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Three times last season, Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor
told Steve Reed, one of his iron-man relievers, "I don't care if
the sun falls out of the sky, I'm not using you today." Then in
the seventh or eighth inning, with the Rockies in another jam,
Baylor couldn't help himself. He called the bullpen and told
Reed, "I need you to get just one hitter." Things turned out
the same way each time:

Reed came in.

Reed got the out.

Reed's work was all but forgotten by game's end.

Such is life for middle relievers. They do the dirtiest, and
often the hardest, work on a pitching staff, yet they're mostly
underrecognized, underappreciated and underpaid. They lead the
league in appearances every year--not to mention the times they
throw in the bullpen but aren't used in the game--yet usually
they get nothing next to their names in the box score unless
it's a "hold," which is great if you're a wrestler but nearly
worthless if you're a pitcher. They perform vital jobs, yet
everyone else on the staff strives never to become one of them.
"We are," Reed says with a mighty laugh, "the lowest creatures
on earth."

It's time for that to change, time for middle relievers to get
their due--or at least a meaningful stat they can call their
own. Toward that end we've developed a rating system to
determine the best middle relievers in baseball, using a formula
that combines innings pitched, appearances, percentage of
inherited runners stranded, hits allowed, walks and ERA. The
result is what we call a pitcher's efficiency quotient, or EQ.

In the increasingly specialized world of baseball, the category
of middle reliever can be further broken down into three
subsets: mop-up men, who pitch in long relief when the starter
falters; setup men, who work the seventh and/or eighth inning to
bridge the gap between the starter and the closer; and
specialists, who come on to face a single hitter. But for the
purposes of our ratings, we've ranked all middle relievers
(i.e., every pitcher who is neither a regular starter nor a
regular closer) because many middle men, like Reed, transcend
categories. The best overall from 1995 was California's Troy
Percival (page 120), a setup man who is a closer-in-waiting.
Tony Fossas (page 122), who had a 1.47 ERA in 36 2/3 innings as
a lefthanded specialist for the Cardinals, ranked second. Reed
was third, followed by ex-Mariner and new Yankee Jeff Nelson and
by Dave Veres, then with Houston and now with Montreal. None of
those five made more than $275,000 last year. Together they made
$1.049 million--a couple months' pay for some closers.

"People don't know them, people don't pay them," Twins pitching
coach Dick Such says. "But they're deciding an awful lot of

Reed, 30, a sidearming righthander, has been one of the game's
top middle relievers the last three years, posting a 17-9 record
and a 3.49 ERA, but his road ERA during that period (away from
Colorado's missile sites, Mile High Stadium and Coors Field) of
1.51 was the lowest in baseball (Atlanta's Greg Maddux had a
1.74). Reed had more appearances (196) than any other pitcher in
the last three years, yet few are aware of his worth. "We do the
same thing as closers," Reed says. "We just do it at a different
time in the game. Without us, you'd never get to the closer."

Indeed. Closers lead sheltered lives; they frequently enter
games with no one on base, throw one inning and get a save. The
lives of middle men, on the other hand, are vulnerable and
dangerous--they're often thrown into the middle of game-deciding
rallies. "We don't get any credit, but when something goes
wrong, we're the guys they blame," Nelson says. "The closers get
all the glory and all the money."

Last year Reed entered a game with the bases loaded six times
(two runners scored). The five closers with the most saves in
1995--Jose Mesa of Cleveland, Randy Myers of the Cubs, Lee Smith
of California, Tom Henke of St. Louis and Rod Beck of San
Francisco--entered games with the bases loaded six times
combined (seven runners scored). Reed inherited 52 runners last
year; those five save leaders averaged 21.8. Reed allowed 25% of
his runners to score; the save leaders averaged 28.4%.

Smith, one of the top save men over the past three years, with
103, inherited 44 runners in those three years combined. And
only one of those runners was in scoring position with no outs.
Conversely, Nelson inherited 185 runners over the last three
years, including 24 runners in scoring position with no outs. In
1993, Nelson inherited a staggering total of 95 runners. Of the
aforementioned five closers, Beck inherited the most runners
over the past three seasons: 88.

"Middle guys are more resilient than a closer," says Rangers
pitching coach Dick Bosman. "They can pitch a couple innings and
come back for two more the next night, take a night off, then do
it again. You bring in a closer before the ninth and his eyes
fly out of his head, like, You mean I might have to throw more
than 25 pitches? The seventh inning is usually make-or-break

And at that time it's often a middle reliever--almost never a
closer--on the mound. Yet when a middle man escapes a major jam,
"two innings later, that's ancient history, especially in our
park," says Reed. "But everyone will remember it if you give up
a grand slam or a double off the wall."

If the middle man does shut down a rally, he usually earns a
hold, a relatively new, unofficial statistic that credits a
reliever who preserves a lead. It's a bogus stat because a
pitcher can get a hold without even finishing the inning. It's a
misleading stat because a pitcher can enter a game with the
bases loaded and no outs, ahead by one run, get a double-play
grounder tying the score, then retire the next hitter; he would
have done a fabulous job, but he wouldn't get credit for a hold
because he didn't preserve the lead. "I don't even know what a
hold is," says Reed. "When I get one, I tape the box score on my
locker and yell, 'That's number 9! I'm right in the running for
the league lead!'"

Middle men almost always lead the league in appearances; Reed
topped the NL in 1994 with 61 and was third in the league last
year. Closers may make a lot of appearances, but they don't warm
up three or four times a game, and when they do get up, they're
usually called in to pitch. Not so with a middle man. Pirates
pitching coach Ray Miller says they can be up throwing in the
pen 240 times a year.

Closers know when they're going to pitch; they have time to
prepare mentally and physically. Not a middle man. "When the
phone rings in the seventh," says Reed, "there's no pressure on
the closer. He knows it's not for him. With a middle guy, you
never know for sure. That phone rings, you twist." Reed usually
works the seventh or eighth, and sometimes he's only needed to
get one out. But on another night, he might come on in the fifth
and pitch three innings. "With a middle guy," says Reed, "it's,
Oh, what the heck, let him go [another inning or two]."

Most middle relievers are failed starters or closers, or
prospects who have never had a chance to start or close. Many
are veterans who are pitching for their lives. "They're hungry,"
says Such. When a starter fails, he goes to middle relief. When
a closer fails, he goes to middle relief. "But when a middle
reliever fails," says Such, "he goes to the minor leagues--or he
goes home." Middle men have nothing to lose. That's why the good
ones throw strikes so consistently and why, says Miller, they're
less likely to choke in a tough spot. "And if they take one on
the chin, it's not going to kill them," Miller says.
Consequently, many middle relievers are often happy in their
roles, and a happy pitcher is often a good pitcher. "Middle
relief is the last stop," Bosman says. "They have to love it.
They say they're happy, but to keep their jobs they'd probably
be happy changing the toilet paper in the men's room."

The last stop, middle relief, is rarely a long stop. Even the
best middle relievers are interchangeable. They seldom last more
than a couple of years with one team, then they're traded or
released because they're either burned out from so much work or
too expensive to keep because success has driven their salaries
to a level that most teams won't pay. Miller says two "huge"
losses for the '92 NL East champion Pirates were middle men Bob
Patterson and Roger Mason, who weren't offered contracts
because, says Miller, "[former G.M.] Ted Simmons said he
wouldn't pay a middle guy $700,000 a year. But together those
guys pitched in 76 of our 96 wins that year."

Last year Nelson, one of two middle relievers ranked in our top
five who was traded in the off-season, was instrumental in
getting the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time in their
19-year history; but he was sent packing in December in the deal
that took first baseman Tino Martinez to the Yankees. "The
reason we beat New York in the playoffs was because we had a
better bullpen," says Nelson. "They had [closer John] Wetteland,
but they didn't have anyone to get to him. Middle relievers are
more important than ever now. Going to New York, maybe I'll get
the respect I deserve." Part of the reason the Mariners traded
Nelson was financial--he might have been able to triple his
$275,000 salary through arbitration, and that would have been
too much for Seattle to pay for a middle reliever, no matter how

"Ownership holds down the salaries on these guys," says Miller.
"General managers can't go on the record with how valuable these
guys are because it's going to cost them too much at contract
time. They have to pay the saves guy. They have to pay the
hitting guys. Middle guys are always the last ones."

Reed knows that, but he isn't going anywhere. The Rockies know
how valuable he is, and so does Reed. "I know in my heart that I
could be a closer," he says. The Rockies usually close games
with Darren Holmes or Curtis Leskanic, but Reed is probably the
most important pitcher on the Colorado staff. The lack of
recognition doesn't bother him, nor does the fact that he could
be making more money--he made $265,000 last season--if he were a

"I like the environment on this team," he says. "In another
situation, I might say something. But I know my teammates and my
manager respect me. That satisfies my thirst. I know I'm a
cornerstone on this staff. They know I love to pitch."

Even on days when the sun falls out of the sky.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Reed pitches in more rocky spots than closers do. [Steve Reed in game]








COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Optical illusions aside, overworked middle men like Nelson run the risk of throwing their arms out. [Jeff Nelson appearing to have no right arm as he pitches]


1 Troy Percival, Angels
W-L 3-2
Saves 3
Blown saves 3
Holds 29
SO 94
G 62
Innings pitched 74
Hits 37
Walks 26
Pct. of inherited runners stranded 82.4
ERA 1.95
EQ Rating 100.00

2 Tony Fossas, Cardinals
[W-L] 3-0
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 0
[Holds] 19
[SO] 40
[G] 58
[Innings pitched] 36 2/3
[Hits] 28
[Walks] 10
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 70.7
[ERA] 1.47
[EQ Rating] 87.29

3 Steve Reed, Rockies
[W-L] 5-2
[Saves] 3
[Blown saves] 3
[Holds] 11
[SO] 79
[G] 71
[Innings pitched] 84
[Hits] 61
[Walks] 21
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 75.0
[ERA] 2.14
[EQ Rating] 82.67

4 Jeff Nelson, Mariners
[W-L] 7-3
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 14
[SO] 96
[G] 62
[Innings pitched] 78 2/3
[Hits] 58
[Walks] 27
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 73.6
[ERA] 2.17
[EQ Rating] 63.08

5 Dave Veres, Astros
[W-L] 5-1
[Saves] 1
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 19
[SO] 94
[G] 72
[Innings pitched] 103 1/3
[Hits] 89
[Walks] 30
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 66.0
[ERA] 2.26
[EQ Rating] 59.14

6 Greg McMichael, Braves
[W-L] 7-2
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 20
[SO] 74
[G] 67
[Innings pitched] 80 2/3
[Hits] 64
[Walks] 32
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 86.4
[ERA] 2.79
[EQ Rating] 56.55

7 Julian Tavarez, Indians
[W-L] 10-2
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 5
[Holds] 19
[SO] 68
[G] 57
[Innings pitched] 85
[Hits] 76
[Walks] 21
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 80.6
[ERA] 2.44
[EQ Rating] 53.61

8 Ricky Bottalico, Phillies
[W-L] 5-3
[Saves] 1
[Blown saves] 4
[Holds] 20
[SO] 87
[G] 62
[Innings pitched] 87 2/3
[Hits] 50
[Walks] 42
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 63.9
[ERA] 2.46
[EQ Rating] 49.70

9 Eric Plunk, Indians
[W-L] 6-2
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 3
[Holds] 10
[SO] 71
[G] 56
[Innings pitched] 64
[Hits] 48
[Walks] 27
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 78.3
[ERA] 2.67
[EQ Rating] 45.42

10 Bob Patterson, Angels
[W-L] 5-2
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 1
[Holds] 12
[SO] 41
[G] 62
[Innings pitched] 53 1/3
[Hits] 48
[Walks] 13
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 74.1
[ERA] 3.04
[EQ Rating] 42.89

11 Jesse Orosco, Orioles
[W-L] 2-4
[Saves] 3
[Blown saves] 3
[Holds] 15
[SO] 58
[G] 65
[Innings pitched] 49 2/3
[Hits] 28
[Walks] 27
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 73.2
[ERA] 3.26
[EQ Rating] 42.75

12 Paul Assenmacher, Indians
[W-L] 6-2
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 1
[Holds] 9
[SO] 40
[G] 47
[Innings pitched] 38 1/3
[Hits] 32
[Walks] 12
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 84.2
[ERA] 2.82
[EQ Rating] 39.71

13 Jim Corsi, Athletics
[W-L] 2-4
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 13
[SO] 26
[G] 38
[Innings pitched] 45
[Hits] 31
[Walks] 26
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 85.0
[ERA] 2.20
[EQ Rating] 37.61

14 Tim Scott, Expos
[W-L] 2-0
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 3
[G] 62
[Innings pitched] 63 1/3
[Hits] 52
[Walks] 23
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 86.5
[ERA] 3.98
[EQ Rating] 36.95

15 Rick Honeycutt, A's-Yankees
[W-L] 5-1
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 3
[Holds] 12
[SO] 21
[G] 52
[Innings pitched] 45 2/3
[Hits] 39
[Walks] 10
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 67.5
[ERA] 2.96
[EQ Rating] 35.90

16 Alejandro Pena, Marlins-Braves*
[W-L] 2-0
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 1
[Holds] 0
[SO] 39
[G] 27
[Innings pitched] 31
[Hits] 22
[Walks] 7
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 100
[ERA] 2.61
[EQ Rating] 35.84

17 Mike Jackson, Reds
[W-L] 6-1
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 9
[SO] 41
[G] 40
[Innings pitched] 49
[Hits] 38
[Walks] 19
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 73.7
[ERA] 2.39
[EQ Rating] 34.43

18 Greg Harris, Expos
[W-L] 2-3
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 3
[SO] 47
[G] 45
[Innings pitched] 48 1/3
[Hits] 45
[Walks] 16
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 71.1
[ERA] 2.61
[EQ Rating] 31.53

19 T.J. Mathews, Cardinals
[W-L] 1-1
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 0
[Holds] 7
[SO] 28
[G] 23
[Innings pitched] 29 2/3
[Hits] 21
[Walks] 11
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 66.7
[ERA] 1.52
[EQ Rating] 30.39

20 Mike Perez, Cubs
[W-L] 2-6
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 1
[Holds] 16
[SO] 49
[G] 68
[Innings pitched] 71 1/3
[Hits] 72
[Walks] 27
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 68.0
[ERA] 3.66
[EQ Rating] 29.54

21 Hector Carrasco, Reds
[W-L] 2-7
[Saves] 5
[Blown saves] 4
[Holds] 11
[SO] 64
[G] 64
[Innings pitched] 87 1/3
[Hits] 86
[Walks] 46
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 87.5
[ERA] 4.12
[EQ Rating] 29.16

22 Terry Mathews, Marlins
[W-L] 4-4
[Saves] 3
[Blown saves] 4
[Holds] 11
[SO] 72
[G] 57
[Innings pitched] 82 2/3
[Hits] 70
[Walks] 27
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 61.8
[ERA] 3.38
[EQ Rating] 28.84

23 Jeff Parrett, Cardinals
[W-L] 4-7
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 7
[SO] 71
[G] 59
[Innings pitched] 76 2/3
[Hits] 71
[Walks] 28
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 68.4
[ERA] 3.64
[EQ Rating] 27.87

24 Dan Plesac, Pirates
[W-L] 4-4
[Saves] 3
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 11
[SO] 57
[G] 58
[Innings pitched] 60 1/3
[Hits] 53
[Walks] 27
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 70.3
[ERA] 3.58
[EQ Rating] 27.86

25 Roger McDowell, Rangers
[W-L] 7-4
[Saves] 4
[Blown saves] 4
[Holds] 9
[SO] 49
[G] 64
[Innings pitched] 85
[Hits] 86
[Walks] 34
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 76.2
[ERA] 4.02
[EQ Rating] 27.85

26 Jerry DiPoto, Mets
[W-L] 4-6
[Saves] 2
[Blown saves] 4
[Holds] 8
[SO] 49
[G] 58
[Innings pitched] 78 2/3
[Hits] 77
[Walks] 29
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 74.1
[ERA] 3.78
[EQ Rating] 27.40

27 Brad Clontz, Braves
[W-L] 8-1
[Saves] 4
[Blown saves] 2
[Holds] 6
[SO] 55
[G] 59
[Innings pitched] 69
[Hits] 71
[Walks] 22
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 69.7
[ERA] 3.65
[EQ Rating] 27.10

28 Jim Poole, Indians
[W-L] 3-3
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 0
[Holds] 6
[SO] 41
[G] 42
[Innings pitched] 50 1/3
[Hits] 40
[Walks] 17
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 83.3
[ERA] 3.75
[EQ Rating] 26.71

29 Larry Casian, Cubs
[W-L] 1-0
[Saves] 0
[Blown saves] 3
[Holds] 4
[SO] 11
[G] 42
[Innings pitched] 23 1/3
[Hits] 23
[Walks] 15
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 60.7
[ERA] 1.93
[EQ Rating] 26.34

30 Bryce Florie, Padres
[W-L] 2-2
[Saves] 1
[Blown saves] 3
[Holds] 9
[SO] 68
[G] 47
[Innings pitched] 68 2/3
[Hits] 49
[Walks] 38
[Pct. of inherited runners stranded] 65.7
[ERA] 3.01
[EQ Rating] 26.24

*Also pitched 24 1/3 innings for Red Sox; only NL stats included

Research by David Sabino


Before we could rate the middle relievers, we first had to
determine who they are. To qualify for our ratings, a pitcher
had to have 1) started fewer than three games in 1995
(eliminating the failed starter and the former reliever promoted
to the rotation); 2) pitched more than 18 innings (eliminating
the temporary call-up); and 3) had less than 10% of his
appearances result in a save (eliminating the failed closer and
the hot prospect who took over as closer during the year).

Next we asked, What are the traits of an effective middle man?
Foremost, he should get hitters out. Most of the time these
relievers come in with men on base, so hits and walks are very
costly. In our formula, therefore, we take innings pitched and
divide that number by the sum of hits and walks.

It's also important to strand inherited base runners. Taking the
number of inherited runners left on base and dividing by the
total number of runners inherited, we come up with a reliever's
percentage of inherited runners stranded.

Middle relievers must be ready whenever the manager needs them.
With these guys, that's often. So total appearances is
meaningful. And, obviously, middle men should not allow many
runs of their own. ERA serves as a useful indicator.

What about wins? A middle reliever is not often in a position to
win a game--and if he does, it's as likely to be the result of
his being ineffective (e.g., he blew a lead and then watched his
team rally back) as being effective, so wins are not used in our
formula. Nor are losses, saves or blown saves.

How about strikeouts? Middle men have such specialized
roles--some are relied upon to get the K, others are called upon
to induce the ground ball or the pop-up--that in our rating, an
out is an out.

It is necessary to adjust the three elements in the numerator of
our formula. We weighted each number (multiplying it by the
inverse of the average for middle relievers in that category) so
that no one statistic is emphasized more than the others.

After running the numbers, then indexing our chart (multiplying
each reliever's score by a fixed number, approximately 2,342.5)
to make our top performer's rating 100, we have the Efficiency
Quotient (EQ).

EQ = ((Innings Pitched/Walks + Hits) x % of x Games)/ERA




The Washington Senators' 30-year-old Allan Russell, the AL's
save leader the previous season, loses his job to 25-year-old
Firpo Marberry, who notches a major-league-record 15 saves.
Russell goes down in history as the first closer to be
supplanted and demoted to middle relief.


Yankees reliever Joe Page enters Game 7 of the World Series in
the fifth inning with New York leading the visiting Brooklyn
Dodgers 3-2. Page pitches shutout ball over the final five
innings, allowing only one hit, to preserve the game and win the


Serving mostly as a setup man to Pittsburgh closer Elroy Face,
Pirates lefty Bob Veale compiles a minuscule 1.04 ERA. In 27
relief appearances Veale records only one win and three saves.
The Pirates add him to their starting rotation the next season.


In Game 1 of the World Series, Baltimore's Moe Drabowsky comes
on in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out to
relieve starter Dave McNally. Drabowsky pitches his way out of
the jam, allowing only one run to score. Over the next six
innings he allows just one hit and one walk, striking out 11
Dodgers, including six in a row to tie a Series record. Los
Angeles does not score another run in the Series.


Reds manager Sparky Anderson, the father of the modern bullpen,
rides a successful corps of relievers to the NL pennant. Wayne
Granger saves a then-record 35 games, but Clay Carroll, Don
Gullett and Ray Washburn are just as valuable pitching in setup
roles. Captain Hook's starters complete just 32 games, 10th in
the league.


In an inglorious end to the career of the pitcher with the most
career appearances, Hoyt Wilhelm begins his 1,018th and final
relief outing in the seventh inning of the second game of a July
10 doubleheader. Wilhelm finishes with 124 relief wins and 227


In the first no-hitter featuring middle-relief work, Glenn
Abbott and Paul Lindblad of the A's each pitch one inning in
relief of Vida Blue before turning it over to stopper Rollie
Fingers for the eighth and ninth innings of a late-season, 5-0
win over the Angels.


With newly acquired Rich Gossage taking over as closer, Sparky
Lyle of the Yankees becomes the first reigning Cy Young Award
winner to be relegated to the role of setup man.


St. Louis rookie reliever Todd Worrell enters Game 5 of the
World Series in the sixth inning with the Cardinals trailing
4-1. Worrell strikes out all six Royals batters he faces, tying
a World Series record for consecutive strikeouts. However, he
is pulled for a pinch hitter and the Cards fall to the Royals 6-1.


Reds manager Pete Rose makes 172 calls to the bullpen for the
lefty-righty setup tandem of Rob Murphy and Frank Williams.
Murphy's 87 relief appearances is a major league record for a
lefthander. Williams makes 46 of his 85 appearances before the
All-Star break, earning no decisions and one save, and finishes
with a 4-0 record and two saves. Murphy finishes 8-5 with three


Toronto setup man Mark Eichhorn sets the alltime record for
appearances by a middle reliever (one shy of the American League
mark for all pitchers) with 89.


In a late-September game, the Expos' ambidextrous reliever, Greg
Harris, becomes the first modern major league pitcher to throw
both lefthanded and righthanded in the same game. Normally a
righty, Harris uses a specially designed, six-fingered glove and
retires two Cincinnati batters as a righty and one of two as a