In baseball, a closing pitcher, more frequently referred to as a closer (abbreviated CL), is a relief pitcher who specializes in closing out games, i.e., getting the final outs in a close game. Closers often appear when the score is close, and the role is often assigned to a team's best reliever. A small number of closers have won the Cy Young Award. Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Hoyt Wilhelm are closers who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A closer is generally a team's best reliever and designated to pitch the last few outs of games when their team is leading by a margin of three runs or fewer. A closer's effectiveness has traditionally been measured by the save, an official Major League Baseball (MLB) statistic since 1969. Closers are often the highest paid relievers on their teams. Over time, closers have become one-inning specialists typically brought in at the beginning of the ninth inning in save situations. The pressure of the last three outs of the game is often cited for the importance attributed to the ninth inning.
The concept of the closing pitcher, a player specifically designated to pitch no earlier than the eighth and generally not until the ninth inning, did not exist in the modern sense prior to the 1980s with the role of the closing pitcher evolving over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. Bruce Sutter was the first pitcher to start the ninth inning in 20 percent of his career appearances. Clay Carroll in 1972 was the first pitcher to make a third of his season's appearances in the beginning of the ninth inning, which would not be repeated until Rollie Fingers in 1982. John Franco in 1987 was the first to be used over 50 percent of the time in the beginning of the ninth in a season. Lee Smith in 1994 was the first to be used over 75 percent of the time in that situation. Using the save leader from each team in the league, the average closer made his appearances in the beginning of the ninth inning 10 percent of the time in the 1970s to almost 2⁄3 of the time by 2004.
Tony La Russa while with the Oakland A's is frequently named as the innovator of the position, making Dennis Eckersley the first player to be used almost exclusively in ninth inning situations. La Russa explained that "[the Oakland A's would] be ahead a large number of games every week ... That's a lot of work for somebody throwing more than one inning ... Also, there was the added advantage of [Eckersley]not getting overexposed. We tried to get [him] to only face three or four batters an outing." La Russa noted that clubs that do not often win risk their closer being under-worked with this strategy.
Prior to this, a team's ace reliever was called a fireman, coming to the rescue to "put out the fire", baseball terminology for stopping an offensive rally with runners on base. The firemen came in whenever leads were in jeopardy, regardless of the inning and often pitching multiple innings. An example of this is that Goose Gossage had 17 games where he recorded at least 10 outs in his first season as a closer, including three games where he went seven innings. He pitched over 130 innings as a reliever in three different seasons. For their careers, Sutter and Gossage had more saves of at least two innings than saves where they pitched one inning or less. Fingers was the only pitcher who pitched at least three innings in more than 10 percent of his saves. The game evolved to where the best reliever was reserved for games where the team had a lead of three runs or less in the ninth inning.
ESPN.com writer Jim Caple wrote that closers' saves in the ninth "merely conclude what is usually a foregone conclusion." Dave Smith of Retrosheet researched the seasons 1930–2003 and found that the winning percentage for teams who enter the ninth inning with a lead has remained virtually unchanged over the decades. One-run leads after eight innings have been won roughly 85 percent of the time, two-run leads 94 percent of the time, and three-run leads about 96 percent of the time. Baseball Prospectus projects that teams could gain as much as four extra wins a year by focusing on bringing their ace into the game earlier in more critical situations with runners on base instead of holding them out to accumulate easier ninth inning saves. In The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, Tom Tango et al. wrote that there was more value to having the ace reliever enter in the eighth-inning with a one- or a two-run lead instead of the ninth with a three-run lead. "Managers feel the need to please their closers—and their closers' agents—by getting them cheap saves to pad their stats and their bank accounts," wrote Caple. Tango et al. projected that using a great reliever over an average one to start the ninth with a three-run lead resulted in a two percent increase in wins, versus four percent for a two-run lead or six percent for a one-run lead. Former Baltimore Orioles manager Johnny Oates once told Jerome Holtzman, the inventor of the save statistic, that he created the ninth-inning pitcher by inventing the save. Holtzman disagreed, saying it was baseball managers who were responsible for not bringing in their top reliever when the game was on the line, in the seventh or eighth inning, which had been the practice in the past. He noted that managers' usage of closers can "abuse the pitching save ... to favor the closer."
La Russa says it is important that relievers know their roles and the situations which they will be called into a game. He added, "Sure, games can get away from you in the seventh and eighth, but those last three outs in the ninth are the toughest. You want the guy who can handle that pressure. That, to me, is most important." Oakland general manager Billy Beane said there would be too much media criticism if a pitcher other than the closer lost the game in the ninth. "Even if you know the odds, it's more comfortable being wrong when you go to the closer." Beane said the incremental increase gained by a closer in a three-run save situation "is worth it because losing is so painful in that situation."
Major awards and honors won by closers
Major League Baseball
Nippon Professional Baseball
Award Closer Team Year Meikyukai Kazuhiro Sasaki Whales/BayStars 2000 Shingo Takatsu Swallows 2003 Hitoki Iwase Dragons 2010 MVP Kazuhiro Sasaki BayStars 1998 (Central) Genji Kaku Dragons 1988 (Central) Yutaka Enatsu Fighters 1981 (Pacific) Yutaka Enatsu Carp 1979 (Central)
- ^ a b c d e f Jenkins, Chris (September 25, 2006). "Where's the fire?". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on February 25, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5wkrBkpn8.
- ^ Jack Moore "On the Closer Position: The Save and RP Usage" Fangraphs, Dec. 30, 2009 http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/on-the-closer-position-the-save-and-rp-usage/
- ^ Greg Couch "Last three outs require mental toughness on the part of a closer" Baseball Digest, August 2004 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCI/is_8_63/ai_n6108375/?tag=content;col1
- ^ Baseball Prospectus 2007, p.59
- ^ a b Baseball Prospectus 2007, p.60
- ^ http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=jp-relievers042610
- ^ Dickson 1999, p.194
- ^ Dickson 1999, p.396
- ^ a b c d e f Caple, Jim (August 5, 2008). "The most overrated position in sports". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5wkrXZOsp.
- ^ Schecter, Gabriel (January 18, 2006). "The Evolution of the Closer". National Baseball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 8, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070608125510/http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/library/columns/gs_060118.htm. "Gossage and Fingers weren't far behind, with Fingers the only pitcher who pitched at least three innings in more than 10% of his saves. Sutter and Gossage had more saves where they logged at least two innings than saves where they pitched an inning or less."
- ^ Baseball Prospectus 2007, pp.72–73
- ^ Tango et al. 2007, p.221
- ^ Tango et al. 2007, pp.215-16
- ^ Holtzman, Jerome (May 2002). "Where did save rule come from? Baseball historian recalls how he helped develop statistic that measures reliever's effectiveness". Baseball Digest. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCI/is_5_61/ai_84542687. Retrieved February 25, 2011. "I told him it was the managers who did it, not me. Instead of bringing in their best reliever when the game was on the line, in the seventh or eighth inning, which had been the practice in the past, they saved him for the ninth."
- ^ Holtzman, Jerome (June 18, 1989). "Pitching Keeps Cubs Armed And Ready After Getting Past Challenging Stretch". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/62E0ZcI6R.
- Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts (2007). Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong. New York, New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465005475. http://books.google.com/books?id=VsmnfVUKJskC&lpg=PR1&dq=between%20the%20numbers%20baseball%20prospectus&pg=PA59#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- Dickson, Paul (1999). The new Dickson baseball dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780156005807. http://books.google.com/books?id=afQVWhAm1TEC&lpg=PP1&ots=kQ1tDzyVw9&dq=the%20new%20dickson%20baseball%20dictionary&pg=PA194#v=snippet&q=fireman&f=false. Retrieved February 27, 2011.
- Tango, Tom; Lichtman, Mitchel; Dolphin, Andrew; Palmer, Pete (2007). The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. Potomac Books Inc.. ISBN 9781597971294.
- Major League Baseball Career Saves Leaders
- Major League Baseball Single Season Saves Leaders
- Major League Baseball Active Saves Leaders
Baseball positions Pitchers Defensive playersby numberby type Offensive players Non-players Related
Disabled list · Phantom ballplayer
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Closer — may refer to: Contents 1 Film, television and theatre 2 Music 2.1 Albums … Wikipedia
Baseball Prospectus — Baseball Prospectus, sometimes abbreviated as BP, is a think tank focusing on sabermetrics, the statistical analysis of the sport of baseball. Baseball Prospectus has fathered several popular new statistical tools which have become hallmarks of… … Wikipedia
Closer — steht für: die letzte schließende Szene eines Films, siehe Abspann im Baseball die Bezeichnung für einen Pitcher (Werfer), der im letzten Inning einen Sieg für sein Team sichern soll Werktitel: eine Fernsehserie, siehe The Closer ein Album von… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Baseball TAS — Baseball Tasmania is the governing body of baseball within Tasmania.After a number of years without an organised baseball body in the state, a league was re formed in 2007 with the hopes of re igniting baseball in the state. History In 2007, a… … Wikipedia
closer — [klō′zər] n. 1. someone or something that closes 2. a person adept at completing a business deal, an assignment, etc. successfully 3. Baseball a relief pitcher who specializes in pitching the final innings of a close game … English World dictionary
baseball — /bays bawl /, n. 1. a game of ball between two nine player teams played usually for nine innings on a field that has as a focal point a diamond shaped infield with a home plate and three other bases, 90 ft. (27 m) apart, forming a circuit that… … Universalium
Baseball field — The baseball diamond of the San Diego Padres PETCO Park, seen from the stands. A baseball field, also called a ball field or a baseball diamond, is the field upon which the game of baseball is played. The terms baseball field and ball field are… … Wikipedia
Baseball awards — Professional baseball leagues and amateur baseball organizations around the world, various sportswriting associations, and other interested groups confer awards on various baseball teams, players, managers, coaches, executives, broadcasters, and… … Wikipedia
Baseball — sport imagesize=300px caption=A view of the playing field at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois union= nickname= first= 1755 in London [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3582726 America s pastime really English? Earliest reference… … Wikipedia
closer — I noun 1. a person who closes something whoever is the closer has to turn out the lights and lock up • Derivationally related forms: ↑close • Hypernyms: ↑person, ↑individual, ↑someone, ↑ … Useful english dictionary