One of the things modern baseball managers need to be concerned with is overworking their pitchers. When one of those pitchers is 38 years old, in his 21st season of pro ball and relatively slight of stature at 5’11” and 185 pounds, the risk of having that hurler wear down in the hot summer months rises exponentially. Unless that pitcher is Francisco Campos.
The Campeche veteran not only didn’t lose steam over the steamy weeks of July in the Yucatan peninsula in the southern tip of Mexico, he actually seemed to get stronger. In his last ten starts in the regular season between June 1 and July 25, the man they call “Pancho Ponches” because he’s been perhaps the top strikeout artist in Mexico over the past two decades put together a 7-1 record with a 2.89 ERA, striking out 68 batters over 65 innings with just 16 walks (including only four free passes in 32.2 innings over his last five starts. In fact, in his last regular season outing against the eventual Liga champion Tigres in Cancun, Campos struck out nine while walking one batter in 5.1 frames. So much for wearing out.
For the season, the native of Guaymas registered a 12-5 record with a 3.42 ERA, including 138 whiffs and 38 walks in 137 innings while tying for the Liga lead in wins. Since debuting as a 17-year-old in 1995 with the Piratas (except for a 5-0 record in five starts with Monterrey in 2005, he’s never pitched for another LMB team), Campos has gone 146-85 with 1,604 strikeouts in 2,181 innings along with an ERA slightly under 3.00.
Campos may not just be the Liga’s best pitcher in 2011…he has a valid argument for being the best pitcher in Mexico of this generation.