MLB History: 30 best closers of all time

MLB History (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
MLB History (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Once considered an afterthought on MLB rosters, relief pitchers have emerged as some of the most important pieces when constructing a World Series contender. Of these relief pitchers, the closer is the most unique member of an MLB roster. These pitchers are true specialists, only appearing in the most specific of game situations. They don’t even pitch every day, and rarely rack up more than 100 innings during a full season.

Still, the best closers of all time have had an enormous impact on their individual teams. In this list, we check out the 30 best closers in MLB history. Many of these names have provided a profound impact on team success, helping propel a franchise to the championship promised land.

Closers are after one thing and one thing only. Converting saves when given a save opportunity. To clarify, the MLB made saves an official stat in 1969, which requires a set of specific criteria. According to, saves are awarded to “relief pitchers who finish a game for the winning team, under certain circumstances.” The criteria includes the following.

  • Enter the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitch at least one inning.
  • Enter the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle, at the plate, or on the bases.
  • Pitch at least three innings.

To ensure this list provides some historical accuracy, this list considered the total number of saves, save percentage, games finished, and individual season performances within these parameters. Of course, these names were required to provide elite performances in terms of ERA, WHIP, SO/9, H/9, HR/9, BB/9 while earning saves or finishing games.