By the Decade: Saves but not by Mo


As the decade draws to a close in just over 14 hours, we continue our Yankees By the Decade retrospective with a move beyond the offense. We start off the look at our pitchers with the easiest of the easiest. Clearly, the reliever of the decade — or the century or all time — is Mariano Rivera. The man saved 397 games for the Yanks and was simply the best.

Mo, however, wasn’t the only pitcher to record a save for the Yanks from 2000-2009. In fact, Yankee pitchers not named Mariano recorded 77 saves throughout the decade. Who were these pitchers who stole saves from Mo and what exactly were their stories? Let’s take a look.

Player Saves
Mariano Rivera 397
Steve Karsay 12
Ramiro Mendoza 10
Kyle Farnsworth 7
Tom Gordon 6
Mike Stanton 6
Juan Acevedo 6
Philip Hughes 3
Jose Veras 3
Phil Coke 2
Edwar Ramirez 2
Tanyon Sturtze 2
Jeff Weaver 2
Dwight Gooden 2
Alfredo Aceves 1
Brian Bruney 1
Joba Chamberlain 1
David Robertson 1
Chien-Ming Wang 1
Scott Proctor 1
Paul Quantrill 1
Orlando Hernandez 1
Chris Hammond 1
Dan Miceli 1
Jeff Nelson 1
Brian Boehringer 1
Todd Erdos 1
Jason Grimsley 1
Total 474

For the most part, these non-Rivera relievers who notched a save this decade were interlopers. They were the three-inning guys who protected a big lead. Take, for example, Orlando Hernandez. He pitched the final four innings of the Yanks’ 11-5 win over the Mets on June 28, 2002 for his save of the decade. Meanwhile, Chien-Ming Wang, the Yanks’ erstwhile, ace recorded a save on June 3, 2006 when he recorded two outs in the tenth on a night when Mariano Rivera was simply unavailable.

But beyond these one-off guys, the relievers called upon in unlikely situations, a handful of Yankee pitchers recorded a handful of saves. Why wasn’t Mariano available? The leader in non-Mariano saves this decade was Steve Karsay. The one-and-done set-up man who made 78 appearances in 2002 stepped in that year in late August and early September when Mo was on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Karsay had stepped in earlier that year when groin and shoulder trouble shelved the Yanks’ closer. He blew four saves, threw 88.1 innings and never pitched effectively in the Majors again.

Another trio of set-up men — Ramiro Mendoza, Kyle Fansworth and Tom Gordon — stepped in on nights when Rivera couldn’t go. Mendoza notched 10 saves combined two seasons earlier this decade, and Gordon picked up six over his two-year stint with the Yanks. Even unreliable Krazy Kyle managed to get three outs in the ninth with a Yankee lead in tact.

For many, the name Juan Acevedo may raise an eyebrow. Who was this pitcher who nailed down six saves while making just 25 appearances for the Yankees? Well, he came on the scene in 2003 with a stellar Spring Training. With Rivera out for April with a groin injury, Acevedo stepped in and was flat-out awful. He saved five games in April but ended the month with an 8.10 ERA. He picked up another save in a 17-inning affair on June 1, 2003 but found himself bound for Toronto after the Yanks released him and his 7.71 ERA.

In the end, for ten years, Mariano Rivera was simply there. He saved 397 games and blew just 40 for a 90.1 save percentage. He appeared in 651 games for the Yanks and finished 589 of them. He threw 713.1 innings and recorded 669 strike outs while walking just 137 batters all decade. His ERA+ was 214. For the Yankees and for all of baseball, he is truly the closer of the decade. In ten years, we may have to see who else gets saves for the Yankees, but this year, this decade, it’s all Mariano.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Doug says:

    Gonna say that Mo has the most saves for us this upcoming decade as well.

    Figure he probably has about 3 more years left (not sure about the 5 he’s talked about), and the man/men who take over won’t hold down the job long enough to amass more than Mo does.

  2. ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

    Juan Acevedo was pretty much gone when he blew Roger Clemens’ quest for win #300 against the Cubs:

  3. Colombo says:

    Mosanna in the highest!!

    All hyperbole aside, it is truly an honor to get to watch Mariano consistently, especially when you see the way other teams pray to find someone to hold down the closer spot for a year, let alone the 15 years Mo has been kicking ass and taking names.

  4. Zack says:

    That Mariano guy was pretty good

  5. Tampa Yankee says:

    So I had to look up Erdos’ save because I could not recall who he was to be honest and, it turns out, his only save actually came in a game that Mo blew the save.

    • Frank1979 says:

      Damn, you beat me to the Todd Erdos mention. Looks like our posts must have been separated by seconds. He pitched a whopping 34 innings for the Yanks between 98-00 and I remember none of these innings at all.

  6. Frank1979 says:

    Wow, El Duque had a 4 inning save?! I can’t believe I don’t remember this game…this has to be the coolest non-Mo save on this list.

    And my vote for the most random non-Mo save has to go to Todd Erdos. Who the hell is this guy? He’s the only name I don’t even recognize.

  7. Bo says:

    Cue the comments that closers dont mean anything and relievers are a dime a dozen.

    How a Yankee fan can think that way after the last 14 yrs is beyond me.

    • Steve H says:

      Saves are overrated. And middle relievers are a dime a dozen, because they are completely inconsistent. There is a reason they are middle relivers, 1st because they failed as starters, and they can’t hack it as closers. That’s why Mo is a closer, because he was a failed starter.

    • Zack says:

      Look at the other closers on WS winners over that time: Wainwright, Foulke, Papelbon, Jenks, Lidge, Braden Looper, Troy Percival, Byung-Hyum Kim, Robb Nen

      • Steve H says:

        Byung-Hyum Kim-He did all he could to lose the WS and still won. His inclusion as a WS winning closer proves the starter vs. closer value debate. They won despite him. The Sox won two sweeps, so Foulke and Papelbon, even though good, didn’t carry much value (in the WS).

        • Rose says:

          The Sox won two sweeps

          Pisses me off big time. St. Louis literally rolled over and handed Boston that trophy…and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Rockies were as on fire as you could get…only to wait like 2 weeks and ice down to get their heads smashed against the turnbuckles for 4 games straight. Meanwhile, we have to face these relentless teams over and over haha.

        • JGS says:

          the white sox won in a sweep too

          • Ed says:

            Yeah, but that series was really hard fought. And I believe some of the loses by the Astros were mainly due to Lidge being rattled from the Pujols home run the week before that hadn’t landed yet. Stick the Lidge from 2 weeks prior into the WS and the Astros probably win some.

            The other sweeps weren’t even close, the Cards and Rockies just rolled over for the Red Sox.

        • Zack says:

          Yeah, that was the key point. You can win with a average closer; much harder to win with average SP giving up 4 runs a game

        • Ed says:

          It’s not fair to bring up the DBacks in the 2001 WS when talking about the value of starters vs closers. That’s got to be the most extreme case ever.

          You had a reliever who mentally could not handle the pressure of situation, and the rotation was headed by the #1 and #2 finishers in the Cy Young voting.

          You might as well argue the value of starters vs relievers by comparing Sidney Ponson and Mo.

          • Zack says:

            Yes it’s an extreme case.

            But what is a better option to have: a good rotation with an average closer or an average rotation with a great closer (ie. Yankees 04-08)?

            • Ed says:

              I’m not disagreeing with you in any way.

              If you throw out a bad reason to support your side of an argument, I’ll call you on it whether I agree or disagree with the overall issue.

              • Zack says:

                It’s not a bad reason. I just listed all the closers who were part of WS winning teams.

                If you exclude Kim, then exclude Mo because he’s an extreme case on the other end of the discussion.

          • Steve H says:

            All WS teams have at least 2 good to great starters, and they can win despite either a poor closer (Kim) or not needing a closer to do a whole lot (4 game sweeps).

    • Ed says:

      The problem is you’re ignoring the fact that Mo >>>>>>>>>> every other reliever in that time span. Possibly even >>>>>>>>>> every other reliever ever.

      There will not be another Mo. Whoever replaces him will be a huge step down and will disappoint you greatly. You cannot take Mo’s value and use that to judge the value of relievers in general.

      • Rose says:

        The problem is you’re ignoring the fact that Mo >>>>>>>>>> every other reliever in that time span. Possibly even >>>>>>>>>> every other reliever ever.

        Possibly?? Haha…cmon. He’s clearly the best reliever of all time. Who could be better? Wilhelm? lol

  8. SamVa says:

    Joba to the pen.

  9. Accent Shallow says:

    Shouldn’t non-Mo saves have a “Death by Bullpen” tag?

  10. vin says:

    I’m going to miss Phil Coke. Not for his pitching, but for his all-around goofiness. I like this exchange after Coke recorded his first career save:

    “Hey, you’re way better at than that at me,” Coke told the closer.

    Rivera laughed: “Hey, good job man. You got the job done.”

    “Yeah,” Coke said. “But you’re still better at this than me.”

  11. Rose says:

    FACT: Doc Gooden had more saves than Joba Chamberlain in the 2000′s

  12. Paul Canales says:

    I personally think its amazing to note that only 3 players have been in Yankee pinstripes this entire decade. It truly shows how difficult it is to stay in a uniform nevertheless in a major league career for so long.

  13. RobC says:

    Are there detailed stats on Mo’s saves?
    How many 4+ out saves?
    How many 1 run saves?
    Saves when he entered the game with the tying run on base?

  14. KevinC says:

    Mo has maybe 2 years left.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.