Glove and Bat

Legendary Relief Pitchers Who Changed the Face of Baseball

When it comes to baseball, two names come to mind when talking about dominant closers,

Mariano Rivera and

Trevor Hoffman. Both players had a tremendous impact on the game, changing the way we view the closer position.

In this article, we will take a closer look at their achievements and what made them so successful.

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is considered the greatest closer of all time for good reason. Let’s delve deeper into his career stats and playoff dominance.

Career Stats

Mariano Rivera’s numbers are impressive. He retired in 2013 with 652 saves, which is the most all-time.

He also had a 2.21 ERA and finished 952 games, making him one of the most durable and consistent players in baseball history. He recorded double-digit saves for 15 consecutive seasons, making his presence on the mound a comfort to the Yankees.

The fact that he was able to maintain an ERA of 2.21 while pitching in the American League East for 19 seasons is remarkable, considering the caliber of the hitters he faced throughout his career.

Playoff Dominance

One cannot talk about

Mariano Rivera without mentioning his playoff success. The former Yankee had a playoff record of 8-1 with a 0.70 ERA and 42 saves.

Incredibly, Rivera’s postseason ERA is significantly lower than his already-impressive regular-season ERA. He closed out five World Series championships and earned the World Series MVP award in 1999.

As a result of his success, he is a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee, solidifying his status as one of the greatest players of all time.

Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman was one of the most dominant closers of his era. He is known for his effective changeup and his ability to intimidate hitters.

Career Stats

Trevor Hoffman retired with 601 saves, which was the most all-time until

Mariano Rivera surpassed it. He also had a 2.87 ERA and 1,133 strikeouts.

Hoffman was a seven-time all-star and finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting four times. His longevity is also noteworthy, given that he pitched until the age of 42.

Dynamic Changeup

Hoffman was known for his devastating changeup, which he threw with pinpoint accuracy. Hitters knew that the pitch was coming, but still couldn’t hit it.

He used the pitch to strike out countless batters and close out many games. Hoffman’s ability to command the strike zone with his changeup was one of the reasons why he had such a successful career.

He was a pitcher who knew how to make batters feel uncomfortable at the plate, and the changeup was a major reason for that. Conclusion:

Mariano Rivera and

Trevor Hoffman will always be remembered as two of the greatest closers in baseball history. Their success on the mound was due to not only their natural talent but the work they put in to hone their craft.

Their legacy lives on, and new generations of pitchers can learn from their achievements. The records they set may be broken someday, but their impact on the game will always be felt.

Dennis Eckersley

Dennis Eckersley is known for his transition from a successful starting pitcher to a dominant closer. His career stats also stand out, making him one of the most accomplished pitchers in history.

Transition to the Bullpen

Eckersley began his career as a starting pitcher, and he had a lot of success in that role. He won 20 games in 1978 and finished second in Cy Young voting.

However, as he got older, he began to struggle, and in 1987, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics’ manager, Tony La Russa, saw something in Eckersley and decided to move him to the bullpen.

At first, Eckersley was hesitant about the move, but he quickly adapted, and it turned out to be the best decision of his career. In his first season as a closer, Eckersley saved 16 games, and in 1989, he saved a then-record 45 games.

His success as a closer helped the Athletics win the World Series that year, cementing his place as one of baseball’s greatest relief pitchers.

Career Stats

Eckersley’s career stats are impressive. He won 197 games, which is the most among pitchers who primarily pitched in relief.

He also had 390 saves, which is the third most all-time. Eckersley retired with a 2.96 ERA and 2,401 strikeouts.

He also won the Cy Young and MVP awards in 1992, becoming the first relief pitcher to win both awards in the same season. His numbers and success on the mound helped him get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

Rollie Fingers

Rollie Fingers is one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball history. His successful run as a closer and career stats stand out even to this day.

Successful Run as Closer

Rollie Fingers had a dominant run as a closer during his career. He helped the Oakland Athletics win three World Series championships in the 1970s, and he was a key part of the team’s success.

Fingers also won the American League MVP, the Cy Young Award, and was named to seven All-Star teams during his career. Fingers’ dominance led to him being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.

Career Stats

Fingers’ career stats are impressive. He finished his career with 341 saves, which is the second-highest total at the time of his retirement.

He also had a 2.90 ERA and 1,299 strikeouts. Fingers’ time with the Athletics was his most successful, but he also played for the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers during his career.

Fingers’ success as a closer will never be forgotten, and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history. Conclusion:

Dennis Eckersley and

Rollie Fingers are two of the best relief pitchers of all time. Their careers were marked by incredible accomplishments, and they both set the standard for future pitchers.

Eckersley’s transition to the bullpen and Fingers’ successful run as a closer paved the way for the modern closer role, and both players had an impact on the game that will not be forgotten. Their career stats are also impressive, and they will always be remembered as two of the greatest pitchers of their time.

Rich Gossage

Rich Gossage had an impressive combination of stats throughout his long and dominant career. He set the standard for future closers and will forever be remembered as one of the best relief pitchers of all time.

Impressive Stats Combination

Gossage finished his career with 310 saves, 124 wins, and a 3.01 ERA. It’s rare for a relief pitcher to have such an impressive combination of stats.

Gossage was often used in high-pressure situations and was known for his ability to pitch multiple innings. He recorded 22 saves of two or more innings, which is a testament to his durability and effectiveness.

Gossage’s numbers speak for themselves, and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest closers in baseball history.

Long and Dominant Career

Gossage played for 22 seasons, earning nine All-Star selections along the way. He was known for his dominant fastball, which he threw in the high 90s, and his slider, which was almost unhittable.

Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008 and is rightfully considered one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time.

Billy Wagner

Billy Wagner dominated as a left-handed reliever, known for his hard-throwing abilities and impressive career stats. He was one of the few pitchers to record over 1,000 strikeouts in one league.

Dominant Left-Handed Reliever

Wagner was a hard-throwing pitcher who clocked in at over 100 mph on numerous occasions. He was a rare left-handed reliever who could overpower hitters with his fastball.

Wagner was the first pitcher to record 100 saves for three different teams and finished his career with 422 saves, which is the fifth most all-time. He was also one of four pitchers to record over 1,000 strikeouts in one league.

Wagner’s dominance on the mound helped him earn seven All-Star selections and was a major reason why he was one of the best relievers of his era. Impressive

Career Stats

Wagner’s career stats are nothing short of impressive. He finished with a 2.31 ERA and 1,196 strikeouts.

In addition to his saves, Wagner also had 47 wins to his name. He recorded 100 saves for the Astros, 101 for the Phillies, and 37 for the Mets.

Wagner’s success earned him a place in the Mets Hall of Fame and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. His impressive numbers and hard-throwing abilities make him one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball history.

Honorable Mentions:

Lee Smith was a dominant closer who finished his career with 478 saves, which is third all-time. He won the National League Rolaids Relief Award three times and was a seven-time All-Star.

Smith played for multiple teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and New York Yankees. Bruce Sutter was a dominant closer known for his blistering split-finger fastball.

He won the National League Cy Young Award in 1979 and was a World Series champion with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. Sutter retired with 300 saves and 2.83 ERA.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. Conclusion:

Rich Gossage,

Billy Wagner, Lee Smith, and Bruce Sutter all deserve recognition for their impressive careers as relief pitchers. They set the standard for future closers and will forever be remembered as some of the best to ever step on the mound.

Their career stats and accolades speak to their dominance on the mound and will inspire future generations of pitchers. They will always be remembered as legends of the game.

In this article, we explored the careers of six of the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history:

Mariano Rivera,

Trevor Hoffman,

Dennis Eckersley,

Rollie Fingers,

Rich Gossage, and

Billy Wagner. They set the bar high with their impressive career stats, successful runs as closers, and groundbreaking contributions to the game.

These pitchers revolutionized the role of the closer and established a new standard for future generations. Their legacy will continue to influence aspiring pitchers and serve as a testament to the importance of a strong relief pitching game.


Q: Who is the greatest closer of all time? A:

Mariano Rivera, with 652 saves and a playoff record of 8-1 with a 0.70 ERA, is considered the greatest closer of all time.

Q: What made these pitchers successful in the closer role? A: These pitchers had a combination of natural talent, hard work, and the ability to handle high-pressure situations.

They also had effective pitches that they could throw consistently and command the strike zone. Q: Did these pitchers only play for one team?

A: While some played for multiple teams, they are most commonly associated with the team they had the most success with. For example, Rivera had the most success with the New York Yankees, and Fingers had his most successful run with the Oakland Athletics.

Q: How have these pitchers influenced the game today? A: These pitchers revolutionized the role of the closer and set the standard for future generations.

The closer role has become an integral part of baseball strategy, and their success has inspired many aspiring pitchers.

Q: What made these pitchers stand out?

A: These pitchers had impressive statistics such as high save numbers, low ERAs, and impressive strikeout totals. They also had long and dominant careers, winning awards and helping their teams win championships.

They set a high standard for other pitchers to follow in the future.

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