Mariano Rivera 602 Saves: Where Does He Rank Among Greatest Closers in History?

Mark MillerCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2011

Mariano Rivera 602 Saves: Where Does He Rank Among Greatest Closers in History?

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    Baseball's greatest closer climbed atop a historic list today as he moved past former closer Trevor Hoffman in earning his 602nd career save.

    Between Mariano Rivera's regular season and postseason prowess, it isn't hard to believe that we may not see a closer with such dominance for years to come.

    A 2.22 career ERA and astonishing 0.71 career postseason ERA will certainly help punch his ticket to Cooperstown as soon as he decides to hang it up and becomes eligible.

    In recognition of Rivera's amazing achievement, here are some of the best closers in MLB history.

10. Troy Percival

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    Troy Percival currently ranks eighth all time with 358 saves.

    Percival embodied what it meant to be a dominant closer in the league with his fastball hovering around 100 mph in his prime. His best season came in 1992 with the Anaheim Angels when he posted a 4-1 record with a 1.92 ERA. His 40 saves that year were only bested by his 42 saves in 1998.

    The four-time All-Star has a career 3.17 ERA and averaged just under 10 strikeouts per nine innings.

9. Bruce Sutter

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    During 12 major league seasons, Bruce Sutter appeared in 668 games, compiling a career 2.83 ERA.

    His 300 career saves place him 21st all time, but his contributions to the game stretch far beyond games pitched and saves earned. 

    Sutter is credited as the first pitcher to effectively make use of the  split-finger fastball. His dominance with that pitch made up for what he lacked in his fastball.

    A six-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award-winner in 1979, Sutter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

8. Lee Smith

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    Lee Smith was certainly an intimidating force on the mound during his tenure.

    His sheer size (6'6'', 250 lbs) certainly didn't hurt as he stared down the opposition.

    Smith's 478 career saves currently rank third all time. His best season came in 1991 when the hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 6-3 record while earning 47 saves.

    Averaging just under nine strikeouts per nine innings, Smith retired having thrown 1,251 career strikeouts.

7. Dan Quisenberry

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    Before Dan Quisenberry's life was tragically cut short due to brain cancer, the pitcher was one of the most dominating closers in baseball.

    Quisenberry converted a total of 244 saves while finishing with a 56-46 record and 2.76 ERA.

    He won his only World Series ring in 1985 with the Kansas City Royals, was a three-time All-Star selection and was selected as AL Relief Pitcher of the Year five times.

6. Billy Wagner

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    Many people don't know it, but Billy Wagner was originally a right-handed pitcher. After repetitive arm injuries kept him from throwing in that manner, he amazingly taught himself to throw left-handed.

    And throw he did.

    Wagner's 16-year career has given the hard-throwing lefty plenty of time to compile a very strong case for his eventual place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    The 38-year-old currently ranks fifth all time with 422 career saves. His 2.21 career ERA and 1,196 strikeouts in 903 innings pitched are astounding statistics that will certainly be remembered in conversations about the top closers of all time.

5. Goose Gossage

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    A perfect example in longevity, Rich "Goose" Gossage spent 22 years in Major League Baseball. Pitching in more than a thousand major league games, Gossage finished his career with a 124–107 record.

    Gossage may be best remembered as a member of the New York Yankees, but he spent time with a total of 10 major league teams.

    A nine-time All-Star and World Series champion with the 1978 Yankees, Gossage was a first-time selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

4. Trevor Hoffman

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    Until today's save by Rivera, Trevor Hoffman was atop the all-time saves list with 601 career saves.

    That's not all he was able to accomplish during his career, however. 

    Below are just a few of the attributes Hoffman will take with him to Cooperstown one day:

    • Seven-time All-Star selection
    • Two-time MLB saves champion (1998, 2006)
    • Two-time NL Relief Pitcher of the Year Award (1998, 2006)
    • 1,133 Career Strikeouts

    Hoffman pitched in his 803rd game for the Padres on April 29, 2007—breaking Walter Johnson's record for games pitched for any one team.

3. Dennis Eckersley

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    A former starting pitcher, Dennis Eckersley began his career as a reliever in 1987 with the Oakland Athletics. In his first season as a reliever, Eckersley would appear in 53 games while posting an ERA of 3.03.

    It was after that season that Eckersley would come into his own.

    The very next year, he would earn 45 saves and wouldn't drop below 30 saves in a season until 1994.

    A six-time All-Star, it was in 1992 that Eckersley would post his best career season. In that season alone, his 1.91 ERA and 51 saves would be good enough to earn AL MVP honors, the AL Cy Young and Relief Pitcher of the Year honors.

2. Rollie Fingers

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    Remembered best for his handlebar moustache, Rollie Fingers wouldn't let that be the only sticking point in his career.

    Fingers' 341 career saves and an ERA of 2.90 solidified his place in the Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1992.

    He won the 1974 World Series MVP after saving two games and winning another for the Oakland A’s.

    But Fingers' best season came in 1981 when he won both the Cy Young and MVP awards after saving  28 games and posting a 1.04 ERA with Milwaukee.

    Fingers was a seven-time All-Star selection, three-time World Series champion and has his number retired with both the A's and Brewers.

1. Mariano Rivera

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    There isn't a closer in history who has been as dominating a force as Mariano Rivera. His 602nd save today pushed him past Trevor Hoffman atop the all-time list.

    Rivera has a career record of 75-57 and a 2.22 ERA. Beyond that, Rivera is a 12-time All-Star (MLB record for a reliever) and a five-time Relief Pitcher of the Year Award-winner.

    Rivera is, hands down, the most clutch postseason relief pitcher of all time, with a career postseason ERA of 0.71—a number that, to this point, is unmatched.

    The Yankees have been able to count on him to close the door on opposition time after time on his way to helping the Yankees to five World Series rings, and will look to do the same this season as they prepare for postseason play.