December 14, 1974 |
Rockville Centre, New York
|May 5, 1999, for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 26, 2004, for the Florida Marlins|
|Earned run average||3.89|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Competitor for United States|
William (Billy) Koch (born December 14, 1974) is a former Major League Baseball relief pitcher. He entered the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays and most recently pitched for the Florida Marlins in 2004.
Koch played college baseball for Clemson University from 1994 to 1996. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (4th pick) of the 1996 amateur draft and made his debut in 1999. He made an instant impression by regularly registering 100 MPH on radar guns.
He was groomed for the role of closer, and had mixed success at the role over the next three seasons. While he was regarded as one of the most dominating pitchers in the league when he was at his best, at times he battled with his control and composure on the mound. Nevertheless, he continued to post improving save numbers (31, 33 & 36) from 1999 to 2001.
On December 7, 2001, the Blue Jays, now under new management, traded Koch to the Oakland Athletics for Eric Hinske and Justin Miller. The trade ended up working out for both teams, as Eric Hinske statistically outperformed Koch in his first season with the Jays while Oakland proved to be a good fit for closer Koch. Billy saved 44 games in 2002 while posting a respectable 3.27 ERA and 93 strikeouts in only 932⁄3 innings. Koch however gave up a critical ninth-inning home run to Minnesota's A. J. Pierzynski in the deciding game of the A's first-round playoff series. That outing would turn out to be the turning point in Koch's career; he later was quoted as saying that he felt like 'shooting himself' after that loss.
On December 3, 2002, he was once again traded, this time to the Chicago White Sox along with two minor leaguers for Keith Foulke, Mark Johnson, Joe Valentine and cash, but was unable to replicate the success he had experienced with Toronto or Oakland. Due to wild inconsistency on the mound, Jerry Manuel removed Koch from the role of closer, relegating him to middle relief. Billy finished the season with a disappointing 11 saves and a high 5.77 ERA.
His troubles continued in 2004. He was once again tried in the role of closer, but saved only 8 games in 24 games played, compiling an ERA of 5.40. He was traded to the Florida Marlins in June for Wilson Valdez, a minor-league second baseman who it was assumed would replace Luis Castillo before the latter signed a four-year contract to remain with Florida. Billy fared better in Florida than he did in Chicago, with a 1–2 record and a 3.51 ERA in 23 games as a setup man for Armando Benítez. But personal problems (see Morgellons Disease/Syndrome ) caused him to miss the last month of the regular season, and Florida released him at the end of the season.
Following the 2004 season he was signed to a 1-year contract by his original team, the Toronto Blue Jays, but the team released him during spring training and an angry Koch announced he would not attempt to sign with another team, so that the Blue Jays would be on the hook for 'every penny' of his $950,000 salary. He has not played baseball professionally since then.
During Toronto's 2nd game of the season at Tampa Bay, Koch showed up at the game wearing an Aubrey Huff jersey, at the time a Devil Rays slugger. He joked with the Toronto bullpen crew, heckling the Blue Jays and calling one of the pitchers a "bum". He then announced that he planned to take 240 students from his children's Tampa area grade school to the game and have them hold up a sign saying 'Go Devil Rays'.