Can Closer Jason Grilli Break The Single Season Saves Record?
Through the first week of June, the list of the saves leaders throughout baseball for the year is compiled of the usual suspects. Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader, is up there in what will be his final season, Jim Johnson is nearing the top spot that he secured last year with 51 saves, and players like Joe Nathan, Craig Kimbrel, Sergio Romo, and Aroldis Chapman are all included on the list. However, none of those names listed actually lead the Majors in saves.
The man who is sitting on top of the metaphorical “saves mountain” is Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli. Grilli, now 36, has compiled 23 saves thus far in the same amount of opportunities, and has done this with incredible efficiency. With 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings pitched, his K/9 of 15.0 is third in the Majors (for relievers, minimum 20 IP) behind Chapman and Andrew Miller of the Boston Red Sox. Grilli’s K/BB rate is also high, ranking in the top 10 with a 7.67 [46 K/6 BB].
The current single season saves record is held by Francisco Rodriguez, currently of the Milwaukee Brewers, when he saved 62 games in 2008 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Rodriguez, like Grilli, started off very strong in 2008, compiling 38 saves in the first half with only 24 in the second half. Grilli, with his 23, has a possibility of coming close to, if not tying or surpassing, the first half mark of 38, which would give him a great chance to reach the magical number of 63, especially if the Pirates continue winning and stay in close games.
One thing that is impressive with Grilli is that this is his first season as a full-time closer. So far, he has sparkled with an ERA under 1, no blown saves, a WHIP of 0.759, and he is also leading the league with 26 games finished. Joel Hanrahan held down the closers spot for Pittsburgh in 2011 and 2012, a team that Grilli was also part of. While Grilli had two good seasons in those years, Hanrahan was having all-star seasons, compiling 76 saves in those two years. However, with Hanrahan being traded to Boston in this past offseason, the opportunity opened up for Grilli to take the closer’s role and he has not disappointed.
So, the question remains, can Jason Grilli break the Major League record for saves in a single season? Personally, I believe he can, since the Pirates don’t seem to want to go away this season, playing as a pesky team and winning with pitching and defense, which will give Grilli opportunity after opportunity to go out and get multiple saves.