Since 1969 – the season saves became an official Major League statistic – relief pitchers have given their managers an option to call upon that one specialist when victory is at hand; entrusted to record the most important three outs of the game, and hold on to the win for his team. As batters have evolved, so too have the highly coveted stoppers, now known as closers, who are, on many occasions, responsible for making or breaking games. With every passing season, teams have embraced the increasingly popular trend in utilizing advanced metrics to know when and where to use their talented, often volatile, ninth inning door closer.
But what does it take to be an effective closer?
Closers are a special breed. Like every other player on the team, the closer should be in top shape. They’re usually built bigger and tougher than most pitchers, which is a useful commodity for both the effectiveness of their pitching, and a definite intimidation factor.
But just because a player is above and beyond being physically fit, it doesn’t mean instant success. He must also possess the mental focus to be readily available to pitch in high pressure situations, night in and night out, often with men on base, however un-inherited they may be. And that can both quickly and easily take a toll on someone if they aren’t up to the task, one of many reasons why the elite closer is a hot commodity.
So who are the best closers in the game today? Though there is no exact science readily available to determine this, I have a few ways of measuring the value of today’s top closers, using these key factors:
– Age and experience.
– Saves over the last five years.
– The division in which they pitch.
– Strikes per nine/strikes per walk.
– 2013 projections.
– General effectiveness.
Among eligible closers, your top closers are: