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The 45/3 Club

by Keith Glab,
August 30, 2007
Shoppach: "Up High!"
JoBo: "Don't Dis My ERA"

There have been 43 instances in major league history in which a pitcher has recorded 45 or more saves in a single season.  In only six of those seasons has a pitcher recorded an earned run average over 3.00.  In only one of those seasons has a pitcher recorded an ERA of over 4.00.

This year, Joe Borowski of the Cleveland Indians looks to shatter this list with an ERA up in the stratosphere.

More Than 45 Saves, Higher Than 3.00 ERA:

Closer Year Sv BS Sv% ERA
Lee Smith '93 46 7 86.8% 3.88
Rod Beck '98 51 7 87.9% 3.02
Antonio Alfonseca '00 45 4 91.8% 4.24
Rob Nen '01 45 7 86.5% 3.01
Kazuhiro Sasaki '01 45 7 86.5% 3.24
John Smoltz '02 55 4 93.2% 3.25
Joe Borowski* '07 39 5 88.6% 5.53
Joe Borowski** '07 45 8 84.9% 5.07

*Statistics through 8/29/07

**Season Final


  • Lee Smith split the 1993 season between the and the New York Yankees.  He actually had a 4.50 ERA with St. Louis before tossing eight scoreless innings in the Bronx.  The all-time-saves-leader-to-be redefined the 45-save season in the same way that Joe Borowski will this year by posting an ERA nearly a full run higher than any other 45-save pitcher at the time (although there were only nine seasons of over 45 saves before six pitchers reached that milestone in 1993).
  • Smith still has the highest ERA for a 45-save pitcher with only five fingers.  I had often used Antonio Alfonseca as the poster child for relievers whose save totals were misleading after his 2000 campaign.  However, his 91.8 conversion rate is one of the top 50 single season save percentages of all time, according to the 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia.  If you remove his seven-run outing on May 21st, his seasonal ERA drops to 3.39, which would still be higher than anyone other than Smith among 45+ save pitchers.
  • If you were to remove John Smoltz's second appearance in 2002, in which he allowed eight runs, his ERA drops to a very solid 2.37 on the year.  His 93.2 save percentage ranks in the top 25 among pitchers with over 20 saves in a season.

Now on to JoBo:

  • If you were to remove Borowski's six-run fiasco on April 19th, his ERA would dip to 4.58.
  • If Borowski throws six shutout innings, his ERA will drop below 5.00.  He must throw 21 shutout innings to dip his ERA below 4.00.
  • JoBo's save percentage ranks third on our list despite his mammoth ERA
  • Borowski currently has a road ERA of 6.04
  • He is the only pitcher on our list to have an ERA+ under 100 (79)

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at

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