EDITOR’S NOTE: This ranking is being updated due to a mathematical error which, well, screwed up the results the first time around.
With spring training upon us, Golden Gate Sports is going to spend the next few weeks looking at some of the best single-season performances in the history of the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, by position.
Today we look at the 10 best seasons by relief pitchers in the history of the Giants, dating back to their arrival in San Francisco in 1958.
The series will alternate teams each day, concluding with the best players by position in the history of each franchise.
The qualifications for this list were a minimum of 50 relief appearances in a season, which was not prorated for the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 or 1994.
This position might have been the most difficult to quantify, both because of how the role of the reliever has changed through the years and because of there being so many questions about just how to evaluate relievers. Is it saves? Is it a low ERA? Is it strikeouts? In the end, the save stat was not really considered; instead, the body of work and how much the relief pitcher contributed to the team’s success won out. Saves have become one of the most overrated statistics in baseball—perhaps the most overrated stat—because of the way managers strategize to the stat.
I mean, what’s the tougher job for the reliever: Coming in with runners at second and third with no one out protecting a one-run lead in the seventh inning? Or coming in with a three-run lead and a clean slate to start the ninth?