Kevin Millwood announced that he’s retiring from the MLB after 16 seasons. The 38-year old spent the latter part of his career bouncing around organizations but began as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Millwood was always good enough to hang around at the big league level, but he struggled to assert himself in any rotation. His career 169-152 record and 4.11 ERA suggests he was solid and not spectacular. It’s easy to forget that his career started off with quite a bit of promise during his time in Atlanta.
The Braves drafted Millwood in the 11th round of the 1993 MLB draft out of high school. By 1997 at the age of 22, Millwood made it to the big league level and was there to stay. In his first year in the rotation in 1998, he finished with a 17-8 record, and followed that up with his best year in 1999. Millwood made his first and only All-Star Game, and finished third in the Cy Young vote thanks to a 18-7 record, 2.68 ERA and .996 WHIP. The .996 WHIP led the National League, and he trailed just Randy Johnson in ERA.
His personal highlights as a Brave came in the 1999 postseason. Millwood was dominant in his first career postseason start. The Braves dropped Game 1 of the National League Division Series at home to the Houston Astros, and turned to Millwood in Game 2. He won an almost must-win game by giving up just one hit (second inning home-run) and striking out eight in the complete game victory. He wasn’t done. The pivotal Game 3 in Houston went into extra innings, forcing Millwood into action in the 12th inning. He earned the save by setting down the Astros in order and gave the Braves a 2-1 lead in the series. The Braves eventually made it to the World Series that postseason, thanks in large part to Millwood’s contributions.
Millwood’s career never really took off after that season despite all the promise he’d shown early in his career. In his last three years in Atlanta, he had one good season (18-8, 3.24), and following that year, the Braves shipped him off to Philadelphia in a controversial trade. The Braves acquired catcher Johnny Estrada in an apparent move to dump salary. The Braves got just one good year from Estrada, and Millwood only won 15 games in one season over the rest of his career.
Millwood will not garner any Hall-of-Fame considerations. His retirement did not make a big splash among national outlets. However, Millwood’s longevity is a success in and of itself. His schtick was a middle-of-the order pitcher who would provide 150 innings a year. He provided the flash early in his career, and then managed to find a way onto a ball club each year. He enjoyed postseason success with the Braves and longevity throughout his career – a better path than a majority of baseball players.