Thursday, February 21, 2013


We have looked at every position in the American League East and how the Yankees stack up, check out:
Now, we bring you The Closer... it just so happens the Yankees have the best one in baseball. Since 1997 the New York Yankees have had an undisputed leg up not only on the AL East, but on the rest of Major League Baseball in who comes into a game to close it out.

Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever who ever played the game of baseball, and he is a Yankee. When “Enter  Sandman” echoes throughout The House that Jeter Built, there is no doubt as to what the near future holds for Yankees opponents.  Simply put, the game is over.

Until last season’s mishap while shagging fly balls on the warning track before an April game against Kansas City, Mariano Rivera had 15 consecutive seasons of 28 or more saves as the Yankees closer.  During that span, he saved less than 30 games once, and his ERA was a sparkling 2.02.

Even more impressive are Rivera’s post season statistics.  They read:  96 games, 42 saves and an eye-popping 0.70 ERA in 141 innings pitched. There is nobody better.

Now the certain first-ballot Hall of Famer is coming off a major injury for the first time in his career, and by all accounts he has been up to the challenge.  As Erik Boland reported in Newsday HERE, Rivera has stunned even teammates with his recovery, and has accelerated his spring schedule.  He is claiming that everything feels good and is hungry for competition.

That is great news if you are a Yankees fan. There is no reason to doubt that Mariano Rivera at age 43 will be any different than he has been for the better part of the last two decades.  His consistent, high-level of production on the mound is the rudder that guides the Yankees ship.

Look for a return to 40-plus saves and an ERA less than 2.00 for the Yankee great. That’s my prediction.
Here is how the rest of the AL East stacks up at closer:

Toronto Blue Jays:  Casey Janssen posted 22 saves in 25 attempts for the Blue Jays in 2012.  His ERA was 2.54 – not impressive for a closer – but his WHIP was a sparkling 0.86.  The 31 year-old should get more save opportunities with Toronto’s re-vamped lineup.

Baltimore Orioles: 29 year-old Jim Johnson had a MLB leading 51 saves in 54 opportunities last season with the Orioles.  Even though he isn’t the typical strikeout pitcher that other closers are (he had 41 strikeouts in 68.2 innings pitched), he held opposing batters to a .220 average and posted a 1.02 WHIP.

Tampa Bay Rays:  The Rays’ Fernando Rodney was second in MLB in saves last season with 48 in 50 attempts.  He held opponents to a .167 batting average and posted a microscopic 0.78 WHIP and incredible 0.60 ERA.  In addition, he struck out 76 in 74.2 innings pitched and yielded just two home runs all season.  The 36 year-old will again cover the backside of what is the best pitching staff in the AL East.

Boston Red Sox: Joel Hanrahan was an intimidating presence for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the past two seasons in accumulating 76 saves in 84 save opportunites for the Bucs.  He held opposing batters to a .187 average and struck out 67 in 59.2 innings last year.  However, his ERA of 2.72 ranked him 142nd in relievers and he’ll need to improve upon that to live up to the billing with his new team.

Here’s how I think it breaks down:

Yankees: There is no doubt that Mo’ is back and the Yankees are a better team because of it.

Tampa Bay: The Rays Fernando Rodney will continue to sparkle in the closers role.

Baltimore: Jim Johnson finds ways to get batters out when he needs to and this improving team will keep getting him more save opportunities.

Toronto: Casey Janssen should see more save opportunities thanks to a new look to the Blue Jays lineup and pitching staff.  The question will be whether or not the relievers before him can hold onto the lead.

Boston: How will Hanrahan’s 2.72 ERA translate to the American League?  His jump in ERA and walks from 2011 to 2012 is worrisome. 

Let us know what you think?  How do you rate the AL East closers?

--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1


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