Ranking closers is far from an exact science. The bottom line is that their sample size is so small that a lot can change from year-to-year. Jose Valverde was “perfect” in terms of converting saves, but he had a rather pathetic 2.03 K/BB ratio for a reliever. Come February and March, I’ll have the closers ranked into tiers, which is the real way to approach them on draft day.
1. Craig Kimbrel – The workload is a concern, but he threw over 70 innings in the majors and minors combined the year before. Be sure to track his velocity this spring.
2. John Axford – Remember when he gave up that game winning bomb to Ramon Hernandez on opening day? Remember how everyone freaked out about it? All Axford dud was go on to post a 1.95 ERA and 3.4 K/BB ratio to go along with 46 saves.
3. Mariano Rivera – He’s getting older, but perhaps in the way that a fine wine ages. That is to say he actually improved his K/BB numbers from a year ago.
4. Jonathan Papelbon – It remains to be seen if Boston will break out the checkbook to bring their closer back, but chances are he’ll end up somewhere closing out games. He really tightened up his command this season, posting a 3.9 percent walk rate (1.4 BB/9). .
5. J.J. Putz – Continued his career resurgence in 2011. Small injury concerns.
6. Ryan Madson – a 2.25 FIP, 3.9 K/BB rate and 32 saves. He should make some nice cash this offseason as he heads to free agency for the first time.
7. Jose Valverde – See above
8. Joel Hanrahan – Hanrahan finally broke out in 2011, improving his command yet again.
9. Heath Bell – Curious to see where he ends up. May not fare as well in a hitter’s park.
10. Brian Wilson – Wilson wasn’t right this past season and his arm injury seems to have been the culprit. Perhaps the celebrity of his beard was a negative influence on his game as well. If healthy coming into spring training, he should bounce back.
Notables: Drew Storen had a great season, but I’m not convinced he’s going to miss enough bats to recover from what should be a regression in BABIP next season (his BABIP was .246 in 2011). Francisco Cordero hadn’t posted a BB/9 below 4.0 since 2007. Then, in a free agent season, he lowers that mark to 2.8 BB/9. Color me skeptical.
Valverde, Bell, Wilson, and Hanrahan should be high in the rankings. Johnathan Papelbon is not clutch and J.J. Putz is not that good. Ryan Madson is a good closer just not top 10, to me he is probably 11. Mine rankings are 1. John Axford, 2. Jose Valverde, 3. Craig Kimbrel, 4. Mariano Rivera, 5. Heath Bell, 6. Joel Hanrahan, 7. Brain Wilson, 8. Drew Storen, 9. Johnathan Broxton, 10. Johnathan Papelbon.
More knowledge dropped here. I definitely gotta make sure to check out this site more often! As I said in my big money league, I had Kimbrel and Axford. I also had Marmol, but that idiot drove me crazy with his implosions.
@Jose lamo Broxton lol?!? What about Bailey?
@Jose lamo In all honesty, CL rankings are fairly worthless anyway. Relievers are so volatile and they're numbers are subject to small sample sizes.
That being said, I have to disagree with your ranking of Broxton. Now with KC, he has Soria in front of him, who I should have put on this list.
I'm sure our CL rankings will change come Feb.
@CollegeWolf Such is the risk with high walk rate relievers. They need to maintain great stuff to overcome lack of control. Marmol did it one year, didn't the next. I traded him in a keeper league just before the implosion for this very reason.
@CollegeWolf@Jose lamo Bailey hasn't been 100% healthy over the last 2 yrs, but he should get plenty of SV opps in BOS. Also a little worried how moving from OAK to Fenway will affect him (FB pitcher). If healthy, though, he could easily be a top-10 guy.
I could see Holland getting some looks in KC, but I think Soria will bounce back. Maybe if he's traded at some point. Holland's a good guy to keep in your back pocket.
@CharlieSaponara Yeah, I tried to trade him but no one would bite. He would do so well for stretches, and then have epic implosions. It was frustrating. Oh well, I still won the league down the stretch, so I can't complain too much.