Hoffman tops list of Padres closers

Gossage gets nod over Fingers for No. 2

February 16th, 2016

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

We end my offseason project of naming the top five Padres at each position with identifying the top closers in the history of the franchise.

No surprise here. Trevor Hoffman is No. 1 on my list. And it isn't close.

However, in my estimation, you can throw a blanket over the next Three: Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers, plus Heath Bell. And they were very different pitchers.

Both Fingers and Gossage pitched for the Padres before the one-inning closer came into vogue. Fingers and Gossage averaged almost five outs per appearance during their four seasons with the Padres.

Bell was even more of a one-inning specialist than Hoffman.

On my list -- and remember, this is purely my list -- I am putting Gossage over Fingers and Bell. I hope I can explain my reasoning. No. 5 is Mark Davis, who won the 1989 National League Cy Young Award with the Padres.

 Before I finish my Top Fives with the closers, here again are my top Padres of all-time by position.

• First base: Adrian Gonzalez

• Second base: Mark Loretta

• Third base: Ken Caminiti

• Left field: Gene Richards

• Center field: Steve Finley

• Right field: Tony Gwynn

• Catcher: Benito Santiago

• Right-handed starting pitcher: Jake Peavy

• Left-handed starting pitcher: Randy Jones

• Middle/setup reliever: Craig Lefferts

• Closer: Trevor Hoffman

Here are my Top Five closers:

1. Trevor Hoffman (1993-2008)

Hoffman was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame in 2014, and he fell less than eight percent of the vote short of landing a berth in the National Hall of Fame last month in his first year of eligibility. As a Padre, Hoffman broke the all-time saves record and still ranks No. 2 on the all-time list with 601 saves. In 16 seasons with the Padres, Hoffman had a 54-64 won-loss record with 552 saves and a 2.76 earned run average. He pitched 952 1/3 innings in 902 games with 1,029 strikeouts and a 1.043 WHIP. Hoffman is the Padres' all-time leader in saves, ERA, pitching appearances, lowest opponents' batting average (.211), strikeouts per nine innings (9.72) and WHIP. Even though he was a closer, Hoffman ranks ninth on the Padres' all-time list in innings pitched.

Hoffman was a seven-time All-Star as a Padre and finished in the Top 10 of the NL Cy Young Award four times and among the Top 10 in Most Valuable Player voting twice. Hoffman finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 1998 (1.48 ERA with a league-leading and career-high 53 saves) and 2006 (2.14 ERA, 46 saves). He was seventh in the '98 MVP voting and 10th in 2006. Hoffman had 40 or more saves in nine seasons with the Padres. Hoffman's 28.0 WAR as a Padre ranks third behind Tony Gwynn (68.8) and Dave Winfield (29.9). Acquired by the Padres in the 1993 "fire sale" trade that sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins, Hoffman departed the Padres after the 2008 season as a free agent.

2. Goose Gossage (1984-87)

You can make a case for Gossage, Fingers or Bell at No. 2. But I give Gossage the edge based on the attitude he brought to the team that won the 1984 pennant. Gossage was 25-20 in four seasons as a Padre with a 2.99 ERA, 83 saves, a 1.250 WHIP and a 5.1 WAR. But his hard-nosed attitude in '84 helped the Padres win their first NL pennant. He was 10-6 that season with a 2.90 ERA and 25 saves in 62 appearances covering 102 1/3 innings. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award Award voting and was named to one of his two All-Star Games as a Padre. Gossage signed a three-year, $4 million contract with the Padres as a free agent before the '84 season. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs on Feb. 12, 1988. Gossage ranks fourth in saves among Padres closers.

3. Rollie Fingers (1977-80)

Fingers gets the nod over Bell at No. 3 for durability and versatility. Fingers appeared in 265 games with the Padres over four seasons, going 34-40 with a 3.12 ERA and 108 saves. But he typically pitched the final two innings of a game and sometimes worked three innings. He pitched 426 1/3 innings with 319 strikeouts, a 1.250 WHIP and a 5.1 WAR as a Padre. He finished eighth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 1978 and 14th in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting in '77 and '78. Fingers joined the Padres as a free agent on Jan. 12, 1976, signing a contract worth $1.6 million. He and catcher Gene Tenace were traded to the Cardinals in a deal that brought catcher Terry Kennedy to the Padres on Dec. 8, 1980. Fingers ranks third on the Padres' all-time saves list and eighth in games.

4. Heath Bell (2007-11)

After starting his Padres career as a setup man for Hoffman, Bell became the Padres' closer after Hoffman departed for Milwaukee. Bell had a 21-19 record with 134 saves (all but two coming in a three-season span from 2009-11) and a 2.53 ERA in 354 games as a Padre. He had 389 strikeouts in 374 1/3 innings pitched with a 1.118 WHIP and an 8.4 WAR. Bell was a three-time All-Star selection as a Padre. In 2010, when he had 47 saves on the Padres' 90-win team, Bell finished eighth in the NL Cy Young Award voting and 25th in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting. Acquired on Nov. 15, 2006, in a trade from the Mets, Bell departed as a free agent following the '11 season and signed with the Marlins. Bell ranks second to Hoffman on the Padres' all-time list of saves leaders and fourth in games pitched.

5. Mark Davis (1987-'89, '93-'94)

Davis had a sensational season for the Padres in 1989 while winning the NL Cy Young Award and finishing sixth in the Most Valuable Player Award voting. He was 4-3 with a 1.85 ERA and 44 saves, leading the NL in saves while appearing in 70 games and working 92 2/3 innings.

Overall as a Padre, Davis was 14-20 with 78 saves, a 2.75 ERA, a 1.260 WHIP and an 8.4 WAR. He pitched 308 innings over a span of 230 games with 298 strikeouts. He ranks sixth on the Padres' all-time saves list. Davis and fellow relief pitcher Mark Grant and third baseman Brown came from the Giants in a Dec. 14, 1982, trade that sent pitchers Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts and outfielder Kevin Mitchell to San Francisco. Davis became a free agent after the '89 season and signed with Kansas City.