With New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera an incredible 18 for 18 in save attempts this season and baseball entering the summer months, there is no better time to time to look at my best top 10 closers in Major League Baseball history.
10. SPARKY LYLE: The most underrated closer of all time, he was the first closer who used a dominating slider as his out pitch. In the ’77 ALCS and the Yankees needing to win the last 2 games vs. KC, Lyle pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 4 and 1 1/3 scoreless in Game 5. Without him, the Yanks don’t make it to the series and Reggie never hits the three homers.
9. TOM HENKE: From the mid 80s to the mid 90s, you didn’t want your team to be losing to the Jays after 8 innings because you would have the spectacled reliever staring at you. Henke was as automatic as they came. And he performed under pressure with some very good Toronto teams.
8. TROY PERCIVAL: Until injuries took their toll, Percival threw the baseball consistently at 95-100 MPH; he averaged 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and is eighth on the all-time saves list. In the AL, only Mariano Rivera was better in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
7. BILLY WAGNER: From a regular season standpoint, very few were more dominant in the history of the game. To go hand and hand with his 422 career saves, Wagner averaged a whopping 12 strikeouts per 9 innings and had an incredible .98 career WHIP.
6. TREVOR HOFFMAN: Year after year, the man put up sick save numbers; he’s second all-time behind Mariano Rivera. So why isn’t he ranked higher? Because he failed in the few pressure games that he played in. Still, sixth ‘aint bad.
5. DENNIS ECKERSLEY: The incredible thing about Eck was that he was a mediocre starting pitcher and was moved to the pen as an experiment. He had mind-boggling control—he just never walked anybody. The only stain on his closing career was giving up the Kirk Gibson homer in the ’88 Series.
4. RICH ”GOOSE” GOSSAGE: For the most part, Gossage threw ONE pitch—a fastball. Opponents knew it was coming but still couldn’t hit it. And like the relievers of the 1970s, he often threw multiple innings. He was just absolutely dominant.
3. BRUCE SUTTER: His career wasn’t that long but he was just about as dominant a closer who ever lived including winning a Cy Young Award in 1979 and helping St. Louis win the 1982 World Series. He was also one of the first pitchers in history to throw a devastating split-fingered pitch.
2. ROLLIE FINGERS: He was a great closer for an insane 15-year period. Not only did he close for that Oakland A’s dynasty team of the 1970s; but when he was on the “downside” of his career; he only won a Cy Young and an MVP award for Milwaukee in 1981.
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