Cardinal pitchers with 30 saves in a season

by on April 13, 2010 · 0 comments

With last night’s game safely in the bag and no bullpen blunders to speak of, the coast seems clear for reviewing a little Cardinal history in the bullpen.

Ryan Franklin’s 38 saves in 2009 put him in pretty elite company in Cardinal closer history.  Franklin became only the seventh pitcher in club history to record 30 or more saves in a season (saves were first recorded as an official statistic in 1969).

The other six?

  1. Bruce Sutter (1982, 1984) – Sutter’s efforts earned him a third place finish in Cy Young Award voting in both seasons, a fifth place and sixth place in MVP voting, and an All-Star selection in 1984.  Sutter went on to momentarily be the highest paid player in baseball with the Atlanta Braves (who I believe are still paying him) and had his number retired with the Cardinals after induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  2. Todd Worrell (1986, 1987, 1988) – Worrell was Rookie of the Year in 1986 while leading the league in saves with 36.  Selected as an All-Star in 1988, Worrell also left for greener pastures after the 1992 season, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he would again lead the league in saves in 1996.
  3. Lee Smith (1991, 1992, 1993) – Until Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman came along, Smith’s 478 saves were the most all time.  Smith was an all-star in each of the three referenced seasons, and finished in the top four of Cy Young Voting in 1991 and 1992.  Currently third on the all-time saves list, Smith is still waiting for his call to Cooperstown.
  4. Tom Henke (1995) – Henke’s one season with the Cardinals, at age 37, was arguably the best of his career.  He then promptly retired.
  5. Dennis Eckersley (1996, 1997) – Eck followed Tony LaRussa from Oakland in 1996, and promptly picked up where he left off, finishing games in dramatic fashion.  One of the rare pitchers to have recorded many wins and saves, Eckersley was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.
  6. Jason Isringhausen (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) – Isringhausen never received the accolades he probably should have, from either his peers or the fans.  A great overall body of work leaves Isringhausen just seven saves shy of 300 and the Cardinals’ All-Time leader in saves with 217.  Not bad for a guy most expected to flame out after injury cut short his career as a starting pitcher.  Easily the most successful member of “Generation K”.

Of note, four of these six players rank among the top 21 in league history in saves, all with more than 300.  Smith (478), Eckersley (390), Henke (311), and Sutter (300).  Isringhausen just misses the cut with 293.  Another pitcher on that list, Troy Percival (358 saves), pitched for the Cardinals during his career but never recorded a 30 save season with them.

Will Franklin add another 30 save year to his resume in 2010?

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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