I can think of few people in baseball that get less credit for what they do on the field than the set up men. No one knows who they are. For a long while there was no stat exclusive for them. Now we have the hold. It’s not much of a stat, but it’s better than nothing. In the upcoming couple of Hall of Fame votes there are, as I mentioned in the Hideo Nomo post below, a couple of people I will be interested to see exactly how they do. One was obviously Nomo, this is about the other, a set up man.
Mike Stanton was a premier set up and one batter lefty (like Paul Assenmacher,as another example) for a lot of years. He came up in 1989 with the Braves and stayed around into 2007 with Cincinnati. Along the way he won three of five World Series in which he appeared. For his career he was 68-63 with a 3.92 ERA. He walked 420 men, struck out 895, and gave up 1086 hits in 1114 innings pitched. His WHIP was 1.352 with an ERA+ of 112 and 84 saves. In 1993 he had 27 saves in his only full season as a closer.
As with Nomo, there’s no real number to hang your argument for the Hall of Fame on, is there? Well, the 112 ERA+ is pretty good, but there are a lot better. His WHIP isn’t bad, but again there are a lot better. What Stanton did, was keep his team in games. He served as the bridge between the starter and the closer and he did it pretty well. It was, and as pointed out above, still is a fairly thankless job (from a fan point of view, not from the dugout point of view). Stanton did it well but in doing so never was in a position to put up the eye-popping numbers that grab fans and writers attention and make him a household name. And without that recognition he’s doomed to never make it into Cooperstown.
Ultimately that’s probably fair. I stated in the Nomo post that I wouldn’t vote for Nomo for Cooperstown despite the good things I said about him. The same is true for Stanton. But I’d like to see him hang around on the Hall of Fame ballot for a while, just so we can get a chance to remember him and look over his numbers. Maybe that will help give fans a sense of how important he was to winning teams.