All-Time National League Saves Leaders By Team
Closers have been a big part of major league baseball franchises for the last couple of decades, and guys like Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman continue to re-write the record books. Here we take a look at all-time saves leaders by team in the National League.
Arizona Diamondbacks-Matt Mantei
Matt Mantei pitched in Arizona from 1999 to 2004, and leads the team in career saves with 74. Mantei is a flamethrower whose fastball has been clocked at 100 MPH. But he has battled injuries for much of his career, and though he hasn't officially retired is probably done playing professionally. Mantei's best season with the D-backs was 2003, when he notched 29 saves, while going 5-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 68 strikeouts in just 55 innings pitched.
Atlanta Braves-John Smoltz
20-year veteran pitcher John Smoltz has played for the Braves his entire major league career (1988 to present), and has done it all. He's won a World Series ring, won over 200 games, and as he's been both a starter and reliever, saving 154 games. Braves manager Bobby Cox experimented with Smoltz in the bullpen during the 2001 season, and made him the team's full-time closer in 2002, a position he held for three seasons before moving back to the starting rotation where he still resides today. But that three-year span was one of the best by any reliever in history, as Smoltz notched 144 saves. His best year in that regard was 2002, when Smoltz saved 55 games and had 85 strikeouts in just 80 innings pitched.
Chicago Cubs-Lee Smith
Lee Smith is one of the greatest closers in baseball history, as his career saves mark of 478 will attest to. And though he would have some of his best seasons with the Cardinals, Smith began his career with the Cubs in 1980 and pitched for them until 1987. During that time, Smith saved 180 games, including 36 in 1987 to go along with a 3.12 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 83.2 innings pitched. He would go on to pitch for the Cardinals, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Reds and Expos before retiring in 1997.
Cincinnati Reds-Danny Graves
Most folks think of pitchers like John Franco and Rob Dibble when they think of Reds relievers, but it's Danny Graves who leads the team in career saves with 182. Graves pitched for the Reds from 1998 to 2005 after coming over from the Indians in a trade. His best season in Cincinnati was 2004 when, despite a 1-6 record, Graves posted 40 saves and a 3.95 ERA. After going on to pitch for the Mets, Graves had a second stint with the Indians, and is currently pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League.
Colorado Rockies-Jose Jiminez
It can't be easy being a pitcher in the thin air of Coors Field in Denver. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Colorado Rockies' all-time saves leader is Jose Jiminez with 102. Jiminez was the team's closer from 2000 to 2003, and his best season in Denver was 2002-despite losing 10 games, he saved 41 games with a 3.56 ERA.
Florida Marlins-Robb Nen
I'm sick of writing this probably more than the fans of South Florida care, but the Marlins have had this habit of blowing up their team each time they win a championship. They did that after winning it all in both 1997 and 2003, and therefore their career leaders in most categories have only mildly impressive statistics. Not to say that 108 career saves with one team is mild, but you get the idea. Closer Robb Nen has that distinction, notching that many saves with the Marlins from 1994 to 1997, including 35 with a 1.95 ERA in 1996. Nen is also currently the only player to lead two different teams (see the Giants below) in career saves.
Houston Astros-Billy Wagner
Left hander Billy Wagner has become one of the game's best closers in the last few years while pitching for Philadelphia and the New York Mets, but many have already forgotten that Wagner came up with the Houston Astros and pitched there for almost a decade (1995-2003). During that time Wagner saved 225 games, and had his best season with Houston in 2003 with 45 saves, 1.78 earned run average, and 105 strikeouts in 86 innings of work. In 1999 Wagner had 39 saves, and an amazing 124 strikeouts in just 74 innings. He is currently the Mets' closer.
Los Angeles Dodgers-Eric Gagne
When he became the Dodgers' closer in 2002, fire-baller Eric Gagne became one of the best closers in the game during a three-year span. From 2002-2004, Gagne saved 152 games, including a career high of 55 in 2003. He also had a 1.20 ERA that season, and a mind blowing 137 strikeouts in just 82.1 innings pitched on his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award. But injuries put Gagne on the shelf, and after missing most of 2005 and 2006, Gagne signed with the Texas Rangers in 2007.
Milwaukee Brewers-Dan Plesac
Though he made the transition from closer to set-up man later in his 18-year career, lefty Dan Plesac began his career as the Brewers' closer in 1986. During his tenure in Milwaukee (1986-1992), Plesac had 133 saves, ranking him first in team history, including a career high of 33 in 1989. He went on to pitch for the Cubs, Blue Jays, Pirates, Diamondbacks and Phillies before retiring in 2003.
New York Mets-John Franco
He was one of the most beloved players in New York Mets history, and he's also the team's career leader in saves. Lefty John Franco, Brooklyn born and bred, grew up rooting for the Mets and was thrilled when the Reds traded him there in 1990. Franco would go on to post 276 saves in New York, before leaving as a free agent to Houston in 2005. The same year Franco saved a career high of 38 games for the Mets, he also went 0-8 (1998). He hasn't officially retired but hasn't pitched in the majors since the Astros released him in 2005, and Franco still ranks among the best relievers of all-time with 424 career saves.
Philadelphia Phillies-Jose Mesa
Here is another franchise where you'd think someone like Tug McGraw, Steve Bedrosian or Mitch Williams would be the team's career saves leader. But it's Jose Mesa with 111 saves during his brief Phillies tenure (2001-2003). In 2002, Mesa had 45 saves, a 2.97 ERA and 64 strikeouts. He has also pitched for the Indians, Orioles, Giants, Mariners, Pirates, Rockies and Tigers, and recently signed with the Phillies for a second tour of duty.
Pittsburgh Pirates-Roy Face
Roy Face was a top-notch closer before closers were in vogue, pitching for the Pirates from 1953-1968 and saving 188 games during that span. Face's best season was 1962, when he posted 28 saves to go along with a 1.88 ERA and 8 wins. Face still holds National League records for consecutive wins (17), consecutive relief appearances (657) and games finished (574).
San Diego Padres-Trevor Hoffman
Trevor Hoffman is the all-time saves leader in the major leagues with 499 to date, and he has pitched in San Diego for almost his entire career (1993-present). In addition to being one of the game's all-time best relievers, Hoffman had his best single season in 1998, helping lead the Padres to one of only two NL pennants in their existence. That season, Hoffman had 53 saves, 4-2 record, 1.48 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 73 innings of work. He's also led the National League in saves twice (1998 and 2006).
San Francisco Giants-Robb Nen
After becoming the all-time saves leader for the Florida Marlins (see above), Robb Nen went on to the San Francisco Giants where he pitched from 1998 to 2002, saving 206 games to lead this franchise as well. Nen had 45 saves in 2001, but his best overall season in a Giants uniform was 1998 when he saved 40 games with a 1.52 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 88.2 innings pitched.
St. Louis Cardinals-Jason Isringhausen
On a team that has fielded relievers such as Lee Smith, Todd Worrell, Bruce Sutter, and Dennis Eckersley, it's almost hard to believe that current closer Jason Isringhausen is the team's all-time saves leader with 187. Isringhausen began his career as a starter with the Mets, and after the Oakland A's made him a closer in 1999, he would go on to have his best years in that capacity in a Cardinals uniform (2002-present). In 2004, Isringhausen notched a career high of 47 saves, to go along with a 4-2 record, 2.87 ERA and 71 strikeouts in leading his team to the National League pennant.
Washington Nationals-Jeff Reardon
Reliever Jeff Reardon began his career with the New York Mets, but really came into his own after being traded to the Montreal Expos (the Nationals' former identity). During his Expos' tenure, Reardon saved 152 games. His best season overall with Montreal was 1985, when he saved 41 games to go along with a 3.18 earned run average. Reardon went on to pitch for the Red Sox, Twins, Yankees, Braves, and Reds before retiring in 1994.