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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top-10 Closers in MLB History

Top-10 Closers in MLB History

The men you could rely on most to secure your team's lead
Publish Date: 05/19/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

10)  Robb Nen (314 Saves)

The Los Alamitos, California product would enter the waterfront AT&T Park to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and dominated hitters with his high-90s fastball and a filthy slider nicknamed the “Terminator.” Nen was a three-time All-Star and won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997.

He would probably rank much higher if not for a torn rotator cuff.

Video: 1997 WS Gm7: Nen shuts down Indians in relief

1997 WS Gm7: Nen shuts down Indians in relief

9) Lee Smith (478 Saves)

His intimidating size (6’6”) and mid-90s fastball made Lee Smith a formidable closer.  He spent eight out of his 18 years with the Cubs making a name for himself before setting a National League record for saves with 47 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1991.  He led the league in saves for the Baltimore Orioles in 1994.  Lee was a seven-time All-Star and was the all-time saves leader until Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006.

Smith may be best known for a poor performance in game 5 of the 1984 NLCS; even with that, Smith was one of the greatest closers ever. It does hurt that he did not have much postseason success. In his defense, he wasn’t always on the most talented teams.

Video: 1984 NLCS Gm2: Smith shuts the door in NLCS Game 2

1984 NLCS Gm2: Smith shuts the door in NLCS Game 2

8) Billy Wagner (422 Saves)

His stuff was nasty as he averaged almost 12 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.  He threw in the high-90s with his fastball and ended up using a slider as his second pitch. However, the fastball did most of the damage.

As a young boy, he learned to throw the ball left-handed after twice breaking his arm.

Video: Billy Wagner [Enter Sandman by Metallica]

Billy Wagner [Enter Sandman by Metallica]

7) Hoyt Wilhelm (227 Saves)

The first reliever to be inducted to the Hall of Fame, he had to make this list.  He is the only closer to make this list that threw a devastating knuckleball, which gave him the longevity to pitch until he was almost 50.  He had a 2.52 career ERA, was a five-time All-Star.

Video: Rare Video of Hoyt Wilhelm and his Knuckleball

Rare Video of Hoyt Wilhelm and his Knuckleball

6) Bruce Sutter (300 Saves)

Sutter was known for a nasty split-finger fastball. He won a Cy Young Award in 1979 for the Cubs and closed out the World Series for the Cardinals in 1982 versus the Harvey Wallbanger’s Brewers squad.

Video: Bruce Sutter - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Bruce Sutter – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

5) Trevor Hoffman (601 Saves)

He was also known for his high leg kick and a stare similar to Dave Stewart. He made walk-in music famous with the legendary AC/DC hit “Hells Bells.” He was a seven-time All-Star and had his jersey (No. 51) retired by the San Diego Padres.

He developed one of the most unhittable change-ups in baseball history after a torn rotator cuff.

Video: Trevor Hoffman records his 479th career save to become the all-time saves leader

Trevor Hoffman records his 479th career save to become the all-time saves leader

4) Rich “Goose” Gossage (310 Saves)

He was the most recognized Yankee closer before Mariano Rivera took that role.  He won a World Series in 1978 with the Yankees and made nine All-Star appearances.

Video: Goose Gossage - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Goose Gossage – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

3) Rollie Fingers (341 Saves)

He was instrumental in the Oakland A’s back-to-back-to-back World Series Championships in 1972-74, earning the World Series MVP in 1974.  His signature was and still is his waxed handlebar mustache, the precursor to the current Giants closer, Brian Wilson’s beard.

Fingers were the first modern-day closer and are in the hall of fame.

Video: Rollie Fingers - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Rollie Fingers – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

2) Dennis Eckersley (390 Saves)

From 1988 to 1992, he was the most dominant closer in the league and earned both the Cy Young and the AL MVP in 1992.  He basically invented the 9th inning closer role, remember he also won 20 games as a starter earlier in his career.

Video: Dennis Eckersley - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Dennis Eckersley – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

1) Mariano Rivera (608 Saves)

This, to me is a no-doubter. He was dominant into his late 30s and early. When “Enter Sandman” came on, the game was over.

Video: Mariano Rivera Ultimate Career Highlights

Mariano Rivera Ultimate Career Highlights

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