Jul 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics former pitcher Dennis Eckersley takes the field during the celebration of the 1989 Oakland Athletics World Series Champions at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The former Boston Red Sox pitcher reinvented himself as a closer in his hometown of Oakland, California, dominating over hitters in the late 1980s and 1990s. The six-time all-star even won the Cy Young Award and American League MVP Award in 1992 at the age of 37, picking up 51 saves in 54 opportunities. He struck out an incredible 93 batters while walking only 11 in 80 innings of work.
After age 40, the Oakland Athletics were not the team that they once were, struggling to put their Hall-of-Fame closer into save opportunities, which he still made 29 in 1995. After moving to the St. Louis Cardinals, Eckersley picked up 30 and 36 saves in the following two seasons, before calling it quits with Boston in 1998.
Eckersley’s decline came with the lower strikeout totals, compared to Rivera. In his forties, Eckersley struck batters out 40, 49, and 45 times between 1995 and 1997. Rivera’s last three relevant seasons saw 45, 60, and 54 Ks, respectively. Eckersley was also hittable at the time, with an earned run average between 3.30 and 4.83, which essentially knocked him out of the game.