Tonight while I was watching the Brewers lose due to an ungodly combination of bad defense, leaving the bases loaded (twice.....this especially annoys me to no end) and bad umpiring......they were doing one of those text polls about whether or not there will be another pitcher to get 500+ career saves (a feat that only Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera have achieved......since this hasn't been something I've examined closely...I decided now was a good time as any to do so.....
The Argument Against this happening:
First of all to get this many saves lots of things have to go right. First you have to be good for more than a few years .....Also you need to be really good for about 10-15 years and stay healthy during said 10-15 year stretch.
I remember when I was younger when only a few relievers even had 300 saves let alone 500. However, with the specialization of bullpens and pitchers such as Hoffman and Rivera being really good for a really long time, they successfully broke the 500 threshold.
Looking at this numerically, the first main argument is that many of the top active save leaders are on the back-end of their careers such as:
Billy Wagner- 385 Saves
First of all, it's unlikely Wagner will have a shot to even hit 400 saves. He's already out for the season with an injury. Also, if he comes back to the Mets next year, he is unlikely to get many save opportunities as K-Rod has dominated in the role of closer (more on him later). The only way he has a shot at 500 is to get a chance closing for another team. This seems unclear at beast since there's no way to tell if he still will be effective or get himself in a situation where he can rack up saves.
Troy Percival- 358 Saves
For Percival it's a matter of age and effectiveness. He's already retired once, costing him valuable time. While he has a better chance of getting some save opportunities he has two things going against him. First, he's days away from turning 40 so its unlikely he will still be pitching long enough. Second, he's just not been very good this year having a line of 0-1 6.35 ERA 6 Sv 71 ERA+ is one good way to guarantee that you won't get the chance to get very many saves....
Jason Isringhausen 293 Saves/Armando Benitez 289 Saves
Both pitchers are 36 and have an even lesser shot of 500 saves. Isringhausen pitched his way out of the closers role last year in St. Louis...he pitched 9 games in Tampa this year before undergoing Tommy John surgery.....it's tough to determine whether he'll have a chance to close again let alone pitch again.
Benitez his days of closing are far behind him...hasn't saved more than 20 since '04....never really struck me as being that dominating anyways.
Francisco Cordero 232 Saves/Joe Nathan 223
Both are solid closers that will likely break 300, possibly 400. However, both are 34 and still need 265+ saves. It's not impossible but nothing less than a perfect storm of effectiveness, correct situation and holding on to the closers role well into their 40s is needed for these two to have the chance. Too much has to go right and something (if not everything) inevitably will go wrong between 232/223 and 500.
As you can see, it's not too out of the norm to rack up 200 or 300 career saves, but even many closers that enjoyed a nice productive streak have fallen short for one reason or another.
The Argument for someone getting 500 saves.
First of all, save opportunities are not going away anytime soon. Barring an unforeseen return to starters throwing 20+ complete games a year...there will be saves to be had.
Also, you never know what will happen. You could have someone who gets a closing job when they are in their early to mid 20s and blows past the 500 save barrier.
In terms of active players, K-Rod has conformed to this profile to date. He started closing at a young age (he racked his first 40+ save season at 23). Second, he's stayed healthy ( so far), dominant (so far) and in the midst of his 5th straight year of 40+ saves. Also, it never hurts to break the single-season record in process. Out of all active players, he has the best chance by far to get 500+ Save
Also, he's almost half-way there, he's young (27) and shows no signs of regression. Assuming he stays healthy, effective and keeps up his current pace he could break this barrier by the time he hits his mid-30s........
While too much can happen to K-Rod between now and 500 saves, it is more likely than not than another player will get 500+ career saves. There are plentiful save opportunities out there....it really is only a matter of time before a closer is able to combine this with talent, opportunity and a bit of luck to join Hoffman and Rivera in this exclusive club