MLB: Ranking the Top 10 Closers in Baseball Right Now

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July 7, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman (54) throws during the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. The Reds won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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.

- Injuries.

- 2013 projections.

- General effectiveness.

Among eligible closers, your top closers are:

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  • Kevin Nunes

    Where’s Grant Balfour?

    • Zack Losel

      While I really like Balfour and absolutely think he will be a closer on the rise, I don’t think he’s in the top 10 just yet. This is because, despite his great season with Oakland, hes never finished more than 15 games (a stat separate from total games played) in a single season before 2012, and he just doesn’t have a background in the spot.

      All of the pitchers listed – especially the ones with less closing experience – had at least some identifiable background in the role before making the jump to being considered elite

      While his strikeout rates increase, so do his walks. Which isn’t elite.

      Like I stated in the article, its not an exact science, and some of it is based on opinion. But I try to be fair as possible. Which is tough because I am a diehard Giants fan.

      Appreciate the feedback Kevin.