Jonathan Broxton, Joakim Soria and the 12 Best Setup Man/Closer Combos in MLB

Bill Robbins@bill_kc28Correspondent IDecember 5, 2011

Jonathan Broxton, Joakim Soria and the 12 Best Setup Man/Closer Combos in MLB

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    When examining a major league bullpen, the setup man and closer are arguably the two most important positions.

    In order to have a successful setup man, you have to have a guy that is very reliable in the seventh or eighth innings and can get hitters out in any situation imaginable.

    A successful closer is along the same lines, except it's usually someone who has a powerful fastball and is a real lock to close out the game for your team by intimidating the opposition due to being so hard to face.

    With that being said, here are the top 12 setup man/closer duos in baseball today.

12. Leo Nunez/Heath Bell, Florida Marlins

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    Right now, it's still speculation that Nunez will be the setup man for the Marlins this year, considering that they just signed closer Heath Bell to a three-year deal on Thursday.

    Bell will immediately upgrade their closer position, considering that he had 43 saves and posted a 2.44 ERA last season with the Padres.

    Plus, Nunez might be more suitable as an eight-inning guy anyway, since that is a more similar role to what he did when he used to play for Kansas City.

11. Jason Motte/ Fernando Salas, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jason Motte emerged last season as the go-to guy in the eighth inning for the Cardinals.

    He picked up 18 holds and a 2.25 ERA in 68 innings of work, while helping lead his team to their second World Series Title in five years.

    26-year-old closer Fernando Salas was also very efficient, as he saved 24 of his 30 opportunities and held opponents to just a .186 batting average against him.

    This pair should be solid again this season as the Cards look to repeat as World Champs.

10. David Hernandez/ J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Coming in at number 10 on the list is David Hernandez and J.J. Putz of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    This tandem did wonders for the D-Backs 'pen in 2010.

    The 34-year-old Putz had one of the best campaigns of his career last year season, when he saved 35 of 39 games and had a 2.17 ERA for Arizona.

    Former Oriole David Hernandez had a very successful first season as the Diamondbacks closer, locking down 23 holds in 69.1 innings.

9. LaTroy Hawkins/ John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Anyone who followed the Brewers last season knew that they couldn't have won the division without the strong performances that they receivers from these two pitchers during the season.

    As a veteran setup man, LaTroy Hawkins did a great job of nailing down the eight inning for the Brew Crew, by picking up 20 holds in 52 appearances last year.

    Closer John Axford dominated, as he led the NL with 46 saves, and also struck out 86 hitters in just under 74 innings of work.

    It also helps his intimidation factor that he looks like the right-handed version of Randy Johnson when he comes into the game.

8. Grant Balfour/Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics

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    The A's have to be ecstatic that they will have these two guys coming back to help close out games for them in 2012.

    Setup man Grant Balfour was a great pickup for the A's last season, as he was tied for the third in the AL with 26 holds.

    After missing some time at the beginning of the year due to injury, closer Andrew Bailey ended up putting together another solid season, as he closed out 24 games and compiled a 3.24 ERA for Oakland.

    I expect both Balfour and Bailey to once again dominate opposing batters in the later innings for Oakland this season.

7. Sergio Romo/Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants

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    I have just three words to sum up these two: fear the beard!

    On a more serious note, Romo and Wilson are the two most dominating forces on a Giants 'pen that has been mowing down opposing hitters for years now.

    Last year, Romo had a 1.50 ERA, and led all setup men with an incredible 0.71 WHIP for the season.

    There's not much else that you can say about Brian Wilson except that he likes beards, he likes to come into the game with the game on the line and he is one of the best closers in the game today.

6. Jonathan Broxton/Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

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    The Royals decided to add former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to their 'pen earlier last week, in order to make him their setup man.

    The big right-hander is very talented, and even posted a 2.61 ERA in '09, while collecting 37 saves during that season.

    With All-Star closer Joakim Soria set for another solid year, this could be a dynamic duo at the back end of the Royals 'pen for many years to come.

5. Mike Adams/ Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers

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    A former Padre setup man and a hard-throwing closer help the Rangers crack the top five on this list.

    Mike Adams proved again last season that he is one of the best setup men in the game today, after grabbing 32 holds and putting together an anemic ERA of 1.47 for the year.

    New Texas closer Joe Nathan is equally as good at his role as Adams.

    He has 261 career saves and his posted an ERA of 2.87 during that time.

4. Joaquin Benoit/Jose Valverde, Detriot Tigers

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    Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde were nearly unstoppable at the back end of the Detriot 'pen last season.

    Benoit finished with 29 holds and a 2.95 ERA, while Valverde was even more impressive as he led the league with 49 saves and posted a 2.24 ERA himself.

    I expect them both to be at the top of their game for the upcoming '12 season.

3. Tyler Clippard/ Drew Storen, Washington Nationals

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    Honestly, the Nationals and Braves are almost a toss-up for me on this list.

    Tyler Clippard and Jonny Venters are both elite setup men in the NL, but I felt that Craig Kimbrel is better than Drew Storen in the end.

    Still, I expect both Clippard and Storen to have another great season in 2012 and help this Washington team get closer to a playoff birth.

2. Jonny Venters/Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

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    Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel have helped put the Braves 'pen back on the map over the past two seasons.

    The left-handed Venters has posted sub-two ERAs in each of the last two years, while looking nearly unstoppable in the setup role for Atlanta.

    Meanwhile, Kimbrel only saved 46 games on his way to the NL ROY in 2011.

    The Braves front office has to be very happy that they will likely have these two stud arms at the back end of their 'pen for many years into the future.

1. David Robertson/ Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

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    For me, that was an obvious choice for the best setup man/closer combo in the entire league.

    On one hand, you have an up and coming setup man in David Robertson, who was tied for third in the majors in holds last year with 34 for the campaign.

    On the other hand, you have arguably the best closer of in MLB history in Mariano Rivera, who became the all-time leader in saves last season with 603 for his marvelous career.

    When the game is on the line in the late innings, Robertson and Rivera are likely two of the last pitchers that any big league hitter wants to face.