Switch Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Third Baseman
Seasons With Braves: 1991-1994; 1996
Stats With Braves: .287/.327/.445, 71 HR, 322 RBI, 319 RS
Some of you probably think that this seems low, and it seems low to me, too. But regardless of what he meant to the franchise, TP only played three full seasons, one half season, and a fraction of a fifth with the Braves. Of course, in those five seasons, he won an MVP, finished second another time, and sparked the 1991 turnaround.
The Cardinals drafted Pendleton out of Cal State-Fresno in the seventh round of the 1982 draft; he was in the majors two years later. I am not certain if the Cards were the absolute best team for TP or the absolute worst. The best, because they appreciated defense above all else and were willing to overlook some offensive deficiencies. The worst, because they simply didn’t care about offensive deficiencies and were willing to let him get by with 35 walks a year. His best year in a Cards uniform was 1987, when he hit .286/.360/.412 with 12 homers (second on the NL Champions) but he never drew anything close to that year’s 70 walks again and wouldn’t hit over .264 again until he got out of a Cardinal uniform. That’s what he hit in 1989, but he slumped badly in 1990 and the post-Herzog regime in St. Louis replaced him with converted catcher Todd Zeile.
Terry was John Schuerholz’s first player acquisition with the Braves. Schuerholz was criticized for this, bringing in a subpar hitter coming off a bad year and suffering hamstring problems. In retrospect, it’s clear that JS made upgrading the defense his highest priority, and Pendleton was the key component in that. What maybe couldn’t have been predicted was that Pendleton would blossom into a star for the first two seasons of his contract.
The pitching immediately got better when TP arrived. Funny how putting the best defensive third baseman in the game behind a rotation largely made up of lefthanders had that effect. He was also the offensive driving force, leading the league in batting average and hitting 22 homers, a career high. And there is no question that he stepped in to fill a leadership void. From the beginning he was a coach on the field, directing the other infielders and counseling the pitchers. Unless you are the sort of person who wants to give the MVP to the guy who has the best offensive stats — in which case, we don’t actually need to vote — Pendleton’s MVP award was more than justified.
Terry’s stats weren’t quite as good in 1992, but it was still a fine year and he finished second in the MVP voting and made the All-Star team and won the Gold Glove, things he should have done the year before. Also, he played 160 games, which bounced up his counting stats so he drove in 105 runs, scored 99, and had 199 hits, all career highs. He fell off after that, to no more than solid in 1993, and was slumping badly when he was in the lineup in 1994, losing playing time to Jose Oliva. With Chipper Jones returning from his knee injury and looking for a lineup spot, the Braves let TP go as a free agent.
He was okay for the Marlins in 1995, but didn’t play well in 1996. Late in the season, the Braves reacquired him in the midst of Blauser’s struggles and moved Chipper to shortstop. Chipper did pretty well but Pendleton was done and hit .204/.271/.315. He finished his career with depressing stops in Cincinnati and Kansas City, and of course is now the Braves’ hitting coach.