In 2011, one closer has stood above the rest and that is Joel Hanrahan. In 2008, Hanrahan joined the league of closers when he began closing out games late in the season and finished with nine saves.
He opened 2009 as the Washington Nationals closer, but quickly fizzled due to complete lack of control. He walked 14 batters in just 32.2 innings of work and batters compiled a .342 average against him. His biggest problem was not controlling his slider and that forced more fastballs and MLB hitters were expecting it.
He was a favorite closer of mine in 2009, but lost the confidence of everyone in the fantasy world and his managers. After being traded to the Pirates, Hanrahan got the change of scenery that he needed, and in 2010 replaced Matt Capps as the Pirates closer after Capps was traded to the Minnesota Twins. Since that time he has been the Pirates closer.
So why is he the best closer in baseball, right now as we speak? Chew on this fat and consider the numbers.
In 2011, Joel Hanrahan has broken out and joined the elite of the closers. He brings to the table a fastball that can top out at 97 MPH and a wicked slider that he has full control of that is clocked at 86 MPH. He'll even mix a change-up in once and awhile. Since taking over as the Pirates closer in 2010, Hanrahan has 29 saves in 30 chances. This season he as compiled the most impressive array of stats for any closer.
Hanrahan is one behind Brian Wilson for the MLB league lead. He has yet to blow a save and is only one of two closers (Jose Valverde the other) who remains perfect. He has also done all that as the closer for the Pirates, who are having an amazing season with a 41-40 record. They owe a lot of that to Joel Hanrahan.
ERA and WHIP
Next to Andrew Bailey, who has been out most of the season, Joel Hanrahan has the best ERA amongst closers at 1.21. The next best is Francisco Cordero at 1.53. Mariano Rivera sits at 1.69. Hanrahan's WHIP has remained below 1.00 all season and as of July 1 sits at 0.94. That is good enough for the fourth-best WHIP amongst closers with Andrew Bailey leading that group with 0.62. His WHIPERA (Combined ERA/WHIP) is a poultry 2.63, which in many regards is a great ERA alone.
Strikeouts and Walks
In 37.1 innings, Hanrahan has compiled 32 Ks and only walked eight batters. While those aren't the most impressive numbers amongst closers, when the ball is put into play, hitters have only managed a BAA (Batting Average Against) of .203.
Overall, Hanrahan has only given up runs in four of his 37 appearances and has held his opponents hitless in 18 appearances. He has been a model of consistency for the season and will close for the National League if he is called on for that duty. He has been the best closer in baseball this season and every time we think he is about to slow down, he just blows away the opposing teams.
If you own Joel Hanrahan, keep him. At least until it gets closer to the trade deadline. He is a free agent next year and, even with the Pirates current success, they will move him if the deal is right. As I've written, lots of teams will be blowing up the Pirates front office phones asking about Joel Hanrahan.