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

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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 Nimmo has reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances

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After singling in the second inning of the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Phillies, Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo has reached base safely in 10 consecutive plate appearances. He reached base in all six plate appearances on Wednesday versus the Orioles, going 5-for-5 with two singles, two doubles, a triple, and a hit-by-pitch. Nimmo also reached base in his final three plate appearances on Tuesday against the Orioles, drawing a walk along with a single and a triple.

The record for consecutive plate appearances reaching base is 17, held by Earl Averill, Jr. (1962, Angels) and Piggy Ward (1893, Orioles/Reds).

Likely due to the Mets irrelevance this season, Nimmo has flown under the radar. After Thursday’s single, he’s hitting .265/.388/.504 with 15 home runs, 39 RBI, 65 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 412 plate appearances. Nimmo is by far the Mets’ best position player, accuring 3.3 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto are far behind at 1.7 and 1.5, respectively.

Update (5:00 PM ET): Nimmo got jammed when he grounded out to end the top of the third inning and left the game. Jose Bautista took his place in left field.