Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Batting Around: Who’s the best closer in MLB? A’s flamethrower Mason Miller challenges veterans


Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated the automated strike zone. These week we’re going to tackle the game’s best closers.

Who is the best closer in baseball?

R.J. Anderson: I think you have to give that title to Mason Miller right now. We’re here in June and he’s striking out nearly two batters per inning. It’s hard to fathom. He’s also shown the ability to record more than three outs at a time; that isn’t too surprising given his starting history, but it does add to his value, in my opinion. The two other candidates I would hear arguments for are Emmanuel Clase and Ryan Helsley. Both have longer track records than Miller, and I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who picked them. (Do note that I didn’t forget about Devin Williams and Félix Bautista; I just think it goes against the spirit of these questions to answer with an injured pitcher.)

Dayn Perry: I have to agree that right now it’s Mason Miller. It’s just impossible for me to ignore a high-leverage reliever who’s striking out more than half of the batters he faces and running an FIP of 0.87. On another level, I expect dominance from a closer, and Miller’s capacity to overwhelm hitters with his triple-digit fastball and wipeout slider checks that box in a big way. Clase is right behind Miller for me. 

Matt Snyder: I’ll go with Robert Suarez. Not only has he been tasked with taking over in San Diego for a guy who has been the best closer in baseball in the recent past, but he’s the only closer in baseball with at least 10 saves and zero blown saves. He has been amazing in every facet and hasn’t faltered yet in a save situation, so I’ll go with him. 

Mike Axisa: Am I really the first one to mention Josh Hader? I know he had a very bad start to the season — he allowed eight runs in his first 7 2/3 innings and nine appearances — but he has been vintage Hader since the middle of April, including striking out over 40% of the batters he’s faced. That rough start to the season was a blip, not the new normal, and the track record of elite play is pretty long here. First impressions matter, though Hader’s first impression in an Astros uniform did not accurately represent him.

Anyway, to answer the question, I’ll go with Clase over Hader and Miller, especially now that he’s rediscovered the swing-and-miss-ability that eluded him at times last season. There are so many great closers, though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hitter look comfortable against Andrés Muñoz. Clay Holmes never allows home runs and that’s a valuable skill when you only pitch in close games. Would it surprise anyone if Edwin Díaz dominates once he’s over his shoulder issue? Jeff Hoffman‘s been out of this world the last two years and he’s in a co-closer role now. There are a lot of great closers out there. Force me to pick one and I’ll take Clase.

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