Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Scoresheetwiz
Best Relievers Ever: 2003
Home
Who is Scoresheetwiz?
Archived Commentary
Strategies
Most Useful Sites
Archived Analysis
Rules
Quick Links (revised)

Honor Roll: Gagne, Foulke, Wagner, Rivera, & Smoltz

After spending zillions (Thome, Millwood, Bell, etc.) to insure they make the play-offs, no wonder the Phillies still failed: both of their closers had ERAs over 6.00! (Mesa & Williams).

 

Highlighting their favoritism towards Mesa and Williams, the Phillies had a workhorse of a reliever with an ERA under 2.00: Rheal Cormier. He pitched 84.3 innings, too.

 

This inning total is nothing special this year. There has been a trend towards set-up relievers pitching more often and more than an inning at a time. All but 5 teams had, at least, one reliever with about 80 innings or more. In all but a couple of those cases, the workhorses were not the primary closer. Ten years ago, only about half of the teams had such a workhorse - and he was the closer in a few of those cases.

 

My table below shows just the most outstanding of outstanding seasons by relief pitchers - for their time. It strongly hints that not only are set-up relievers getting more innings this decade, but the top notch closers are, too. The best relievers were used the most gingerly in the 90s.

 

This is the second year in a row Montréaler Eric Gagne has been easily the best reliever in the Americas. The usual suspects were his closest competitors: Rivera, Foulke, Smoltz, and Wagner. Trevor Hoffman was only healthy enough to pitch 9 innings. Robb Nen had 0. In fact, all five of these great relievers had MVP type of seasons. Gagne may have had the best year of any reliever ever! I`m sure there was never a season where 5 relievers had as great a year as Gagne, Wagner, Smoltz, Rivera, and Foulke just had. And Gagne may have had the best year of any reliever ever!

 

Below are the most outstanding seasons by any reliever, plus Gagne's fantastic competition this year. There have been other 40+ save seasons, but these were the most outstanding seasons of their day. Each new standard of relief excellence is highlighted in blue. Anything else listed here is pretty close for one reason or another. I give some consideration to outstanding post-season performances, too.

 

 

             Saves BS W L  ERA Ing. Comment

Marberry '26    22 ? 12 7  3.00 158  "first relief specialist" (5 starts)

W.Moore   '27   13 ? 19 7  2.28 213  12 starts. Relieving didn't catch on

Page     '49    27 ? 13 8  2.60 135  fine WS, too. Give Yankees credit.

Konstanty '50   22 ? 16 7  2.66 152  MVP; pitched the most Ing. in WS

Kinder '53      27 ? 10 6  1.85 107  38 years old; relievers not respected!

Arroyo   '61    29 ? 15 5  2.19 119  Face was 1st to have long career as RP

Perranoski '63  21 ? 16 3  1.67 129  then McDaniel, Wilhelm, & Perranoski

Radatz      '64 29 ? 16 9  2.29 157  set the standard for snarly relief type

Wilhelm     '64 27 ? 12 9  1.99 131  HoF, but no Eck as starter or reliever

Regan    '66    21 ? 14 1  1.62 117  "The Vulture" due to W-L; good WS

Abernathy '67   28 ?  6 3  1.27 106  prototypical side-arm reliever

McDaniel'70     29 ?  9 5  2.01 112  70s Yankees had continuous great closers

Sanders '71     31 ?  7 12 1.92 136  see Harvey - and don't forget Tatum

Lyle  '72       35 ?  9 5  1.92 108  Yankee won Cy Young in '77

Hiller '73      38 ? 10 5  1.44 125  "retired" after '70 heart attack

Sutter  '77     31 ?  7 3  1.34 107  uniqueness made AL all-stars helpless

Gossage  '78    27 ? 10 11 2.01 134  4 Sv, 6 Ing, 0 R in WS for Yanks

Kern      '79   29 ? 13 5  1.57 143  see Harvey - and remember Minton?

Sutter    '79   37 ?  6 6  2.23 101  Cy Young winner

Fingers '81     28 ?  6 3  1.04  78  MVP of strike shortened season

Quisenberry'83  45 ?  5 3  1.94 139  had 33 & 35 Saves in '80 & '82

W.Hernandez '84 32 1  9 3  1.92 140  MVP; BS came after clinch; WS star

Sutter      '84 45 ?  5 7  1.54 123  Relievers are most common trade victim.

M. Davis   '89  44 ?  4 3  1.85  93  Cy Young winner; see Harvey

Thigpen   '90   57 ?  4 6  1.83  89  see Harvey

Eckersley '90   48 ?  4 2  0.61  73  great in ALCS, bad WS

Harvey     '91  46 ?  2 4  1.60  79  last of 1 year wonders?

L. Smith   '91  47 ?  6 3  2.34  73  primary closer for 7 teams

Eckersley   '92 51 2  7 1  1.91  80  Cy Young; weak play-off

Mesa    '95     46 2  3 0  1.13  64  excellent post season

R.Myers   '97   45 1  2 3  1.51  60  perfect in ALCS, flawed WS

Hoffman    '98  53 1  4 2  1.48  73  great in play-offs until WS

Rivera      '99 45 4  4 3  1.83  69  perfect post-season

Rivera '01      50 7  4 6  2.34  81  p.s: 2-1, 5 Sv., 1.13 ERA, 16 Ing., 14 K

Gagne   '02     52 4  4 1  1.97  82

Gagne    '03    55 0  2 3  1.20  82

Foulke   '03    43 5  9 1  2.08  83

Wagner   '03    44 3  1 4  1.78  85

Rivera   '03    40 6  5 2  1.66  71  p.s.: 1 W, 5 Sv, 0 BS, 1 R, 16 Ing., 14 K

Smoltz   '03    45 4  0 2  1.12  64

 

There was one year when we had two earth shattering relief performances. Thigpen`s record breaking Save season, was, perhaps, topped by the incredible 48 Save 0.61 ERA of Eckersley the same year! Hoffman`s 53 save, 1 blown save, and  1.43 ERA of five years ago belongs in that echelon.

 

However, this year`s 55 save, 1.20 ERA over 82 innings with no blown saves by Monsieur Gagne, I would say is actually the best year ever by a reliever. (Well, I`d have to compare the ERAs to the run production of the league to be absolutely sure. Also, I couldn`t find any Blown Save data for that year. I happen to remember Willie Hernandez`s amazing feat in `84 of not blowing any saves until after the Tigers had already clinched the division.)

 

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are still the best players in baseball (with Albert Pujols in hot pursuit), but Eric Gagne is now the most outstanding.

John Carter