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Ten Best Seasons by Relief Pitchers

dallasactuarydallasactuary Posts: 2,984 ✭✭✭✭
edited January 1, 2021 8:06PM in Sports Talk

The discussion of Dennis Eckersley in another thread got me thinking about relief pitchers and my oft-stated opinion that "closer" is a BS position. So who have been the most valuable relief pi6.tchers and in which seasons? I ranked them by RAA (runs allowed less than average), but the order wouldn't change much if I did something more complicated.

  1. John HIller, 1973, Tigers, 65 games, 125 innings, 38 saves, 38 RAA
  2. Mariano Rivera, 1996, Yankees, 61 games, 108 innings, 5 saves, 37 RAA
  3. Goose Gossage, 1975, White Sox, 62 games, 142 innings, 26 saves, 37 RAA
  4. Bruce Sutter, 1977, Cubs, 62 games, 107 innings, 31 saves, 35 RAA
  5. Dick Radatz, 1964, Red Sox, 67 games, 157 innings, 29 saves, 33 RAA
  6. Dan Quisenberry, 1983, Royals, 69 games, 139 innings, 45 saves, 31 RAA
  7. Goose Gossage, 1977, Pirates, 72 games, 133 innings, 26 saves, 30 RAA
  8. Ted Abernathy, 1967, Reds, 70 games, 106 innings, 28 saves, 30 RAA
  9. Willie Hernandez, 1984, Tigers, 80 games, 140 innings, 32 saves, 29 RAA
  10. Lindy McDaniel, 1960, Cardinals, 65 games, 116 innings, 27 saves, 29 RAA
  11. Ellis Kinder, 1951, Red Sox, 63 games, 127 innings, 16 saves, 29 RAA

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Some notes:

  1. The only season when Rivera made the list, and he was almost at the top, was his first year in the bullpen and he wasn't the closer. He pitched great in a lot of other seasons, but he pitched so few innings that he never came close to matching the impact he had in 1996.
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  2. One thing all of these seasons have in common is that the pitcher threw more than 100 innings.
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  3. The percentage of saves to games is 41%, and peaks (with Quis) at 65%. The modern closer is used almost exclusively in save situations and gets a save in 60%-70% of their games. Quisenberry is the only pitcher used in that way who made the list (but see below).
    .
  4. The average innings per appearance in these seasons is about 1.9, and the lowest ratio here is 1.5 for Abernathy in 1967. Quisenberry in 1983 was brought in to close games, but he was called in the 8th inning, not the ninth inning - he averaged just over 2 innings per appearance.
    .
  5. Francisco Rodriguez set the record for saves with 62 in 2008, but in 76 games he only pitched 68 innings(!) and saved a grand total of 12 runs compared to an average pitcher, less than half the impact of anyone on the list above.
    .
    .
    Study these seasons, and study the seasons modern closers have. It doesn't take much looking to see that modern closers aren't used correctly (assuming the goal is to win games), and studying the list above will show you how great relief pitchers should be used.
dallasactuary

Official defender of Ron Santo
Official defender of Bert Blyleven
Official defender of Bill Mazeroski
Jim Rice sucks
Jack Morris sucks.

Comments

  • bobbybakerivbobbybakeriv Posts: 1,606 ✭✭✭

    I like your analysis but I don't the Hiller year is correct. He pitched before the 80s and I don't think he was even pitching in 84, Just an observation, probably a typo.

  • dallasactuarydallasactuary Posts: 2,984 ✭✭✭✭

    @bobbybakeriv said:
    I like your analysis but I don't the Hiller year is correct. He pitched before the 80s and I don't think he was even pitching in 84, Just an observation, probably a typo.

    Fixed. Thank you.

    dallasactuary

    Official defender of Ron Santo
    Official defender of Bert Blyleven
    Official defender of Bill Mazeroski
    Jim Rice sucks
    Jack Morris sucks.
  • bobbybakerivbobbybakeriv Posts: 1,606 ✭✭✭

    I have heard Gossage say this same thing too. It definitely isn't apples to apples.

  • dallasactuarydallasactuary Posts: 2,984 ✭✭✭✭

    @bobbybakeriv said:
    I have heard Gossage say this same thing too. It definitely isn't apples to apples.

    Thank you again. I looked at Gossage again after you posted and somehow I got his numbers all mixed up. He's on the list twice now.

    dallasactuary

    Official defender of Ron Santo
    Official defender of Bert Blyleven
    Official defender of Bill Mazeroski
    Jim Rice sucks
    Jack Morris sucks.
  • bobbybakerivbobbybakeriv Posts: 1,606 ✭✭✭

    I have heard Gossage say this same thing too. It definitely isn't apples to apples. > @dallasactuary said:

    @bobbybakeriv said:
    I have heard Gossage say this same thing too. It definitely isn't apples to apples.

    Thank you again. I looked at Gossage again after you posted and somehow I got his numbers all mixed up. He's on the list twice now.

    No problem. It's a solid point and good analysis,

  • stevekstevek Posts: 24,407 ✭✭✭✭✭

    So we're playing poker at this guy's house, a regularly scheduled game, i can't recall the exact year, listening to the WS on the radio, and Gossage comes in for relief for the Yankees. It wasn't a penny ante poker game, and one of the regular players owned three auto parts stores. There was usually a lot of money on the table.

    It was the ninth inning...I can't recall the opponent, but the Yankees had a one or two run lead. Out of the blue right before the inning started and Gossage was taking his warmup pitches on the mound, one of the poker players calls out, I'll pay 100-1 if Gossage doesn't close out this game, or something like that. Without thinking too hard, i jumped on that one for 5 bucks to win $500, so did some of the other poker players. It wasn't a joke, and the guy was definitely good for the money.

    Well, Gossage just completely dominated the three batters he faced, they were helpless out there, they might as well have been swinging a thin whiffle ball bat. It wasn't a thrill of any sort for my money. Gossage just totally blew them away...and my five bucks went with it. LOL 💸

    Gossage was the best reliever i ever saw in the days when i was paying more attention to MLB.

  • craig44craig44 Posts: 4,383 ✭✭✭✭✭

    closer, the most overrated "position" in sports. your best bullpen pitcher should be used in the highest leverage point in the game, whether that is in the 5th inning or the 9th. saving your best bullpen option for the "save" is foolishness.

  • HydrantHydrant Posts: 3,728 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2, 2021 9:03AM

    1. Phil Regan. Los Angeles Dodgers 1966.

    2. Elroy Face. Pittsburgh Pirates 1959.

    3. Nobody.

  • HydrantHydrant Posts: 3,728 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2, 2021 9:05AM

    Hey! What caused the print to be so big?........the Gods of baseball perhaps?

  • doubledragondoubledragon Posts: 8,227 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Gossage was an intimidating man on the mound, he was borderline insane when he had the ball in his hands. Here is an interesting article about him.

    https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/gossage-goose

    Hello, I'm a Joe Louis card addict.

  • coinkatcoinkat Posts: 20,176 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Numbers rarely capture intimidation. And intimidating pitchers is worthy of a thread of its own.

    There are a handful of relief pitchers that may never get their day in the spotlight... Darryl Knowles of the Washington Senators comes to mind and there are others

    Experience the World through Numismatics...it's more than you can imagine.

  • JRR300JRR300 Posts: 1,116 ✭✭✭✭

    Somewhat surprised that Rollie Fingers doesn't appear on the list. I just remember he was a big reason why the A's were so good in the 70's.
    None of today's relievers would ever make such a list...they wouldn't come close to 100 innings. Heck, it takes an act of God for the to pitch more than an inning, which I'll never understand. How many times do you see a situation in the 8th inning with the game on the line and your best reliever remains in the pen.

  • dallasactuarydallasactuary Posts: 2,984 ✭✭✭✭

    Regan and Face had great W/L records, but W/L records are little more than random numbers for a relief pitcher. As little as they mean for any pitcher, they are especially meaningless for relievers. That said, Regan had a very good season; Face was just ridiculously lucky. Face blew 9 saves that year; 4 times his hitters bailed him out and he got the win, 4 other times his hitters bailed him out and another pitcher got the decision, and only once did his hitters not bail him out and he got the loss. And Face only saved 10 games that year, so he blew almost half of his save opportunities. A season with a save percentage barely over 50%, and with only 93 innings pitched is not a great season.

    Fingers was a very good pitcher but every pitcher on Oakland in that era appeared to be better than they really were (and all the hitters were better than they appeared to be). Fingers may be among the top 10 relief pitchers of all time because he was consistently good for a long time, but he had no single season close to those on my list.

    dallasactuary

    Official defender of Ron Santo
    Official defender of Bert Blyleven
    Official defender of Bill Mazeroski
    Jim Rice sucks
    Jack Morris sucks.
  • bobbybakerivbobbybakeriv Posts: 1,606 ✭✭✭

    @doubledragon said:
    Gossage was an intimidating man on the mound, he was borderline insane when he had the ball in his hands. Here is an interesting article about him.

    I actually met Gossage when I lived in Colorado Springs. He's a big dude but seemed nice in person. Definitely not when he was on the mound. I loved him when I was a kid. I recently watched a youtube video of him convincing Dick Williams to stay in the game during the 84 World Series to face Kirk Gibson. Terrific clip and not the norm for Goose! Sparky Anderson was great.

  • JustacommemanJustacommeman Posts: 20,382 ✭✭✭✭✭

    ^^^^^^^
    How great was Sparky? Gibby loved the big moments

    Thanks for posting!

    m

    Walker Proof Digital Album
    Fellas, leave the tight pants to the ladies. If I can count the coins in your pockets you better use them to call a tailor. Stay thirsty my friends......
  • galaxy27galaxy27 Posts: 3,786 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2, 2021 9:47PM

    that clip is fantastic ^

    random observations:

    i guarantee you any kid who has ever played little league baseball has witnessed :33

    :51 :D

    :55 :D:D:D

    is it just me, or does it seem like every home run hit at the old tiger stadium went about 450 feet?

  • JustacommemanJustacommeman Posts: 20,382 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @galaxy27 said:
    that clip is fantastic ^

    random observations:

    i guarantee you any kid who has ever played little league baseball has witnessed :33

    :51 :D

    :55 :D:D:D

    is it just me, or does it seem like every home run hit at the old tiger stadium went about 450 feet?

    The irony is that dead center was 440 ft. It took all of the 450 to clear it

    m

    Walker Proof Digital Album
    Fellas, leave the tight pants to the ladies. If I can count the coins in your pockets you better use them to call a tailor. Stay thirsty my friends......
  • galaxy27galaxy27 Posts: 3,786 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2, 2021 9:55PM

    after some thought, i determined that it was in poor taste to mention the nature of Wiggins' death. it was meant to be an innocuous observation, but in retrospect it came across as insensitive and feels very wrong hours later. absolutely my bad.

    as you were...

  • daltexdaltex Posts: 898 ✭✭✭

    It's pretty amazing that Hiller was third in the AL in WAR that year, behind only Blyleven and Grich! What a season for underrated players!

  • thisistheshowthisistheshow Posts: 3,610 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 3, 2021 12:15PM

    @dallasactuary Very interesting list. I like this. It really calls into question the way the "best" relievers are used today.

    Edit to add: Does anyone see or foresee relievers being used again as they once were?

  • TabeTabe Posts: 4,004 ✭✭✭✭

    I believe you missed the guy who should be at #1. At least, if you're using RAA from baseball reference:

    https://baseball-reference.com/players/e/eichhma01.shtml

  • dallasactuarydallasactuary Posts: 2,984 ✭✭✭✭

    @Tabe said:
    I believe you missed the guy who should be at #1. At least, if you're using RAA from baseball reference:

    You are correct. I missed him because I've never heard of him, and I was just looking people up that I thought might have had a great season. Looks like Toronto used Eichhorn correctly in 1986 and it paid off big time. If he had pitched just five more innings (even if he gave up a bunch of runs) he would have led the league in ERA and I'd have at least heard of him. Good catch.

    dallasactuary

    Official defender of Ron Santo
    Official defender of Bert Blyleven
    Official defender of Bill Mazeroski
    Jim Rice sucks
    Jack Morris sucks.
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