Happy birthday to Mark Prior, who turns 29 today.
In 2003, at the age of 22, Prior threw 211 1/3 innings, with a 2.43 ERA, striking out 245 hitters, walking just 50, and allowing 15 homers. He was third in the Cy Young balloting, 9th in the MVP balloting, and looked like the guy who would be a dominant pitcher for the next decade.
He threw 118 innings in 2004, 166 innings in 2005, 43 innings in 2006, and hasn't pitched in the majors since.
In 2003, Prior averaged 113.3 pitches per start, and in his final six starts (all in September), he had pitch counts of 131 (in a game the Cubs were leading 6-0 after 5), 129, 109, 124, 131, and 133.
Prior then threw 133 pitches on October 3, in Game 3 of the NLDS, 116 pitches 5 days later in the NLCS (in a game where the Cubs were up 7-0 after 3 and 11-0 after ), and 119 pitches 6 days after that in the NLCS.
Prior started the 2004 season on the disabled list and, of course, has never been the same since 2003.
Today, turning 29, his career appears to be over.
Hopefully, Dusty Baker will be sending him a card.