The Art of Closing

In 2012 the closer position has been the least consistent position in baseball.

There are many so-called experts that claim anyone can close games. I am here to tell you that couldn’t be more false! I have played with guys that could go out in the seventh and eighth innings and dominate, but when put in the closer situation they couldn’t begin to do it.

Why is that? First, it is an understanding of the mentality of the hitter in the eighth inning, and the mentality of the hitter in the ninth inning.

I know I made a living throwing balls and getting guys to swing at them. The key to that is throwing strike one. Once you throw strike one to a hitter in the ninth inning in a one-run game, you don’t have to throw another one. All hitters want to be heros. So, as the closer, you can expand the zone. What makes a great closer is the understanding that the pressure is not on you as the pitcher. The pressure is on the hitter. You already have the lead as the pitcher.

The problem is there are pitchers who have great stuff, but don’t trust it in the ninth. Case in point: David Robertson in New York. His interview after Mo got hurt told me all I needed to know before he ever threw a pitch in the closer role. He said,”I’m not going to be Mo, but I will try my best.” What he didn’t understand was that he has been doing the harder job for years as a setup man.

The reason it is tougher to throw the eighth is because the hitters have the guys coming up in the ninth to pick them up, so they are more selective. In his set up role this year, Robertson had thrown 12 innings, walked one and given up seven hits, while not allowing a run. Then, in his first two save opportunities, he threw 1.2 innings, walked three and gave up four hits and four runs, blowing one of the two saves.

Why is that? He did not trust that his stuff was good enough. He came in and nibbled around the zone instead of attacking them. Like he did as a setup guy.

All over baseball, the closer role has been terrible . There has been 272 save opportunities. And only 145 saves. That’s 65.23 percent. This has to be fixed. Because a blown save and a loss will demoralize a club faster than anything in the game. But there are young closers who need to learn the art of closing and figure out that the pressure is on the guys with the bats in their hands. They are behind!

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