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Jeff Shaw

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Jeffrey Lee Shaw

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[edit] Biographical Information

In 1997, pitching for the Cincinnati Reds, Jeff Shaw recorded a save in 15 straight appearances on the mound. It was a Reds team record until 2012, when Aroldis Chapman eclipsed him. Shaw became an elite closer relatively late in his career, not being assigned to the role until he was 30 years old and in his 9th major league season.

He was a starter when he first came up with the Cleveland Indians in 1990, going 3-4, 6.66, in 12 games. He had a solid 3.36 ERA in 29 games as a reliever in 1991, even if his record was 0-5. He recorded his first career save that year. He spent most of 1992 in the minor leagues, going 0-1, 8.22 in 2 major league appearances.

Shaw signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals after the 1992 season, then was traded to the Montreal Expos a month later, on December 9th, along with C Tim Spehr in return for Ps Mark Gardner and Doug Piatt. The Expos installed him as their swingman in 1993, and he was 2-7, 4.14 in 55 games, making 8 starts and pitching 95 2/3 innings. He was a full-time reliever for the great 1994 Expos team that was prevented by the 1994 strike from playing in the postseason; that year, he went 5-2, 3.88 in 46 games. In 1995, he was 1-6, 4.62 in 50 games for the Expos. On August 28th, the Expos traded him to the Chicago White Sox for an aging Jose DeLeon. He pitched 9 times for the Sox, with no record and a 6.52 ERA, and became a free agent after the season.

By that point, Shaw had had a non-descript career, only showing that he was a generic right-handed reliever who could give his team a fair number of average innings. When he signed with the Reds for the 1996 season, there was no reason to expect much else, but in his first year with the team, he was given much more important responsibilities. He ended up with a record of 8-6, 2.49 in 78 appearances, pitching 104 2/3 innings and picking up four saves as a key member of the team's bullpen. On the strength of that very solid year, the Reds handed him the closer job in May of 1997, taking over for an injured Jeff Brantley, and it's fair to say that he exceeded all expectations, going 4-2, 2.38 with a league-leading 42 saves, with a K/W rate of 74/12 in 94 2/3 innings. His string of consecutive saves occurred between August 25th and September 19th; he was charged with a blown save in his next outing, then finished the year with two more saves in his final two appearances. He won the Rolaids Relief Award as the best reliever in the National League. He continued to pitch lights out in 1998, putting up a 1.81 ERA with 23 saves in 39 outings for the Reds and being named to the All-Star team for the first time. On July 4th, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes. Strangely, his first appearance in a Dodgers uniform was in the All-Star Game. He picked up another 25 saves in 34 games for his new team, ending the year with a combined record of 3-8, 2.12 and 48 saves.

Jeff Shaw pitched three more seasons with the Dodgers, and kept the closer's job to the end, racking up 34 saves with a 2.78 ERA in 1999, 27 saves in 2000, and another 43 in 77 appearances in 2001. His ERA did go up somewhat - these were the heart of the big-offense era - but were still pretty good, finishing at 3.62 in 2001, when he was an All-Star for the second time. After that season, he became a free agent again. He could likely have found a job and continued to pitch had he wanted to, but he chose to retire at age 35, having accomplished much more in the major leagues than anyone would have thought possible. In all, he had pitched 633 games in 12 years, picking up 203 saves with a 3.54 ERA - good for an ERA+ of 119.

His son, Travis Shaw, is a first baseman in the Boston Red Sox organization.

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