Houston Astros: 10 Best Relief Pitchers in Franchise History

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IMarch 8, 2012

Houston Astros: 10 Best Relief Pitchers in Franchise History

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    A good bullpen is just as important as a good starting rotation. It doesn't matter if the team has a starter who pitches great for seven innings if they can't close out the game for the win.

    The Astros have been pretty lucky in terms of relief pitchers, having their fair share of good pitchers. Here are the top 10 relief pitchers in the organization's history.

10. Ken Forsch

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    Ken Forsch pitched 10 years for the Astros, but was only a closer for two of those seasons. He pitched almost 1,500 innings over his career with Houston, saving 50 games and made this list because of his 3.18 ERA.

9. Doug Jones

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    Doug Jones was only with the Astros in 1992 and 1993, but pitched well enough to make this list. He saved 62 games for the Astros with a 3.02 and was selected for the All-Star game in 1992.

8. Larry Andersen

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    Larry Andersen was with the Astros for five seasons, from 1986-90. Most Astros fans will remember him being the player who brought Jeff Bagwell to Houston in a trade with Boston.

    However, he was actually a pretty good arm out of the bullpen for the Astros. He was never a closer, but had a 2.57 ERA over his career with Houston.

7. Octavio Dotel

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    Octavio Dotel came over in 2000 in a trade with the Mets and the Astros converted him from starter to reliever. He is the only National League pitcher to start 15 games and save 15 games.

    He was generally the set up man for Billy Wagner and filled in when Wagner was injured. He also was one of the relief pitchers in the Astros six-pitcher, no-hitter game against the Yankees

    Over five seasons he had 42 saves and an ERA of 3.25.

6. Jose Valverde

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    The Astros traded for Jose Valverde before the 2008 season and he did not disappoint. He only pitched for the Astros for two seasons, but ended up sixth in Astros history in terms of saves.

    His first year with the team he had 44 saves in 51 opportunities with a 3.38 ERA and followed it up with 25 saves in 2009 with an ERA of 2.33. Over those two years he struck out 139 over 126 innings.

5. Joe Sambito

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    Joe Sambito is fifth on the saves list in Astros history with 72. His best year came in 1979 when he was selected to the All-Star game, converted 22 saves and had an ERA of only 1.77.

    Unfortunately, the next year he damaged ligaments in his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in 1983 and was not the same pitcher.  

4. Fred Gladding

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    Fred Gladding was a relief pitcher for the Astros from 1968 and 1973. He led the National League in saves in 1969, the first year saves were recognized by the MLB as an official stat. He retired with the Astros in 1973 and had 76 saves over six years with Houston.

3. Brad Lidge

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    Some will remember Lidge as the pitcher who gave up a home run to Albert Pujols (that I still don't think has landed), in Game 5 of the 2005 playoffs. He wasn't nearly as dominating after that game, but was still one of the great closers the Astros had.

    He had 123 saves over his six years with Houston, saving 41 games in one season. The most impressive stat though is that he struck out 561 batters in only 401 innings pitched.

2. Dave Smith

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    I think it is a coin flip between these next two pitchers for best reliever in Astros history because both were lights out. Dave Smith saved 199 games over an 11-year span with Houston. 

    He was the Astros' primary closer from 1985 to 1990. He made two All-Star games while with the team in 1986 and then again in 1990. He had an ERA of only 2.53 over his career with Houston.

1. Billy Wagner

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    Billy Wagner has been the best relief pitcher the Houston Astros have had in their history. He converted 225 saves over his nine years with the team and had an ERA of only 2.53. He struck out 694 batters in only 504 innings of work.

    Unfortunately, the parting of Billy Wagner and the Astros were not pretty, as the left-hander criticized management for not putting together a quality team. He was traded shortly after that to the Phillies.

    Even though the divorce was an ugly one, it is hard to argue with his stats during his nine-year stint with the team and that is why he claims the top spot on this list.