Dennis Eckersley: Closing “not as tough as you think”

22 Comments

For years, we have been inundated with the sentiment that there is nothing tougher, nothing that requires more focus and mental fortitude than being a Major League closer. Former Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley, who authored two of the best relief seasons of all time in 1990 (0.61 ERA. 48 saves) and ’92 (won the AL Cy Young and MVP awards), says that closing is “not as tough as you think”.

Via Tyler Kepner of the New York Times:

“I don’t want to take away anything from what I did,” Dennis Eckersley, a Hall of Fame closer, said Thursday before the game. “But it’s not as tough as you think.”

[…]

“You can find somebody to do it,” Eckersley said. “You could groom somebody to do it who’s on the staff, if you manage it the right way. I mean, think about it: the tougher job is to come in with guys on base, because he’s got to be quicker to the plate and he has to hold runners on.”

The motivation behind the article was Mariano Rivera’s sixth blown save of the year, which came last night against the Red Sox. The 43-year-old Rivera is set to retire after the season as the greatest closer of all-time with 649 saves to his name and a career 2.21 ERA. While Rivera is by no means having a terrible season, many are having better seasons, as Kepner points out. Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen, and Edward Mujica are just a handful of players doing a better job for a much cheaper price and a fraction of the praise, seemingly putting to bed the notion that one must have an inborn “closer’s mentality”.

Brandon Belt, Jaime Barrios set new modern record with 21-pitch at-bat

Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Angels starter Jaime Barrios and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record with a 21-pitch at-bat in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Anaheim. Belt fell behind 1-2 and mostly kept fouling pitches off. The count ran full on the ninth pitch and Belt would foul off 11 more pitches before finally lining out to right field.

As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the previous record was set on June 26, 1998 when the Indians’ Bartolo Colon and the Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez battled for 20 pitches. Gutierrez eventually struck out.