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”.

Masahiro Tanaka throws two-hit shutout vs. Rays

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka went the distance, holding the Rays scoreless on two hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts across nine innings on Monday night in the Bronx. It’s the fourth shutout of his career, accounting for four of the Yankees’ last six shutouts. The other two were thrown my Luis Severino and Brandon McCarthy.

DJ LeMahieu provided the bulk of the offense, swatting a two-run home run off of Yonny Chirinos in the third inning. Cameron Maybin tacked on a solo homer off of Chirinos in the fifth as the Yankees went on to win 3-0.

After Monday’s performance, Tanaka owns a 3.23 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 20 walks across 92 innings on the season.

With the win, the Yankees increase their lead over the Rays for first place in the AL East to 1.5 games.