Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Underrated Season: Tom Gordon 1998

Seeing that Mariano Rivera saved his 600th game last night made me think about Red Sox closers. Boston has had some good ones over the years, and Jonathan Papelbon is likely the best closer in Boston history. But there is one season that kind of goes by unnoticed now. It was big at the time, but few people really remember it now.

In 1998, former starter Tom "Flash" Gordon turned in his first full season as a closer. And what a season it was. Gordon lead the league in saves and games finished that year. He blew only one save all season and set a record for consecutive saves that was eventually broken in 2003 by future Red Sox Eric Gagne.

In the meantime, Gordon had a WHIP of 1.008 with 78 strikeouts versus 55 hits and 25 walks allowed in 79.1 innings. He went 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA that year. Gordon's out pitch was a devastating 12-6 curveball. When that pitch was working, Gordon was unhittable and it was definitely working all year in 1998.

Gordon made it to his first All Star Game that year and even garnered some MVP consideration based on his saves record. He finished 13th, but it was still higher than any Red Sox closer has in years.

Unfortunately, Gordon's saves record did not last long and he was lit up in the postseason. Gordon also never had another season like it. He was injured and ineffective in 1999 and missed the entire 2000 season. He did eventually make it back as a pretty decent setup man with the Yankees and then closed for another season with the Phillies, although his postseason troubles did continue. Those are the likely reasons Gordon's 1998 is not considered among great closer seasons.

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