Friday, January 10, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #95 LEE SMITH


HAD THE LOOK OF A DOMINATING CLOSER.



AND THE NUMBERS THAT GO ALONG WITH ONE.



DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Lee Smith retired after 18 seasons in 1997 as baseball's all-time saves leader with 478. Since then he's been passed by Trevor Hoffman (601) and Mariano Rivera (652). The hulking 6-foot-5, 220-pound righty's status as one of the games most dominant relievers is safe, even if his Hall of Fame worthiness remains debatable. His high-water voting mark was 50.6 percent in '12, but his 12-year candidacy is getting lost amid an ever-growing ballot caused by PED concerns among voters. He got 29.9 percent Wednesday despite having an impressive 10-year peak from '82-'91 when he averaged 90 innings, 32 saves and 9.2 strikeouts per nine.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Smith became the NL's single-season saves leader with his 46th on Oct. 1, 1991, against the Expos, breaking the record of 45 held by Dan Quisenberry and Bruce Sutter. Pitching for the Cardinals, he gave up a couple hits in the ninth but preserved the 3-1 victory. His record lasted all of two years before #182 Randy Myers saved 53 for the Cubs in '93.

DEFINING SEASON

  • In '91, Smith finished second to #87 Tom Glavine for the NL Cy Young with a career-high 47 saves. He finished an NL-high 61 games, won six others and had a 2.34 ERA.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Led his league in saves four times ('83, '91, '92, '94).
  2. Finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting four times.
  3. Selected to the All-Star Game seven times.
  4. Smith converted 83 percent of his save opportunities.
  5. Since he retired, contemporaries #100 Dennis Eckersley ('04), Sutter ('06) and Rich Gossage ('08) have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

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