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Jeff Reardon's second-place finish is equally notable. When the Mets traded him to the Expos for Ellis Valentine on May 29, Reardon not only had to change teams but also styles. A sometimes-middle reliever with New York, he switched to short relief with Montreal. As the Expos held off St. Louis to win the NL East's second half, Reardon allowed just one run in his last nine appearances.
The third-place finisher is a name that few people outside San Diego know at all: the Padres' Gary Lucas, a top 10 finisher in six different categories. Two other high-ranking pitchers on low-ranking teams are Atlanta's Rick Camp, whose ERA has been under 2.00 the last two seasons, and San Francisco's Greg Minton, who hasn't allowed a home run in his last 255 innings.
Sutter's fifth-place finish may seem surprising, but not to those who watched him pitch from the stretch. On nine of 11 occasions when Sutter relieved with fewer than two outs and men in scoring position, the opposition scored at least one run. Sutter was much better with two outs, but his overall score of 10 is unimpressive, to say the least. Other notable absentees from run-prevention leadership are Gossage, Fingers, Quisenberry, Tekulve and Basic Agreement leader Corbett. Hume, the National League leader in this category, got out of scoring threats 80% of the time, both with two outs and fewer. (The major league average was approximately 75% with two outs and 50% with fewer than two.) Sambito survived all eight two-out appearances and six of seven low-out showdowns. American League leader Tom Burgmeier of Boston escaped 15 of 16 two-out jams. Talk about pitching under pressure: Detroit's Kevin Saucier, who came in with men on base 29 of 38 times, was the best at retiring the first batter in the midst of scoring threats.
Run prevention is an important category because it is the statistic of ultimate accountability, giving little-used but oh-so-effective specialists their due. Just check out the American League leaders: two Red Sox other than Clear, two players from the purportedly weak A's bullpen, erstwhile softballer Hickey and the almost unknown Don Cooper of Minnesota.
Because the pitchers in the National League can be lifted for pinch hitters, they are more likely than American Leaguers to start innings. Sutter led the NL in saves because there were no men on base in 31 of his 48 appearances. As for the American Leaguers, Gossage and Fingers were somewhat pampered; Gossage reported with men in scoring position eight times, Fingers 16. The statistic that really separates them is first-batter effectiveness, in which Gossage was among the leaders and Fingers wasn't. But when it comes to cranking it up for a single batter, both could have taken lessons from golden oldies McGraw (37) and St. Louis' Jim Kaat (43).
Eleven of the 20 hold leaders played for teams with losing records. Of the holdsters on winning teams, the Yankees' Davis and LaRoche and the Brewers' Jamie Easterly used the category to escape from the shadows as stoppers.
Surprisingly, not only long and middle relievers picked up holds; short men from weak teams or from bullpens where the work load was shared also got holds. Note the totals for Tekulve (19), Sambito (18) and Corbett (11). The long man's long man, Baltimore's Stewart, wasn't among the hold leaders; nevertheless, he led all relievers in innings pitched, and all long and middle men in ERA, and was seventh among American League pitchers in first-batter effectiveness.
A final conclusion: The best long men inevitably play for strong clubs. If they pitched for teams with weak rotations, they'd be converted to starters.
Unfortunately, statistics in only two of our eight categories—ERA and saves—will be regularly published during the 1982 season. We'll have to evaluate daily performances from the box scores. "Watch the hits-to-innings and strikeouts-to-walks ratios," says statistician Steve Hirdt of the Elias Bureau. "They're good indices."
Meanwhile, several managers suggested to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that we should tabulate "chokes." Other observers mentioned "scares," to be defined as "when the sight of a reliever warming up scares the opposition into stopping a rally." Or how about the reverse situation, says Quisenberry. "Call it a Carole King. It's when you're loose and ready to enter a game, but you look up and the starter has just given up a two-run homer to lose, and 'It's too late, Baby, it's too late.' "