Closing Time

Should you be worried that the Orioles traded away their saves leader from the past two years and haven’t signed a “proven” replacement?

No.  Not at all.  Not even if you put value into saves as a stat category or a basis for judging a pitchers talent (which you shouldn’t because they are not.)

Coffee is for closers

Coffee is for closers

Here is a little breakdown for you regarding “closers” and “saves”, both of which I hate with every part of my brain.  I mean seriously, how do GMs and managers not see “closers” as a waste of a roster spot?  You wan’t to have your “best” bullpen arm not be available at the most crucial point of the game unless that time just happens to magically come about in the 9th or sometimes late 8th inning???  That is crazy pants to me.  But that is for another post I guess.  Let’s get to this one, of which the theme is: pretty much any decent bullpen arm can close.

Of all the pitchers in Major League Baseball in 2013 only eighteen had 30 or more saves.  Let’s use 2013 as our starting point and move backwards in time and check out some numbers.  Eighteen pitchers had 30 or more saves in 2013, how many of those also had at least 30 saves in 2012?  Six (plus Mariano Rivera, we’ll mention him because he was hurt but would have gotten there anyway.)  So of eighteen players with 30 saves or more in 2013 only one third of them also had 30 saves the previous season.  How many closers had 30 saves in 2013, 2012 and 2011?  ONE.  Craig Kimbrel.  Ok, maybe 30 saves is too high of a threshold to do consistently (I don’t know why it would be but I don’t understand anything anyone who argues FOR closers says) so let’s take those same eighteen pitchers in 2013 who had 30 or more saves and see how many had at least 20 saves the previous year…Nine.  So we only added 3 players.  How about those who also had 20 or more saves in 2011? Two.  So we added one… and that is Huston Street.

Closing must be a young mans game then, we just got the fresh meat in 2013 to take over closing for the future of closing.  Maybe not.  Of the eighteen pitchers in 2013 with 30 or more saves only four of them were in their 4th major league season or less.  Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Addison Reed and Aroldis Chapman.  Five are “established” long time closers.  Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Joe Nathan, Kevin Gregg and Huston Street.  That leaves nine who were in at least their 5th MLB season.

Edward Mujica had 37 saves this season and 0 saves last season.  His first season as a full time closer was his 8th season in the bigs.  Grant Balfour had 38 saves this season and 24 last season.  His first season as a closer was his 9th in the bigs.  Glen Perkins had 36 saves this season, his first of over 20 saves.  He has been in the majors since 2006.  Jim “Smoke and Mirrors” Johnson pitched 4 seasons in the show before getting a real crack at the closers gig.

Having a “great” closer is catching lightning in a bottle.  Mariano Rivera is the exception, not the rule.  If you want to be upset about the Orioles offseason, go right ahead.  Just don’t let it be because of the lack of closer on the roster.  Baltimore will find one where everyone else does…sitting in the bullpen.  All closers got to the bullpen because they couldn’t hack it as a starter anyway and we all know that the O’s have plenty of guys like that in the system….

See you at the yard!

Jjaks Clayton


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