Thursday, February 19, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals Relief Pitchers

5. Al Hrabosky 

Cardinals relief pitcher during the seventies, current television broadcaster, and bar owner.  The Mad Hungarian saved 59 games for the Cardinals over 8 years.  His best year in St Louis took place in 1975 when he went 13-3 pitching in 65 games, but also led the National League in saves with 22.   He had a WAR of 4.0 that year and an ERA+ of 228 finishing third in Cy Young voting.  Overall he posted a 40-20 record with the Cardinals in 329 games with a WAR of 7.2 and an ERA+ of 127.  Hraboksy finished up his career with stints in Kansas City and Atlanta.  

4.  Lee Smith 

Lee Smith pitched four seasons in St. Louis and is someone I watched frequently in middle school and into high school.  When the Cardinals first traded for the imposing relief pitcher he was one of the best in the game.  I think of Smith as being one of the first strictly one inning, strictly ninth inning relief pitchers.  He was big, threw really hard, and walked in from the bullpen really really really slowly.  Smith's first season with the Cardinals was in 1990 after the team traded Tom Brunansky to the Red Sox on May 4th.  That season Lee pitched in 45 games, saved 27 of them, and posted an ERA+ of 182.  The next two seasons, 1991 and 1992, Smith led the National League in saves with 47 and 43 and made two National League All-Star teams.  The 47 saves in 1991 were the National League single season saves record until Randy Myers broke the mark with the Cubs in 1993.  He is still the record holder (along with Jason Isringhausen) for saves in a season by a Cardinal.  The end of Lee Smith's time in St. Louis was pretty ugly.  In 1993 Smith made the National League All-Star team somehow, but his ERA doubled and he was barely an average player as measured by ERA+ (103) and below average with WAR (-0.1).  Somehow he bounced back and saved another hundred games or so with the Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos.  

3.  Todd Worrell 

Worrell came up with the Cardinals in 1985 and was immediately put into the closer's role by Whitey Herzog.  He finished out 5 games late in the season for the Cardinals and appeared in 7 NLCS and World Series games that year.  His first full year, 1986, resulted in 9 wins, 36 saves, and ERA+ of 176, with a WAR of 2.6, and a National League Rookie of the Year.  Worrell would go on to save more than 30 games in each the next two seasons, but ran into arm problems towards the end of 1988 and into 1989.  He would eventually miss the last months of the 1989 season and all of the 1990 and 1991 seasons.  Worrell bounced back nicely in 1992 winning five games with an ERA of 2.11 and an ERA+ of 162.  However, he lost his closers job to Lee Smith and moved on to the Dodgers at the end of the year.  The Dodgers eventually moved him into the stoppers role in their bullpen where Worrell made two All-Star games and led the National League in saves during the 1996 season.  He and Smith were close on my list, but I give Worrell a slight nod since he won a major award and was on a National League Championship team.  

2.  Bruce Sutter

Sutter pitched four years as a Cardinal and was one of the most important players on the early WhiteyBall teams in St. Louis.  The Cardinals briefly ended up with both Sutter and Rollie Fingers during the 1980 offseason.  Herzog, the General Manager of the team, decided to keep Sutter and trade Fingers.  The former Cub would go on to led the National League in saves three of his four years in St. Louis, won 26 games, made two All-Star teams, and sealed the 1982 World Series.  

Sutter is the only player on the list this week who is in the Hall of Fame, he's even a Cardinal, because of his work with the split fingered fast baseball.  Still a great player and one of the last "closers" who would pitch more than one inning.  

1. Jason Isringhausen 

Counting numbers have to count for something and nobody in Cardinals history can touch the relief numbers posted by Isringhausen.  The team signed Izzy, a native to the St. Louis area, after the 2001 season.  He spent a total of 7 seasons with the Cardinals and racked up for than 200 saves while posting a 143 ERA+.  A modern closer, Isringhausen mainly pitched the ninth inning for the 2000s Tony LaRussa led Cardinals teams.  He was good for 30 saves most seasons and recorded as many as 47 in 2004.  In my opinion his best year was actually 2005 when he recorded 39 saves, posted an ERA+ of 199, a WAR of 2.0, and led the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series against the Astros.  Besides being the franchise leader in saves, Izzy also helped the Cardinals to playoff appearances in 2002, 2004, and 2005.  The most successful run of any closer on this list.  He was also on the 2006 World Series winner, but did not pitch in the Postseason that year.  I am also going to mention that he was briefly a Durham Bull, but that does not carry any actual weight, just a cool fact.  

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe how much I loved closers back in the day. I always looked forward to finding cards of Fingers, Tekulve, Quisenberry, Gossage, and Sutter. These days... I'm embarrassed to admit that I couldn't name more than 5 closers in the league.