John Franco was more than a compiler of saves. One of the greats of the game with 424 career saves, the former New York Mets closer actually did something else pretty well, too.
ERA+, which adjusts to the ballparks a player performed in, is a more modern statistic that can tell a better picture of how a pitcher performs. It takes into account whether they’re pitching often in Coors Field or a place friendlier for pitchers. A large part of Franco’s career happened to take place during a time when every ballpark was a hitter’s haven.
However, Franco, with a career ERA+ of 138, is actually one of the best in the history of baseball in this category.
Former Mets closer John Franco finished his career with one of the best ERA+ numbers in MLB history
Franco excelled early on in his career with the Cincinnati Reds, posting a 153 ERA+ as a member of their organization. If he had continued at that pace, he would have been seventh all-time in ERA+ behind Pedro Martinez at 154 and right before Satchel Paige at 152.
Because he still had a fantastic 132 ERA+ with the Mets and a final stint with the Houston Astros where he posted a 60 ERA+, Franco slid down to a tie in 22nd place with Mordecai Brown and Cy Young. It’s not bad company.
For what it’s worth, his Mets numbers alone would have ranked him 38th in a tie with Greg Maddux, Lee Smith, and several others.
The ERA+ leaders in MLB history is an elite class featuring several notable Mets. Jacob deGrom with a 157 ERA+ is in fourth place with only Clayton Kershaw at 155 capable of passing him.
Many names on this list are all-time pitching greats and the best closers in the game. Johan Santana and Max Scherzer are two names Mets fans will know well. Even Roberto Hernandez who had a brief pit stop with the team in the mid-2000s reached the top 50 and managed to tie Sandy Koufax, Roy Halladay, and Dizzy Dean for 44th place.
Definitely one of the most successful closers baseball has seen, his ERA+ tells us two things about him. One is his longevity. A guy like Billy Wagner, whose dominance on the mound was clearer, was short by 97 innings to even qualify for this list. The other story it tells, Franco was able to navigate the Steroid Era pretty well.