April 17th, 2013
By Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin
The concept of a closer we know today–someone who comes into the game in the 9th inning to shut the door on the opposition, and get the win, its a relatively new concept. The first year a “save” was even a MLB stat was 1969
There have always been guys who pitched the 9th inning, but in the earlier years of baseball, they often pitched the 8th, and sometimes the 4th and 7th inning as well.
Closer focuses on 62 of the best relievers of all times, and is split into 3 sections “The Early Year, “The Transition Years” and “The Modern Day Closer”, and within those sections, its further broken down by the dominant relievers of that span.
Its interesting to trace the progression of the position from when Hoyt Whelm and Ollie Fingers would average 2-3 innings per outing, and have win loss records of 143-122, and 114-118, respectively, as they generally started out as starting pitchers, and moved to the bullpen when they lost their effectiveness there. And their stories are remarkably similar: They all wanted to be in there with the game on the line–whether than was the 9th–or the 6th inning…
Then onto the transitional period, where Dennis Eckersley and Dave Righetti were still pitching more than the modern day closer, but less than their predecessor–and it was more about getting the win, not the individual accolades. But even then the attitude of pitching was starting to change.
Then there is the Modern Closer, which has plenty more familiar faces like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon and Brad Lidge (who wrote the Forward to the book), which completes the evolution of how specialized the role is today–one inning is the norm, two is unusual, and three is rarer than hens teeth. And players are groomed from the beginning to be closers–most of them did not get their start as starting rotation guys. And players who do not have a short memory, need not apply…
Available where all good books are sold Closer is the perfect book for any student of the game–or that young pitcher in your life. Check it out!