With 38 saves already this season and six weeks left to play, St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal could break the franchise single-season record.
In 1991, Lee Smith put together one of the best seasons ever for a reliever, nailing down 47 games for the Cardinals, finishing out 61 contests in all.
It wasn’t just the number of saves that made the campaign so impressive. Rather, it was the peripherals that were, and sometimes still are, overlooked. That season, Smith, who ranks third on the all-time saves list, posted an unthinkable 5.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio, finishing second in the National League Cy Young voting.
Although he never took home baseball’s coveted pitching honors, Smith finished in the top five in voting on three separate occasions during his storied 18-year big league career.
And yet, too many have already forgotten about him.
This may be, in part, due to the fact that the right-hander played for eight different teams, spending more than four years with only one team – the Chicago Cubs.
Another reason, at least in the city of St. Louis, has to be the emergence of the Cardinals’ latest ninth-inning stopper in Rosenthal, who could unseat Smith atop the franchise single-season saves rankings before season’s end.
2015 has been, by far, the flame-throwing righty’s best season in his still-young career. In 55 appearances this year, Rosenthal is already pushing 40 saves – and should he continue at his current pace, he’ll end the year with somewhere around 49 saves.
That mark would be not only a franchise-best, but also would rank amongst the top single-season marks in the history of the game. In recent years, we’ve seen the half-century mark eclipsed on multiple occasions, so maybe we’re a bit numb to it now, but the feat in and of itself is nothing short of remarkable.
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Make no mistake about it, either. Rosenthal’s 38 saves this season aren’t the Fernando Rodney or Hector Rondon-style tightrope out of danger type. They are of the downright-dominant variety, with Rosie blowing 100-mph heaters past opposing hitters.
The Cardinals’ 25-year-old closer has a 1.44 earned run average this season, averaging 10.1 strikeouts-per-nine in the process. Over the course of the past month, opposing hitters have an OPS below .300 against Rosenthal.
Just what does that look like?
The numbers speak for themselves.
Under control through the 2018 season, Rosenthal is perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals’ most undervalued asset moving forward. If the Redbirds carry a lead into the ninth, it’s as good as over.
Now, it’s time to sit and watch as the fan favorite looks to take his spot atop the all-time franchise rankings.