Kevin Millwood perhaps set the bar too high for himself early in his career with the Atlanta Braves, but the 6-foot-4, 230-pound was still one of the most reliable innings eaters of his era, one that had a few seasons where he performed at a frontline level.
In just his second full major league season, Millwood went 18-7 with a 2.68 ERA and the lowest WHIP in the league in 1999, earning his first (and only) All-Star appearance in the process. In a rotation with three future Hall of Famers, it was Millwood that finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting, behind just Randy Johnson and Mike Hampton.
While Millwood turned in relatively disappointing results in 2000 and 2001, he returned to form in 2002, posting a 3.24 ERA and 3.29 FIP across 217 innings. This was enough for the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies to trade for Millwood before the 2003 season, sending future All-Star catcher Johnny Estrada to the Braves in return.
As the Phillies prepared for their final season at Veterans Stadium before moving into Citizens Bank Park in 2004, Millwood was probably miscast as an ace. Desperate for their first trip to the postseason since 1993, the Phillies traded for Millwood looking for their first true No. 1 starter since trading Curt Schilling in the summer of 1999. They didn't get that in Millwood, who was acquired in the same offseason as Jim Thome and David Bell.
But while Millwood's two seasons in Philadelphia may have been disappointing when compared to expectations, he was probably better than some of his back-of-the-baseball-card stats would make you think. Millwood had a 4.34 ERA in his 60 starts with the Phillies, but his 3.67 FIP and 6.9 fWAR (advanced stats that weren't really used at that time) suggest he actually provided the Phillies with a pretty quality output across 363 innings. He also threw the final no-hitter at Veterans Stadium on April 27, 2003, doing so in a 1-0 victory over a San Francisco Giants lineup that included Barry Bonds and J.T. Snow.
Millwood became a free agent for the first time in 2005, signing a one-year/$7 million deal with Cleveland. In his lone season with the team, Millwood led the American League with a 2.86 ERA, serving as perhaps the best starter for a Cleveland team that also employed CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook.
A strong season in Cleveland earned Millwood a five-year/$60 million deal with the Texas Rangers. Ultimately, though, Millwood turned in mixed results in four seasons with the Rangers before having short stints with the Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners to finish out his career.
Millwood, who last pitched at the major league level in 2012, is the latest entry in our "Good MLB players no one talks about anymore" series:
Draft: 11th round selection by the Atlanta Braves in 1993 MLB Draft
Organizations Played For: Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners
Best Season: 1999 - 18-7 with a 2.68 ERA, 3.35 ERA, 0.996 WHIP and 5.5 fWAR across 228 innings
Career Nuggets: In 1999, Milwood led a Braves pitching staff that also included Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine in bWAR...Between 1999 and 2008, Millwood racked up 1,890 innings, the 10th most in the sport over that period...Millwood's no-hitter in 2003 was one of just two thrown by a Phillie at home (Terry Mulholland in 1990 was the other) during the 32 years that Veterans Stadium was the team's ballpark...Millwood's 2.86 ERA during his lone season with Cleveland in 2005 was the lowest mark in the sport that season...Millwood's 29.8 career bWAR tops some contemporaries, such as Jason Schmidt, Matt Cain, A.J. Burnett, Jarrod Washburn and Mike Hampton.
Career Stats: 169-152 with a 4.11 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.328 WHIP and a 46.5 fWAR across 2,720 1/3 innings