After 17 extraordinary seasons in baseball, Mariano Rivera stands alone as the all-time leader in saves. Here is a look at the top 20 players on baseball's career saves list.
MARIANO RIVERA, 652 saves
19 seasons, 1995-present
Since taking over the closer’s role for the Yankees in 1997, Rivera has saved 30 or more games in every season but two (2002, 2012). What’s even more impressive is Rivera’s career saves figures do not factor in his astonishing MLB-record 42 saves in the postseason, 11 of which came in the World Series. Add to that a postseason ERA of 0.70 and Rivera can be justifiably called the greatest playoff closer of all-time — and arguably the greatest closer, period. |
TREVOR HOFFMAN, 601 saves
18 seasons, 1993-2010
In 18 seasons — 15 and a half of which were spent with the San Diego Padres — he notched more than 30 saves 14 times and more than 40 nine times, all of which are major-league records. He was the first closer to eclipse the 500-save mark and one of only two members of the 600-save club. His likely Hall of Fame career also includes 1,133 career strikeouts and a 2.87 career ERA.
LEE SMITH, 478 saves
18 seasons, 1980-97
Before Hoffman and Rivera, Lee Smith was the top dog in saves. Smith racked up a team-record 180 saves in his first eight seasons with the Chicago Cubs. After two-plus seasons in Boston, Smith closed for the St. Louis from 1990-93, where he saved 160 games. His 47 saves in 1991 were a National League record at the time.
JOHN FRANCO, 424 saves
21 seasons, 1984-2005
Slow and steady wins the race. Or, in John Franco’s case, it will at least get you a ton of saves. Over his 21-year career, the screwball-throwing lefty never once eclipsed 40 saves in a season. But his durability and consistency would net him second place on the all-time save list at the time he retired. Franco saved 276 games in 14 seasons for the Mets, a franchise record. In his latter years, Franco became the Mets' third team captain in history.
BILLY WAGNER, 422 saves
16 seasons, 1995-2010
Wagner pitched his first nine seasons with the Astros, accumulating a team-record 225 saves. His best season was 2003 in which he notched 44 saves and a 1.78 ERA. He then played two seasons with the Phillies, followed by 3 1/2 seasons with the Mets. The hard-throwing lefty retired after the 2010 season in Atlanta as the fifth person to eclipse 400 saves. While Wagner’s career 2.31 ERA is impressive, his 10.03 postseason ERA is not.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY, 390 saves
24 seasons, 1975-98
Eck’s position is remarkable when you consider that he was a starter for his first 12 seasons (He went 20-8 with a 2.99 ERA in 1978.) In 1987, Eckersley was traded to Oakland and after closer Jay Howell was injured, he began the second half of his pitching career. Over the next 12 seasons, Eckersley amassed 387 saves. In 1992, he won the AL MVP and Cy Young award with a 7-1 record, 1.91 ERA and 51 saves. In 2004, Eckersley was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. |
JEFF REARDON, 367 saves
16 seasons, 1979-94
Reardon played for the Mets, Expos, Twins, Red Sox, Braves, Reds and Yankees over his career. He hit the 40-save mark with three different teams. In 1985, he saved 41 games for Montreal on his way to winning NL Reliever of the Year. Then, in 1987, he won a World Series with Minnesota. Reardon pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in the series and had one save. He retired in 1994 second on the all-time saves list behind only Lee Smith.
TROY PERCIVAL, 358 saves
14 seasons, 1995-2009
Percival played the bulk of his closer career with the Anaheim Angels, compiling a team-record 316 saves over eight seasons. In 2002, he had a 1.92 ERA and 40 saves during the regular season, plus seven more in the playoffs, anchoring the Angels’ bullpen on the way to their first World Series title. After short stints with Detroit and St. Louis, Percival ended his career with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009.
RANDY MYERS, 347 saves
14 seasons, 1985-98
Myers began his career with the Mets, became their closer in 1988 and was later traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1990 where he won the World Series that same year. Myers pitched one season for the San Diego Padres before joining the Chicago Cubs in 1993 where he posted his best statistical season with a then-National League record 53 saves. He also pitched for the Orioles and Blue Jays before a shoulder injury sidelined him.
ROLLIE FINGERS, 341 saves
18 seasons, 1968-85
Fingers is widely regarded as the pioneer of modern relief pitching. Originally a starter in the minors, Fingers was moved to the bullpen because of ineffectiveness. Fingers was a three-time World Series champion with the Oakland A’s and also won the World Series MVP in 1974. He pitched for the Padres before joining the Brewers in 1981. That year, he won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards. Fingers is one of only a few MLB players to have his number retired with more than one team (Oakland, Milwaukee).
JOE NATHAN: 330 saves
13 seasons, 1999-present
Since becoming a full-time closer in 2004 with Minnesota, the Stony Brook University graduate has saved at least 36 games in all but one season (14 in 2011). Now with the Texas Rangers, Nathan is a six-time All-Star closer. |
JOHN WETTELAND, 330 saves
12 seasons, 1989-2000
During his 12 seasons, Wetteland pitched for the Dodgers, Expos,Yankees and Rangers. During his second season with the Yankees in 1996, he led the American League in saves with 43 and won the World Series MVP by tying the record for most saves in a single postseason series (four). He also set a record for saves in the full postseason with seven. In 1999, he set a Rangers team record with 43 saves. Wetteland was awarded the Rolaids Reliever of the Decade after earning the most saves of any pitcher during the 1990s.
FRANCISCO CORDERO: 329 saves
14 seasons, 1999-2012
Cordero played for six teams and earned saves with four of them, the top being 150 in four seasons with the Reds. In 2004 with the Rangers, he had a career best 49 saves. |
ROBERTO HERNANDEZ, 326 saves
18 seasons, 1991-2007
Hernandez pitched for 10 teams in 18 years. He made his debut in 1991 with the Chicago White Sox and pitched there for six years, his longest tenure with any team. In 1999 with the Tampa Bay Rays, he earned a career-high 43 saves In August 2007, Hernandez became the 11th pitcher in appear in at least 1,000 games.
JOSE MESA, 321 saves
21 seasons, 1987-2007
Mesa began his career as a starter with Baltimore, but after below average results in three-plus seasons, he was traded to Cleveland in 1992. He became a relief pitcher in 1994 and posted an ERA better than the league average for the first time in his career. In 1995 he led the AL in saves (46) had a 1.13 ERA as the Indians reached the World Series for the first time since 1954. Mesa also pitched for the Giants, Mariners, Phillies, Pirates, Rockies and Tigers.
TODD JONES, 319 saves
16 seasons, 1993-2008
Jones pitched for eight teams during his career, most notably for the Detroit Tigers. His first stint with the Tigers was from 1997-2001, when he recorded 142 saves. In 1999, he threw the last official pitch at Tiger Stadium. After playing for six different teams from 2001-2005, he returned to Detroit in 2006. In 2008, he retired as Detroit’s all-time saves leader.
RICK AGUILERA, 318 saves
16 seasons, 1985-2000
Aguilera was the No. 5 starter on the Mets’ 1986 World Series team. In 1989, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins where he became one of baseball’s premier closers. In 1991, he saved 42 games with a 2.35 ERA, helping lead the Twins to a division title and another World Series title. Aguilera also pitched for the Red Sox and Cubs before retiring. He is the Twins’ all-time saves leader with 254.
ROBB NEN, 314 saves
10 seasons, 1993-2002
Nen was drafted by Texas but was traded to Florida in his first year. He earned 108 saves with Florida while establishing himself as one of the elite closers of the 1990s. After winning a World Series with the Marlins in 1997, Nen was traded to San Francisco. In his first year there, Nen saved 40 games with a 1.52 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 88.7 innings. After the 2002 season, Nen injured his throwing arm and officially retired in 2005. |
TOM HENKE, 311 saves
14 seasons, 1982-95
"The Terminator" was one of the most dominant and feared closers during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He began his career with the Rangers but got his chance when the Blue Jays chose him as a free-agent compensation pick in 1985. He became the team’s closer in 1986, racked up 217 saves in eight seasons and helped Toronto win its first title in 1992. He had another brief stint with the Rangers and then with the Cardinals before retiring with a career 2.67 ERA. |
RICH "GOOSE" GOSSAGE, 310 saves
22 seasons, 1972-94
Gossage never had more than 33 saves in a season, yet he led the majors three times in saves. That's because this Hall of Famer pitched in an era where closers routinely came into the game in the 7th or 8th inning and pitched through the 9th. He was 124-107 with a 3.01 career ERA. |