Sometimes, you irrationally latch onto players. Scott "El-Train" Elarton is one of those guys for me. The big right-hander threw 57 innings in his rookie season in 1998, which is why he's being featured before our 57th game.
Elarton was Jordan Lyles before Jordan Lyles was Jordan Lyles. Standing 6-foot-7, Elarton was simply imposing on the mound, and that frame is probably a big reason why Houston took him with the 25th overall pick in 1994 (that was back when Houston's drafts were actually productive...).
He preceded to rip through the minor leagues, striking out at least 100 batters each season from 1995-98. He placed on Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list three times, topping out at No. 28 before the 1998 season. That happened after he ripped off 191 strikeouts in 187 innings in 1997, between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A New Orleans.
Check that season when Elarton got drafted and when he made his debut. The big guy was part of two of the most iconic seasons in franchise history, when Jeff Bagwell won the MVP and Houston could've gone to the World Series and when Houston had its best team, maybe ever.
Still, his luck seemed to have ended there. Either that, or all those innings on a young arm took their toll, because Elarton didn't last like he should have in the majors, suffering through arm injuries that ultimately kept him from fulfilling his enormous potential. But, enough of the sad stuff, let's get back to that '98 season.
Elarton was called up on June 20, making one of two starts for the Astros that season. He gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings against Cincinnati on that day, but struck out nine in his debut. He also gave up four ground balls to 11 fly balls, which should show you why he had trouble adjusting to Minute Maid Park.
He pitched the rest of the season in the bullpen, striking out 56 in those 57 innings with 20 walks, five home runs allowed and an ERA+ of 125. His FIP that season wasn't significantly higher than his ERA and he totaled 0.7 fWAR in that short time.
Elarton even made a postseason appearance that year, though it was far from memorable. He came in the seventh inning against the Padres and gave up a run in two innings of work. That run proved the difference in a 2-1 loss for Houston, though Elarton struck out three in his time in the game.
That run would be the Jim Leyritz home run that makes me dislike him to this day...let's just stop talking about that series. I'm getting worked up already.
Elarton went on to pitch four seasons for Houston before being traded to Colorado for Pedro Astacio, but we'll remember him for that stellar rookie campaign.