The Pittsburgh Pirates Need To Ditch The Idea Of A ‘Closer’

The Pittsburgh Pirates need to ditch the idea of having a designated ‘closer.’

One of the silliest ideas in all of sports is that a Major League Baseball team needs a designated ‘closer.’ It’s time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to dump having a closer. Because not having a designated ‘closer’ is the best way to construct a Major League bullpen.

One of the most frustrating things for baseball fans is when a manager leaves their best reliever in the bullpen late in a tie game or during a high leverage situation because it’s not a save situation. The ‘save’ stat is right up there with pitcher’s W/L record as the worst stat in all of baseball.

Saving your ‘closer’ for a save situation can often times cost a manager a game. Hell, just ask Baltimore Oriole fans about that. In the American League Wild Card Game last year they watched the Blue Jays hit a walk-off home run as Zach Britton, the best reliever in the American League, sat in the bullpen unused.

The best way for any manager to go about closing out baseball games is to play match-ups in the late innings. If it is the seventh inning, you have a one run lead, and the heart of the opposing team’s lineup is due up, then you should use your best reliever every single time.

If it is the seventh or eighth inning and the opposing team is set to send two or three left-handed hitters to the plan, then the plan is easy. That plan is to use a left-handed reliever. Not a designated seventh or eighth inning man.

Whenever the ninth inning rolls around you then use whichever of your remaining relievers is the best. Or, again, you can play match-ups. Left on left, right on right, a right-handed pitcher, such as A.J. Schugel, with a good change up that makes them very good against left-handed pitching, etc.

Personally, managing a bullpen this way is nothing short of common sense. In my opinion, one of the things that makes Terry Francona such a great manager is the way he manages his bullpen. Look at this past postseason when he went to Andrew Miller in high leverage situations instead of saving him to be his ‘closer.’

If you fail to take a lead into the ninth inning, then having a good ‘closer’ does not mean a darn thing. And that is another reason why having a designated ‘closer’ is an extremely silly idea. And this is why it is important to have a bullpen with multiple power arms, as well as multiple left-handed pitchers in it.

Luckily for Clint Hurdle and the Pittsburgh Pirates, they have such a bullpen. Assuming either Tony Watson or Antonio Bastardo is traded, the Pirate bullpen will have three left-handed relievers and four right-handed relievers to start the 2017 season.

More than likely the Pittsburgh Pirates will open the 2017 season with a bullpen of Felipe Rivero, Wade LeBlanc, and Tony Watson or Antonio Bastardo from the left side. Meanwhile they will have Juan Nicasio, Daniel Hudson, A.J. Schugel, and Jared Hughes from the right side.

In 2017, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to ditch the idea of having a designated ‘closer.’ To be honest, the only reliever who should have any sort of set role is Wade LeBlanc. This is due to LeBlanc’s ability to pitch multiple innings, and, therefore, he should be the team’s long reliever to start the 2017 season.

In 2017, Clint Hurdle needs to play match-ups with his bullpen. If he needs a ground ball, go to Jared Hughes. If the heart of a team’s lineup is due up go to Juan Nicasio or Felipe Rivero. If left-handed hitters are due up, use A.J. Schugel due to his change up or Tony Watson/Antonio Bastardo. Daniel Hudson, like Nicasio or Rivero, is good enough to be used in any situation.

One of the silliest and most outdated ideas in all of baseball is that a team must have a ‘closer.’ Three outs are three outs. It does not matter if those outs are in the first inning or the ninth.

A team’s best chance at victory is to use their best relievers in high leverage situations. It is not to save them for the eighth or ninth inning. Hopefully, one day, the managers around baseball who do not realize this will. Let’s all hope that 2017 is the year this clicks with Clint Hurdle.

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