Rich Gossage, famously known by his iconic mustache and nickname Goose, is one of the best relievers to ever play the game. His 31.1 career fWAR is the second most by any relief pitcher. He played from the early 70’s up to the mid-90’s, and the intimidating right hander is best known for his seven season tenure with the New York Yankees. But before he was one of the most dominant Yankee relief pitchers of all time, he was once the Pirates’ lockdown closer.
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Gossage in a 1976-1977 offseason trade that sent the closer and fellow pitcher Terry Foster to Pittsburgh in exchange for Silvio Martinez and the underrated Richie Zisk to the Chicago White Sox.
Up to that point, Gossage had been used in almost every role. From 1972 to 1974, Gossage was a swing man. He appeared in 95 games, eight of which were starts, but overall put up mixed numbers. In 1975, he was a shutdown closer with a 1.84 ERA, 2.62 FIP and 1.19 WHIP in 141.2 innings while leading the league in saves. Gossage was moved to the rotation almost full-time the next season, but the results were overall middling with a 3.94 ERA, 3.68 FIP and 1.35 WHIP in 224 innings.
That was when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite this being his only season in Pittsburgh, it’s arguably the best season of his career. Goose was absolutely dominant, putting together a 1.62 FIP, 2.50 FIP and 0.95 WHIP in 133 innings of work. He and Kent Tekulve made a formidable duo in the Bucs’ pen. Gossage struck out batters at an insane 28.9% rate, over double the league average that year, while only allowing 9 home runs. Though he wasn’t a control freak, he kept his walk rate below 10% at 9.4%, which was right around league average.
Among seasons where Gossage pitched at least 50 innings, it’s the best year of his career in terms of ERA, FIP, WHIP, ERA+, ERA-, strikeout rate, hits/9, and fWAR.