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Closer

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Mariano Rivera is the closer for the New York Yankees.

In baseball, a closer is a relief pitcher who specializes in closing games, i.e., getting the final outs in a close game. Since closers appear frequently when a game is on the line, the role usually goes to a team's best reliever.

Closers, while typically possessing as much pitching talent as any other pitcher on their respective teams, may not have a wide enough variety of pitches or enough reliability over several innings to become a starting pitcher. Some closers, however, have been starting pitchers who due to injury or fading durability became closers later in their careers (such as John Smoltz and Jason Isringhausen).

In general, closers are selected based on their ability to pitch effectively for one inning against both right-handed and left-handed batters (as opposed to left-handed specialists) and their ability to maintain their composure in high-pressure situations. Good closers usually have an overpowering fastball and one or two complementary pitches (a full arsenal of pitches is not necessary), although this rule does have its exceptions (such as knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and sinkerballers Derek Lowe and Bob Wickman, all of whom have spent time closing games as well as starting).

One of the statistics for closers is the save. It's easily misunderstood, as there big variables involved behind the "save," such as men on base and in scoring position on entering, how many runs lead the team has, how many outs the closers gets for the team, whether or not the team is in a heated pennant race down to the wire, whether the save is in regular or post season, etc.(baseball-reference)

Beginning with Dennis Esckersley, the general practice was for a closer to enter the game to pitch the ninth inning when his team was ahead by three runs or fewer, which aligned with the requirements to get a save. Many teams still use this system, but after the advent of Mariano Rivera in the post season of 1995 and his continued multi-inning late inning relief appearances for 12 continuous regular seasons and 12 post seasons, by around 2002, other teams started the use their closer for more than the 9th inning, in regular and post season. Included are the Angels' Frankie Rodriguez, the Red Sox Keith Foulke in 2004, the Blue Jays' BJ Ryan, the Mets BJ Wagner, and the Red Sox Jon Papelbon for part of the 2006 season.(baseball-reference). If the closer fails at his task by letting the other team tie the game or take a lead, he has blown the save.

In a game in which the home team enters the ninth inning tied, it is impossible for that team's closer to gain a save. In such a situation, the manager will likely use his closer anyway in order to prevent the visiting team from taking the lead.

Occasionally, some teams try to employ a closer by committee, in which no single player is assigned the role of closer. Rather, the manager will select a pitcher to close the game based on whoever he feels has the hot hand or the favorable match-up. Use of a closer by committee, however, is often a signal that the manager does not have confidence in any particular member of his bullpen, and the pitcher who gains his confidence will eventually become the closer.

Easily sensationalized, the "saves" stat should note that the team's manager decides when to put a pitcher in a game, taking into account the degree of difficulty involved, etc. A manager looking to pad a player's stats for team publicity, etc., can hold a relief pitcher back from the most difficult and taxing "saves," and put him in the easier ones. This must be looked at in analyzing saves. Another statistic that can be used to identify the best closers, although not readily available from normal box scores, is the percentage of inherited baserunners that score. Since closers often enter games with one or more runners on base, and their job is to stop them from scoring, this statistic can be useful in gauging their effectiveness.

Some teams with established closers also designate one or two setup pitchers to pitch immediately before the closer. In such a case, the set-up man will pitch the eighth inning and the closer will pitch the ninth in a close game.

Major awards, honors won by closers Edit

AwardCloserTeamYear
Hall of FameBruce SutterCardinals2006
Dennis EckersleyAthletics2004
Rollie FingersAthletics1991
Hoyt WilhelmN.Y. Giants1985
Cy YoungÉric GagnéDodgers2003 (NL)
Dennis EckersleyAthletics1992 (AL)
Mark DavisPadres1989 (NL)
Steve BedrosianPhillies1987 (NL)
Willie HernándezTigers1984 (AL)
Rollie FingersBrewers1981 (AL)
Bruce SutterCubs1979 (NL)
Sparky LyleYankees1977 (AL)
Mike MarshallDodgers1974 (NL)
Jim KonstantyPhillies1950 (NL)
AwardCloserTeamYear
MVPDennis EckersleyAthletics1992 (AL)
Willie HernándezTigers1984 (AL)
Rollie FingersBrewers1981 (AL)
WS MVPMariano RiveraYankees1999
John WettelandYankees1996
Rollie FingersAthletics1974
ROYHuston StreetAthletics2005 (AL)
Kazuhiro SasakiMariners2000 (AL)
Scott WilliamsonReds1999 (NL)
Gregg OlsonOrioles1989 (AL)
Todd WorrellCardinals1986 (NL)
Steve HoweDodgers1980 (NL)
Butch MetzgerPadres1976 (NL)
Joe BlackDodgers1952 (NL)

† also won league Cy Young Award in the same year

Current Major League Baseball closers Edit

NL East
Club Player Since
ATL Bob Wickman 2006
FLA TBD
NYM Billy Wagner 2006
PHI Tom Gordon 2006
WAS Chad Cordero 2005
NL Central
Club Player Since
CHC Ryan Dempster 2006
CIN David Weathers
(Eddie Guardado on DL)
2006
HOU Brad Lidge 2006
MIL Francisco Cordero 2006
PIT Salomón Torres 2006
STL Adam Wainwright
(Jason Isringhausen
injured)
2006
NL West
Club Player Since
ARI José Valverde 2006
COL Brian Fuentes 2005
LAD Takashi Saito 2006
SDP Trevor Hoffman 1994
SFG Armando Benítez 2006
AL East
Club Player Since
BAL Chris Ray 2006
BOS Joel Piñeiro
(Jonathan Papelbon injured)
2006
NYY Mariano Rivera 1997
TBD Seth McClung 2006
TOR B.J. Ryan 2006
AL Central
Club Player Since
CWS Bobby Jenks 2005
CLE Keith Foulke signed for '07 season
DET Todd Jones 2006
KCR Joe Nelson 2006
MIN Joe Nathan 2004
AL West
Club Player Since
LAA Francisco Rodríguez 2005
OAK Huston Street 2005
SEA J.J. Putz 2006
TEX Éric Gagné signed for '07 season

The year in the right column of the table refers to the year the player began closing for his current team. Wickman and Wagner were closers for other teams at the time of their acquisition.

Other notable closers Edit

For the top closers by number of saves, see save leaders in Major League Baseball.

Other noteworthy Major League Baseball closers not mentioned above:

External linksEdit

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