Golden Gate Sports resumes its recap of some of the best single-season performances in the history of the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants as we anticipate Opening Day.
Today, we look at the 10 best seasons by relief pitchers in the history of the Athletics, dating back to their arrival in Oakland in 1968.
This is the 11th installment in the series on the A’s and will conclude with the best players by position in the history of each franchise. So far, we’ve featured the 10 best seasons for the A’s at shortstop, catcher, left field, second base, center field, third base, right field, first base and for utility players and starting pitchers.
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?
Before you turn the page, here are the 10 seasons that just missed the cut:
20. Rollie Fingers, 1973
19. Billy Koch, 2002
18. Dennis Eckersley, 1989
17. Jeff Tam, 2000
16. Huston Street, 2006
15. Jay Howell, 1985
14. Rollie Fingers, 1976
13. Ryan Cook, 2012
12. Dennis Eckersley, 1988
11. Rollie Fingers, 1975