By Efraín Ruiz Pantin
Welcome to International Left-Handers Day — a day to “raise awareness of the everyday issues lefties face.” Although, really, isn’t the only challenge not being able to use scissors?
Here at La Vida Baseball, we would like to celebrate the southpaw, so we devised a system to find the top 10 Latino lefties. Our rankings are based on an aggregate score that combines WAR, Hall of Fame Monitor and Gray Ink, three different metrics that include all the characteristics that you look for in legendary pitching, except maybe zaniness.
Sound complicated? Then tell us what you think. When it comes to lefties, we might not always get it right. (See what we did there?)
With a nod to our friends at Topps, here goes: Our T10LL — Top 10 Latino Lefties.
1. Johan Santana (Venezuela)
His nasty 95-mph heat and changeup combination arguably made him the best pitcher from 2004-08. Over 12 seasons, he won 139 games, two Cy Young Awards, three ERA titles and the pitching Triple Crown. Plus, he authored the only no-no in Mets history. That alone is enough to make any list.
2. Fernando Valenzuela (Mexico)
If you missed out on Fernandomanía, ask your abuelita. After El Toro won the Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young and the World Series in 1981, baseball was never the same. He also threw a no-hitter in 1990. The Dodgers don’t retire numbers unless the player is enshrined in Cooperstown, but it’s time to rethink that policy.
3. Mike Cuéllar (Cuba)
Skinny and superstitious, he’s the first Latino to win the Cy Young, going 23-11 in 1969. Like Valenzuela, he’s another amazing screwballer — and the winningest Latino lefty, with 185 victories. Cuéllar’s 96 HOF Monitor score is the highest on our list.
4. John Candelaria (New York)
The Nuyorican Candy Man — tall and talented enough to play hoops for Puerto Rico — had immaculate control and a deadly curve. Despite not taking care of himself, he was still the second Latino to pitch a no-no and won 177 games.
5. Teddy Higuera (Mexico)
Injuries limited him to nine seasons. At his peak, he was as good as anyone, going 69-38 from 1985-88. In 1986, he finished 20-11 with a 2.79 ERA, losing the Cy Young to Roger Clemens, who went 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA.
6. Giovany ‘Gio’ González (Florida)
Just 31, this Cuban-American is still climbing up our T10LL. Since his first full season in 2010, only three other lefties have at least 100 wins, a 3.40 ERA and 200 starts — Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and David Price.
7. Jesse Orosco (California)
From closer to middle reliever to lefty specialist, this Mexican-American strikeout artist pitched in 1,252 games — the most in history — and in the 1986 NLCS with the Mets became the only reliever to win three games in a postseason series.
8. Juan ‘Terín’ Pizarro (Puerto Rico)
A Winter Leagues legend, “Terín” won the 1957 World Series with the Milwaukee Braves and was a two-time All-Star with the White Sox. A rubber arm and blazing fastball earned him 131 wins over 18 seasons.
9. Guillermo ‘Willie’ Hernández (Puerto Rico)
We will never forget 1984. Pitching 140.1 innings over 80 games, Willie became the second reliever to win the MVP and the Cy Young in the same season. Two more saves helped the Tigers win the World Series that fall.
10. Aroldis Chapman (Cuba)
How can we leave out a guy who throws 105 mph and strikes out 41.8 percent of his batters faced? That’s why he’s earning $86 million over five years. If he stays healthy, he might end on top of this list.
Featured Image: Scott A. Schneider / Getty Images Sport
Inset Images: Topps