The sun setting and rising is the second most consistent thing in the world. What could possibly be more consistent than that you ask? That question alone means you don’t watch enough Atlantic League baseball. Anyone watching that league year in and year out is fully aware that the most consistent aspect of the world is Daryl Thompson and his status as the best pitcher in the ALPB. The season in question doesn’t matter, name any ALPB season you want, the end result is Thompson finishing at or near the top of every ALPB pitching leaderboard.
In 2021 Thompson has accumulated a 3.17 ERA in 139.1 innings pitched. He’s done that while the league itself has posted an ERA of 5.99. His 1.141 WHIP also bests the league average of 1.668. In every possible way, Thompson continues to show why he is the best pitcher in the history of the league. His entire time in United States unaffiliated ball has been spent in the ALPB, specifically with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He’s their ace, but then again he is the league’s ace so of course, he is the Blue Crabs’ ace.
Thompson first pitched in the ALPB during the 2012 season. The East Coast-based league was his first stop after his Major League Baseball dreams had been dashed. Thompson likely didn’t think his MLB dream was over after a paltry 17.1 innings toeing the rubber. With each passing season, as well as forays to various unaffiliated leagues the world over, Thompson had to believe he would get a second crack at an MLB diamond. That day never came, but, no matter what twist or turn his career took he found himself back in the warm embrace of the Blue Crabs and an ALPB mound for nine seasons.
From the very onset, Thompson was consistent on an ALPB mound. Fans and opponents of the Blue Crabs knew what they were going to get from the right-hander and he never disappointed. It wasn’t until the last couple of years when he turned an even sharper corner. Maybe it was his transition into the pitching coach role or perhaps it was a regular lack of pitching depth on the Blue Crabs? Whatever the reason, over the 2019 and 2021 seasons Thompson has very much turned into an old-school hurler.
No, Thompson isn’t throwing a complete game every outing. He does, however, have eight complete games and two shutouts over the past two seasons. When he’s not finishing out the game he is going deep and providing the Blue Crabs with another quality start. He’s doing this while breaking from the mold of what a modern-day pitcher should look like.
Thompson doesn’t throw hard, but that’s not what’s interesting. It’s the fact that Thompson appears to be actively avoiding throwing hard that sets him apart from his peers. In the day and age where velocity is king Thompson pitches to contact. He still gets his strikeouts, a SO/9 of 5.8 this season, simply because his stuff is so good and has remained good all these years removed from his MLB tenure. However, Thompson will gladly accept a weak grounder to the second baseman just as readily as a strikeout. The pitching mound change in the ALPB hasn’t affected Thompson one bit. He’s still out there when it’s his turn in the rotation daring hitters to make contact off his sharp cutter and then slowly walking back to the dugout after he’s induced another weak out.
I know I’ll be writing about Thompson as one of the all-time greats in a few years. We’re not quite there yet and people need to celebrate Thompson’s amazing accomplishments as they are happening. Players come and go and things may be changing every day in the ALPB. None of that has stopped Daryl Thompson from doing the same old same old in 2021 and who knows how many more years he’ll be able to keep his status as the most consistent and best pitcher in the ALPB.
Lead photo courtesy of Bert Hindman – Southern Maryland News