Results tagged ‘ closers ’
I have done more interviews about closers and why there has been so many changes and injuries at the closer role this year.
I can say this: the closer role is not just about “stuff.” It is a combination of stuff and a mentality to make that stuff useful and effective. I have argued with so-called numbers experts who claim anyone can close. That could not be further from the truth.
The fact is that there are a lot of guys that have the stuff to close. But closing is about understanding a couple of very important things. The first of those things is that the pressure is not on you as the pitcher. You have the lead. The pressure is on the hitter.
I have and always will claim that the eighth inning is harder to pitch and get outs than the ninth is. Why is this? Simple. The hitters have a net. The hitters who come up in the ninth are the hitters who truly have the pressure to produce. So hitters in the eighth will work counts, and as the pitcher you have to make quality pitches.
In the ninth, the closer has to throw strike one. Once they have thrown strike one, the hitter becomes defensive and will chase pitches out of the zone to protect. The other thing young closers don’t take into account is the hitters’ egos. All hitters want to be the hero and hit the two-run walk-off homer in the ninth, so they can read their name in the headlines the next day.
I was told by my idol, Goose Gossage, that too much control in the ninth can be a dangerous thing. He couldn’t have been more right. You get ahead with strikes, you get outs with balls. I have seen more 0-2 and 1-2 base hits given up this year than I think I ever have. Pitchers are afraid that if they waste a pitch to set up another pitch, then that will count against them and that might make them unavailable for tomorrow’s game. The mission of the closer is to get three outs before the other team scores a run. I don’t care if it takes 50 pitches to do it. So what? In my 16 years as a professional pitcher, I never once went to a manager and said I wasn’t available that day. I figured if I could pull my pants on, I could pitch.
That is my take on why there has been so much inconsistancy at the closer role this year. The role is not just about stuff. It is about understanding the hitters you are facing, their egos, also the situation you are in. The pressure is on the hitter!
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!
Over the last few years general managers have started building their pitching staffs from the closer back. Why?
Kevin Towers I think was really the first GM to start doing this when he was the GM of the Padres. It proved to be effective. He had Trevor Hoffman then Heath Bell as his closers, and Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson as his 7th and 8th innning guys. If the Padres could get the game to the 7th, it was pretty much over.
Then Towers took over as GM of the Diamondbacks, where Kirk Gibson had been named interim manager after the firing of A.J. Hinch. The first thing Towers did was remove the interim tag from Gibson’s title, and hired him to manage the club. Then he hired a coaching staff that was what I would call old school. Adding Don Baylor and Alan Trammell, to go along with the coaches that were there: Matt Williams, Charles Nagy… guys that fit the mold of what Towers and Gibson wanted. Hard-nosed, play hard until the final out kind of guys that could teach the young talent on this team how to win.
Then in the winter of 2010, after having a bullpen that blew 27 save opportunities in 2010, he went to work on his bullpen. The two big names were J.J. Putz and David Hernandez. It proved to work and work well. They won the division in 2011.
After watching the first series of the season so far this season, it is abundantly clear that bullpens have to be strong, if you want to have any chance of winning.
I live in the Philly area, so being off work this weekend and being able to see the Phillies play every game on local TV, I saw how important the pen is. The three starters for the Phillies in the series against the Pirates went a total of 20 innings and gave up two runs. They lost the series two games to one. The one game they won, Jonathan Papelbon got the save in a 1-0 win.
But if we look at the starting pitching all over the game, it has been very good. Meanwhile, there have been some bullpens that have imploded.
In 2011, starters’ ERA at this point of the season was 4.06. So far in 2012 it is 3.66, just shy of a half a run lower than last year. Yet relievers’ ERA at this point in the season last year was 3.69, and this year it has risen to 3.88.
Big-name closers have blown save opps already this year: Heath Bell, Jose Valverde, and Mariano Rivera. Chris Perez of the Indians blew his first save opportunity this year, then he converted his second one, giving him 2.2 innings pitched in their first three games. That is only a third of an inning less than he threw all spring. I can’t understand how you can give a closer the ball in a save situation on Opening Day when he has only thrown three innings all spring to get ready for the season.
So anyone out there who questions why teams are building their staffs from the closer back and putting so much emphasis on their bullpen talent. The very first series of the year should explain it. Boston has two blown saves already. The Cubs have 2 blown saves already. The bullpen has become extremely important in the game. There is nothing that will demoralize a team faster than an offense busting their butts for eight innings to get a lead, only to lose it in the 9th.