30 November 2010

the evolution of the closer, part 2

here's part 1, if you want to catch up.  i'll wait.

mike marshall (1974-1976)
in 1974, dr. mike marshall came aboard as the dodgers' closer.  marshall was a specialist. as the closer for the expos from 1971-1973, marshall led the league in games finished each year, as well as in saves (31) and total appearances (92) in 1973.  he was just getting started.  in 1974, he again led the league in games finished and total appearances.  his 106 games was a new record for pitchers.  he saved 21 games and won 15 others en route to the cy young award - the first dodger to win that award since sandy koufax.  he saved 13 games in 1975 and had 8 saves in 1976 when he was traded to the braves.

charlie hough (1976-1977)
perhaps the unlikeliest of closers, knuckleballer charlie hough saved 18 games for the 1976 dodgers.  he followed that up with 22 in 1977 for the nl champs.  despite his success, his most memorable relief performance may have been in the 1977 world series when he gave up reggie jackson's third home run in game 6.  while he stayed in the bullpen, hough gave up the primary closer's role in 1978 when terry forster came aboard.

terry forster (1978)
forster had just 1 save with the pirates in 1977 since they also had goose gossage in the pen.  signed as a free agent, forster saved 22 games for the dodgers in 1978, helping them get back to the world series. 

bobby castillo (1979)
the dodgers actually had a bullpen by committee in 1979.  there were 11 different pitchers with at least one save, and as a team the dodgers only registered 34 saves all season.  don sutton had a save, and jerry reuss had 3!  still castillo led all comers with 7.  clearly the team needed a constant force at the back end of the bullpen.  enter steve howe.

steve howe (1980-1983)
although don stanhouse was signed to bolster the bullpen, steve howe emerged as the closer.  the rookie of the year saved 17 games in 1980 even though he struck out only 39 batters in 84.2 innings.  howe led the dodgers in 1981 with 8 saves (one-third of their team total) and was on the mound when they closed out the yankees in 6 games in the world series.  he again led the team in 1982, with 13 saves.  he had perhaps his best season in 1983 with 18 saves and a 1.44 era.  that was also the year that his drug problems caught up to him as he checked into rehab.

tom niedenfuer (1984-1985)
niedenfuer had been howe's right-handed complement in the bullpen starting in 1982.  he saved 9 games that year and 11 in 1983.  as 'the guy' in 1984, niedenfuer led the team with 11 saves.  he had 19 to lead the team again in 1985, but like charlie hough, he is better remembered for giving up nlcs game winning home runs to ozzie smith and jack clark.  niedenfuer saved 11 games in 1986, but was no longer the closer per se.

ken howell (1986)
howell saved 12 games to niedenfuer's 11 in 1986, leading the club in that category as well as games pitched (62) and games finished (36).  he had also saved 12 games in 1985.

alejandro pena (1987)
matt young was the dodgers' closer for the first part of the 1987 season, but pena took over in september and recorded saves in 9 of his last 10 appearances that year.  he had 11 total on the season to tie young for the team lead.

jay howell (1988-1991)
the dodgers traded young (and bobby welch) to the a's and received jay howell in return, along with mike davis and alfredo griffin, prior to the 1988 season.  howell saved 21 games for the world champion dodgers his first year in la despite a suspension for some wayward pine tar. he also had one save in the world series that year.  in 1989, howell saved 28 and made the all star team.  he followed that with two seasons of 16 saves before being replaced as closer by roger mcdowell.  the 28 saves that howell posted in 1989 was a dodgers' single season record at the time, breaking the mark of 24 shared by jim brewer (1970) and jim hughes (1954).

to be continued...

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