#34 Lee Smith CP
This is our list and on our list records matter. Smith is second all time on the Cardinals’ saves list, and third on the all time major league saves list, and was so until Trevor Hoffman passed him by.
Doing so in just under 3.5 seasons, as Smith broke the record 11 saves into his 43 save season in 1993, the year in which he was traded away to the Yankees.
Smith’s best season as a Cardinal came in his first season, as the closer saved 27 in 53 games for the Cardinals while posting an impressive 2.1o ERA and a 2.21 FIP, while posting a 182 ERA+.
Smith would then go on to set the NL record for saves in a single season the very next season with 47 breaking the record previously held by Rollie Fingers, while posting a 2.34 ERA (2.45 FIP), with an ERA+ of 158. He finished second in the Cy Young race that year and eighth in MVP voting.
Smith went on to save 86 games with the Cardinals in 1992 and 1993, setting a record for Cardinals’ saves at 160, before the trade in 1993, as well as breaking the major league record for saves in a career.
While many don’t like the save statistic and think it has ruined baseball to an extent. I believe we can find some value in it. To discount what Smith did in an era when hitters were regularly post 40-50 home runs seasons, would be ridiculous.
The Cardinals blew through a number of closers before they eventually found someone to close games consistently at a level like Smith did.
Next: The most dominant reliever