What is a Closer in Baseball?
Closer in baseball is a specialized relief pitcher who typically records the last few outs in the game when his team is in the lead. A closer typically pitches the ninth inning, though some teams have employed the strategy of using a different pitcher for the eighth and ninth innings, while the “closer” pitches the tenth inning or later. Closers are usually the team’s most reliable reliever, as they are called upon to protect a slim lead late in the game.
History of Closers in Baseball
The first specialized relief pitcher is generally accepted to be Rollie Fingers, who debuted with the Oakland A’s in 1968, and was named the American League’s MVP in 1981. Fingers’ primary role was as a closer, though he also filled in as a setup man and even started a game on one occasion. He was the first pitcher to record 300 career saves and is widely recognized as the first “true” closer in baseball.
Qualities of a Closer
Closers need to possess a few key qualities in order to be successful.
- Mental Toughness: Closers need to be able to stay focused and composed in the high-pressure situations that they are often put in. They must be able to block out any outside distractions and maintain their composure in order to be successful.
- Physical Durability: Closers are often asked to pitch multiple innings on a regular basis, so they need to have the physical endurance to be able to do this. They also need to be able to maintain their velocity and control over extended periods of time.
- Confidence: Closers need to have the confidence to perform in big moments, and the ability to shut down an opposing team’s offense when the game is on the line.
Role of a Closer
A closer’s primary role is to protect a lead late in the game. They may also be asked to pitch multiple innings in the event of a blown save or extra-innings game. Some closers may even be asked to start a game in certain situations, such as a doubleheader or when a team’s starting pitcher is injured or unavailable.
Skills of a Closer
Closers need to possess a few key skills in order to be successful.
- Accuracy: Closers need to be able to throw strikes consistently and have good command of their pitches. The ability to locate pitches is essential, as it can often be the difference between a hit and an out.
- Velocity: Closers need to have the ability to throw hard, as velocity plays a major role in a pitcher’s success. A fastball in the mid-90s can be enough to blow away opposing hitters, while a slider in the mid-80s can be devastating.
- Mental Preparation: Closers need to be able to prepare mentally for each game, as the pressure of the situation can often be overwhelming. They need to be able to stay focused and composed in order to be successful.
Most Successful Closers in Baseball History
There have been many great closers throughout baseball history, but a few stand out above the rest.
- Mariano Rivera: Rivera is considered by many to be the greatest closer of all time, as he is the all-time leader in saves with 652. He also holds the record for most career appearances with 1,173 and has been selected to 13 All-Star teams.
- Trevor Hoffman: Hoffman is the second all-time leader in saves with 601 and is the only reliever with at least 600 saves. He was selected to seven All-Star teams and won the 1998 NL Reliever of the Year award.
- Lee Smith: Smith is the third all-time leader in saves with 478, and he also holds the record for most seasons leading the league in saves with four. He was selected to seven All-Star teams and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
Equipment Used by Closers
Closers typically use the same equipment as all other pitchers in baseball, but they may also have a few specialized pieces of equipment that are designed to help them perform better.
- Pitching Glove: Closers typically use a specialized pitching glove that is designed to provide a better grip on the ball. This helps them maintain better control and accuracy when throwing their pitches.
- Arm Sleeve: An arm sleeve is often used by closers to provide additional support and stability to their throwing arm. This helps to reduce the risk of injury and can also help to increase velocity.
- Elbow Brace: An elbow brace is often used by closers to help reduce the risk of elbow injuries. The brace helps to keep the elbow in the correct position and prevents excessive strain on the joint.
Closers typically make more money than other relief pitchers due to their specialized role and the fact that they are often the most reliable arm in a team’s bullpen. The average salary for a closer in 2020 is estimated to be around $4 million dollars.
A closer in baseball is a specialized relief pitcher who is typically called upon to protect a lead late in the game. Closers need to possess a few key qualities, such as mental toughness, physical durability, and confidence, in order to be successful. They also need to have the necessary skills, such as accuracy, velocity, and mental preparation. Some of the most successful closers in baseball history include Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Lee Smith. Closers typically make more money than other relief pitchers due to their specialized role.