Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna has the make up of a closer. He is fearless, doesn’t nibble, and relies on his best stuff to get the final three outs of the game. The fact that he throws 95 mph consistently is a bonus.
That’s the kind of pitcher I like to see as a closer. Three ground ball outs may not seem exciting as striking out the side on 9 pitches, but if you are one that believes the “K” is just another letter in the alphabet, then Osuna is the closer for you. That’s not to say Osuna is not capable of striking out batters. He averaged better than a strikeout per inning (75 Ks in 69.2 IP) in 2015. But will not go deep into counts or give in to hitters no matter how good they may be. He starts them off with strike one and goes from there. 3 up, 3 down, game over, on to the next game.
There are not many pitchers in the majors that have had long careers as closers. I once heard that the lifespan of a closer in baseball is less than 3 years. To put it in perspective, Mariano Rivera played 19 years in the Majors, all with the New York Yankees, 17 of them as their closer. Dennis Eckersley was a closer for 10 of his final 11 seasons after being a starter for the first 13 years of his career. Tom Henke was the Blue Jays closer for 7 seasons and spent 3 more with two other teams before retiring in 1995. If Osuna can make it through the end of the 2017 season unscathed, he will have already beaten the odds.
Closers are usually pitchers who can’t make it as a starter but have just enough stuff to put away 3 or 4 hitters at a time. Osuna was originally tabbed by the Blue Jays as a starter. But he was installed as their closer partly by accident and partly out of necessity. The team didn’t resign their closer from 2014, Casey Jansen. Jansen, like Osuna, always got ahead of hitters and closed out games without being dominant. After trying Brett Cecil and Miguel Castro with very little success, Osuna was put in there as the closer and he is still there today.
Osuna’s ability to close out games down the stretch was one of the reason the Blue Jays were able to end their 23-year playoff drought and were two wins away from the World Series. At 21, he has a long baseball career ahead of him and, hopefully for the Blue Jays, he will be as their closer for long time.