NetShrine Creator & Curator
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NetShrine WHQ
Olson was one of the few. Here's a good, albeit old, feature on where closers come from:
March 15, 1997
Most would rather explain to a six year-old child "Where do babies come from?" than to attempt and address the question "Where do closers come from?". Fear not friendly searcher for saves. You have now entered our cozy, yet dauntless, confine where no inquiry produces the Willies. (Well, maybe a few inquiring minds make us sweat. But, on the whole, not that many. Now, we are not saying our responses may always be right; however, we are stating that they are fearlessly provided nonetheless.)
In order to determine where something came from, you often need to see where it presently resides and look backwards from there. It's called backtracking. Quite a successful notion, indeed. In this case, we ask ourselves: "Where are our closers today?" and then peer to their past to determine their origin.
For this investigative report, let us examine the top 13 active career "Saves" leaders and their roots. Hopefully, there will be something in common in their past which will enable us to draw a conclusion towards a possible mutual breeding ground. The Active Fireman's Top Bakers Dozen:
1. Lee Smith (473 Saves): His roots: Predominately a Starting Pitcher in the minors with 82 Games Started (GS) before his big league debut and his eventual ascension to King of the Closers.
2. Dennis Eckersley (353 Saves): Before switching to relief pitching, he had 361 GS in the majors. (A trend is forming! The top two were once starters.)
3. John Franco (323 Saves): Made 51 starts in the bush leagues before cracking the show.
4. Randy Myers (274 Saves): He had 94 GS at the minor league level before becoming an ace reliever. (Oh yeah, there's a pattern starting here. This places reeks of former starting pitchers.)
5. Doug Jones (242 Saves): One hundred and five GS in the minors preceding his success a closer.
6. Jeff Montgomery (242 Saves): Forty four GS in the bushes. (As the point has already been well illustrated and now made that most good closers began as a starting pitcher, we'll just list the career minor league GS from here on out.)
7. Todd Worrell (221 Saves): 74 minor league GS.
8. Rick Aguilera (211 Saves): 50 GS.
9. Mike Henneman (193 Saves): One GS. (O.K., there's always one exception in every bunch.)
10. Jeff Russell (186 Saves): 63 GS. (See? We're right back on track with the "former starter" motif.)
11. John Wetteland (180 Saves): 88 GS.
12. Gregg Olson (172 Saves): Zero GS. (Sure, another exception. However, maybe if he HAD started a few times early in his career, maybe he would not have blown out his elbow prematurely?)
13. Rod Beck (162 Saves): Ninety-nine GS. Little known, but true. Look it up.
Granted, perhaps running through the whole thirteen was a bit excessive. Still, it aids in representing the point. Most successful closers were not closers in their minor league career. Many started out as Starting Pitchers in the bushes before becoming "Stoppers". Therefore, "Where do closers come from?" Based on the previously mentioned research, it's safe to say they come from minor league, hard throwing, starters with good control that are converted to pen at the big league level. If you knew this two years ago, maybe Jose Mesa would not have been such a surprise back in 1995? Consider this a clue when attempting to predict future closers.
Steve, Forum Administrator
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