Keri: The flawed importance of the closer

From Jonah Keri at on June 14, 2013:

For baseball fans, nothing is more heartbreaking, more infuriating than a blown save. Your team spends the better part of an afternoon or evening mounting rallies, pushing all the right buttons, getting out of jams, and building a lead. Your closer trots in for the ninth inning. A few pitches later, three hours of hard work have been flushed down the toilet.

It’s enough to drive people mad …


… mad enough to want to trade arguably the best hitter and best pitcher on the planet for a 43-year-old reliever a few months away from retirement, because the current closer’s serving up a nightly buffet of trash casseroles.

Decades after Bill James published his first screed on managers and their rigid, self-defeating methods for using closers, very little has changed. Every team still saves its closer primarily for ninth-inning leads of three runs or fewer. Every team still places far too much credence in the title of Proven Closer. And yet, teams are still blowing as many leads as they did 10, 20, even 50 years ago, while Jose Valverde threatens to institutionalize half the state of Michigan.

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Originally published: June 14, 2013. Last Updated: June 14, 2013.