Cooperstown Chronicles – Lee Smith

Jan 18, 2008

cooperstown-chronicles.jpg
Photo courtesy of TSN Archives/Icon SMI 

Closers have finally started to get their due from Hall of Fame voters.  In recent years, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Hoyt Wilhelm have got the call.  Shortly after he’s eligible, I expect Mariano Rivera to be inducted as well.  What does Lee Smith have than all of those guys?  Saves.  Lee Smith trails only Trevor Hoffman (another likely HOFer) in career saves.  I’m not saying that Lee Smith is better than any of the aforementioned closers, but I am saying he’s worthy company in Cooperstown.

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Photo courtesy of Icon SMI

The Numbers
71-92 Record
478 Saves (2nd All-time)
1022 Games (8th All-time)
1251 K’s
3.03 ERA
802 Games Finished (1st All-time)

The Awards
7 All-Star Appearances
3 Rolaid Relief Awards
Received MVP votes in 4 seasons
Recieved Cy Young votes in 4 seasons (2nd in ’91)

Top Ten Finishes

Games – Six times
Saves – Fourteen times (1st in ’83, ’91, ’92, ’94)

Hall of Fame voters have looked down on closers.  The tradition of the position doesn’t have deep roots.  However, the position isn’t going anywhere.  When you think of the Yankee’s most recent dynasty, Mariano Rivera is the second person to come to mind (after Derek Jeter) when you think of the most important pieces.  Lee Smith was given a job…to close out ball games.  He did that more often than anyone else.  He shouldn’t be punished for the changes that have been made to baseball.  The closer is a legitimate position.  Lee Smith is one of the very best to play that position.  To me that qualifies as a Hall of Famer.

References
Baseball-reference.com

Past Chronicles
Bert Byleven
Andre Dawson
Dale Murphy
Mark McGwire
Bobby Matthews
Tommy John
Buck O’Neill & Minnie Minoso
Jim Rice
Ted Simmons

Posted by | Categories: Cooperstown Chronicles, MLB |
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11 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Keith86
    September 18th, 2008 at 12:52 am #

    Smith should absolutely be in the Hall, and there is no reason to keep him out another year. Smith led his league in saves 4 times, and was 2nd 4 times. That’s 8 times either first or second in the league in saves. I don’t believe that’s ever been done by anyone else.

  2. LestersLegends
    September 18th, 2008 at 5:12 am #

    keith – he was one of the best at his position for a long time. that is hall of fame material

  3. 2009 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot | Fantasy Sports Blog
    December 8th, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    [...] Jimmy Ryan Ron Santo Curt Schilling Red Schoendienst* (Player/Manager) Ted Simmons Enos Slaughter* Lee Smith Rusty Staub Vern Stephens Dave Stieb Mel Stottlemyre Harry Stovey Sam Thompson Luís Tiant Joe [...]

  4. Cooperstown Chronicles - Jesse Haines | Fantasy Sports Blog
    May 7th, 2009 at 9:04 am #

    [...] Jimmy Ryan Ron Santo Curt Schilling Red Schoendienst* (Player/Manager) Ted Simmons Enos Slaughter* Lee Smith Rusty Staub Vern Stephens Dave Stieb Mel Stottlemyre Harry Stovey Sam Thompson Luís Tiant Joe [...]

  5. Cooperstown Chronicles - Waite Hoyt | 1800blogger
    May 20th, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    [...] Jimmy Ryan Ron Santo Curt Schilling Red Schoendienst* (Player/Manager) Ted Simmons Enos Slaughter* Lee Smith Rusty Staub Vern Stephens Dave Stieb Mel Stottlemyre Harry Stovey Sam Thompson Luís Tiant Joe [...]

  6. danny
    June 29th, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    no doubt lee smith is a hof’r

  7. LestersLegends
    June 29th, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

    I’m with ya.

  8. TexasRangerFan
    August 27th, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    This is a no-brainer.. He needs to be in….

  9. erik
    September 3rd, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    i would take lee smith over hofmann in their primes

  10. MetsFan
    October 1st, 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    I would take Trevor Hoffman over Smith anyday. For a cross-era evaluation, I use ERA+ ( I use it for in-era too).
    Smith’s best ten seasons by ERA+ (Min. 50 IP):
    229, 187, 157, 148, 138, 136, 130, 130, 117, 116
    Hoffman’s best ten:
    263, 238, 196, 189, 178, 168, 161, 147, 143, 137

    Okay, then I see the common argument: Hoffman just “hung around” for a long time. First, that’s a dumb excuse since someone who compiles numbers will have drastic rate drops. It’s all about rates of time periods. If you’re more consistent with less of a decline, that’s close to as valuable as someone who’s a little better at their peak but over less time.
    Hoffman career: 590 Saves, 147 ERA+, 1.040 WHIP, 1039.0 IP
    Smith career: 478 Saves, 131 ERA+, 1.256 WHIP, 1289.0 IP
    So Hoffman, with the much better prime, had better rates over 250 fewer IP, albeit much better rates (16 % better by ERA+, 0.216 by WHIP) was BETTER career-wise also? Wouldn’t that ean he was just flat-out better?

  11. Chancellor
    December 26th, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    Agreed..he should be in.

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