With John Smoltz already at 51 saves and Eric Gagne at 48 (though his last save was September 6), the majors could have two closers record 50 saves for only the second time (the other being 1998 in which Trevor Hoffman recorded 53 and Rod Beck 51).
There are 6 major-league closers with 40 or more saves and four more that project out to 40 by the end of the year. The year with the most closers at 40 or more saves was 1993 with 10. Only four seasons have had six or more 40+ save performances (1993, 1998, 2000, 2001).
There are currently 18 closers with at least 30 saves and two more project to 30 (although one is the injured Mariano Rivera). There is only one other season in baseball history with 18 closers with 30+ saves, 1996.
There are currently 25 closers with at least 20 saves and three more project to 20. 1999 is the only season so far to have 28 closers record 20 saves or more.
I know that I have said that saves are, in themselves, a pretty pointless stat, and they are. But it makes me wonder what the use, or overuse, of the closer means to the game today. It's not as if this season is out of line with past performances, it just a bit more so-like turning the volume up to 11. The best explanation that I see is that staffs have finally started to settle down since the last two round of expansion (1993 and 1998) and each team has finally gotten themselves a pitcher whom they feel can close out a game for them. Whether or not that is in actuality the case, I will not debate here. Or maybe the appropriate people to fill out the other relief roles have been defined well enough that the closer is now basically what Greg Brady was to Johnny Bravo-they fill the suit.
One last puzzler is that the majors have recorded 1133 saves this year, which projects to 1228 for the season. That's still behind the 1265 recorded in 1998 so maybe this isn't the year of the save, but it apparently is the year of the closer.