What makes a premier closer in Major League Baseball?

Let’s start with a simple, but elusive attribute. Control. As entertaining as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn was in the movie Major League, a guy that fails to pin point his pitches is murder on the nerves of fans. A Mr. Francisco Rodriguez comes to mind here.

Most closers only have two pitches. Having the ability to control where those pitches wind up is paramount to success.

Having control is only the start. Premier closers need to have one of two things to combine with control in order to be the best of the best.

They need to have mastered a pitch so much that it is almost unhittable, or they need to have an edge. Allow me to elaborate.

Closers that have developed a mastery of a particular pitch have the uncanny ability to be able to fool players with this pitch even though they know it is coming. Examples of these types of closers are Bruce Sutter in the 70’s and 80’s with his split finger fastball and Mariano Rivera with his cutter.

The second attribute is a little more abstract. I like to think of it as a pitcher that has a presence or edge about them. This edge has the hitters doubting their chances before the pitcher even sets foot on the mound. Lee Smith and his silent but rather intimidating presence on the hill in the 80’s is a primary example of this. As much as it pains me to say it, Heath Bell also possesses this quality.

These pitchers typically have overpowering stuff, but you really can’t define one pitch in terms of mastery.

Why do I bring this up?

Bobby Parnell has the potential to become one of these types of closers. However, he is on the edge of never realizing that potential.


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