July 28, 2021

Clearing The Bases: Closers

March 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The old axiom when it comes to relief pitchers, is never pay for saves.  I follow this mantra somewhat, especially in mixed leagues, but in NL or AL only leagues I want to have one solid closer.  I don’t like to spend a big part of my budget on more than one, but I want someone I can trust.  Closer is the most volatile position in baseball.  If your closer is underperforming, then generally you’re losing games late, and there is no worse way to lose a game then when you were leading into last inning.  It’s the quickest way to get the media and fans angry, and the quickest way to get the manager fired, hence the volatility.

  1. Heath Bell, San Diego Padres:  Don’t let the fact that he pitches for the Padres fool you.  They will win their share of games, and most will be close games forcing Bell to earn the save.  Pretty good recipe.  There is always a chance he gets traded by the deadline, but it’s a chance worth taking.
  2. Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals:  Soria is a fantastic closer, but the Royals could easily be a 100+ loss team this season, so there could be some hesitancy here.  Soria has a team friendly contract, so odds are he won’t get dealt to a better team.
  3. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers:  The Rangers spent a good portion of spring training debating whether or not Feliz would be a starter or closer for the team.  He was a lights out closer last season, but the Rangers are a little short in the rotation.  In the end the team decided to stick with Feliz at closer.
  4. Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs:  Marmol is near unhittable, the only time he ever runs into problems is when he can’t get the ball near the plate and starts issuing free passes, but other than not having the greatest WHIP, he is a top choice.
  5. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees:    Mariano is a freak of nature in that he is still an elite closer at this point in his career.  The Yankees will want to save some bullets however as they now have Rafael Soriano to prevent Mariano from being overused.  The Yankees also will blow quite a few teams out, so there may not be as many save ops as one would think.
  6. Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets:  KRod is still a good closer regardless of how many family members he wants to beat up or how bad the Mets are.  The question is will he be dealt by the trade deadline and will the Mets try to keep him from closing out 55 or more games so that $17.5 million contract option doesn’t kick in for the 2012 season.
  7. Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants:  Wilson is starting the season on the DL which is the reason he is not one of the top three closers on this list.  No reason in my mind to take a chance with someone who is already hurt, not when there are other options available.
  8. John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers:  There has been speculation during the off-season that Axford may have a tough time holding onto the closing job in Milwaukee.  Hard to see why other than he hasn’t done it for a full season.  Not like there is a closer in waiting on the roster.
  9. Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins:  Assuming Nathan is healthy, and that does seem to be the case, than he could automatically become an elite closer once again.  Problem is no one can be quite sure how is elbow will react to the long baseball season and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has already let it be known that Matt Capps will also get some save opportunities to take some of the stress off of Nathan.
  10. Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox:  Red Sox nation is expecting big things to happen this season and won’t put up long with any struggles from Papelbon.  The Sox have two other closers on the roster in Dan Bard and Bobby Jenks, so they will have little reason to stay with Papelbon should he struggle.
  11. Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers:  Like Papelbon in Boston, Broxton’s job could also be hanging by a string.  Broxton actually lost the job for part of last season due to poor performance but new manager Don Mattingly stated from the first day of spring that Broxton was his man.  Will that tune change if Broxton were to struggle again?
  12. Huston Street, Colorado Rockies:  Once Street recovered from shoulder and groin injuries he had an extremely productive season.  Injury woes will once again be a concern for Street owners, but if he can remain healthy, he should be in for a nice season.
  13. Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers:  Valverde admitted during the spring that he played the 2010 season with arm soreness is 100% healthy for this season.  Some might think that Joaquin Benoit was brought in to push Valverde, but Benoit is nothing more than a setup guy.
  14. Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds:  As long as Aroldis Chapman is around and still in the bullpen there will be some that shy away from Cordero for fear of Chapman taking the job.  Seems unlikely as Chapman only has a little over 13 innings in the majors and his future seems to be as a starter, not a closer.
  15. Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians:   Perez always had closer ability as he can throw the fastball harder than most, the problem has been that he usually had no idea where it was going once it left his hand.  Well he solved that problem, now he just needs to solve the Cleveland offensive problem.
  16. Ryan Franklin, St. Louis Cardinals:  It didn’t take Franklin long to blow his first save of the year, as he took care of that on Opening Day.  Jason Motte is waiting in the wings and could be a big threat to Franklin if he doesn’t get his act together, and get it together quickly.
  17. J. J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks:  Putz is back in the closer’s role after an injury free off-season.  The DBacks bullpen was among the worst in the majors last season and they hope Putz will solve the back end of that problem.  Once again the DBacks may be among the bottom teams in the National League and save ops may be tough to come by.
  18. Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox:  Thornton deserved first crack at the job after the departure of Bobby Jenks.  He’s been a top notch left-handed setup man for a few years now.  The problem is that the Sox have the flame throwing Chris Sale who may take the job away if Thornton should falter or if manager Ozzie Guillen wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.
  19. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves:  Kimbrel has the same problem as Thornton in that there is another good candidate to take his job should he falter at all in Johnny Venters.
  20. Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins:  Nunez always seems to be on the verge of losing his job, and this year may be no different with Clay Hensley ready, willing, and able to close out games.

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