Before there was Billy Wagner there was Dave Smith, the All-Star Closer for the Astros 1980 squads. In advance of game 73 today we'll be looking at Dave Smith and his 1987 season in which he struck out 73 batters in 60 innings of work.
Dave Smith is second on the Astros franchise saves list with 199 saves in 762 innings. Drafted in the 8th round of the 1976 amateur draft he made his Major League debut with the Astros April 11, 1980. He pitched 13 years in the majors 11 with the Astros and two with the Cubs. For his career he had a 2.67 ERA , 216 saves, a 130 ERA+ 3.1 walks per nine innings (BB/9) and 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings (SO/9).
His best season was arguable the 1987 when he posted a 1.65 ERA, or a 239 ERA+, in 60 innings and collected 24 saves. As you probably guessed a career 6.1 SO/9 doesn't typically get you seasons where you strikeout a batter an inning. In 1987 for what ever reason Smith's SO/9 jumped from 7.4 in 1986 to 11 in 1987. That's quite the jump and interestingly enough he got no recognition for it. In 1986 with almost a full run more on his ERA he was given an All-Star nod and finished 17th in MVP voting. His ERA+ that year was 132. My how the times have changed.
Another thing of note is that he didn't give up a homerun at all in 1987, the only other year he did that was his final year with Cubs 1992 when he pitched only 14.2 innings. Eight times in 11 years with Houston Smith collected double digits in saves. Nowadays closers have to strikeout almost a batter per nine or more, which makes what Smith did, 6.1 SO/9 and ERA below 3, quite impressive.