MLB Saves Leaders By Year—1990s
In the ‘90's, closers were really becoming high-paid, power-armed, slam-the-door ball players. Some of them were even more valuable to their teams than others, like Randy Myers, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera (the latter two of which are still closing in 2008). Here is a complete list of those major league saves leaders by year in the 1990s:
1999-Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (45)
Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera has been one of the most consistent performers at his position as anyone in history, his longevity only surpassed by Padres' closer Trevor Hoffman. In 1999, Rivera's third season as the Yank's full-time closer, he led the majors with 45 saves. Rivera was 4-3 that year with a 1.83 ERA and 52 strikeouts, with just 18 walks in 69 innings pitched.
1998-Trevor Hoffman, San Diego Padres (53)
Trevor Hoffman began closing games for the Padres in 1994, and as I write this, he's 40 years old and still closing for San Diego, with 529 lifetime saves. In 1998, Hoffman was part of the NL champion Padres team, and helped them get there by saving a major-league best 53 games. He also was 4-2 with a 1.48 ERA, and 86 strikeouts to just 21 walks in 73 innings of work.
1997-Randy Myers, Baltimore Orioles (45)
Lefty Randy Myers had some incredible seasons, and he was a journeyman closer who pitched for the Mets, Reds, Padres, Cubs and Orioles over a 14-year career. Myers led the majors in saves in 1997 while with Baltimore (45), four years after he led all of MLB with 53 saves while with the Cubs. In 1997, Myers was 2-3 with a 1.51 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 59 innings of work.
1996-Jeff Brantley, Cincinnati Reds and Todd Worrell, Los Angeles Dodgers (44)
In 1996, two pitchers tied for the major league lead in saves with 44-the Reds' Jeff Brantley and the Dodgers' Todd Worrell. Brantley went 1-2 with a 2.41 ERA, striking out 76 batters in 71 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Worrell was 4-6 with a 3.03 earned run average, with 66 strikeouts to just 15 walks in 65 innings of work. The 44 saves were also career highs for both closers.
1995-Jose Mesa, Cleveland Indians (46)
In a season that began a bit later due to the holdover of the 1994 players' strike, Cleveland's Jose Mesa dominated out of the bullpen in helping lead the Indians to their first World Series appearance since 1948. Mesa saved a major league best 46 games, while going 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 58 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 64 innings.
1994-Lee Smith, Baltimore Orioles (33)
Lee Smith was one of the most intimidating closers in history, and in the strike-shortened 1994 season, led all of baseball with 33 saves. Smith was 1-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 42 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 38 innings pitched.
1993-Randy Myers, Chicago Cubs (53)
Myers had what might have been a career season in 1993 while with the Cubs, even more amazing when you consider that he pitched half the time in a hitter's ballpark, Wrigley Field. Myers led the majors in saves with 53, a career best. He also went 2-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 86 strikeouts to 26 walks in 75 innings of work.
1992-Dennis Eckersley, Oakland Athletics (51)
Former starting pitcher Dennis Eckersley prolonged his career when manager Tony LaRussa made him a closer. Not only that, he was a damn good one. In 1992, Eckersley led the majors with 51 saves, which was a career high. That season, he went 7-1 out of the bullpen with a 1.91 ERA and 93 strikeouts with just 11 walks in 80 innings pitched. All of that earned Eckersley the dual honors of AL Cy Young and AL MVP.
1991-Lee Smith, St. Louis Cardinals (47)
In 1991 while with St. Louis, Lee Smith led the majors with a career-best 47 saves. It was the first of two times in the decade that Smith would lead in that category. He went 6-3 with a 2.34 earned run average, striking out 67 batters with just 13 walks in 73 innings of work.
1990-Bobby Thigpen, Chicago White Sox (57)
Though White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen didn't have a long career, he made it count in 1990 with 57 saves, which not only led the majors that season, but also still stands in 2008 as the major league record. That season, Thigpen went 4-6 with a 1.83 ERA and 70 strikeouts with 32 walks in 88 innings pitched.