Ranking closers is an extremely tricky proposition. It’s a volatile position, with turnover happening quite often be it due to injury, trades or ineffectiveness. Hey, someone has to pitch the ninth, right? Just look at the Mets with Luis Ayala last season.
With so many situations still unsettled, it makes it that much tougher. If they are no guarantee to close the entire season, how can we rank them among the best in the game?
With that said, let’s take a look at how I ranked them:
- Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox
- Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
- Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins
- Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets
- Brad Lidge – Philadelphia Phillies
- Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals
- Bobby Jenks – Chicago White Sox
- Kerry Wood – Cleveland Indians
- Brian Fuentes – Los Angeles Angels
- Jose Valverde – Houston Astros
- Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers
- Francisco Cordero – Cincinnati Reds
- B.J. Ryan – Toronto Blue Jays
- Carlos Marmol – Chicago Cubs
- Trevor Hoffman – Milwaukee Brewers
- Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
- Matt Capps – Pittsburgh Pirates
- Frank Francisco – Texas Rangers
- Heath Bell – San Diego Padres
- Matt Lindstrom – Florida Marlins
- I really wanted to push Soria up on this list, somewhere in the Top 5, but I need to see him repeat his success before I feel comfortable doing that. I wouldn’t count on him repeating a BABIP of .215, which certainly would cause his miniscule 0.86 WHIP to increase. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is going to be one of the elite once again, but I need to see it one more time. To see what I’m expecting from him in 2009, check out what I projected back in December by clicking here.
- I know people have concern regarding Trevor Hoffman and if he still has anything left in the tank. He’s certainly not the strikeout artist he once was, but going 30 for 34 in save opportunities last season tells me he will still be able to lock down the victory when given the opportunity. In Milwaukee, he should have plenty of chances.
- Will Carlos Marmol hold onto the job? Will he even start the season with the job? That question is pushing him down the list, thanks to Kevin Gregg’s presence. I have to believe that it’s Marmol’s job to lose, but that is just my opinion. I also believe he has the chance to be one of the top closers in baseball, after striking out 114 batters in just 87.1 innings. That’s electric and enough to keep him on the list over some of the other players facing competition.
- I have been singing the praises of Frank Francisco since last season and I’m not about to change my tune now. Eddie Guardado’s presence could muddy the situation a bit, but all reports seem to be pointing to Francisco holding the job. That makes him a great late round selection in all formats.
- Can Brad Lidge possibly go a second full season without blowing a save? It is highly unlikely, so I certainly wouldn’t go into the season expecting perfection once again.
- I’m honestly not sold on Matt Lindstrom, but he just doesn’t face much competition in Florida at this point. Leo Nunez? Scott Proctor? He barely slid on here thanks to his strikeout potential and the fact that he appears pretty safe, though it also wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t finish the season closing games (either due to inability or the fear of injury). Keep your expectations in check here.
- Jonathan Broxton has shown his tremendous strikeout ability already and has all the makings of a dominant closer. He went 14-18 in saves over the final 3 months, showing that he can handle the pressure. Could he be this season’s breakout closer? It’s quite possible.
- Could Heath Bell fill Trevor Hoffman’s shoes? We’re soon going to find out, as it is his job to lose. It was impossible to expect a repeat of his ’07 breakout (2.03 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), but he has proven to be a bulldog coming out of the pen. Also, given their offense, how many blowouts do you really expect the Padres to get? That could make him a great source of saves. If you want a bit more, check out what Tom Krasovic said in our Ask the Expert (click here to read).
- According to Jeff Zriebec in our recent Ask the Expert (click here to read), George Sherrill will be starting the season as the closer, but there’s a good chance he doesn’t finish there. That certainly is part of the reason why he is out of our Top 20 rankings. A 4.72 ERA and 1.50 WHIP didn’t help either.
- As Troy Renck of The Denver Post stated in our Ask the Expert (click here to read), it’s likely that Huston Street opens the season as the Rockies closer, but Manny Corpas should get his chance before 2009 is over. That uncertainty keeps both out of our Top 20.
- Speaking of uncertainty, Joey Devine or Brad Ziegler? Who knows at this point, but again that keeps both off the list for now. As the situation plays itself out, that certainly has the potential to change.
- Who was the last man off? Probably Chad Qualls, and it was extremely close.
Who is missing from this list that you think belongs? Should someone be higher? Lower? Let’s hear what you think.
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