Baseball Closer

Baseball Closer

The closer is one of the most important positions in all of baseball. It’s typically given to the team’s best reliever, and it’s one of the most scrutinized positions. Read below to learn about what a closer is and their responsibilities.

Closer Definition

The closer is the pitcher the leading team uses to finish the game. Closers typically pitch in tight games during the eighth and ninth innings.

The goal of a closer is to “save” the game for their team, and a save can only be awarded if the closer keeps the lead for their team. This means the closer is responsible for getting their team’s final out of the game. Overall, the closer is usually the team’s best relief pitcher.

There are three scenarios in which a pitcher can be awarded a save. First, a save is given to the closer when they enter the game with a lead of three or fewer runs and pitch at least a full inning. Next, the closer can come in with the tying run on deck, at bat, or on base and be awarded a save.

Finally, if the closer pitches at least three innings, they are given a save. The third option is relatively rare, but a way in which it happens is if the starter pitches a complete game.

Closer Roles and Responsibilities

  • Pitch in high-pressure situations
  • Hold runners on base
  • Preserve or save the game for the leading team
  • Be effective against both lefties and righties

The closer’s main role and responsibility is to save the game for the team that’s winning in a close game. That’s why the closer distinction is given to the club’s best relief pitcher. They must be able to pitch consistently, as it’s common for closers to be deployed back-to-back days.

Also, there’s less margin for error with the closer compared to any other position. They must have the ability to handle the pressure of preserving a close game, meaning mental toughness is vital for success.

Oftentimes, closers can be called upon with runners on base, which further complicates their role, so they also have to “hold” runners. That means they don’t allow inherited runs from the other pitcher that was on the mound before them, even though those runs won’t count towards the closer’s earned run average (ERA).

Closer Skills

  • Mental fortitude
  • Proper pitch placement
  • Hard-breaking pitches

A closer is one of the most talked about positions in baseball. This is because they can either be the hero of the game or the reason their team lost the game. When a closer doesn’t keep the lead for their team in a save situation, it’s called a “blown save,” hence why having the mental strength to pitch in high-leverage situations is critical.

However, the two most important skills for a closer are to save the game for their team and be effective against lefties and righties. There are many relief pitchers who specialize in pitching to batters, either right or left handed, but not both. A closer must have close to equal effectiveness against any opposing hitter regardless of handedness.

Best MLB Closers

Some of the best MLB closers of all time are:

  • Mariano Rivera
  • Dennis Eckersley
  • Trevor Hoffman
  • Rich Gossage
  • Billy Wagner
  • Rollie Fingers


What is a closer in baseball?

A closer in baseball is a distinction given to the team’s best relief pitcher, whose job is to save the game for their team. There are three ways in which a closer can earn a save. If they don’t save the game in a “save situation” they’re charged with a “blown save.”

What does a closer do in baseball?

The closer is called upon late in closely contested baseball games to preserve a lead and win the game for their team. They usually pitch in the eighth or ninth inning. For example, the closer comes in with their team leading 2-1 to begin the ninth inning, and their job is to record the final three outs.

Who is the best closer in MLB history?

The best closer in MLB history is Mariano Rivera. The righty pitched 19 years for the New York Yankees and owns a career 2.21 ERA. In fact, Rivera’s 652 career saves are the most of all time. However, his play was even better in the postseason. In 32 playoff series, Rivera has a career postseason ERA of 0.70, and a total of only 11 earned runs.