The Randomness of Closers

By Blaidd Drwg

Note: It appears that I wrote this in July of 2013 and never bothered to post it. I found it when cleaning off my hard drive. Lucky you, you get to read it now.

Dave Schoenfield has a nice little piece on ESPN.com about the shelf life of closers. It goes along with what I have been saying for years – your bullpen is a bunch of interchangeable parts. Sure you get the mutants like Mo Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, who remain effective for very long periods of time, but if you are a GM, you probably A) don’t want to spend huge amounts of money on a “proven” closer, and B) want to keep an eye out for the guy who will be your closer in 2 years.

Scoenfield uses 2011 as an example:

Look at the major league save leaders from 2011: Jose Valverde, Kimbrel, John Axford, J.J. Putz, Rivera, Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Joel Hanrahan, Francisco Cordero, Brandon League, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Perez, Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Jordan Walden, Neftali Feliz, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Santos.

That’s 19 closers who all saved at least 30 games. Only four are still doing the job — the three guys Buster mentioned, plus Papelbon, who switched teams (or five if you count Bell in Arizona, although his hold on the role is tenuous). Joe Nathan missed part of 2011 with an injury, so count him as well if you want, although he too has changed teams. By the way, most of those 19 guys were pretty good in 2011; 14 had an ERA under 3.00.

So where are these guys now? Here is the list:

Player 2011 Team 2013 Team 2013 Role
Jose Valverde Tigers None Didn’t resign until May; released by Detroit after 9 games.
Craig Kimbrell Braves Braves Closer
John Axford Brewers Brewers Set-up man;  lost closer role   early 2013
JJ Putz Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Set-up man; lost closer role early 2013.
Mariano Rivera Yankees Yankees Closer
Heath Bell Padres Diamondbacks Closer (only because JJ Putz got hurt); did lose job with Miami in   2012.
Drew Storen Nationals Nationals Set-up man; lost job in 2012.
Joel Hanrahan Pirates Red Sox Closer before getting hurt in early 2013; out for season.
Francisco Cordero Reds None Couldn’t win closer role in 2012 for Blue Jays or Astros, currently   out of baseball.
Juan Carlos Oviedo Marlins Rays Currently injured; hasn’t pitched since 2011.
Brian Wilson Giants None Hurt early in 2012, hasn’t pitched since.
Carlos Marmol Cubs Dodgers Lost role in both 2012 and 2013, currently in Dodgers minor league   system.
Jordan Walden Angels Braves Lost role in 2012 with Angels; set-up man for Braves.
Neftali Perez Rangers Rangers Converted to starter in 2012; currently injured.
Ryan Madson Phillies Angels Injured in 2012, hasn’t pitched since.
Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox Phillies Closer
Sergio Santos White Sox Blue Jays Lost job early in 2012, got hurt and has barely pitched since.

One thought on “The Randomness of Closers

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