Results tagged ‘ closer ’

March 2 – Happy Birthday Jim Konstanty

Jim Konstanty became one of baseball’s first outstanding relief specialists when the Phillies brought him up to the big leagues for good in 1948. He threw a lot of junk with great control and in 1950, his work out of the bullpen won the Philadelphia Whiz Kids the NL Pennant and Konstanty an MVP award. But the following season, the right-hander thought he needed another pitch to continue his success and he claimed it was his efforts to develop that pitch that screwed up both his rhythm and confidence. Whatever the reason, Konstanty was never again able to regain his 1950 form as a Phillie. Five years after watching him hold the Yankees to just one run as Philadelphia’s surprise starter in the first game of the1950 Series, Casey Stengel told George Weiss to buy Konstanty’s contract in 1954. Jim pitched well for New York the final month of that season and in 1955, he became a top reliever in the American League with a 7-2 record, 11 saves and a 2.32 ERA.  Stengel had so much pitching depth on his team that season that he decided to leave Konstanty off the World Series roster, forcing the Strykersville, NY native to watch helplessly as Brooklyn finally beat New York in a Fall Classic. New York released Konstanty the following season and he retired after a brief stint with the Cardinals. He died in 1976.

Konstanty shares his birthday with the first hitter in Yankee franchise history to lead the league in most strikeouts during a regular season.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1954 NYY 1 1 .500 0.98 9 0 6 0 0 2 18.1 11 2 2 0 6 3 0.927
1955 NYY 7 2 .778 2.32 45 0 30 0 0 11 73.2 68 28 19 5 24 19 1.249
1956 NYY 0 0 4.91 8 0 5 0 0 2 11.0 15 6 6 3 6 6 1.909
11 Yrs 66 48 .579 3.46 433 36 266 14 2 74 945.2 957 420 364 88 269 268 1.296
PHI (7 yrs) 51 39 .567 3.64 314 23 202 9 1 54 675.1 687 309 273 63 187 205 1.294
NYY (3 yrs) 8 3 .727 2.36 62 0 41 0 0 15 103.0 94 36 27 8 36 28 1.262
CIN (1 yr) 6 4 .600 2.80 20 12 4 5 1 0 112.2 113 46 35 11 33 19 1.296
BSN (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.28 10 1 3 0 0 0 15.1 17 9 9 2 7 9 1.565
STL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 4.58 27 0 16 0 0 5 39.1 46 20 20 4 6 7 1.322
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/3/2014.

December 12 – Happy Birthday Steve Farr

As bad as the Yankee offense was in the late 1980′s and early ’90s, their starting pitching was even less effective. Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt were the team’s top five starters during the 1990 season and the quintet had a cumulative record of 32-69 in their 133 combined starts. Lee Guetterman led the team in victories that season with 11, pitching out of the bullpen and reliable closer Dave Righetti, had 36 saves. In fact, I remember thinking that particular Yankee team would have been better off letting their relievers start games instead of finishing them. In addition to Righetti and Guetterman, New York had Greg Cadaret and Erik Plunk in the bullpen that season.

To make their horrible pitching situation even more complicated, following that season, New York let the 31-year-old Righetti become a free agent and sign with San Francisco for $10 million over four years. When they replaced Rags three weeks later by signing 34-year-old Steve Farr to a three-year $6.3 million deal, I was truly disappointed. I should not have been.

At the time, Farr was a seven-year veteran who had been an OK Royal closer in 1987 and ’88 before losing his job to Jeff Montgomery the following year. He was able to win thirteen games as a part-time starter and reliever for Kansas City in 1989 but if he lost his job to a guy named Montgomery, how could the Yankees expect him to replace one of the top closers in the game?

Letting Righetti go turned out to be as wise a move as making him the Yankee closer was in the first place. After an OK 24-save first season in San Francisco, the bottom fell out of his career as he accumulated just four saves during the final four seasons of big league pitching. Farr, on the other hand, performed admirably for New York, saving 78 games during his 3-year tenure in the Bronx including a 30-save, 1.56 ERA 1992 season. Steve was 36-years old at the end of his final contract year and when his ERA ballooned to 4.21 in 1993, New York decided not to re-sign the right-hander and handed the 1994 closer role to Steve Howe. You have to give that Yankee front-office credit for their closer decisions during the past quarter-century. Making Rag’s a reliever, replacing him with Farr after Righetti’s last great year, replacing Farr with Howe, signing John Wetteland and then replacing Wetteland with Rivera represents a pretty good track record.

Farr shares his December 12th birthday with this former Yankee shortstopthis former Yankee utility infielder and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 5 5 .500 2.19 60 0 48 0 0 23 70.0 57 19 17 4 20 60 1.100
1992 NYY 2 2 .500 1.56 50 0 42 0 0 30 52.0 34 10 9 2 19 37 1.019
1993 NYY 2 2 .500 4.21 49 0 37 0 0 25 47.0 44 22 22 8 28 39 1.532
11 Yrs 48 45 .516 3.25 509 28 313 1 1 132 824.1 751 326 298 70 334 668 1.316
KCR (6 yrs) 34 24 .586 3.05 289 12 166 1 1 49 511.0 469 193 173 37 203 429 1.315
NYY (3 yrs) 9 9 .500 2.56 159 0 127 0 0 78 169.0 135 51 48 14 67 136 1.195
CLE (2 yrs) 4 12 .250 4.66 50 16 16 0 0 5 131.1 123 73 68 17 61 95 1.401
BOS (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 6.23 11 0 4 0 0 0 13.0 24 9 9 2 3 8 2.077
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2013.

December 4 – Happy Birthday Lee Smith

SmithRaise your hand if you can remember when Lee Smith was the Yankee closer. You remember Smith, I’m sure. He was baseball’s all-time saves leader until Trevor Hoffman notched his 479th save during the 2006 season. A native of Jamestown, Louisiana, Smith had an 18-year big league career that saw him wear the uniform of eight different teams.

The Yankees got him from St.Louis on August 31, 1993, after New York’s regular closer, Steve Farr went on the disabled list. Unfortunately for both Smith and the Yankees, he didn’t get much of a chance to do what he did better than anybody in baseball during his short tenure in Pinstripes. During the month he was a Yankee, the team was only in four save situations and Smith saved three of them, including career number 400.

When asked about his inactivity, the huge right-hander told the Big Apple sports press he didn’t know why the Yanks got him in the first place because what they really needed was a starting pitcher. Sure enough, when Smith’s contract expired at the end of the 1993 regular season, New York let him sign with Baltimore, where he would lead the AL in saves the following year.

Many of the players who played both with and against Smith feel he deserves to be in Cooperstown but he’s never received more than 48% of the sportswriters’ Hall of Fame votes. His one achilles heel was the postseason. He only played fall ball twice during his long career, once with the Cubs in 1984 and again with the Red Sox in ’88. Both teams were eliminated in the LCS round and though Smith did have one save, he also lost two decisions and had a combined ERA of 8.44.

Smith shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and manager, this former Yankee catcher and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1993 NYY 0 0 0.00 8 0 8 0 0 3 8.0 4 0 0 0 5 11 1.125
18 Yrs 71 92 .436 3.03 1022 6 802 0 0 478 1289.1 1133 475 434 89 486 1251 1.256
CHC (8 yrs) 40 51 .440 2.92 458 6 342 0 0 180 681.1 591 240 221 38 264 644 1.255
STL (4 yrs) 15 20 .429 2.90 245 0 209 0 0 160 266.2 239 92 86 23 68 246 1.151
BOS (3 yrs) 12 7 .632 3.04 139 0 115 0 0 58 168.2 138 68 57 13 79 209 1.287
CAL (2 yrs) 0 5 .000 3.28 63 0 59 0 0 37 60.1 50 23 22 3 28 49 1.293
MON (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.82 25 0 14 0 0 5 21.2 28 16 14 2 8 15 1.662
CIN (1 yr) 3 4 .429 4.06 43 0 16 0 0 2 44.1 49 20 20 4 23 35 1.624
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 0.00 8 0 8 0 0 3 8.0 4 0 0 0 5 11 1.125
BAL (1 yr) 1 4 .200 3.29 41 0 39 0 0 33 38.1 34 16 14 6 11 42 1.174
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.