Cubs: Three legends who deserve to have their number retired
Cubs: Relief pitcher Lee Smith, number 46
There may not be as dominant a relief pitcher in the Cubs organization’s storied history than right-hander Lee Smith. Smith, who was selected in the 1975 MLB draft, pitched the first eight years of his 18-year career in a Cubs uniform.
In his first year as a 22-year-old, Smith enjoyed a cup of coffee at the big league level. He tossed 21 2/3 innings, posting a dominant 2.91 ERA without allowing a home run. In 1983, he earned his first all-star nod and finished ninth in National League Cy Young voting. From 1983-1987, his last in a Cubs uniform, Smith compiled a 2.84 ERA across 266 games with 126 saves.
One of Smith’s most fun statistics during that time was the number of batters he faced and the lack of hit batters. In those five seasons, Smith faced 1,610 batters and hit a total of two. In that time, Smith recorded a steady 24.3 percent strikeout rate while keeping his walk rate north of ten percent.
Smith, from 1993 through 2006, held the major league record for career saves before former San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman surpassed his total. In 2018, Smith was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He recorded four consecutive seasons of 30+ saves and is regarded as the best relief pitcher in club history. As such, Smith deserves his own numbered flag flying high above Wrigley, and it’s time the Cubs said sayonara to the number 46 and retired it for good.