John Franco

Franco’s Adjusted ERA of 138 ranks fifth all-time among relievers with at least 1,000 innings. He trails only Mariano Rivera, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dan Quisenberry, and Trevor Hoffman. He ranks first for lefties, obviously. He racked up 424 saves and was pretty stingy allowing homers, too. But Franco has an image problem – he just isn’t seen as a Hall of Famer by most who saw him pitch. He wasn’t overpowering, he wasn’t flashy, and he never had a monster season by saves standards. He was a closer for more than a decade (most of it with the New York Mets), but his out pitch was the changeup, he didn’t dazzle any speed guns, he threw in the mid-to-high 80s. Franco’s highest save total was 39, but he did lead the NL in the category three times.

His image problem may stem from a perception by fans in Cincinnati and New York that he blew more than his share of save opportunities. But is that true? Franco blew 101 saves in his career, meaning he converted 81% of his opportunities. The percentage for the three pitchers with more saves than Franco: Hoffman (89%), Rivera (89%), and Lee Smith (82%). The rest of the top ten in career saves rate this way in save percentage: Billy Wagner (86%), Dennis Eckersley (85%), Jeff Reardon (78%), Troy Percival (86%), Randy Myers (85%), and Rollie Fingers (76%). The farther back we go, the tougher it is to compare save percentages, as Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, and the rest of the 1970s era closers were being handed tougher save opportunities. Franco’s 82% conversion rate and his 138 ERA+ are better or comparable to his peers.