Jonathan Broxton Bests Mariano Rivera as Best Closer in’s Fantasy Relief Pitchers Rankings


March 24, 2010

Jonathan Broxton Bests Mariano Rivera as Best Closer in's Fantasy Relief Pitchers Rankings Time and time again, you’ll hear the mantra: “Don’t overpay for saves." And yet someone always takes his first closer in the top six rounds even though there are plenty of strong options later.

Most closers will pitch between 50 and 70 innings each season, so the most important contributions they will make to your team’s overall numbers are saves and strikeouts. That means that, even though Mariano Rivera’s ERA might be a full run better than Francisco Cordero’s, if both of them log 40 saves with a minimal difference in strikeouts, they are almost equally valuable to your team.

Yet, Rivera is typically selected three rounds earlier than Cordero, even though the disparity between them is far smaller than the gap between the hitters you could draft instead.

Who are the right guys to choose? NESN’s rankings will help you find out. In parentheses is the No. 2 option in the bullpen should the incumbent closer bite the dust.

See our position-by-position rankings here: C
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Name Team 2009 Stats 2010 Projection Notes
Jonathan Broxton Dodgers 36 SV, 2.61 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 114 K 38 SV, 2.44 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 102 K Led all pitchers with a 13.50 strikeouts/nine inning ratio last season and did not blow back-to-back opportunities in 2009. (George Sherrill)
Mariano Rivera Yankees 44 SV, 1.76 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 72 K 40 SV, 2.29 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 66 K The Sandman has converted 113 of his last 120 save chances and is showing no signs of slowing down. (Joba Chamberlain)
Joakim Soria Royals 30 SV, 2.21 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 69 K 34 SV, 1.97 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 73 K Last season's shoulder issues are behind him, and Soria gets plenty of chances despite playing on a bad team. (Kyle Farnsworth)
Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox 38 SV, 1.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 76 K 41 SV, 2.46 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 76 K Defense-minded Red Sox figure to play more tight contests this season, which plays right into Papelbon's hands. (Daniel Bard)
Heath Bell Padres 42 SV, 2.71 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 79 K 40 SV, 2.63 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 82 K Led NL in saves last season and pitching-heavy NL West produces oodles of close games. (Luke Gregerson)
Andrew Bailey Athletics 26 SV, 1.84 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 91 K 34 SV, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 79 K Allowed just 49 hits in 83 1/3 innings last season thanks to a dominant fastball, cutter, curveball combo. (Brad Ziegler)
Francisco Rodriguez Mets 35 SV, 3.71 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 73 K 37 SV, 3.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 75 K K-Rod's xFIP has steadily risen to 4.32 and he must improve on a brutal 5.03 walks/nine inning rate from last season. (Pedro Feliciano)
Francisco Cordero Reds 39 SV, 2.16 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 58 K 40 SV, 3.08 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 63 K Doesn't usually plow through the opposing order in the ninth, but Cordero is as dependable as many of his superiors on this list. (Arthur Rhodes)
Brian Wilson Giants 38 SV, 2.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 83 K 36 SV, 3.12 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 79 K With a fastball that averages nearly 97 mph, Wilson racks up the K's, and the Giants' elite pitching staff provides plenty of chances. (Jeremy Affeldt)
Trevor Hoffman Brewers 37 SV, 1.83 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 48 K 35 SV, 2.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 44 K As long as Hoffman's changeup is generating whiffs, Hells Bells will keep ringing, and his all-time best save total will keep rising. (LaTroy Hawkins)
Rafael Soriano Rays 27 SV, 2.97 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 102 K 38 SV, 3.18 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 91 K Arm issues are a legitimate concern, but when Soriano's on the mound, he's one of the most dominant relievers in the game. (J.P. Howell)
Jose Valverde Tigers 25 SV, 2.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 56 K 32 SV, 3.59 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 60 K Valverde's quirky delivery had held up well over the years, but his growing fly-ball rate is a bit worrisome as he moves to the AL. (Ryan Perry)
Chad Qualls Diamondbacks 24 SV, 3.63 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 45 K 31 SV, 3.49 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 47 K Doesn't overpower opposing hitters, but his 56.9 percent ground-ball rate against continues to be a recipe for success. (Bob Howry)
Huston Street Rockies 35 SV, 3.06 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 70 K 28 SV, 3.22 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 54 K Street's shoulder injury won't keep him out long, and he struck out 27 batters while issuing just three walks after the All-Star break. (Manny Corpas)
Billy Wagner Braves 0 SV, 1.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26 K 30 SV, 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 67 K Stuff was as filthy as ever when he returned from Tommy John surgery last summer, although his control has not yet fully returned. (Takashi Saito)
Brian Fuentes Angels 48 SV, 3.93 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 46 K 39 SV, 4.05 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 49 K Despite saving 48 games last season, Fuentes comes with a major red flag: He struck out just 12 batters in 24 1/3 innings during the second half of 2009. (Kevin Jepsen)
Frank Francisco Rangers 25 SV, 3.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 57 K 31 SV, 3.56 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 60 K The Rangers have improved and are likely to be playoff contenders this season, making Francisco a candidate for 30-plus saves. (Neftali Feliz)
Bobby Jenks White Sox 29 SV, 3.71 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 49 K 32 SV, 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 56 K Jenks reportedly devoted himself to getting into better shape for 2010, and an uptick in strikeouts may be in the offing. (Matt Thornton)
Carlos Marmol Cubs 15 SV, 3.41 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 93 K 33 SV, 3.97 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 88 K His slider is almost literally unhittable, but his 7.91 walks/nine innings rate suggests that it might also be uncontrollable. (John Grabow)
Ryan Franklin Cardinals 38 SV, 1.92 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 44 K 35 SV, 3.44 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 42 K Quite possibly the luckiest pitcher in baseball last season, Franklin masked some iffy peripherals behind a lofty 85.7 percent strand rate. (Kyle McClellan)
David Aardsma Mariners 38 SV, 2.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 80 K 36 SV, 3.82 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 78 K Aardsma trimmed his walk rate from 6.47/nine innings to 4.29 last season, and he'll have to keep it there to remain successful as a closer. (Brandon League)
Mike Gonzalez Orioles 10 SV, 2.42 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 90 K 28 SV, 3.47 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 76 K Durability has never been Gonzalez's calling card, but his stuff is filthy and more than worthy of the improving Orioles' ninth-inning job. (Jim Johnson)
Jon Rauch Twins 2 SV, 3.60 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 49 K 32 SV, 4.05 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 51 K Stepping into Joe Nathan's shoes is no easy task, but the Twins could win 85 games and a lot of them will be close. (Matt Guerrier)
Leo Nunez Marlins 26 SV, 4.06 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 60 K 31 SV, 4.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 59 K Nunez has security that closers this far down the list often lack, but he doesn't strike out as many batters as you'd expect given his mid-90s fastball. (Dan Meyer)
Octavio Dotel Pirates 0 SV, 3.32 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 75 K 26 SV, 3.58 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 66K Struggled to keep the ball in the yard with the White Sox, but PNC Park may suit his fly-ball tendencies better than US Cellular Field did. (Joel Hanrahan)
Brad Lidge Phillies 31 SV, 7.21 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 61 K 24 SV, 4.44 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 56 K The problem with Lidge is you don't know who's showing up: the good, the bad, or the ugly. That puts him at risk of losing the job midseason. (Ryan Madson)
Jason Frasor Blue Jays 11 SV, 2.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 56 K 22 SV, 2.98 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 59 K Frasor is arguably the most talented of Toronto's three closer candidates, but with competition and a weak supporting cast, he's not a great option. (Kevin Gregg)
Chris Perez Indians 2 SV, 4.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 68 K 25 SV, 4.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 67 K If Perez can maintain the 34-to-11 strikeouts/walk ratio he posted after the All-Star Break, he'll be an appealing sleeper even if the Indians lose 100 games. (Joe Smith; Kerry Wood when he returns from injury)
Matt Capps Nationals 27 SV, 5.80 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 46 K 20 SV, 3.94 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 50 K Capps was victimized by a ridiculous .370 BABIP last season and should regain some of his lost prowess with the offseason change of scenery. (Brian Bruney)
Matt Lindstrom Astros 15 SV, 5.89 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 39 K 18 SV, 5.39 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 46 K Lindstrom will need to find a way to improve his control, or he'll lose to the job to Brandon Lyon once his shoulder is back to 100 percent. (Brandon Lyon)

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