2011 Fantasy Projections No. 84: Why Yankees' Mariano Rivera Is Still Top Closer

Nick Kappel@@NickKappelAnalyst IIIMarch 15, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 6-1.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Closers are the most overrated players in fantasy baseball.

The good ones deliver strong contributions to one category, but generally pitch less than five innings per week. For this reason, I tend to shy away from them until the later rounds. (Click here to see why adding closers is better than drafting them.)

The one (and only) exception to the rule is Mariano Rivera, who has averaged 40 saves per over the last 14 years and hasn’t recorded less than 28 in a season since becoming the Yankees’ closer in ‘97.

He’s posted an ERA under 2.00 in seven of the last eight years and is perhaps the only closer without risk as he enters his age-41 season.

Despite a sharp decrease in his strikeout rate last season (6.75), Rivera posted a 8.62 punch-out rate from 2001-2009. His walk rate (1.65 in ‘10, 1.59 since ‘01) remains low and his cutter (16.7 runs above average) was third-best in the majors last season.

Showing no signs of slowing down, Rivera tops my list of closers in 2011. Given that nearly half of MLB’s 30 teams will have a different closer this season, Rivera’s consistency and job security yield him the top spot over Carlos Marmol (who walked over six batters per nine in ‘10) and Brian Wilson (whose value is currently at its absolute highest).

Rivera’s strikeout total won’t blow you away, but he’s a near-lock for 30-plus saves and a sub-2.00 ERA.

2010 stats 60 33 6.75 1.65 1.8 0.83
3-year average 65.2 39 8.86 1.32 1.64 0.80
2011 FBI Forecast 60 35 7.75 1.60 1.95 0.95


Check out the Closer’s Corner for up-to-date information on each team’s closer situation!


Fantasy Baseball Insiders’ 2011 Big Board

Latest from Fantasy Baseball Insiders

30 Teams in 30 Days Fantasy Preview

MLB Trades: Fantasy Impact