So, Does Last Night Affect Your Feeling About Closers?

I will admit, when I started thinking about this post it was going to talk about how valuable Jose Valverde is to the Tigers in light of what Jonathan Paplebon (Blown Save, Loss) and Craig Kimbrel (Blown Save) did for their respective teams last night.  However, when I thought more about it, I started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t so much about Papa Grande, Kimbrel and Paplebon, but more about how each team values the position and how fans of those teams value the position.  Valverde did exactly what he has done all season long for the Tigers – save every game he had a chance to save.  He went 49 for 49 this season.  That is an incredibly impressive streak any way you look at it.  I know that most Tigers fans greatly appreciate his contributions to the team after having lived through the Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney years.  Most fans know that to expect a season like this from your Closer every year is not logical though.

Closers are like Kickers – the game seems to hang in the balance for them and when a team loses all of the blame is shifted onto their shoulders (plus, both groups happen to have some pretty eccentric personalities within their cohort).

Jonathan Paplebon could have pitched his last game for the Red Sox yesterday.  He is a Free Agent after this year and will surely command a hefty price tag.  After letting a lead slip away, the Red Sox brass could decide to let him walk and see how Daniel Bard (or someone else0 fares in that situation.  Craig Kimbrel is a rookie in a pitching rich system in Atlanta.  Perhaps he is traded for some more offense or demoted from his role as Closer after blowing 7 Saves through out the year (had he converted any one of those, teh Braves are still playing baseball in 2011). And the Perfect Jose Valverde’s team is still playing, but the Tigers could end up declining his option (not likely) and be in search of a new Closer in 2012.

So, honestly, do the events of last night change how you may have felt about closers?  Do you still think they should be given the big money for the one inning of pressure where the game ultimately hangs in the balance?  Do you think that you just throw the guy out there with the best stuff in your organization?  Do you think that “closing by committee” is the best way to go?  While baseball is a team game, when people (especially the Braves and Red Sox fans) look back on the 2011 season, Kimbrel and Paplebon could the names that jump to the forefront.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Boston Red Sox Closers Craig Kimbrel Daniel Bard Detroit Tigers Fernando Rodney Jonathan Papelbon Jose Valverde Todd Jones

  • Euphdude

    I believe there is a role for closers, however I don’t believe they should have that role regardless of performance. Clearly a closer like Valverde should get the benefit of the doubt during a season like he just had. Other closers who go through rocky streaks should have their roles reconsidered at least on a short term basis while they work through their struggles if their team has another reliever that can step in and fill the role on a temporary basis.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @Euphdude I agree. Managers should have a little more flexibility when it comes to finishing games. Too many teams are left with no options because they will wear out their closers arm before moving guys around a little more often.

      • Sam Genson

        @MCBjohnverburg@Euphdude I wonder how much is that is on the Manager vs the GM. I am pretty sure Leyland makes those calls for the Tigers but I don’t think we can say that is the case for all of the other teams in in MLB

  • MCBjohnverburg

    I still feel the same, that games are saved in the 7th and 8th as much as the 9th, and guys often come in with runners on instead of a clean slate. It’s a nice thing for a team to have, but time and time again, guys have shown they can step into closers roles and do the job.

  • jgorosh

    Kimbrel has 167 K’s in 97.2 career IP, a career 1.52 FIP, and saved 46 games this year. He’s not going anywhere.

    • Sam Genson

      @jgorosh if a team with that much pitching is looking to make a trade for some more offense, that is exactly where I would start. It all depends on the GM/Manager philosophy though. I don’t know enough about ATL to know if they might be content plugging in someone more reliable (who may not have the gaudy stats but who could put up a better save percentage)

      Every single player in MLB is on the block…for the right price.

    • Shelton

      @jgorosh “Joel Zumaya had 97 Ks in 83.1 IP and a 1.94 ERA. He’s untouchable and the closer of the future.” – Tigers fan in September 2006

      That being said, I doubt they trade Kimbrel because I don’t think many teams will pay much for a reliever to make it worthwhile, but if a good offer comes along, they’d be foolish not to listen.

      • jgorosh

        @Shelton If they can get a top of the line bat, yeah, maybe they’d listen. But the guy is 23 years old, and striking out 15 guys per 9. In addition, if Zumaya had stayed healthy, he probably would have been our closer of the future.

      • Sam Genson

        @Shelton@jgorosh right it is doubtful but not out of the question. Which is why I used the word “perhaps” in discussing both a POSSIBLE trade or demotion in the pen.

        I bet right now most Braves fans would be willing to exchange some of those K’s for fewer blown saves