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Billy Koch

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William (Billy) Koch (born December 14, 1974 in Rockville Centre, New York) 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.

Baseball career Edit

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. Koch made an instant impression by regularly hitting 100 MPH on the radar gun. The pitch speed, posted on the SkyDome jumbotron after every pitch, consistently drew "ahs" from the crowd.

Koch 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 and then 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[1] although Oakland proved to be a good fit. Billy saved 44 games in 2002 while posting a respectable 3.27 ERA and 93 strikeouts in only 93 2/3 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 - later Koch was quoted as saying that he felt like 'shooting himself' after that loss.

On December 3, 2002, Koch was once again traded, this time to the Chicago White Sox along with two minor leaguers for Keith Foulke, Mark Johnson, Jose Valentine and cash. Koch was not able to duplicate either his success with Toronto or Oakland, however. Due to wildly inconsistent play, Jerry Manuel removed Koch from the role of closer, relegating him to middle relief. Billy finished the season with 11 saves, and a 5.77 ERA.

Koch's troubles continued in 2004. He once again was tried as the closer, but only saved 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 was assumed would replace Luis Castillo before Castillo signed a four-year contract to remain with Florida. Billy fared better in Florida than he did with Chicago, having a 1-2 record and a 3.51 ERA in 23 games while serving as a setup man for Armando Benitez. However, personal issues 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. He was released by the team during Spring Training, at which time an angry Koch announced that 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. As of 2007, he has not played baseball professionally since then.[2]

During Toronto's 2nd game of the season at Tampa Bay, Koch showed up at the game wearing a replica jersey of Aubrey Huff, at the time a Devil Rays player. Koch joked with the Toronto Bullpen, heckling the Blue Jays and calling one of the pitchers a "bum". Koch commented that he planned to take 240 students from his children's Tampa area grade school to the game, and planned to have them hold up a sign saying 'Go Devil Rays'.[3]

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