I thought I would do an article on NL closers and looking at the past 10 years of the NL Closers and where we are at presently.
Godfathers of NL Closers:
It would be nice if there could be a group of NL Closers for a number of years you could bank on such as Trevor Hoffman & Billy Wagner. Hoffman was an elite closer from 1994 through 2009 (injured almost all of 03) & Wagner was elite from 1997 through 2010 (injured in 2000 & 2009). On top of huge save numbers you got huge numbers across the board and they were money in the bank. Oh the good old days.
Most Closers Only Last 3 Years, 4 at Best:
If you look at it there are a number of closers who had big years and looked like they would be a huge closer for the next number of years. But after about 3 - 4 years time due to performance or injury they do not last. Closers who fall into this category are Kerry Wood, Chad Cordero, Eric Gagne, Brad Lidge (although up and down over a number of years), Brian Fuentes, Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), Francisco Rodriguez (his prime years were gone when he came to the Mets), Ryan Franklin & Brian Wilson. I am sure these names are a blast from the past.
Closers who were better than you think:
In the NL over the last number of years the closers that while were not Wagner & Hoffman were the next rung down and were better than you think. These closers included Jose Valverde (before going to AL), Francisco Cordero & Jason Isringhausen.
Closers who were one hit wonders:
Closers in recent time who had huge seasons and looked like would be stud closers for years to come only to crash and burn and they include Carlos Marmol, John Axford, Todd Jones, Jonathan Broxton, and Drew Storen.
So where do we stand now:
Elite - Craig Kimbrel, Rafael Soriano (only signed with Nats through next season), Jonathan Papelbon (signed through 2015 season), Aroldis Chapman (signed through 2014). I would have put Jason Motte on this list but his recent Tommy John Injury ended that. I think as long as he holds up physically Sergio Romo could join this elite list for the next couple of years, if not then he is the next rung down.
Good Veterans but for how much longer:
Houston Street, JJ Putz (although early struggles are a concern), Jason Grilli. All signed just through next season 2014 and Putz & Grilli will be in late 30's.
Future Closers ?
Bobby Parnell (does he have the mental toughness to be a closer?), Kenley Jansen (will his health hold up no brainer stuff wise)
Steve Cishek, Rafael Betancourt (age 37 and probably free agent to be), Brandon League (Kenley Jansen?) & Cardinals current situation. The Cubs & Brewers don't know what their long term plans are right now.
What I am telling you there are hardly any gurantees in terms of NL Closers and as much as I think Craig Kimbrel will be the next Trevor Hoffman or Billy Wagner remember what Eric Gagne did from 2002 - 2004. Gagne compiled 152 saves in 3 years with ERA's of 1.97, 1.20, 2.19, Ratio's of 0.86, 0.69, 0.91 & yearly K's of 114, 137, 114 only to really never to be heard from again. It's hard to believe but it's happened. In essence the closers are a mind field.
Follow me on Twitter @ TheNLKing
NL King - C.Lizza