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MLB Saves Leaders By Year—1980s

Updated on May 12, 2008

Dave Righetti

Bruce Sutter

Rollie Fingers


In the 1980's, the closer's role was beginning to become more prominent and, well, important. You can even see as the decade wore on, the MLB leaders in saves began to close out more games than in previous years. Here is a list of those leaders from the ‘80's:

1989-Mark Davis, San Diego Padres (44)

Yes, the Padres had a closer before Trevor Hoffman. Mark Davis was a starter in San Francisco, but when the Giants traded him to San Diego, the Padres made him their closer for a few seasons. In 1989, Davis made that move pay off, leading the majors with 44 saves and taking home the NL Cy Young Award. That year, Davis went 4-3 with a 1.85 ERA, and 92 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched.

1988-Dennis Eckersley, Oakland Athletics (45)

1988 was Dennis Eckersley's first full season as a closer, and he finished with 45 saves for Oakland to lead the majors. That season, Eckersley finished second in the AL Cy Young voting, as he went 4-2 with a 2.35 earned run average and 70 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 72 innings of work.

1987-Steve Bedrosian, Philadelphia Phillies (40)

The Phillies' Steve Bedrosian was one of the game's best closers in the late ‘80's, and in 1987 he led all of baseball with 40 saves. That season, Bedrosian went 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 89 innings pitched, on his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award.

1986-Dave Righetti, New York Yankees (46)

Just like with the Padres and Trevor Hoffman, many people forget that the Yankees had a closer before Mariano Rivera. But in the ‘80's, Dave Righetti was one of the league's best. In 1986, Righetti saved a major league high 46 games which was also a career best.

Righetti went 8-8 that year with a 2.45 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 106 innings pitched.

1985-Jeff Reardon, Montreal Expos (41)

Jeff Reardon, who began his career with the Mets, did not become a dominant closer until he was traded to Montreal. After that, he was great for over a decade. In 1985, Reardon led the majors with 41 saves, despite going 2-8. Reardon also had a 3.18 ERA and struck out 67 batters in 87 innings of work.

1984-Bruce Sutter, St. Louis Cardinals (45)

Bruce Sutter was a great closer for the Cardinals, Cubs and Braves in his career, which spanned 12 seasons. In 1984, Sutter had a career high of 45 saves, which also led the majors that year. He also went 5-7 with a 1.54 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 122 innings pitched. Sutter's out pitch was his nasty split-finger fastball.

1983-Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City Royals (45)

Dan Quisenberry was one of the game's great closers, and sadly he passed away in 1998 at the age of 45. Quisenberry was known also for having an unconventional sidearm delivery. In 1983, he led the majors with 45 saves, and also went 5-3 with a 1.94 earned run average and 48 strikeouts.

1982-Bruce Sutter, St. Louis Cardinals (36)

Though nowhere near a career-best, Bruce Sutter led the majors in saves in 1982 with 36. That season, Sutter went 9-8 for St. Louis with a 2.90 earned run average and 61 strikeouts.

1981-Rollie Fingers, Milwaukee Brewers (28)

Rollie Fingers may have been better known for his crazy mustache than for his pitching, but in fact he was a great closer for many years. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, Fingers led the majors with 28 saves. That year, he went 6-3 with a microscopic 1.04 ERA and 61 strikeouts to just 13 walks in 78 innings of work, taking home both the NL Cy Young and MVP Awards.

1980-Rich Gossage, New York Yankees and Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City Royals (33)

Even before Mariano Rivera and Dave Righetti, the Yankees had one of the game's greatest closers of all-time in Rich "Goose" Gossage. In 1980, Gossage tied the Royals' Dan Quisenberry for the major league lead in saves, with 33. Gossage was 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 103 strikeouts to 37 walks in 99 innings pitched. Meanwhile, in addition to his own 33 saves, Quisenberry won 12 games (against 7 losses) out of the bullpen, and had a 3.09 ERA.


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