Shutting The Door: Who Are The Top Five Closers In Each League At The Break?
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Tuesday July 16th, 2013
By Dan Wanser (Baseball Writer): Follow @DanWanser
You’re playing your rivals in a game that can put you in first place. You go in to the top of the 9th inning with the score 3-2.
Your starter went a solid seven innings, and then your middle reliever got you through the 8th. Three outs away, who do you call in from the pen?
This one guy will be the difference in whether you win or you lose. He needs to come in and get the next three outs, arguably the most important three outs of the game.
In this nerve-racking situation, you need a guy who can come in, put his nerves aside, and finish off this ballgame to get the win. Who are you bringing in from the pen? Your closer.
So if your team is in this situation, who do you want in the game? Here’s the pitchers who I think have been the best closers in this first half of the season.
Number 5: Glen Perkins (Twins)
Glen Perkins has really done his job this year for the Minnesota Twins. In his 23 save opportunities, he has gotten the job done 21 times. When the RHP has been called in to the game, he has kept hitters guessing to the tune of a 1.82 ERA.
To go along with that, Perkins has kept the hitters to a .172 batting average against him. At the All-Star break, the former Twin Starter has a great strikeout:walk ratio as he has 47 K’s and has only walked 7 hitters.
With those numbers, Perkins averages more than a strikeout per inning as he has only pitched 34.2 innings up to this point.
Number 4: Greg Holland (Royals)
This season for the Kansas City Royals, Greg Holland has shut the door on opponents 22 times in his 24 opportunities. At the All-Star break, the RHP has kept a very low ERA as it sits at 1.80 – and has controlled hitters to a clip of a .171 opponent batting average.
Holland has been very reliable this season as he averages about a strikeout and a half per inning as he has 60 K’s in 35 innings.
The only downside to Holland is he has walked a total of 11 batters in those 35 innings.
However, with everything taken into consideration, I think the Royals Closer is the 4th best closer in the AL at the All-Star break.
Number 3: Mariano Rivera (Yankees)
Mariano Rivera has been outstanding for the New York Yankees so far this season and is among the top three closers in the AL right now.
At the All-Star break, Rivera has closed the door on his opponent 30 times in his 32 chances.
In those games, he has an ERA of 1.83 – and has kept hitters guessing as opponents are hitting .265 against him.
So far, Rivera has 32 K’s and 7 walks in his 34.1 innings.
Now these numbers may not seem all the great if you directly compare them to others, but I would take Rivera over most closers any day of the week because when you need to finish the game, you can almost always count on him.
Number 2: Grant Balfour (Athletics)
Grant Balfour has been amazing for the Oakland Athletics this season. At the All-Star Break, Balfour has been a perfect 25 for 25 in save opportunities – and dating 42 straight shut downs going back to last year.
Right now, Balfour is the only closer in the MLB to be perfect in save opportunities and have at least 20 saves. In his 38.2 innings, he has an ERA of 1.63 which is second among all closers.
In those innings, Balfour has 41 K’s and 13 BB’s. The ALL – Star has spent this season keeping hitter baffled so that they are only hitting .193 against him.
So if I needed someone to finish a game for me, Grant Balfour would definitely be a good option.
Number 1: Joe Nathan (Rangers)
In my opinion, The Texas Rangers have the best closer in the American League this season in Joe Nathan.
This season, (the long time former Twin) has dominated opponents by shutting the door in 30 of his 31 save opportunities. In those games, Nathan has an ERA of 1.36 which is the best in the AL.
To go with that, he has yielded an opponent batting average of only .149 which also leads the AL. At the break, Nathan has 42 K’s and has only walked 10 batters in his 39.2 innings.
That puts him at over a strikeout per inning. Looking at everyone stats and watching them play, its pretty clear that Joe Nathan is the best closer in the AL at the All-Star break.
Number 5: Rafael Soriano (Nationals)
Washington Nationals closer Rafael Soriano has pitched fairly well for his team so far this season.He has been able to finish off the game 25 times in his 29 opportunities – and has posted a 2.25 ERA while doing that.
At the All-Star break, the Veteran RHP has struck out 29, while walking 8 batters in his 40 innings of work. Soriano isn’t an All-Star pitcher, but he is one of the 5 best closers in the National League so far this season.
Number 4: Aroldis Chapman (Reds)
Aroldis Chapman really helps the Reds from the Closer position. The “Cuban Missile’ has done his job in 21 of the 24 times he has been called on – and has maintained an ERA of 2.79 so far this year.
Chapman has a great fastball that can top 105 mph, which has helped him strike-out a whopping 64 people this year in only 38.2 innings. That’s nearly 2 per inning. The NL ALL – Star does have some problems with control, however because he does have 19 walks on the year.
Even with the control problem Chapman still keeps hitters off balance. At the All-Star break, opponents are only hitting .175
Number 3: Edward Mujica (Cardinals)
Edward Mujica is the close for the St. Louis Cardinals and he does his job very well. Mujica has saved 26 games in his 28 opportunities.
One of the great things about him, is his control – as he has only walked two hitters this year.
Mujica has struck out 34 batters in 41 innings, which is pretty good because he pitches to contact.
The Cards new Closer has yielded only a Batting Average of .188. The only downside to Mujica is his ERA is a little high for a closer as it sits at 2.20.
Number 2: Craig Kimbrel (Braves)
Craig Kimbrel has been really good for his Atlanta Braves this year. He has a great Era that sits just above 1.5 at 1.53 which leads the NL.
Kimbrel has had a little trouble finishing some games as he has blown 3 saves in his 29 opportunities which still isn’t that bad. Kimbrel dominates hitters as he averages over a strikeout per inning and opponents are only hitting .185 against him.
Number 1: Jason Grilli (Pirates)
Jason Grilli has been the best closer in the National League this year at the All-Star break. He has dominated hitters with an ERA under two.
Grilli averages over a strike-out per inning as he has struck out 63 hitters in his 40.2 innings. He also has pretty good control as he has only walked 9 batters at this point in the year.
This season. we have great closers up and down both the American and National Leagues.
From pitchers such as Jonathan Papelbon (who isn’t on this list), to Jason Grilli – (who may be the best closer in the Majors currently), there are many guys who can get the job done at the end of the game.
So think back to the scenario I gave you at the beginning. If you’re managing your favorite team and you’re in that situation who do you want closing out that game?
I’d love to hear your opinions on who you think is the best closer in the league so please leave your thoughts below in the comments.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners ***
A big thank-you goes out to Our writer Dan Wanser for preparing today’s featured article. Dan is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports. He is a Junior at Pottsville High School in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
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Posted on July 16, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @danwanser on twitter, all-star, American league, aroldis chapman, Atlanta Braves, cincinnati reds, craig kimbrel, dan wanser, Edward Mujica, glen perkins, grant balfour, greg holland, holland, jason grilli, joe nathan, jonathan papelbon, kansas city royals, Major League Baseball All-Star Game, mariano rivera, minnesota twins, mlb, national league, new york mets, new york yankees, oakland athletics, pittsburgh pirates, rafael soriano, st louis cardinals, texas rangers, top 5 closers al, top closer AL, washington nationals. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.