A couple days ago, a baseball neophyte friend of mine asked me, “In baseball, what is a closer?” And as I explained the concept, it occurred to me that I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile.
In baseball, a closing pitcher, more commonly referred to as a closer, is a relief pitcher who typically enters the game in the final inning. Ideally, the closer’s team will be leading on the scoreboard at that point, and so the closer’s job is to “close” the game, getting the final outs of that final inning.
A closer’s effectiveness has traditionally been measured by the number of saves he earns. A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in Rule 9.19 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. The rule states that the official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when that pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
- He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
- He is not the winning pitcher;
- He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
- He satisfies one of the following conditions:
- He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
- He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
- He pitches for at least three innings.
Over time, closers have become one-inning specialists typically brought in at the beginning of the ninth inning in save situations. They enter the game facing the high pressure that comes with having to seal those last three outs and, thus, a win for their club, which makes their role a rather essential one to a team’s success.
Mariano Rivera is MLB’s all-time leader in regular season saves with 652.
Congratulations to Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Mariano Rivera, and Roy Halladay on their election to the Baseball Hall of Fame! And bonus congrats to Rivera, the first ever elected with 100% of the vote.
Though he was usually used as a relief pitcher, on August 31, 1990, Mariano Rivera was given the start in a game on the final day of the season for the Gulf Coast Yankees. The opportunity allowed him to throw enough innings to qualify for GCL’s ERA title, an accomplishment that carries a contractual bonus. Rivera threw a seven-inning no-hitter against Bradenton to finish the season with a 0.17 ERA, 0.46 WHIP, 58 strikeouts in 52 innings, and $500 dollars richer.
Here’s a video from The New York Times I came across that describes what made Mariano Rivera such an effective closer. The video is wonderfully concise, yet explains the mechanics of Rivera’s cutter in an easy-to-follow manner complete with some excellent graphics.
I’m at an age where I’ve started noticing that many professional baseball players are younger than I am. As a Royals fan, virtually the entire team that I root for is younger than I am, and I actually find myself surprised to notice when a player is older than me.
This infographic is a few years old, but it does present an interesting perspective that I’m sure we can all relate to as fans.
I see the hitter when he’s moved in the box, like when he’s moved closer to the plate or changed his stance. I see when the batter has moved his feet, and then I make my own adjustment.
In an effort to speed up the pace of the game, in 1955, Major League Baseball announced a new rule that required a pitcher to deliver his pitch within 20 seconds of taking a pitching position.
By today’s rules, that time limit is down to twelve seconds:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
“2012 Edition: Official Baseball Rules.” MLB.com. Commissioner of Baseball, 2011. Web. Accessed 24 January 2014. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2012/Official_Baseball_Rules.pdf