Raúl Valdés last pitched in Major League Baseball in 2014. To most that would mean his career ended on that day. They would tell you that he never panned out despite high hopes when he left Cuba in 2001. Those same people would wonder why someone like Valdés is being written or talked about. With all the baseball stories that come out of MLB every day why waste a second on Raúl Valdés?
The answer to that is simple, and if you read this site regularly you already know where this is going. Valdés cannot be defined by his five-year MLB career because he played much more baseball than just those years and his career certainly did not end in 2014. Valdés is a special player, the type who makes it clear that MLB should not be viewed as the end-all and be-all of baseball success.
Had Valdés’ career only consisted of his MLB years he would be known as a Cuban pitcher who had an ERA of 5.13 in 140.1 innings pitched. His MLB ERA+ of 77 would not be something for him to hang his hat on. Luckily Valdés has done plenty worthy of his hat, including 17 seasons in Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana. He first appeared in the Dominican Republic in 2003 and is still going strong in 2020. He has become the mainstay of the Toros del Este rotation, including last year when he helped power them to both a LIDOM and Serie del Caribe title.
In his 17 years in LIDOM Valdés has remained essentially the same pitcher. He’s a squat lefty who doesn’t throw all that hard. These days he can maybe hit 91 with his fourseam fastball if he really tries for it. He doesn’t need to though, his arsenal of pitches has treated him well throughout his time in the Dominican. He’s shown more and more control with each passing year, relying heavily on hitting his spots and working batters over. Every season the Toros can count on their stud pitcher fooling hitters with stuff that doesn’t quite look like it should be following anyone.
The sun hasn’t yet set on Valdés’ career in LIDOM. He can’t have that many years left in him and at this point, all he’s doing is adding to his legacy. A legacy that consists of a 2.79 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 964.1 innings (these are his combined stats from the regular season and playoffs as the fabulous site WinterBall Data offers that feature). The son of Havana has struck out 753 batters while only walking 277. Add all this up and you get an ERA+ of 130 and one of the best pitchers in the history of LIDOM.
Valdés is no different than any other player skilled enough to reach the MLB ranks. He wishes his name was etched among other MLB all-time greats. He would likely give up his unaffiliated ways and return if an MLB team came calling. They won’t though, and it’s okay that they won’t because Valdés has put together an impressive career that includes a stint in MLB. He should not be reduced to being an MLB failure, to do so is short-sighted and far too simple for what he has done with his life. Valdés did what every person playing baseball wants to do, he made himself a career out of playing baseball at a high level professionally, and he’s not done yet.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown