Like so many early relief pitchers, Plesac was used exclusively as a starting pitcher on the farm. The former first round pick struggled in 1985 at Double-A El Paso as a starter but when he impressed Brewers brass during spring training, he made the team as a relief pitcher in ’86 and flourished. Dan was a terrific strikeout pitcher who came close to averaging a strikeout per inning over the course of his career. The hard-throwing southpaw currently resides in the number six slot in career games pitched.
Pleasc had his only double-digit win total as a rookie in 1986. That year, he saved 14 games and had a fine 2.97 ERA sharing closer duties with Wild Mark Clear in George Bamberger’s Milwaukee bullpen. But it wasn’t until his sophomore season that Dan showed remarkable strikeout ability. That season he fanned 89 batters in 79 innings of work. New skipper Tom Trebelhorn brought the Brew Crew in third place as the bridge to Plesac was weak outside of Chuck Crim.
Dan’s first 30 save season came in 1988 as he averaged a strikeout per inning. He posted a 2.45 ERA that year and when he trimmed his earned run average down to 2.35 in ’89, Plesac had four years in the Majors with an ERA below 3.00 each season. In top form in ’89, Dan saved a career high 33 games and averaged an astounding 0.770 hits allowed per inning pitched. But when his ERA ballooned to 4.43 in 1990, the Brewers experimented with him in the rotation during the 1991 season. All the experiment did was hinder his strikeout rate while not trimming his ERA down at all.
Plesac got back on track in 1992 in the bullpen as he teamed with Doug Henry, Jim Austin, Mike Fetters and the ageless Jesse Orosco, to give skipper Phil Garner a quality pen. With the stable of arms Scrap Iron had on call, the Brewers decided to let Dan walk via free agency and spend money elsewhere. He signed a free agent deal with the Cubs in 1993 but after two years of subpar play in Wrigley, he was granted free agency and signed with the Pirates. Dan was able to work his way back to form in Pittsburgh as he punched out 76 batters in 70 innings during the 1996 season.
Involved in the Pirates fire sale after the season, Dan was sent to the Blue Jays where he found a new role as left-handed specialist. The new role enabled Dan’s strikeout rate to skyrocket, even if he rarely pitched to three batters an outing. In ’97, he K’d 61 batters in 50 innings. In 1999, split between Toronto and the Diamondbacks, he whiffed 53 batters in just 44 innings of work. At his best in 2001, Plesac whiffed an astounding 1.511 batters per inning. He ended his career with the Phillies in 2003; another season in which he struck out over a batter per inning.
W 65/L 71/PCT .478/ERA 3.64/G 1,064/SV 158/IP 1,072/H 977/BB 4023/SO 1,041