Oh, What a Relief: Jim Brewer
Though his best seasons came in the 1970s, Jim Brewer was a consistently effective and versatile reliever for the Los Angeles Dodgers for most of the 1960s. And unlike most of baseball’s relief specialists, whose dominance lasts only a year or two until their arms flame out, Brewer got better as he matured.
Brewer was one of the best at the “hold,” long before that aspect of relief pitching specialization was recognized. Then, when the Dodgers’ aging ace closers moved on, Brewer moved into that role, successfully, seamlessly, a genuine bullpen survivor.
A southpaw possessing a wicked screwball, Brewer was signed originally by the Chicago Cubs in 1956 and made his major league debut in 1960, going 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in four starts with the Cubs.
He was 1-7 for the Cubs in 1961, spent most of 1962 in the minors, and was 3-2 with a 4.89 ERA in 29 appearances with the Cubs in 1963, all but one appearance in relief.
Brewer was traded to the Dodgers following the 1963 season, and turned into an effective reliever for Los Angeles for the next 12 years. He was used primarily as a set-up pitcher for Ron Perranoski and then Phil Regan as the closers.
At age 30, Brewer moved into the closer’s role for the Dodgers in 1968, going 8-3 with 14 saves and a 2.49 ERA. He posted 20 saves in 1969 and 24 saves in 1970. In 1971 he went 6-5 with a 1.88 ERA and 22 saves. He had a career-best 1.26 ERA in 1972, going 8-7 with 17 saves.
Between 1969 and 1973, Brewer posted a combined ERA of 2.38, and averaged 56 appearances and 21 saves per season. Midway through the 1975 season, he was traded to the California Angels and went 1-0 with five saves and a 1.82 ERA in 21 appearances over the last three months of the season. He retired after appearing in 13 games during the 1976 season.
In 17 years in the major leagues. Brewer posted a record of 69-65 with a 3.07 career ERA. He had 132 saves, 125 with the Dodgers. In his 12 seasons with the Dodgers, Brewer had a 2.62 ERA. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 1973.