The Reds are not having a good season. The team has a lot of holes, many of them caused by injury. But the Reds do have some elite players. Joey Votto is a superstar. Todd Frazier is having an MVP type of season. Johnny Cueto has been a Cy Young caliber pitcher for several years now. The Reds have the best closer in baseball. Aroldis Chapman does more than light up the radar gun.

This is Chapman’s 4th year as the Reds’ closer. He took over the role from Sean Marshall in May of 2012. Including the one he snared in 2011, Chapman has accrued 128 career Saves. That places him 4th on the Reds’ all-time Saves list:

Rank Closer Saves
1 Danny Graves 182
2 Francisco Cordero 150
3 John Franco 148
4 Aroldis Chapman 128
5 Clay Carroll 119
6 Rob Dibble 88
6 Tom Hume 88
6 Jeff Brantley 88
9 Pedro Borbon 76
10 Wayne Granger 73
11 Jeff Shaw 69

Aroldis Chapman SaveChapman needs 54 more Saves to catch Danny Graves for the top spot in franchise history. If he stays healthy and doesn’t get traded, Chapman is likely to take over the crown sometime next season. He will probably earn about 20 more Saves this year, leaving him 34 shy heading into 2016. He has put up 38, 38 and 36 over the last three years. So we are looking at a September timeframe for his ascendancy next year. Chapman could reach the number two position on the list by the end of this season.

The biggest question is if the Reds will trade Chapman or keep him. Many writers and fans are clamoring for the Reds to trade the Missile for prospects or other long-term pieces. He will become a free agent after the 2016 season unless the Reds sign him to a contract extension before then. Some people believe there is no point in paying big dollars to a closer when the team is losing and there are not many games to save. That does make sense if the Reds can get an excellent young player in return, but that remains conjecture at this point. I hope the Reds keep him. He is just too dang fun to watch. He puts butts in the seats and is one of the Reds’ most marketable players. He is a young player without much mileage on his arm. I would prefer to see the Reds make him part of the foundation they build the next playoff team around.

The names ahead of Chapman on the list are very impressive. The names behind him are colorful. Let’s take a look at the top 10 closers in Reds history:

Danny Graves1. All of Danny Graves‘ 182 Saves came with the Reds. He was the Reds’ closer from 1998-2005, except for 2003. That was the year the Reds converted Graves to a starting pitcher, an experiment that failed miserably. The next year he set his career high with 41 Saves, then was released in the middle of the 2005 season. Graves was the opposite of the flamethrowing Chapman. Danny was a soft-tossing sinkerballer. He pitched during a very high scoring period in baseball’s history, leading to a career ERA of 4.05, although his best years came when scoring reached its peak in 1999 and 2000. His ERA gradually rose as run scoring declined around the league. Graves is the only player in MLB history to have been born in Vietnam. He is also the only player to ever have more than one season when all of his hits were home runs (in 2000 and 2001 he had one hit each season, both homers). He was a two-time All Star. His career in Cincinnati ended on a sour note when he was released after flipping the bird to booing fans.

Francisco Cordero2. Francisco Cordero saved games for four major league teams and finished his career with 329 Saves, which places him 15th on the MLB all-time list. 150 of those came with the Reds, 117 with the Rangers, 60 with the Brewers and 2 with the Blue Jays. He was the Reds’ closer for four years (2008-2011). His career high was 49 with the Rangers. He put up 40 Saves for the 2010 Reds team that broke their 15 year playoff drought. The 4 year, $46 million contract the Reds gave Cordero to come to Cincinnati in 2008 was the richest contract ever given to a relief pitcher up to that time. Coco made three All Star teams, once with the Reds in 2009.

John Franco3. John Franco is 4th on the all-time MLB Saves list with 424, trailing only Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith. “Only” 148 of those Saves came during his time as the Reds closer from 1984 to 1989. The remaining 276 came with the Mets. Franco is a member of the Mets Hall of Fame. His career high was 39 Saves in 1988 with the Reds. That is a low number for a guy who would end up 4th on the career leaders’ list considering 40 and even 50 Saves in a season is not uncommon. A player has hit 40+ Saves in a single season 154 times. Franco became the all-time Saves leader in 1998, but was passed by Trevor Hoffman in 2005. Franco made four All Star teams, three with the Reds. The Reds acquired Franco by trading Rafael Landestoy to the Dodgers in 1983. Following the 1989 season the Reds traded Franco to the Mets for future Nasty Boy Randy Myers.

Clay Carroll5. Clay Carroll was the shut down reliever for the Big Red Machine. Teams didn’t really have closers back in those days. Carroll averaged about 100 innings per year and didn’t always finished the games he pitched in. In 1972 he netted 37 Saves, which was the National League record until Bruce Sutter broke it in 1984. Carroll made the All Star team in 1971 and 1972. He finished 5th in the Cy Young balloting in 1972 and 8th in 1974. He finished with a 2.94 career ERA. He is a member of the Reds Hall of Fame.

Rob Dibble6. Rob Dibble was the nastiest of the Nasty Boys. Known for his blazing fastball, he was a forerunner of the Cuban Missile. Dibble totaled 88 of his 89 career Saves with the Reds. Dibble’s career high for Saves was 31 in 1991. He tallied only 11 for the 1990 World Series champion team. He is one of only 41 pitchers to throw an Immaculate Inning, which is striking out the side on nine pitches. Dibble reached the 500 strikeout mark faster than any other pitcher in baseball history, needing only 368 innings. He was  the Reds’ first round draft pick in 1983. He made the All Star team in 1990 and 1991. Dibble was famed for his hot temper. He was involved in several on-field brawls and even had a fight with equally-hot tempered manager Lou Piniella in the Reds’ clubhouse in 1992. He once got mad and threw a ball from the pitcher’s mound into the centerfield seats at Riverfront, striking and injuring a woman.

Tom Hume6. Tom Hume played for the Reds from 1977 to 1987 and was the closer much of that time. He made the All Star team in 1982, a year in which the Reds were awful. His career high for Saves was 25 in 1980. He was the Reds’ bullpen coach for many years. Hume was not-so-affectionately known as Tommy “Boom Boom” Hume for his predilection for giving up home runs. Does anybody else think he looks a bit like Mike Leake?

Jeff Brantley6. Jeff Brantley put up 172 career Saves, 88 of them for the Reds, including a league-leading 44 in 1996. He made the 1990 All Star team with the Giants. After the 1997 season the Reds traded Brantley to the Cardinals for Dmitri Young. Brantley was a quarterback in high school and led his team to the Alabama state title. He played on a Mississippi State college baseball team that featured three other future major league stars: Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen. Now the broadcasting partner of Marty Brennaman for the Reds on Radio.

Pedro Borbon9. Pedro Borbon pitched for the Reds from 1970 to 1979, spanning the entire Big Red Machine era. He was known as a workhorse who routinely pitched 120+ innings and 60-80 games per year. 18 was the most Saves he recorded in a single year. Borbon was another hothead who was involved in several fights during his career. Borbon’s son Pedro Jr. pitched in the majors for nine years. He is a member of the Reds Hall of Fame.

Wayne Granger10. Wayne Granger was another stalwart member of the Big Red Machine bullpen that helped earn Sparky Anderson the “Captain Hook” sobriquet. Granger led the league with 35 Saves for the 1970 World Series team, that was an NL record at the time. Granger allowed the first and only grand slam to a pitcher in the World Series when he gave one up to Dave McNally of the Orioles in 1970. The Reds acquired Granger in 1968 along with Bobby Tolan for Vada Pinson. Granger threw the last pitch and earned the last Win in Crosley Field. He is in the Reds Hall of Fame.

My top 10 lists are better because I go to 11:

Jeff Shaw11. Jeff Shaw was a Red from 1996 to 1998. He led the league with 42 Saves as a Red in 1997, then racked up 48 the next year split between the Reds and Dodgers. Shaw was the only Reds player to make the 1998 All Star team, but was traded to the Dodgers for Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes before the All Star game was played, leaving the Reds without a representative. He also made the All Star team in 2001, his last season in the bigs. Shaw totalled 203 career Saves, 129 with the Dodgers. Shaw is from Washington Court House and I played against him in high school.



14 Responses

  1. Tom Gray

    I doubt it. He gets traded before 2016 season. Either this summer or in the offseason.

    Johnny Franco is the best reliever on that list. Traded for Randy Myers in 1989 offseason.

    • tct

      Franco may have had the best career, but Dibble in his prime, before the injuries, was the best. For 3 straight years, 1989-1991, he had the highest K/9 and FIP among all pitchers with 80 innings minimum. He was putting up K/9 in the 13-14 range at a time when strikeouts were a lot more rare than they are today. He averaged almost 4 WAR per year over that 3 year stretch, which is crazy for a reliever.

      • reaganspad

        And he rarely pitched in the 9th inning with the nasty boys. They brought Dibble in when trouble was brewing. Myers and Charlton were both very good relievers, either of them could produce Chapman results albeit at 4-5 mph less, but it was Dibble who did the heavy lifting, what manager was it that called him the big donkey?

  2. WVRedlegs

    The difference with Chapman IS the excitment he brings to a closing situation. Just look back to Sunday, in a 5-2 game the Reds were leading, and GABP was extremely loud. Granted, Chapman loaded the bases, but the fans were standing and cheering extremely loud as Chapman struck out the next 3 batters. Rare for a sub-.500 team.
    Now look at last night’s game in Pittsburgh. With Melancon closing, the Pirates fans were pretty loud, but not like the Reds fans last Sunday. Now if it was Chapman coming in for the Pirates last night to close, I think the Pirate fans would also have been much more raucous. Chapman has that “it” factor now and has kind of reach rock star status in baseball. It is this that gives old man Castellini wet dreams, and therefore Chapman is probably not getting traded.

  3. Tom Reed

    I concur that in all likelihood Big Bob will find the money to keep and extend Chapman. He is Cuban and the ‘it’ factor is the key.

    • brmreturns

      “Big Bob will find the money to keep and extend Chapman … ”

      And therein lies the issue. To me, it’s not a matter of finding the money. It’s whether the money should be paid at all. Chappy will likely get $11-$12MM in arb at the end of the year. At the end of the day(week/month/year/career), he is a league average closer in converted save opportunities.

      Would you (anyone, not specifically you) prefer to have a Nelson Cruz in LF with Cingrani/Hoover/whomever closing – OR – Chappy closing and Byrd/Negron/Schu in LF?

      To me, that decision is so simple it’s not even close. Yes, he throws 100+. Yes, he strikes out 400/9 IP. However, he has thrown only 284IP in his MLB career (4.1 years of service time). That is 1.5 -1.75 years for a starter. I’ll spend my $12MM somewhere else. UNLESS, he somehow magically transitions into a SP. That’s about as likely as Negron starting the All-Star game this year.

      • greenmtred

        Were the Reds offered Cruz for Chapman? There is a good deal of what I believe to be hyperbole surrounding Chapman and the closer’s role in general, exemplified by the “anybody can close” refrain. Anybody CAN’T close. The bullpen, as a unit, probably pitches as many innings a season as two starting pitchers, and because the innings are usually the later innings, they have an increased urgency and pressure (less time to come from behind or extend a lead). This year should show us, if simple logic fails to, that having a good ‘pen is critical to a team’s success. Setting money issues aside, it makes sense to have the best possible pitchers in the ‘pen. Can anybody disagree? That includes the closer. Chapman may produce saves at a league average rate, but ask yourself: Is there someone else you’d rather have pitch the 9th? Is his role too constrained? Maybe. Probably (though Bill Bray is interesting on the subject of wear and tear). Is he not worth what he’s paid? Probably, but no baseball player is. I understand that you are talking about the allocation of resources, and I understand that, if Chapman’s money is the roadblock to a contributing left-fielder, it makes sense to trade him. I’m just not certain that that’s the case. I’ll stop now.

      • Carl Sayre

        I agree with you as far as Chapmans value in the w column but he is fun to watch and helps draw a crowd. The Cuban community in Florida, Miami in particular would make him a God if he was traded to the Marlins, but Tampa Bay would be almost as good of fit. IMO his value for the Marlins should bring a huge return and be good for both teams. Chapman would undoubtedly enjoy pitching in a community with so many Cuban-American fans. I would still enjoy watching him pitch anytime it wasn’t against the Reds.

  4. Jeremy Conley

    The save is just such a crappy stat, it’s hard for me to care about it at all.

    Reds top 10 relievers by fWAR:

    Dibble 13.6
    Chapman 10.0
    Borbon 7.1
    Carroll 7.0
    Franco 6.8
    Scot Williamson 5.2
    Norm Charlton 4.9
    Shaw 4.8
    Billy McCool 4.7
    Rawly Eastwick 4.7

    Reds top relievers by innings:

    Borbon (917)
    Carroll 827
    Scott Sillivan 662
    Hume 636
    Graves 552
    Frank Smith 456
    Dibble 450
    Power 412
    McCool 350

    Chapman is 19th with 284. I’m ok using WAR, but for people who don’t like it, I think innings pitched is a better stat than saves for evaluating a reliever.

  5. redsfan06

    I like reading both Nick’s and Jeremy’s list. The Reds have had some really good relievers over the years.

  6. walker809

    Wonder where Stormy comes in? Yes, the Reds once made David Weathers their closer, and for multiple years. Dark days.

    • User1022

      From what I can tell, David Weathers recorded 61 of his 75 career saves while pitching for the Reds. He would probably be next on the list after Shaw.

      • redsfan11

        I was a big fan of the 2006 team even though they fell a little short of the Cardinals you could tell they were a team on the rise. The Weathers/Guardado battery was nail biting to watch but a heck of lot of fun