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Sunday, July 22, 2018

10 most dominant closers in baseball

Craig Kimbrel Red Sox

A dominant closer can shorten games to eight innings. The real dominant ones take away hope from hitters in the ninth inning, when batters are facing their last chance at victory.

As we continue to press into a post-Mariano Rivera era, there is no shortage of relievers who dominate in that last inning of work.

Here are ten closers who are the most dominant in the league. Keep in mind that only defined closers will be appearing on this list, which is why the likes of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will be absent, despite their undeniable successes.

10) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Iglesias is a newcomer to the closer role, but he’s very clearly made it his own since taking it over. Particularly at the start of the season, the Reds were willing to use the Cuban right-hander as something of a fireman, and he has gotten more than three outs in seven appearances this season. He has been used more traditionally recently, but it hasn’t hurt his numbers.

The 27-year-old has an unreal 0.61 ERA this season, along with 10 saves.

Iglesias’s walk rate is a little higher than the Reds would probably like it, but he’s striking out over a batter an inning, and he’s allowed just 15 hits in 28.1 innings pitched. He hasn’t even allowed a run since April 23.

9) Ken Giles, Houston Astros

Giles was maligned after being traded to Houston from Philadelphia after the 2015 season, as he got off to a very poor start with the Astros. At the end of play on May 5, 2016, Giles’s ERA was over 9. From that point on, though, he struck out 86 batters in 54 innings for an ERA of 3, and even that was thrown off by one disastrous September outing that saw him give up six runs in a third of an inning.

In 2017, Giles has been what the Astros hoped he would be.

He has better controlled his high-octane fastball, limited opposing hitters to 15 hits in 22.1 innings and has 28 strikeouts in that span as well. After giving up eight home runs in 2016, he has only surrendered one longball this season. He’s been very reliable for the first-place Astros.

8) Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Osuna has one of baseball’s more remarkable ratios, having issued just two walks to 29 strikeouts in 22.2 innings so far in 2017. He’s actually been a bit more hittable this year than he has been in years past, but it’s likely just noise — he’s striking out batters at a higher rate than ever before, and walking them at the lowest rate of his young career.

Osuna is just 22, and he’s backed by a devastating fastball-changeup combination, with the ability to touch the upper-90s on the radar gun. He’s going to be around for a long time, and has every chance to rise on this list in the years to come as long as he continues to perform at a high level.

For his career, the youngster has 69 saves, a 2.65 ERA and 186 strikeouts in 166.1 innings.

7) Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Full disclosure: Andrew Miller would quite possibly top this list were he an actual closer. As it is, Cleveland has stuck with Allen, and they haven’t really been given any reason to regret it.

There aren’t many closers who are striking out batters at a higher rate than Allen is. His strikeouts per nine rate is nearly 14, a career high, and he has converted 14 of his 15 save opportunities. His hits against total is up, but there’s reason to believe it’s a bit of a fluke, as his batting average against on balls in play is .417, well above average.

Don’t be surprised to see Allen get better in the months to come. He has a long track record of success. One has to if they’re going to keep the closer role in a bullpen that also features Miller, who may be the best overall reliever in the game today.

6) Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies

No one could have possibly expected Holland to make such a quick return to the ranks of the elite after Tommy John surgery cost him the last part of 2015 as well as the entirety of 2016. In his first season with the Rockies, he’s pretty much putting up the same numbers he did in his prime with the Kansas City Royals. No one has more saves than Holland does, and to add to the appeal, he has yet to blow one.

That’s just scratching the surface. Holland has struck out 30 batters in 21.2 innings, has allowed just three runs, and has an ERA of 1.25. He’s done it on a Colorado team in a ballpark that has notoriously been a huge drag on starters and relievers alike.

Perhaps best of all for Colorado, he’s doing it on a $7 million salary, as worries about his elbow forced him to take a one-year “prove it” contract. He is doing just that.

See Nos. 5-1 on Page 2

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