Continuing our ongoing series in which we try to determine who the greatest players of all time were by crowdsourcing the task out to randomly googled websites, we turn now in this installment to relief pitchers.
As with our previous rankings of shortstops, second basemen, starting pitchers, and catchers, we used a Google search to check out the first ten top-10 lists of relievers we could find, based on the presumption that millions of clicks and links must mean these are somehow the “best” lists, according to the collective wisdom of internet surfers.
Each player’s rank on each list was then subtracted from 101, and then the total points were added up to get a score for just how “great” the internets collectively think that player was, on a scale from 0 to 1000. In other words, a #1 ranking on one list would be worth 100 points, a #2 ranking would be worth 99 points, etc, and a #1 ranking on all ten lists would be worth 1000 points.
As with our list of catchers, we once again used lists that ranked more than 10 players for tiebreaking purposes, adding up the total in the same way and placing it after a decimal point.
Only five relief pitchers have ever been elected to the Hall of Fame, but there is probably enough room for at least 5 more. Let’s see who else the internets think should go in either now or in the future…here are the top 10:
(first place votes in parentheses, *=HOF)
1. Mariano Rivera – 998 (8)
2. Trevor Hoffman – 967 (2)
3. *Dennis Eckersley – 883
4. *Goose Gossage – 869
5. *Rollie Fingers – 864
6. Lee Smith – 848
7. *Bruce Sutter – 754
8. Billy Wagner – 660
9. *Hoyt Wilhelm – 483
10. Dan Quisenberry – 468
Clocking in with an astonishing 998 points thanks to receiving eight #1 ranks with the other two being #2 ranks, Mariano Rivera probably comes as close to a consensus as you are ever going to get with this method. Such an impressive career already for the Sandman, and just imagine if he pitches at a high level for 4 or 5 more years!
Trevor Hoffman also had an amazing showing, as the near-consensus pick for number two, and even garnering 2 1st-place votes. Amazing that he did it all with a fastball that barely topped out at 90 mph. There may never have been a more persuasive argument for the power of a good changeup than Hoffman.
Overall, this is a pretty good top 10, in my view, and this seemingly half-assed method continues to surprise me in that regard. Especially in the case of relievers, where I had expected there would be less consensus and picks would be all over the map. But there was actually widespread agreement on who the top few relievers were, with a rapid falloff from the top 10 to the next 10. Ultimately, I basically agree with this list, with the exception that I would want to see the Hoyt Wilhelm higher up the rankings, probably either just ahead of or just after Gossage. I would also probably bump Billy Wagner up a few notches, perhaps to 5th overall.
Overall, 22 different pitchers appeared somewhere in the top 10 of these 10 lists, so I went ahead and extended the rankings to the rounder number of the top 25. Here’s how the next 15 players ranked:
11. Troy Percival – 282
12. John Franco – 275
13. Jeff Riordan – 187
14. Tug McGraw – 183.8
15. Tom Henke – 183.2
16. Sparky Lyle – 182
17. John Wetteland – 93.6
18. Roberto Hernandez – 93.2
19. Francisco Rodriguez – 92
20. Mike Marshall – 91.22
21. Robb Nen – 91.20
22. Joe Nathan – 91.00
23. Keith Foulke – 89.148
24. Dick Radatz – 89.140
25. Kent Tekulve – 87
A couple of surprising names in this group. I was personally pretty shocked by Roberto Hernandez, but then I looked him up and noticed that he somehow compiled a 132 ERA+ over a very lengthy 17-year career. I must say that is not exactly how I remember it, but I guess the numbers don’t lie!
I was glad to see Kent Tekulve crack the top 25 (if only by a whisker). I personally think Tekulve is one of the more underrated relievers ever, and should be ranked much higher, perhaps even on the border of the top 10.
So what do you think? Agree with these rankings? Think they’re crazy? Let us know in the comments!
And finally, here are the ten top-10 lists I used to derive these rankings (again, these are the first 10 lists that came up in a Google search):
“Top 50 Relief Pitchers of All-Time” (TheBaseballPage.com)
“MLB’s 10 Greatest Relief Pitchers of All Time” (Bleacher Report)
“Tom Verducci’s Top 10 Closers of All Time” (SI.com)
“The Best Closers in MLB History” (MLBCenter.com)
“Top 10 Closers In The History of Major League Baseball” (Bleacher Report)
“Top 10 Closers of All Time” (The Dugout Doctors)
“Baseball’s Top 10 Closers of All Time” (Associated Content)
“Top 3 MLB Relief Pitchers of all time (NOT named Mariano Rivera)” (Antsmarching.org)
“The Best Reliever of All Time? Hoffman for the Hall?” (Mike’s Baseball Rants)
“HOF All-Time Team: Relief Pitchers” (Baseball Fever)