From 1969, when the save first became a statistic, until 2003 there was not a single occurrence of a pitcher who had exactly one 30-save season and no other, according to STATS.
Shawn Chacon became the first. An All-Star starter for Colorado in 2003, he was converted to closer the following year and had 35 saves — but also blew nine and became the first player in major league history with 30 saves and an ERA over 7.00.
Restored to the rotation for 2005, he struggled and was dealt to the Yankees. Chacon started for most of the remainder of his career, which ended in 2008, and got just one more save.
Toronto’s Miguel Batista (2005) was the next with a one-time-only 30-save season, followed by Texas’ Akinori Otsuka (2006) and Toronto’s Jeremy Accardo (2007).
In the last three years, seven pitchers have reached 30 saves for the first time and it remains to be seen whether they will do it again: Sergio Santos (2011), Drew Storen (2011), Jordan Walden (2011), Tyler Clippard (2012), Jason Motte (2012), Jason Grilli (2013) and Edward Mujica (2013).
“Some guys are built for it and some guys aren’t,” Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond says. “If you can throw strikes and get guys out and save games you are going to have that job forever, but as soon as you don’t they find somebody else who does, right? It’s just the nature of the beast.”
Koji Uehara had 13 saves for Baltimore in 2011, then had one save in each of the following two seasons. After opening last season in a setup role for the Red Sox, he got the big job when Joel Hanrahan tore an elbow ligament and Andrew Bailey struggled and needed shoulder surgery. By October, the 34-year-old Uehara was dominant, striking out St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter to finish Boston’s first World Series clincher at home since Babe Ruth’s team back in 1918.