Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu: Best Final Season

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The thread title only half-fits, I know.

I don't know how much attention I was paying at the time, but Billy Wagner--who may go into the Hall this year--finished with what has to be the greatest last season ever by a closer. He was 38:

1.43 ERA, 37 saves, 4.9 H/9, 4.73 K/BB. (And, signifying nothing, a 7-2 W-L record.) Mariano Rivera got a lot of attention for his great final season, but Wagner's was better.

He's my nomination for greatest final closer season. For greatest final DH season, David Ortiz obviously: .315/.401/.620, 38 HR, 127 RBI, 5.2 bWAR.

The greatest final starting pitcher season is a special case: Koufax. 27-9, 1.73 ERA, 317 K, 0.985 WHIP, 4.12 K/BB, 10.3 bWAR. For a more normal career, Mussina comes to mind, although a lot of the fanfare at the time had to do with him winning 20 for the first time

For a position player, I don't know--suggestions (or for closer/starter/DH)?

clemenza, Monday, 2 January 2023 01:10 (one month ago) link

Barry Bonds: .276/.480/.565

Piven After Midnight (The Yellow Kid), Monday, 2 January 2023 01:17 (one month ago) link

That's a good one.

Roberto Clemente: .312/.356/.479, 4.8 bWAR (game-and-a-half more than Bonds because of fielding).

clemenza, Monday, 2 January 2023 01:29 (one month ago) link

well . . . the kid himself: .316/.451/.645, 29 HR, 190 OPS+

only 3.0 bWAR due to horrendous defense, but

mookieproof, Monday, 2 January 2023 01:53 (one month ago) link

Updike got very sentimental about his OPS+.

Will Clark (2 teams): .319/.418/.546, 21 HR, 145 OPS+, 3.9 bWAR (if adding the two teams together is correct).

clemenza, Monday, 2 January 2023 02:39 (one month ago) link

Look at Larry Walker’s run with the cardinals to close out his career:


144 games, 95 runs, 27 doubles, 26 HR, 6 sb (1 cs), 3.3 bWAR (pretty poor defense it appears though.)

omar little, Monday, 2 January 2023 03:38 (one month ago) link

We have a similar thread: Why did they retire?

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 2 January 2023 08:19 (one month ago) link

Ortiz's final season has to be the best in the past 20-30 years or so at least. If you discount tragedies (Clemente) or extenuating circumstances (Shoeless Joe Jackson) it's hard to imagine anyone being better and choosing to walk away when they were still so good.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 2 January 2023 08:24 (one month ago) link

I've posted on the why-did-they-retire? thread quite a few times--figured this one was slightly different (i.e., we don't wonder why Ortiz or Rivera retired).

I guess you can add Pujols as probably the second-best DH farewell:

24 HR, .270/.345/.550, 2.2 bWAR.

Having a hard time thinking of starting pitchers. Things generally don't end well in that line of work. Buehrle was good before the break his final season--10-5, 3.34 ERA (his peripherals were never all that impressive, and he was somehow effective striking out 47 in 90 innings)--but he wore down the second half.

clemenza, Monday, 2 January 2023 16:36 (one month ago) link

wainwright's 2021 season was awfully good but then he kept going (he was merely fine last year)

mookieproof, Monday, 2 January 2023 22:30 (one month ago) link

My original intention with the "Why did they retire?" thread was to ask about players who retired when they were still good. So yes, not quite the same.

But sometimes the line is blurred, we know why Ortiz and Wagner retired because they had already announced that it was their final season and we were watching as it happened. But with some players the memories have faded, or they retired with less fanfare. I'm still not sure why Tom Henke retired, and his final season was nearly as good as Wagner's. New since I started that thread: his Wikipedia page says that he wanted to retire on top and spend time with his family, so pretty much the same as Wagner.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 3 January 2023 08:32 (one month ago) link

Henke! I meant to add him the other day (with the Cardinals): 1.82, 36 saves, almost a strikeout an inning when that still meant something. I've said this a million time, but it baffles me that the Jays don't put his number up in Rogers (especially now that one's been taken down). His career numbers in Toronto: 8 seasons, 2.48, 217 saves, closer for two WS winners (1.83 ERA in the post-season).

clemenza, Tuesday, 3 January 2023 13:51 (one month ago) link

He might also be the one guy in a thousand where if he says he wanted to spend more time with his family, I actually believe he wanted to spend more time with his family.

clemenza, Tuesday, 3 January 2023 13:53 (one month ago) link

it was lost in a fold of my brain but i was trying to pull mike mussina

i cheated by searching and found this -

johnny crunch, Tuesday, 3 January 2023 15:32 (one month ago) link

How could we forget Mussina ... and Posey!

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 3 January 2023 15:44 (one month ago) link

I mentioned Mussina in the original post...Tudor's a good one from that list. I was caught up in Cecil Fielder in 1990 (attending teachers college across the lake in Windsor), so I guess I didn't even notice. Tudor's '85 was one of the great runner-up Cy Young years ever, but so different from today. How did he ever maintain a 1.93 ERA (he did give up 9 unearned runs) while striking out only 5.5/9?

clemenza, Tuesday, 3 January 2023 15:57 (one month ago) link

Got the makings of a team.

SP - Koufax
Closer - Wagner

C - Posey
1B - Clark (only ~200 PA, but I'll take him over Greenberg)
2B -
3B -
SS -
OF - Bonds
OF - Williams
OF -
DH - Ortiz

Need one more outfielder and three infielders.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 02:12 (one month ago) link

I checked Jackie Robinson, and he played third his final year, so he'd be a good pick there: .275/.382/.412, 10 HR, 12 SB, 4.5 bWAR. And I forgot about Clemente, so he's the third outfielder. Need a DP combination.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 02:15 (one month ago) link

The shortstop is a worse ending than Koufax: Ray Chapman, who died mid-August after getting hit in the head by Carl Mays. .303/.380/.423, 4.0 bWAR.

Which reminded me of maybe the second-greatest last season by a starter, better even than Mussina: Jose Fernandez. 16-8, 2.86, 253 K, 4.60 K/BB, 4.4 bWAR.

Shoeless Joe should technically be on there, but I'll stick with Bonds/Williams/Clemente.

Still need a second baseman.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 05:39 (one month ago) link

Lou Whitaker at 2B: .292/.372/.518, 14 HR, 1.5. (1995, so the cusp of the offensive boom.)

SP - Koufax, Fernandez, Mussina, Tudor
Closer - Wagner
Set-Up - Rivera, Henke

C - Posey
1B - Clark
2B - Whitaker
3B - J. Robinson
SS - Chapman
OF - Bonds
OF - Williams
OF - Clemente
DH - Ortiz

Done! You can close the thread now.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 16:03 (one month ago) link

Wow. Making Rivera set up!

FRAUDULENT STEAKS (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Wednesday, 4 January 2023 16:48 (one month ago) link

I did think about that: "This is ridiculous." But Wagner's last season is demonstrably better than Rivera's...I'm not being consistent by leaving off Shoeless Joe, had the highest final-season WAR ever (over 7.0). So I'm making him honorary bookie for the club.

What was the best final season for a manager? Did anyone win a WS and retire? Seems almost inconceivable.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 19:37 (one month ago) link

tony larussa did.

but then he came back. he did not end up, in the end, retiring on top

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 19:45 (one month ago) link

Did a very quick check of about a dozen guys high on the career-wins list; Bobby Cox (91 wins) and Walter Alston (90) were the best, but neither won their division. Weirdly, some of those I checked appear to have been fired partway through the season.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 19:58 (one month ago) link

Dave Roberts, Aaron Boone, and Buck Showalter: if any of you want to retire, you can be on my team.

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 19:59 (one month ago) link

And Dusty Baker x 10!

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 19:59 (one month ago) link

Billy Martin LOL

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 4 January 2023 20:04 (one month ago) link

His .588 winning percentage (40-28) definitely the best I've encountered so far--2.5 games behind the Tigers and he got fired. What kind of erratic, hair-trigger GM would ever do such a thing?

clemenza, Wednesday, 4 January 2023 23:07 (one month ago) link

Grady Little and Dusty Baker were fired after 95 and 97 win seasons respectively.

Little came back to manage the Dodgers for another two years though. He had a lifetime .552 winning percentage and never had a losing season. The problem: he's Grady Little.

I don't think anyone expected Dusty to come back after getting fired in Washington, but he did and good for him.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Thursday, 5 January 2023 08:38 (one month ago) link

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