I can go both ways on this topic. I believe that a lot of people that say saves are overrated are mentioning the ones where a guy comes out to "protect" a three run lead and only pitches to 3 guys, regardless of actual pressure situations or not. Some guys come in and get the final out and are awarded a save. Many teams are now finding too, that a lot of relievers can be a "closer" and the term is fading. Some guys like Heath Bell and Jose Valverde are still referred to as "closers" even though they have not bee good in that role. Others like Edward Mujica of the St. Louis Cardinals came out of nowhere to become a great closer.
Decades ago, guys like John Hiller, Sparky Lyle, Rollie Fingers, **** Radatz, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dan Quisenberry, and Willie Hernandez used to come into a game in pressure situations in the 6th or 7th innings, and closed out saves. They were "firemen" who came in the game when the opposition was looking to either take the lead, or blow it open, and they were expected to pitch the rest of the game, not just 1 inning. Tony LaRussa really led the charge to "specialization" of the bullpen in the late 1980s, when he had Dennis Eckersley as his closer for the 9th and Gene Nelson and Rick Honeycutt as his R and L setup guys.
Many fans and experts are just getting tired of people calling a guy a closer when he isn't even pitching in the highest leverage situations for his team, but getting a stat (the save) when other guys before him may actually be pitching in the most important or high leverage situations in a game. The need for managers to manage to get a guy a stat is ridiculous. I really wouldn't care if my utility infielder was capable of locking down the final 3 outs of a game. I don't think it matters who closes it out, as long as the best guy in the 'pen is handling the toughest assignments. Randomly handing a guy a stat like a save when all he did was get a couple ground balls from the end of the order in the 9th with a 3 run lead seems a bit ridiculous at times!
That said, I am still a fan of closers. I know not everyone has what it takes to get the last 3 outs of a game. Of course, all 27 outs of a regulation 9 inning game are just as important as those final three, but that last one secures the win. Some guys couldn't do it. Others, like Mariano Rivera are experts at it. Many relievers throughout history have been failed starters, like Mo, Goose, Fingers, or guys like Todd Worrell who failed as a starter in the minors and was a successful closer in the bigs.
There are a lot of arguments on both sides. All I want is my manager to manage to game to win, and not worry about the egos of some guys who want to compile certain stats to hopefully get a bigger contract. Just look at all the money the Phillies wasted on Jonathan Paplebon! That is ridiculous, and really biting them in the 6 right now! Not that he can't do the job, but I don't believe teams need a big name to get the job done.
The Cardinals lost our closer, Jason Motte, before the season started. Mitchell Boggs, who pitched great for a bit as the 8th inning guy, was terrible as the closer. He is now on another team after being sent to the minors. Edward Mujica comes out of nowhere, and is sitting on 31 saves in his first try at it. He is FAR cheaper than a guy with the name Paplebon or Bell!
"It ain't braggin' if you can do it!" Dizzy Dean