MLB Saves Leaders By Year—2000s
Saves have become one of the most important stats for teams, because those teams have realized the importance of being able to take a lead and slam the door. In addition, many pitchers have benefited from becoming closers, both in helping their own careers and in fattening their own wallets with big contracts. But a lot of closers do not close for more than a few years because of arm strain....Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are exceptions. Here is a complete list of major league saves leaders by year in the current decade:
2007-Jose Valverde, Arizona Diamondbacks (47)
Jose Valverde is one of those closers who came out of nowhere, helping the D-backs to a division crown in 2007. He did so by saving 47 games for them, which led the big leagues. Arizona traded Valverde to Houston for some prospects before the start of the season, as Brandon Lyon was waiting in the wings for them. But in 2007, Valverde was lights out, striking out 78 batters in 64 innings of work in notching the 47 saves, with a 2.66 earned run average.
2006-Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels (47)
Francisco Rodriguez has become one of the game's best closers over the last few years, saving 40 or more games in three straight seasons. In 2005, K-Rod led the majors with 47 saves, appearing in 69 games. He also earned his nickname by striking out a lot of hitters, and that season K-Rod struck out 98 batters in 73 innings, walking 28 and giving up only 52 hits with a 1.73 ERA.
2005-Chad Cordero, Washington Nationals (47)
Chad Cordero became the franchise's closer in 2004 when they were still in Montreal, but it appeared that the move to Washington did him wonders. In 2005, Cordero led the majors with 47 saves. He went 2-4 with a 1.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts to just 17 walks.
2004-Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (53)
Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera has been the team's fireman since 1997, and has amassed 446 career saves to date. In 2004, Rivera had a career high of 53 saves that also led the major leagues. He was 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA and 66 strikeouts to just 20 walks in 78 innings of work.
2003-Eric Gagne, Los Angeles Dodgers (55)
Yes, his name was on the Mitchell Report, but you still have to marvel at Eric Gagne's 2003 season with the Dodgers. That year, Gagne tied the second-best saves total in MLB history with 55. He was 2-3 with a microscopic 1.20 ERA and 137 strikeouts to just 20 walks in 82 innings, only allowing 37 hits on his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award.
2002-John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves (55)
In just his first full season as the Braves' closer, John Smoltz proved that he can pretty much do it all. Smoltz went 3-2 with a league-high 55 saves (2nd best in MLB history) and struck out 85 batters with just 24 walks in 80 innings of work. Smoltz wound up closing for two more seasons before moving back to the starting rotation in 2005, where he remains today at the age of 41.
2001-Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (50)
This was the first of two seasons in which Mariano Rivera saved 50 or more games, and in the 2001 season he helped the Yankees reach the World Series. Rivera was 4-6 with a 2.34 ERA, league high 50 saves, and 83 strikeouts to just 12 walks in 80 innings.
2000-Antonio Alfonseca, Florida Marlins (45)
Antonio Alfonseca had a breakthrough season in 2000, leading the majors with 45 saves. Alfonseca went 5-6 that season with a 4.24 ERA and 47 strikeouts. The last few seasons, Alfonseca has worked mostly in set-up roles, though he did save 8 games for the Phillies in 2007.