of Dodgers cards from the set, a team that looks like it was loaded with newly acquired talent. Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, and Brett Butler had been added to the outfield and Eric Karros and Mike Piazza were busy racking up consecutive awards for Rookies of the Year. Add in pitchers Orel Hershiser, Tom Candiotti, and a healthy Ramon Martinez and you have essentially an entire all-star team.