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MLB Offseason 2012: Rating the Top 15 Relief Pitchers According to TPR

Robertson was brilliant all season.
Robertson was brilliant all season.Nick Laham/Getty Images
Scott BarzillaContributor IIINovember 20, 2011

We have finally reached the conclusion of our positional look at the total player ratings. Like with the starting pitchers, we had nearly 250 relief pitchers in the relief pitcher universe.

We simply chose to look at the top 15 as we have the other positions. Like with the starters, we converted runs above replacement into an average. The methodology was exactly the same.

Since we are done with this, we can move onto to Winter Meetings previews by looking at each team’s regulars and pitchers. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Let’s take a look at how the relief pitchers fared.

 

15. Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 0.6

FangraphsAVG= 11.9

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 19.5

Total Player Rating= 32.0

Ideally, your best relief pitcher should be your closer. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Kevin Gregg spent most of the season as the Orioles’ closer. Johnson replaced him down the stretch, and the Orioles started winning more close games.

 

Romo has been stuck in middle relief.
Romo has been stuck in middle relief.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

14. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 8.3

FangraphsAVG= 15.9

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 8.5

Total Player Rating= 32.7

You will not see Brian Wilson’s name on this list. One of the pitfalls of building bullpens is that a player’s role tends to follow his salary. Once a player gets into the closer’s role (and is paid like one) it is nearly impossible to make a change.

 

13. Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 11.9

FangraphsAVG= 10.4

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 10.5

Total Player Rating= 32.8

Betancourt and Johnson ended up being very similar pitchers. Huston Street was the Rockies closer, but it became increasingly obvious that Betancourt was more qualified. Hopefully for them it will continue.

Hanrahan was a huge positive this year for the Bucs.
Hanrahan was a huge positive this year for the Bucs.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

 

12. Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 7.3

FangraphsAVG= 14.3

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 12.5

Total Player Rating= 34.1

Hanrahan may not profile as an elite closer, but he is the closest thing for the Pirates since Kent Tekulve. Unlike his fellow staffmates, he kept his level of production throughout the season. The others faded back to career norms.

 

11. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 7.3

FangraphsAVG= 15.2

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 14.5

Total Player Rating= 37.0

Imagine being tenth overall and third on his own team.
Imagine being tenth overall and third on his own team.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Holland was the best reliever by far for the Royals, but Joakim Soria has been their closer for years. Last year presented them with the perfect opportunity to trade Soria for prospects, but they didn’t pull the trigger.

 

10. Jonny Venters, Atlanta Braves

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 8.0

FangraphsAVG= 11.2

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 18.2

Total Player Rating= 37.4

The Braves have an embarassment of riches on the mound. They traded away Derek Lowe to being the offseason and might be dealing Jair Jurrjens as well. They still would have more than any other team.

 

9. Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 12.1

FangraphsAVG= 7.3

Should Clippard be the closer in Washington?
Should Clippard be the closer in Washington?Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 18.5

Total Player Rating= 37.9

No one is debating this in Washington, but allow me to introduce the question: Shouldn’t Clippard be the closer in D.C.? Drew Storen had a fine season, but he isn’t in the top 15.

 

8. Eric O’Flarehty, Atlanta Braves

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 8.7

FangraphsAVG= 10.7

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 20.5

Total Player Rating= 39.9

The Braves bullpen was outrageously good this past season. Sometimes when you have a late season breakdown, you end up causing more damage to your team when you try and fix the breakdown. The bullpen ain’t broke. Don’t fix it.

 

7. John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers

Adams deserves a shot at the closer's role.
Adams deserves a shot at the closer's role.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 14.4

FangraphsAVG= 13.0

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 13.0

Total Player Rating= 40.4

When Francisco Rodriguez complained about not getting any closing opportunities, he just made himself look like an idiot. Axford may have been one of the top five closers in baseball this past season. KRod was not.

 

6. Mike Adams, Texas Rangers

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 12.9

FangraphsAVG= 12.3

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 16.5

Total Player Rating= 41.7

Reports out of Arlington have Neftali Feliz moving to the rotation. Some pundits think this means the Rangers should sign one of the established closers to take his place. Why? Adams is perfectly ready.

 

Marshall should have gotten more save opportunities this year.
Marshall should have gotten more save opportunities this year.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

5. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 9.7

FangraphsAVG= 19.3

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 17,5

Total Player Rating= 46.5

Robertson will place in front of the greatest reliever of all-time, but no one is suggesting that Rivera give up the closer’s role. At least they aren’t saying it yet. All good things come to an end though.

 

4. Sean Marshall, Chicago Cubs

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 13.0

FangraphsAVG= 21.0

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 12.5

Total Player Rating= 46.5

Mike Quade was fired—and this could be one reason why. He stuck with Carlos Marmol all season in spite of his struggles. Meanwhile, Marshall was lights out and never got the high leverage situations. Go figure.

Kimbrel had an unbelievable season.
Kimbrel had an unbelievable season.Greg Fiume/Getty Images

 

3. Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 16.3

FangraphsAVG= 24.6

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 8.5

Total Player Rating= 49.4

People will rage on in debate about whether closers should get eight figure contracts. Papelbon was legitimately the second best closer in baseball this past season. The problem isn’t so much how much money he will get next year as whether he will still be the second best closer when the contract is up.

 

2. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 19.1

FangraphsAVG= 25.0

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 13.5

Closer of the future?
Closer of the future?Nick Laham/Getty Images

Total Player Rating= 57.6

The NL Rookie of the Year was brilliant until the last week of the season. No matter, the Braves bullpen is the furthest thing from being the problem. The award was well deserved, and as long as Freddi Gonzalez doesn’t misuse him, he should be dominant for the next several seasons.

 

1. David Robertson, New York Yankees

Baseball ProspectusAVG= 14.0

FangraphsAVG= 22.3

Baseball ReferenceAVG= 24.5

Total Player Rating= 60.8

Robertson is the best kept secret in baseball. The Yankees haven’t had a duo like this since Rivera was setting up for John Wetteland. People thought Joba Chamberlain would succeed Rivera. They thought signing Rafael Soriano would do it. It turns out to be Robertson.

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