It’s actually quite fitting that Darin Erstad is celebrating his 38th birthday today. Allow me to explain. This year his birthday falls on the same day as the first round of the MLB Rule 4 draft. Of course, the Angels made Erstad the number one overall pick in 1995 out of Nebraska. The Angels don’t have a first (or second) round pick this year so Halo fans can break out the ice cream cake and whiskey (that’s not a thing?) and celebrate Darin’s birthday tonight.
Erstad moved quickly with the Angels signing on July 26, 1995 and debuting in the Majors on June 14, 1996. It was actually a pretty good career that Erstad carved out in Anaheim that was largely overshadowed by his one monster season and some not so great season after signing a lucrative extension for 2003-2006.
In his second full season in 1998, he hit 19 home runs, stole 20 bases with a .296/.353/.486 line. That was one of his two All Star years. The monster season came in 2000. Erstad led the league in hits (240) along with plate appearances (747) with 25 home runs, 28 stolen bases and a .355/.409/.541 line. He’s never be that good again. His 8.2 rWAR (Baseball-Reference wins above replacement) in 2000 tops all single season Angels hitters. Jim Fregosi is second with a 7.7 rWAR in 1964 followed by Friggin’ Chone Figgins‘ 7.5 in 2009.
As I mentioned, that one season really overshadowed a nice Angels career. Erstad had another top 10 finish with a 6.1 rWAR in 2002 before you get to a Bobby Grich or Vladimir Guerrero season. And yes, I realize the Angels don’t have many historically great positional players. But Erstad still ranks fifth in rWAR in Halo archives. His 30.4 carrer Angels WAR trails only Jim Fregosi (43.3), Tim Salmon (37.1), Brian Downing (35.3) and Bobby Grich (32.9). I also suspect he was the highest career WAR for any player born in North Dakota which I’m told is a state in this country.
Erstad got pretty beat up playing his smash mouth brand baseball (he was a football player, okay, punter) and couldn’t put together another healthy season after 2005. After grinding out 2007 with the White Sox and 2008-2009 with the Astros, Erstad called it a wrap. He joined the University of Nebraska baseball team in 2010 and became their head coach on June 2, 2011.
So happy birthday, Darin. You should totally reminisce about your draft day and get drunk on ice cream cake and Makers Mark.