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Linear Saves

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
January 28, 2007

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

Career Linear Saves Leaders:

Player Sv BS SV% Raw LSV LSV10 IP/RG IP ERA+
Trevor Hoffman 524 63 89.3% 30.4 32.1 1.07 942 2/3 147   
Lee Smith 478 103 82.3% 17.5 24.4 1.23 1289 1/3 132   
Mariano Rivera 443 59 88.2% 19.5 22 1.16 953 194
Tom Henke 311 55 85.0% 18.3 19.9 1.23 789 2/3 156   
Dennis Eckersley 390 71 84.6% 15.6 17.8 1.14 3285 2/3 116   
Billy Wagner 358 58 86.1% 9.5 17.8 1.07 771 180
Randy Myers 347 60 85.3% 14.3 17.3 1.14 884 2/3 122   
Eric Gagne 177 10 94.7% 17.9 16.7 1.09 597 1/3 124   
Dan Quisenberry 244 55 81.6% 12.6 16.6 1.55 1043 1/3 146   
John Smoltz 154 14 91.7% 11.2 11.2 1.08 3367 127
Troy Percival 324 57 85.0% 7.2 10.9 1.02 651 2/3 154   
Jose Mesa 321 61 84.0% -2.7 10.4 1.06 1548 2/3 100   
Rod Beck 286 55 83.9% 3.2 8.8 1.09 768 123
Tug McGraw 179 50 78.2% 2.8 8.8 1.66 1337 1/3 116   
Dave Smith 216 52 80.6% 7.4 8.5 1.33 809 1/3 129   
John Franco 424 101 80.8% -0.7 7.8 1.11 1245 2/3 137   
Robb Nen 314 54 85.3% 7 7 1.09 715 138
John Wetteland 330 63 84.0% 5.3 5.9 1.14 765 147
Doug Jones 303 77 79.7% -6.1 4.3 1.30 1128 1/3 129   
Keith Foulke 190 42 81.9% -0.2 4.2 1.24 755 2/3 141   
Gene Garber 218 82 72.7% -8.3 3.2 1.58 1510 116
Bob Wickman 267 72 78.8% -14.4 3.1 1.11 1059 125
Bobby Thigpen 201 52 79.4% -1.2 2.4 1.27 568 2/3 119   
Dave Righetti 252 74 77.3% -1.7 2.2 1.32 1403 2/3 113   
Armando Benitez 289 58 83.3% -4.2 2.1 1.02 772 2/3 140 
Jeff Shaw 203 51 79.9% -8.4 1.5 1.24 848 119
Todd Jones 301 49 86.0% -9.3 1.4 1.10 1030 1/3 112
Jason Isringhausen 281 47 85.7% 2.7 1.1 1.05 864 2/3 121   
Rollie Fingers 341 109 75.8% -1 0.1 1.66 1700 119
Jeff Reardon 367 106 77.6% -2.9 -0.1 1.29 1132 1/3 121   
Gregg Olson 217 56 79.5% -6.4 -0.4 1.08 672 122
Todd Worrell 256 71 78.3% -6.2 -1.5 1.12 693 2/3 122 
Ugueth Urbina 237 48 83.2% -2.6 -1.5 1.04 697 1/3 128 
Bruce Sutter 300 101 74.8% -4.3 -2.8 1.58 1042 136
Rick Aguilera 318 77 80.5% -6.1 -3.6

 1.15

1291 1/3 117   
Kent Tekulve 184 81 69.4% -16.3 -4.5 1.37 1436 2/3 131   
Jeff Montgomery 304 74 80.4% -6.3 -4.9 1.24 868 2/3 134   
Sparky Lyle 222 86 72.1% -12.2 -5.3 1.56 1281 1/3 127   
Roberto Hernandez 326 93 77.8% -23.9 -9.4 1.05 1071 1/3 131   
Mike Marshall 178 74 70.6% -13.5 -10.9 1.80 1327 2/3 118   
Rich Gossage 310 112 73.5% -4.9 -11.2 1.61 1809 1/3 126   

Again, pitchers from the 1970's are not faring too well.  Perhaps the very best closers of that era were asked to pitch more innings per save opportunity than the average closers, resulting in misleading blown save totals.  To investigate, I added the IP/RG column (innings pitched per relief game).  It's not as good as innings pitched per save opportunity, but it's still illustrative. 

Basically, Gossage, Sutter, and Fingers are running out of excuses.  If it's impossible for pitchers in the 1970's to accumulate a positive Linear Saves total over their careers, then how do we explain Gene Garber and Tug McGraw?  If 1+ inning saves are the issue, why does Dan Quisenberry fare so well here?  Perhaps the perceived high peaks of these three Hall of Famers justifies the general high opinion of them.  Let's examine the top three and top five pre-1988 seasons for some of our older relievers:

Best Three Pre-1988 Seasons:

Fingers: 3.3, 2.8, 2.0 = 8.1
Sutter: 4.9, 2.3, 1.4 = 8.6
Gossage: 4.7, 2.8, 2.1 = 9.6
Garber: 2.7, 2.1, 1.5 = 6.3
McGraw: 3.0, 2.4, 1.3 = 6.7
L Smith: 4.1, 3.5, 1.5 = 9.1
Quisenberry: 5.5, 5.0, 3.9 = 16.4
Ron Davis:  5.1, 3.7, 1.8 = 10.6 

Best Five Pre-1988 Seasons:

Fingers: 3.3, 2.8, 2.0, 1.1, 1.0 = 10.2
Sutter: 4.9, 2.3, 1.4, 1.3, 0.9 =  10.8
Gossage: 4.7, 2.8, 2.1, 1.7, 1.7 = 13.0
Garber: 2.7, 2.1, 1.5, 0.8, 0.2  = 7.3
McGraw: 3.0, 2.4, 1.3, 1.3, 0.9 = 8.9
L Smith: 4.1, 3.5, 1.5, 1.2, 1.1 = 11.3
Quisenberry: 5.5, 5.0, 3.9, 2.0, 0.5 = 18.9        

And the BBWAA goes wild as the trio of Fingers, Sutter, and Gossage launch a decisive victory over Gene Garber and Tug McGraw!  Unfortunately, they barely hang with the first half of Lee Smith's career, get blown away by Dominant Dan Quisenberry, and get upset by some guy named Ron Davis in the three-season category.  I wouldn't call our Hall of Fame trio below-average pitchers based on their poor career Linear Saves totals, but they are a far cry from Hall of Fame material.  

Okay, enough dogging those three and the whining of some old school relievers about different conditions three decades ago.  There's plenty more to analyze with regards to Linear Saves, including an examination of the Hoffman/Wagner debate and the value of relievers in comparison to starters and position players.   

Continue to the concluding page




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

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