Among baseball statistics, the save is relatively new. It was created by sportswriter Jerome Holtzman in 1959 and officially adopted by MLB in 1969. The Mets have had their share of the top closers in the game. Nine of the top 26 players on the all-time saves list played for the Mets at some point in their career.
I thought it would be interesting to track the Mets’ all-time saves leaders since the beginning of club history. Eight different players have been the team’s all-time leader in saves, although it likely will be a while before a ninth player takes over from the current leader. Here’s the chronological list:
1962 – Craig Anderson – 4
The 16th pick in the 1961 Expansion Draft, Anderson went 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 25 games as a reliever as a 22-year old for the 1961 Cardinals. He got off to a fine start with the Mets in their first season, as on May 20th he was 3-1 with two saves, including wins in both games of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Braves. But he finished the year losing his next 16 decisions. And while he notched four saves, he also had six blown saves. Anderson spent parts of two more seasons with the Mets and lost his only three decisions, meaning he lost the last 19 games of his MLB career.
1963 – Roger Craig – 5
Craig was primarily a starting pitcher with the Mets, as he started 64 of his 88 games with the club. Craig is best known for losing 24 and 22 games in his two seasons with the Mets, both league-leading totals. But on June 14th, he became the club’s all-time leader in saves. After picking up three saves in 1962, Craig tied Anderson when he pitched the final inning of an 8-5 Mets win over the Braves. This came two days after he got a no-decision in 7.2 innings against the same club. Craig vaulted into the lead when he pitched two scoreless innings against the Reds. The Mets traded Craig following the 1963 season
1964 – Larry Bearnarth – 7, 8
Signed out of St. John’s in 1962, Bearnarth went to Triple-A, where he went 2-13 with a 6.67 ERA, with more walks (41) than strikeouts (39). So, the Mets decided he needed to be on their major league roster in 1963. Bearnarth pitched well for the Mets that season, as he posted a 3.42 ERA with 4 Saves as a 21-year old. He added three more saves in 1964 to take over the club lead in saves. Bearnarth added another save in 1965 to finish his career with eight saves. He pitched with the Mets in 1966, then spent the entire 1967-1970 seasons in the minors. Bearnarth was sold to the Brewers following the 1970 season and made it back to the majors for two games in the 1971 season. After one more year in the minors, Bearnarth retired from baseball.
1966 – Jack Hamilton – 13, 14
The Mets purchased Hamilton from the Tigers following the 1965 season and he became the first player in team history to record double-digit saves in a single season, as he notched 13 saves for a Mets team that won just 66 games. Hamilton extended his team record for saves to 14, as he recorded one save before being dealt midway through the 1967 season to the Angels.
1968 – Ron Taylor – 21, 34, 47, 49
The Mets purchased Taylor from the Astros prior to the 1967 season and he turned in five strong seasons in the bullpen. He notched eight saves in ’67 and recorded 13 saves in each of the next three years. Taylor became the club’s all-time leader in 1968 and finished his Mets career with 49 saves. Taylor finished his career with the Padres and after baseball, he became a doctor. Taylor later became the team physician of the Toronto Blue Jays.
1972 – Tug McGraw – 58, 83, 86
McGraw recorded his first save with the Mets in 1965 but did not record his second until four years later. He was co-closer with Taylor from 1969-1971 and did not take over as the club’s main fireman until the 1972 season. But that season he posted a team-record 27 saves and leapfrogged Taylor for the club’s lead. McGraw followed up with 25 saves in 1973 but shoulder trouble ruined his 1974 season and the Mets dealt him to the Phillies in the offseason. McGraw had surgery to remove a cyst and pitched 10 more years after the trade.
1986 Jesse Orosco – 91, 107
The 1983 Mets finished 68-94 and Orosco, their closer, finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. He went 13-7 with a 1.47 ERA with 17 saves. He also drew MVP support that season, as he finished 17th. Orosco followed up with a 10-win, 31-save season in 1984. He took over the club record for saves in the World Championship season of 1986. But Orosco pitched just one more season with the Mets before they traded him to the Dodgers. Little did anyone suspect that Orosco would pitch for 16 more seasons after being dealt. He is the all-time leader in games played with 1,262 and Orosco played more games with the Mets (372) than any of the nine teams he played for in the majors.
1994 John Franco, 118, 147, 175, 211, 249, 268, 272, 274, 276
In 1988-1989, the Mets had Randy Myers as their closer and he went 14-7 with a 2.07 ERA and 50 saves. Myers was a flamethrower. He was also a bit controversial, as he liked to wear army fatigues and he kept firearms in his locker. Following the 1986 championship, Mets management did their best to get rid of controversial players, so they pulled the trigger on a swap of closers, getting Franco from the Reds. Even though he was several years older than Myers, Franco went on to pitch 14 years for the Mets. He did not have overpowering stuff and his saves were frequently of the heart-stopping variety but Franco twice led the league in saves while pitching for the Mets and he obliterated the team’s all-time saves record.
So, if the season was on the line, which reliever in Mets history would you want to see trot in from the bullpen to protect a one-run lead?