All-Time American League Saves Leaders By Team
Relief pitchers, and in particular, closers, did not really become a major part of teams until the eighties. But now, they are a necessary cog for all teams, and in some instances can separate a good team from a great team. Here, we take a look at the all-time saves leaders by team in the American League.
Baltimore Orioles-Gregg Olson
Gregg Olson was one of the premier closers in baseball during his years in Baltimore, who he came up to the majors with in 1988. Olson pitched for the Orioles until 1993, compiling 160 saves during that time. He suffered a season-ending elbow injury in 1993, and after the Orioles chose not to re-sign him, Olson went on to pitch for Atlanta and several other teams before retiring in 2001. Olson's best year in Baltimore was 1990 when he had 37 saves while going 6-5 with a 2.42 ERA.
Los Angeles Angels-Troy Percival
Right-hander Troy Percival is a flame throwing reliever who pitched for the Angels for most of his career (1995-2004) before signing with Detroit in 2005 (Percival is currently attempting a comeback in 2007 with the Cardinals after temporarily retiring). During his time in Los Angeles, Percival was one of the game's most feared closers, posting 316 career saves. His best overall season was 1998 when he notched 42 saves and struck out 87 batters in only 66.2 innings pitched. Percival also had 40 saves during the Angels' world championship season of 2002.
Oakland Athletics-Dennis Eckersley
Dennis Eckersley was a starting pitcher for most of his career, but Oakland manager Tony LaRussa experimented by putting the rubber-armed Eckersley in the closer's spot in 1987. It worked brilliantly, as Eckersley likely extended his career and pitched for the A's until 1995, notching 320 saves in the process. Eckersley had his best season as a closer in 1992, with 51 saves to go along with a 7-1 record, 1.91 earned run average, and 93 strikeouts in just 80 innings, earning him both the American League Cy Young and MVP Awards. "Eck" retired in 1998 after 24 big-league seasons.
Toronto Blue Jays-Tom Henke
Right-hander Tom Henke was a dominant closer in his heyday, and pitched for the Blue Jays from 1985 to 1992, the latter being the year the Blue Jays won their first championship. Henke had 217 career saves in Toronto, and his best overall season was 1987-despite going 0-6, Henke had 34 saves and 128 strikeouts in 94 innings pitched. He aptly earned the nickname "The Terminator," and was known just as much for his large-rimmed glasses as he was for closing out games.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays-Roberto Hernandez
The Devil Rays began play as an expansion team in 1998, and their career saves leader is Roberto Hernandez with 101 saves during his tenure with the team (1998-2000). 1999 was Hernandez' best season in Tampa, when he had 43 saves and 69 strikeouts in 73 innings of work. Hernandez is a journeyman pitcher who is now a set-up man for the Cleveland Indians in 2007.
Cleveland Indians-Bob Wickman
For a franchise that featured premier closers such as Doug Jones and Jose Mesa, it's almost a surprise that sinkerballer Bob Wickman is the Indians' all-time saves leader with 139. Wickman pitched for the Tribe from 2000 to 2006, and though he missed all or parts of seasons battling injury, he was very effective when healthy. Wickman had 45 saves in 2005 despite going 0-4, but his best overall season in Cleveland was 2001 when he went 5-0 with a 2.39 ERA and 32 saves. Wickman was traded to the Braves in 2006 and is currently Atlanta's closer.
Seattle Mariners-Kazuhiro Sasaki
Kazuhiro Sasaki was a Japanese import pitcher who pitched in Seattle from 2000 to 2003. During that time, Sasaki became the Mariners' all-time saves leader with 129. His best total was in 2001, when he notched 45 saves despite an 0-4 record. Sasaki also had 242 strikeouts in only 223.1 innings of work with Seattle. He returned to Japan in 2004 and eventually retired from the game completely in 2005.
Texas Rangers-John Wetteland
After helping the New York Yankees win a world championship in 1996, John Wetteland signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent and became their all-time saves leader in just four seasons (1997-2000). In all, Wetteland saved 150 games for the Rangers, and though he notched 43 saves in 1999, his best overall year in Texas was 2000 when he saved 42 games while going 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA, and 72 strikeouts in 62 innings.
Boston Red Sox-Bob Stanley
Bob Stanley pitched his entire career in Boston, from 1977 to 1989. Stanley began his career as a starter, but became the team's closer officially in 1980. His best season was 1983, with 33 saves and 2.85 ERA. Stanley was also a big part of the 1986 team that went to the World Series against the Mets. He retired after the 1989 season.
Kansas City Royals-Jeff Montgomery
Jeff Montgomery was one of the game's greatest relief pitchers, saving a total of 304 games for a career spent mostly in a Royals uniform (1988-1999). In 1993, Montgomery saved 45 games while posting a 7-5 record and 2.27 earned run average. He retired after losing his effectiveness as a relief pitcher following the 1999 season.
Detroit Tigers-Todd Jones
Most closers are flamethrowers, but sometimes sinkerball types like Todd Jones can be equally as successful in that role. Jones was the Tigers' closer from 1997 to 2001, and rejoined the team in 2006. He is the franchise's all-time saves leader with 195. In 2000, Jones saved 42 games with a 3.52 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 64 innings of work. He also saved 37 games in 2006 en route to the Tigers winning the American League pennant, and still holds that job today.
Minnesota Twins-Rick Aguilera
After spending the first few years of his career as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets, Rick Aguilera was briefly put into a relief role, something that prompted the Minnesota Twins to trade for the right-hander in 1989. Aguilera would go on to become one of the most successful closers in baseball, notching a total of 254 saves in a Twins uniform from 1989 to 1999 (despite a short stint in Boston in 1995). Aguilera's best season in Minnesota was 1991, when he had 42 saves and a 2.35 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 69 innings, helping to lead his team to a World Series title.
Chicago White Sox-Bobby Thigpen
Bobby Thigpen pitched for the White Sox for most of his career, from 1986 to 1993, and tallied 201 saves during that time. In 1990, Thigpen notched 57 saves, a major league record that still stands today. That same year, Thipgen was 4-6 with a 1.83 earned run average, and 70 strikeouts in 88.2 innings pitched. Thigpen was traded to the Phillies in 1993 and after pitching for the Phils and Mariners briefly, retired in 1994. He is currently the manager of the Bristol White Sox.
New York Yankees-Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera is one of the all-time great closers in the game, and has pitched for the Yankees his entire career (1995-present). Rivera has 421 saves all-time, helping the Yankees to four World Series titles (he was the World Series MVP in 1999). In 2004, Rivera saved 53 games while going 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA, and 66 strikeouts in 78.2 innings pitched. He currently ranks fourth all-time for career saves in all of major league baseball.