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How to navigate baseball’s ever-changing closer role

Who should be handed the ball with the game on the line, and does it need to be the same guy every time?

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The role of the closer is changing at a rapid pace, but has Dave Roberts ahead of the curve or behind it?

In today’s day and age, the role of the “everyday closer” exists on just a few rosters. Liam Hendriks is going to close games for the White Sox, Emmanuel Clase closes games for the Guardians, and Edwin Diaz is getting the ball in the ninth inning for the Mets. Outside of that, how many guys are you positive are getting handed the ball with the game on the line? Two? Three?

Peter Gammons of The Athletic breaks down how this role has changed. In 2022, four “true relievers”, excluding David Price and Yusei Kikuchi who signed their current deals as starters, made upwards of $14 million: Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel and Zach Britton. Chapman and Kimbrel were left off of playoff rosters, Britton threw 0.2 innings this season in late September before returning to the injured list where he had spent the entirety of the season.

However, when you look at baseball’s biggest stage, the World Series, you see two teams with very different philosophies when it comes to ending ball games. With Houston, you have Ryan Pressly, one of baseball’s better and more defined closers. On the other side, eleven different players recorded a save for the Phillies in 2022, Corey Kneel leading the way with twelve. In the playoffs, it’s been five different guys: Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Zach Eflin, David Robertson and Ranger Suarez.

So, who does it right? And if you don’t have that sure-fire guy at the end of your pen, what’s the best way to navigate the late innings?


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