Closing the Door: Who’s going to be lights out in the 9th?

By Gus Bode

The hardest thing to achieve in baseball might be getting the last three outs.’ SIU closer Bryant George has been awfully good at that.

The Saluki stopper tied Al Levine’s record with 19 saves, including 11 during his freshman year.’ George’s next save will make him alone at the top of the record books.

And it got me to thinking, who are going to be this year’s Top 10 major league closers.’ (Take note Fantasy Baseball fans).


  1. Jonathan Papelbon, Boston.’ The Red Sox closer has three pitches. One he throws hard.’ One he throws harder.’ And one he throws the hardest.’ Oh, and he has an off-speed pitch, too.’ So, he’s got four pitches.’ He’s got great moxy and plays on a winning team, that’s good enough for 40 saves itself.
  2. Mariano Rivera, New York (AL).’ The Greatest of All Time has averaged 36.5 saves over the last four years, and with a re-tooled Yankee starting rotation, he might have more wins to close out with the additions of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
  3. Joe Nathan, Minnesota.’ Nathan is arguably the most underrated reliever in baseball.’ And to think, all it took to acquire him (along with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser) was resident pain-in-the-butt A.J. Pierzynski.
  4. Jose Valverde, Houston.’ A year after saving 47 ballgames for the Arizona Diamondbacks NL West division winning team, Valverde moved to the NL Central and saved 44 games for the Astros.’ I swear, 20 of them came against the Cubs.’ Based on his post-game celebrations, he should be on your fantasy team.
  5. Brad Lidge, Philadelphia.‘ Prior to this last postseason, the last time baseball fans saw Lidge on the big stage, he was serving up gopher balls to Scott Podsednik and Albert Pujols, the latter of which still hasn’t landed.’ But Lidge lived up to his nickname in ’08 and was ‘Lights Out.” Can he do it again? Opening Day is right around the corner, let’s find out.
  6. Francisco Rodriguez, New York (NL).‘ The man saved 62 games last season, granted, many of them came against crappy AL West teams, but they had to be within three runs, so they couldn’t have been that bad.’ My main concern is whether or not K-Rod can handle the pressure that comes with playing at a stadium sponsored by a bankrupt corporation.
  7. Carlos Marmol, Chicago (NL).’ My Cubs-fan bias might come into play here, but Marmol reminds me of a young K-Rod.’ And while he is more valuable over a two-inning span, never have I seen a breaking ball buckle so many hitters that knew it was coming.’ If Marmol emerges as Lou Piniella’s go-to-guy in the ninth, I think he might actually be the closer of the future that actually fits the bill.
  8. Bobby Jenks, Chicago (AL).‘ Big Bad Bobby doesn’t get the punchouts like he used to, and that’s going to hurt his fantasy value.’ But he still gets saves, and really, that’s what matters … right?
  9. Brian Fuentes, Los Angeles (AL). Fuentes is valuable for many reasons.’ He’s out of Colorado.’ He’s left handed.’ And he throws at a strange angle.’ Those three things should make him an elite Fantasy closer in 2009.
  10. Joakim Soria, Kansas City.‘ To be honest, there shouldn’t be many (if any) Kansas City Royals on your fantasy roster.’ But if there’s going to be one, make it Soria.’ He notched 42 saves for a team I couldn’t believe won 42 games.’ Good for him.