Astros History

Astros: Best individual seasons in club history – bullpen

14 Apr 1997: Pitcher Billy Wagner of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Astros won the game 4-2.
14 Apr 1997: Pitcher Billy Wagner of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Astros won the game 4-2. /
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We conclude our series looking at the best individual seasons in Houston Astros history.

We’ve come to the end of our series looking at the best individual seasons in Houston Astros history. All we have left is the bullpen, and there are plenty of quality candidates for this list. I’ve decided to rank the top 10 seasons here.

One thing about ranking by WAR totals is that it’s easier to compile more WAR if you throw more innings. Thus you’ll see some players from older seasons on this list who would often throw multiple innings per appearance. The boutique two or three-out relievers would find tougher sledding to make the cut.

10. Chris Devenski – 2016

In his rookie season, Devenski gave the Astros 108.1 innings of 2.16-ERA ball. He made 43 relief appearances and five starts, allowing only four home runs and a 0.914 WHIP. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting and compiled 2.8 WAR, which remains his best season to date.

9. Doug Jones – 1992

The longtime reliever pitched for seven major league teams in 16 seasons, and only two of those seasons were in Houston. But he was excellent in 1992, notching 36 saves while leading the majors with 70 games finished. He was 11-8 with a 1.85 ERA in 111.2 innings over 80 appearances, getting his fourth career All-Star nod and totaling 2.8 WAR.

8. Bill Dawley – 1984

Dawley only played seven seasons in the majors, but he picked up 2.9 WAR in an impressive 1984 season. He went 11-4 in 60 appearances, totaling a 1.93 ERA in 98 innings. For a brief time, Dawley and the next man on the list were a strong two-headed monster in the bullpen.

7. Dave Smith – 1987

Smith was a key cog in the Astros bullpen for more than a decade, and his best year was ’87. He compiled 2.9 WAR by working to a 1.65 ERA in 50 appearances, tossing 60 innings and notching 24 saves. The right-hander also finished with a career-best 1.000 WHIP, 5.9 hits per nine and 11 strikeouts per nine, and did not allow a home run all season.

6. Joe Sambito – 1979

The southpaw turned in several strong seasons for the Astros, but this was his best as he compiled 3.3 WAR. He pitched to a 1.77 ERA in 63 appearances, totaling 91.1 innings. He made the All-Star team and tallied a career-best 22 saves.

5. Don McMahon – 1962

We’re going old school, back to the inaugural season for the then-Colt .45s. The club purchased McMahon from Milwaukee in early May and he proceeded to turn in 76.2 innings of 1.53-ERA ball. He made 51 appearances and finished 40 games, and despite this not being a full season, he still compiled 3.8 WAR.

4. Brad Lidge – 2004

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This is the year Lidge really broke out, striking out a ridiculous 157 batters in 94.2 innings of relief. He notched 29 saves and worked to a 1.90 ERA in 80 appearances, compiling 3.8 WAR and finishing eighth in the Cy Young voting.

3. Billy Wagner – 1999

Wagner was simply unhittable in 1999, allowing a microscopic 4.2 hits per nine innings and 0.777 WHIP. He converted 39 saves and worked to a 1.57 ERA in 74.2 innings over 66 appearances, compiling 3.8 WAR, making the All-Star team and finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting. This man should be in Cooperstown.

2. Octavio Dotel – 2002

Dotel was at his peak in 2002, and his 83 appearances that year are still a franchise record. He worked to a 1.85 ERA in 97.1 innings, striking out 118 and being as dominant as one can get. This terrific performance totaled 4.2 WAR.

1. Hal Woodeshick – 1963

Raise your hand if you expected this guy to be No. 1 on the list. As I explained, compiling WAR is easier if you throw more innings, and Woodeshick threw 114 innings of relief for the Colt .45s in 1963. He was effective, too, working to a 1.97 ERA and making the All-Star team, totaling 4.6 WAR. The left-hander was a multi-inning weapon in the days before your typical one-inning relievers, and for a short time, he was one of the best.

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