MLB Closers Are Overrated, Even The Good Ones

Zack LessnerCorrespondent IIAugust 25, 2010

ST. LOUIS - JULY 22: Relief pitcher Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 22, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 2-0.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

(Note to reader: This article was written before I became a member at bleacher report, so I am just posting it now.)

Closers get paid too much to do too little.

Normally, their goal is to get three outs (sometimes they only have to get one ) in the last inning.

They have to protect a 1 to 3 run lead (or if the tying run is on deck) before the other team can tie the game or go ahead.

This job doesn’t seem that hard. They have one inning not to allow any runs, and in some cases, one or two runs allowed does the job. This job sounds like it would go to one of the worst guys on the team, yet the players in these roles get treated much differently.

The top closer of 2008, Brad Lidge, who went 41 for 41 in save attempts, pitched only 69.1 innings that year and in the middle, signed a 3 year, $37.5 million contract. Although Lidge wasn’t anything less than dominant in 2008, was he worth a $37.5 million contract to pitch 69.1 innings a year?

And this season (*read comment below), he has blown 6 saves in 19 opportunities. Closers are too uncertain and do too little to be getting these kinds of contracts.They are getting too many years for too much money.

Look at guys like Eric Gagne, Jason Isringhausen, Jose Mesa, and Eddie Guardado who have either been disappointments or gotten injured after showing signs of brilliance.

Here are other closers who have gotten monster contracts in recent years:


Billy Wagner signed a 4 year $43 million dollar contract with the Mets

Mariano Rivera signed a 3 year $45 million dollar contract with the Yankees

Francisco Rodriguez signed a 3 year $37 million dollar contract with the Mets

B.J. Ryan signed a 5 year $47 million dollar contract with the Blue Jays

Joe Nathan signed a 4 year $47 million dollar contract with the Twins

Francisco Cordero signed a 4 year $46 million dollar contract with the Reds

-As a closer, none of these players has thrown over 86 innings in one season.


You don't see other relief pitchers getting these huge contracts even though they are pitching the same amount of innings.

Older closers should be converted into regular guys in the bullpen. That way, they can come in during all different situations, not just save situations.

Yes they won't be racking up as many saves, but they will come into tighter situations, not just games when they have an easy cushion.  

Doing this will allow their innings to jump up. Allowing a pitcher to pitch in more situations ups his chances of getting into more games and more innings. More innings from your better pitchers is better value.

Younger closers should be converted to starters so they can throw closer to 200 innings. A lot of closers had been starters when they were in the minor leagues.

Converting a good young pitcher into a closer is a mistake. Although they may have good numbers being a closer, they could have given you 100+ innings more of the same stuff being a starter.

Just look at John Smoltz. He was converted to a closer having 12 years of success as a starter. After 4 years of being a dominant closer, he went back to being a hall of fame starter.

As a closer, Smoltz pitched less than half the innings that he would have if he was a starter. The Braves did not get the full value out of Smoltz that they should have if he had been pitching for them twice as much in that stretch.

So how should managers deal with a save situation? The same way that they deal with the rest of the bullpen innings.

Choose the reliever to come in that has had success against the batters that he is facing, or put the reliever in a situation where he has a good match up.

That way, the team can have success in a save situation, while also using their better pitchers for more innings.

Just like the seventh inning, a team shouldn’t just have one main man for the ninth inning. It’s not the inning that’s being pitched that’s important, it’s how a team maximizes using its best players.