Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Games Finished & Saves

As most baseball fans know, Trevor Hoffman is the all-time saves leader with 578 over the length of his career. His 578th save came last night against the Los Angeles Dodgers after a rocky ninth inning. While each save obviously sees him extend his own saves record, last night he tied another career mark. It was his 802nd career game finished, tying him with former saves leader Lee Smith.

Games finished (GF) is, really, a useless counting stat. All it tells you is that such-and-such pitcher was the last reliever to appear in a game for his team. That's not that impressive, right? After all, a guy who mops up blowouts can rack up games finished just as easily as a closer. Then again, chances are that guy mopping up blowouts probably won't stay in the league very long. So, one game finished isn't very impressive, but you have to be pretty darn good to get up to 500-600-700 GF.

With that in mind, here are the sixteen pitchers with over 600 games finished through August 3:
  • Lee Smith, 802
  • Trevor Hoffman, 802
  • John Franco, 774
  • Mariano Rivera, 753
  • Rollie Fingers, 709
  • Jeff Reardon, 695
  • Rich Gossage, 681
  • Roberto Hernandez, 667
  • Hoyt Wilhelm, 651
  • Doug Jones, 640
  • Kent Tekulve, 638
  • Billy Wagner, 637
  • Sparky Lyle, 634
  • Jose Mesa, 633
  • Todd Jones, 619
  • Gene Garber, 609
Three pitchers on that list are still active. Behind them, Troy Percival sits in 27th place with 546 and Jason Isringhausen is 37th with 467. The next healthy player is Francisco Cordero, 55th with 407. The top 1000 can be found here.

Many closers in need of work are used in the ninth inning even when it's not a save situation, so they end up with more games finished than saves. For players who became closers early in their career and never relinquished the role, a large percentage of their relief appearances result in games finished. Here are the top all-time pitchers in terms of game finished per relief appearance (min. 200 GF):
  1. Kazuhiro Sasaki, 201 of 228, 88.2%
  2. John Wetteland, 523 of 601, 87.0%
  3. Bobby Jenks, 228 of 254, 86.8%
  4. Rick Aguilera, 643 of 732, 86.6%
  5. Bryan Harvey, 278 of 322, 86.3%
  6. Robb Nen, 548 of 639, 85.8%
  7. Billy Koch, 325 of 379, 85.8%
  8. Tom Henke, 548 of 642, 85.4%
  9. Jonathan Papelbon, 208 of 244, 85.2%
  10. Mariano Rivera, 753 of 885, 85.1%
Hoffman has finished 802 of his 963 appearances, good for 83.3%.

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