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Mariano Rivera was a closer for the New York Yankees.

In baseball, a closer is a relief pitcher who specializes in closing games, i.e., getting the final outs in a close game. Since closers appear frequently when a game is on the line, the role usually goes to a team's best reliever.

Closers, while typically possessing as much pitching talent as any other pitcher on their respective teams, may not have a wide enough variety of pitches or enough reliability over several innings to become a starting pitcher. Some closers, however, have been starting pitchers who due to injury or fading durability became closers later in their careers (such as John Smoltz and Jason Isringhausen).

In general, closers are selected based on their ability to pitch effectively for one inning against both right-handed and left-handed batters (as opposed to left-handed specialists) and their ability to maintain their composure in high-pressure situations. Good closers usually have an overpowering fastball and one or two complementary pitches (a full arsenal of pitches is not necessary), although this rule does have its exceptions (such as knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and sinkerballers Derek Lowe and Bob Wickman, all of whom have spent time closing games as well as starting).

One of the statistics for closers is the Save. It's easily misunderstood, as there big variables involved behind the "save," such as men on base and in scoring position on entering, how many runs lead the team has, how many outs the closers gets for the team, whether or not the team is in a heated pennant race down to the wire, whether the save is in regular or post season, etc.(baseball-reference)

Beginning with Dennis Esckersley, the general practice was for a closer to enter the game to pitch the ninth inning when his team was ahead by three runs or fewer, which aligned with the requirements to get a save. Many teams still use this system, but after the advent of Mariano Rivera in the post season of 1995 and his continued multi-inning late inning relief appearances for 12 continuous regular seasons and 12 post seasons, by around 2002, other teams started the use their closer for more than the 9th inning, in regular and post season. Included are the Angels' Frankie Rodriguez, the Red Sox Keith Foulke in 2004, the Blue Jays' BJ Ryan, the Mets BJ Wagner, and the Red Sox Jon Papelbon for part of the 2006 season.(baseball-reference). If the closer fails at his task by letting the other team tie the game or take a lead, he has blown the save.

In a game in which the home team enters the ninth inning tied, it is impossible for that team's closer to gain a save. In such a situation, the manager will likely use his closer anyway in order to prevent the visiting team from taking the lead.

Occasionally, some teams try to employ a closer by committee, in which no single player is assigned the role of closer. Rather, the manager will select a pitcher to close the game based on whoever he feels has the hot hand or the favorable match-up. Use of a closer by committee, however, is often a signal that the manager does not have confidence in any particular member of his bullpen, and the pitcher who gains his confidence will eventually become the closer.

Easily sensationalized, the "saves" stat should note that the team's manager decides when to put a pitcher in a game, taking into account the degree of difficulty involved, etc. A manager looking to pad a player's stats for team publicity, etc., can hold a relief pitcher back from the most difficult and taxing "saves," and put him in the easier ones. This must be looked at in analyzing saves. Another statistic that can be used to identify the best closers, although not readily available from normal box scores, is the percentage of inherited baserunners that score. Since closers often enter games with one or more runners on base, and their job is to stop them from scoring, this statistic can be useful in gauging their effectiveness.

Some teams with established closers also designate one or two setup pitchers to pitch immediately before the closer. In such a case, the set-up man will pitch the eighth inning and the closer will pitch the ninth in a close game.

Major awards, honors won by closers[]

Award Closer Team Year
Hall of Fame Bruce Sutter Cardinals 2006
Dennis Eckersley Athletics 2004
Rollie Fingers Athletics 1991
Hoyt Wilhelm N.Y. Giants 1985
Cy Young Éric Gagné Dodgers 2003 (NL)
Dennis Eckersley Athletics 1992 (AL)
Mark Davis Padres 1989 (NL)
Steve Bedrosian Phillies 1987 (NL)
Willie Hernández Tigers 1984 (AL)
Rollie Fingers Brewers 1981 (AL)
Bruce Sutter Cubs 1979 (NL)
Sparky Lyle Yankees 1977 (AL)
Mike Marshall Dodgers 1974 (NL)
Jim Konstanty Phillies 1950 (NL)
Award Closer Team Year
MVP Dennis Eckersley Athletics 1992 (AL)
Willie Hernández Tigers 1984 (AL)
Rollie Fingers Brewers 1981 (AL)
WS MVP Mariano Rivera Yankees 1999
John Wetteland Yankees 1996
Rollie Fingers Athletics 1974
ROY Huston Street Athletics 2005 (AL)
Kazuhiro Sasaki Mariners 2000 (AL)
Scott Williamson Reds 1999 (NL)
Gregg Olson Orioles 1989 (AL)
Todd Worrell Cardinals 1986 (NL)
Steve Howe Dodgers 1980 (NL)
Butch Metzger Padres 1976 (NL)
Joe Black Dodgers 1952 (NL)

† also won league Cy Young Award in the same year

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