Aroldis Chapman and Jim Johnson Among MLB's 5 Most Valuable Closers in 2012
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The role of closer in Major League Baseball is among the most important in the game. Closers are constantly relied upon in tough situations, with the game on the line.
A good closer can propel a team into the playoffs and to postseason success. Teams with unreliable stoppers pitching the ninth inning often find themselves struggling in mediocrity and are usually playing golf in October.
So who were the five most valuable closers in 2012?
Here is a breakdown of the five most valuable ninth-inning saviors from the past season.
5. Aroldis Chapman: 38 Saves for the Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman helped lead Dusty Baker's team into the playoffs in 2012.
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Cincinnati Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman was among the most dominating and intimidating relievers in all of MLB in 2012. Chapman allowed opponents to hit just .141 on the season and struck out 15.3 hitters per nine innings.
For those who like sabermetrics, Chapman also had a WAR of 3.6, second highest among MLB closers.
Chapman converted 38 of 43 save opportunities on the season for the Reds, who were desperately looking for a closer early in the season after Ryan Madsen went down with an elbow injury.
Chapman stepped up when manager Dusty Baker needed him most and solved some of his control issues from the season before. Chapman's incredible season helped lead the Reds to a National League Central Division championship before falling to the Giants in the NLDS.
While Chapman had a great 2012 pitching the ninth inning for the Reds, many believe his short-term future lies in the Reds rotation (via cincinnati.com). Whether he starts or finishes, Chapman was very valuable as a closer in 2012.
4. Rafael Soriano: 42 Saves for the New York Yankees
New York Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano stepped up and solidified the Yankees bullpen in 2012.
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When New York Yankees closer and future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, went down with a knee injury early in the season, things could have fallen apart quickly in the Bronx.
Luckily, manager Joe Girardi was able to turn to Rafael Soriano and the ninth inning was secure from there.
Soriano converted 42 of his 46 save opportunities while subbing in for Rivera and was a big reason why the Yankees were able to hold off the Baltimore Orioles and win the American League East.
The Yankees will now be faced with a decision on whether they want to bring back their insurance policy for next season; Soriano is a free agent and will be coveted by many teams looking for help in their bullpen.
3. Jason Motte: 42 Saves for the St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals Jason Motte not only grew an impressive beard in 2012, he closed out 42 games as well.
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St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte did blow seven saves in 2012 but was the only option for Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Motte was the only player on the Cardinals roster to convert a save on the season, closing out 42 games while helping the Cardinals make it within one game of back-to-back World Series appearances.
Motte, who some would say is the definition of high octane, relies on an upper-90s fastball and a cutter that he throws 91-92 miles per hours to dominate opposing hitters.
Motte tied for the most saves in the National League and allowed opponents to hit just .191 while striking out 10.8 hitters per nine innings.
Motte is clearly entrenched as the closer in St. Louis for years to come and could be one of the most valuable closers in baseball over the next several seasons.
2. Jim Johnson: 51 Saves for the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson led all of MLB with 51 saves in 2012.
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Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson was nails in the ninth inning for manager Buck Showalter, closing out a MLB-leading 51 games in 2012.
Johnson does not dominate opposing hitters the same way that other top closers in the league do.
The Orioles stopper struck out just 41 hitters in 68.2 innings during the regular season, yet the results speak for themselves.
The Baltimore Orioles had the best record in baseball in one-run games, posting a 29-9 record in such nail-biters.
Johnson was a big reason for the Orioles success in close contests. The right-hander blew just three saves on the season while helping the Orioles to an improbable playoff appearance in 2012.
1. Craig Kimbrel: 42 Saves for the Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel allowed opponents to hit just .126 in 2012.
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Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has been dominant now for two consecutive seasons, and nobody was better in the ninth inning than Kimbrel in 2012.
Kimbrel blew just three saves in 2012 and held opponents to an unbelievable .126 batting average while striking out an eye-popping 16.7 hitters per nine innings. Those numbers are so unbelievable that his 1.01 ERA and 0.65 WHIP are afterthoughts.
Kimbrel is absolutely filthy on the hill, relying on a mid-nineties fastball and a devastating slider that is often times simply unhittable.
Kimbrel also rarely issues free passes, striking out 8.3 hitters for every walk he issues.
The Atlanta right-hander, who finished the season with 42 saves, is just 24 years of age.
After just his second season, Kimbrel has easily established himself as the most intimidating, reliable and valuable closer in baseball.