Disposable Closers Revisited.

After reading my post on Disposable Closers, Aaron Finkel said this:

So I became curious, and the project began…

Here’s the original post. Basically I scoured back 10 or so years for the Cards and 5 years for a few other teams in regard to how many closers they’ve had.

I decided to use 3 teams from each league, one from each division. I didn’t re-use the teams I used in the last post for variety’s sake. I don’t care if the closer was injured, traded, demoted or kicked the owner’s Chihuahua out the window in heated negotiations and was therefore released. All that matters is how many closers a team used over a 15 year period.

Here we go…

AL Teams

Boston

2000 Derek Lowe                     42
2001 Derek Lowe                       24
2002 Ugueth Urbina                 40
2003 Byung Hun Kim                  16
2003 Brandon Lyon                    9
2004 Keith Foulke                    32
2005 Keith Foulke                      15
2005 Brandon Lyon                   13
2006 Jonathan Papelbon        35
2007 Jonathan Papelbon           37
2008 Jonathan Papelbon           41
2009 Jonathan Papelbon           38
2010 Jonathan Papelbon           37
2011 Jonathan Papelbon           31
2012 Alfredo Aceves               25
2013 Andrew Bailey                   8
2013 Koji Uehara                     21
2014 Koji Uehara                       26

Boston, with the notable exception of Jonathan Papelbon, has been relatively unstable, getting at the most 2 or so years out of a closer before moving on. (Lowe was a part time closer in ’99 before getting the full time gig in 2000, so he fits) Their most unstable period was 2001 until 2005 where they used six closers in five years. Then Papelbon came along and stabilized the position for six years, then it destabilized again.I’d forgotten Papelbon had been with the Red Sox for that long. Guess that’s what happens when you (at least until recently) focus mostly on the National League.

LA Angels

2000 Troy Percival                      32
2000 Shigetoshi Hasegawa         9
2001 Troy Percival                        39
2002 Troy Percival                        40
2002 Ben Weber                           7
2003 Troy Percival                        33
2004 Troy Percival                        33
2004 Francisco Rodriguez        12
2005 Francisco Rodriguez            45
2005 Scot Shields                       7
2006 Francisco Rodriguez           47
2007 Francisco Rodriguez           40
2008 Francisco Rodriguez           62
2009 Brian Fuentes                  48
2010 Brian Fuentes                    23
2010 Fernando Rodney           14
2011 Jordan Walden                32
2012 Ernesto Frieri                  23
2012 Scott Downs                      9
2013 Ernesto Frieri                    37
2014 Joe Smith                        15
2014 Ernesto Frieri                    11
2014 Huston Street                 11

From 2000 until 2008 (actually from 1996 until 2008) The Angels were very stable at closer, with Percival holding the job for 9 years before passing it to Rodriguez for four and a half years. Since then though, they’ve destabilized, using 10 closers in six years. They may have cemented their closer position for a few years with their acquisition of Huston Street though, as he’s been a dominant closer for a while and he’s only 30., and the Angels aren’t exactly penny pinchers, so they’ll probably make a run at re-signing him.

Cleveland

2000 Steve Karsay                 20
2000 Bob Wickman                14
2001 Bob Wickman                  32
2002 Bob Wickman                  20
2002 Mark Wohlers                7
2003 Danys Baez                    25
2003 David Riske                    8
2004 Bob Wickman                 13
2004 Jose Jiminez                     8
2005 Bob Wickman                 45
2006 Bob Wickman                 15
2007 Joe Borowski               45
2008 Jensen Lewis              13
2009 Kerry Wood                  20
2010 Chris Perez                  23
2011 Chris Perez                    36
2012 Chris Perez                    39
2013 Chris Perez                    25
2014 Cody Allen                    18
2014 John Axford                 10

Cleveland is interesting case, as technically they only have one closer who pitched for more than 2 full seasons consecutively, that being Perez. Then you have Bob Wickman, who closed in six different years. In 2000 He was a mid-season acquisition from Milwaukee. In 2002 He started out as the closer, then faded in August with just 2 saves and gave the role to Wohlers for the rest of the season. In 2006 he was traded to Atlanta in the middle of the season. Anyways, as i said, other than Perez, they’ve been pretty inconsistent. This year, they brought in Axford only to have him falter, so they turned to Allen. a 25 year old with a nice fastball that averages 97 MPH.

NL Teams

NY Mets

2000 Armando Benitez           41
2001 Armando Benitez              43
2002 Armando Benitez              33
2003 Armando Benitez              21
2003 David Weathers              7
2004 Braden Looper              29
2005 Braden Looper                28
2006 Billy Wagner                  40
2007 Billy Wagner                    34
2008 Billy Wagner                    27
2009 Francisco Rodriguez       35
2010 Francisco Rodriguez       25
2010 Hisanori Takahashi         8
2011 Francisco Rodriguez        23
2011 Jason Isringhausen        7
2012 Frank Francisco            23
2012 Bobby Parnell                 7
2013 Bobby Parnell                  22
2013 LaTroy Hawkins             13
2014 Jenrry Mejia                  22

The Mets started out this run pretty consistently, with Benetiz closing from 1999 until 2003, when he got traded. From then on, only Billy Wagner lasted more than two years, and he only lasted three. They’ve had five in the last five years, so plenty of turnover lately for the Mets.

Cubs

2000 Rick Aguilera                29
2001 Tom Gordon                 27
2001 Jeff Fassero                12
2002 Antonio Alfonseca      19
2003 Joe Borowski                  33
2004 LaTroy Hawkins              25
2005 Ryan Dempster            33
2006 Ryan Dempster              24
2007 Ryan Dempster              28
2007 Bob Howry                    8
2008 Kerry Wood                   34
2008 Carlos Marmol              7
2009 Kevin Gregg               23
2009 Carlos Marmol               15
2010 Carlos Marmol               38
2011 Carlos Marmol               34
2012 Carlos Marmol               20
2013 Kevin Gregg                  33
2014 Hector Rondon           23

There have only been two Cubs closers with 2 or more full years as closer, Dempster and Marmol. Otherwise it’s churn, baby, churn. From 2000 until 2005 they had 7 closers in 6 years, and in the last three years they’ve had three closers. Rondon looks promising, is having a good season, and is relatively young at 26. The Cubs, though, with all of their position prospects coming up, may be willing to spend some money on a closer if Rondon falters, so we’ll see how long he lasts.

Dodgers

2000 Jeff Shaw                    27
2001 Jeff Shaw                      43
2002 Eric Gagne                 52
2003 Eric Gagne                   55
2004 Eric Gagne                   45
2005 Yhency Brazoban       21
2005 Duaner Sanchez          8
2005 Eric Gagne                     8
2006 Takashi Saito              24
2006 Danys Baez                    9
2007 Takashi Saito                39
2008 Takashi Saito                18
2008 Jonathan Broxton      14
2009 Jonathan Broxton          36
2010 Jonathan Broxton          22
2010 Hung-Chi Kuo                12
2011 Javy Guerra                 21
2011 Jonathan Broxton            7
2012 Kenley Jansen             25
2012 Javy Guerra                     8
2013 Kenley Jansen                28
2013 Brandon League          14
2014 Kenley Jansen                39

I actually expected the Dodgers to be more consistent, given how they operate in one of the two largest markets in the game, but other than Shaw, who closed for 3 and a half seasons from 1998 until 2001, Gagne and Broxton, no closer has pitched 2 full seasons consecutively. They had five closers in two years from 2005 to 2006, followed a few years later, From 2010 until 2012, by having five closers in three years. Jansen seems to have stabilized the role, but the Dodgers have money to spend, former closers in their bullpen, and a high pressure, win now environment.

So what does all of this mean? For starters, while there are exceptions, closers typically last 2 to 3 years at best, and a half season to a full season at worst. It’s a relatively easy position to replace and many teams, when faced with an expensive arbitration case, or an even more expensive free agent to be, often turn the role over to an in house candidate or an upcoming prospect. Plus it is one of the easier jobs to replace in season. For example, last years World Series featured two closers who were not even their teams second choices for the closer role when the season began. (Trevor Rosenthal and Koji Uehara, respectively) So teams, keep your bullpens deep and continue developing flamethrowing youngsters, you never know when you’ll need a new closer.

As always, thanks for reading.

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