Sunday, August 06, 2006

August 6th, 1988

Goose Gossage Records 300th Save

There are lots of ways to demonstrate how much wider the usage of closers and the save statistic have increased over the last twenty something years. Today provides an especially vivid one. The Goose's three hundredth save was obviously not only a great personal accomplishment, but also a historic one. At the time only one other player had three hundred saves (Rollie Fingers being the other) so Gossage was putting himself into elite company. He was also thirty-six years old and clearly no longer the dominant reliever he had been during his time with the Yankees and Padres.

Fourteen years later, Robb Nen nailed down his three hundredth save. While the number was still an impressive total, it was no longer special ground. Thanks to the proliferation of closers, Nen was the sixteenth man to hit the total--twenty have now done it, most recently Billy Wagner; Armando Benitez has a shot at three hundred but after that there's no one really on the horizon. Nen was also just thirty-two years old, a full four years younger than Gossage.

In the fourteen years between them, then, the usage of closers (and pitchers generally) had been changed so dramatically that while for the first nearly ninety years of baseball history only two players managed three hundred saves, fourteen managed it in the next fourteen. That's a drop from an average of one every forty-five years to one every year. Bring on the bullpen car, I guess.

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