Originally Posted by dougdirt
Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
I think it is and for many years has been vitally important that good pitchers pitch the late innings and finish games.
Yes, it may be that "closers" as we know them today, in exactly current form, have existed a short time.
But I think that begs the question.
Teams in the old days didn't have many relievers, many of them weren't very good - but teams usually saved the best relievers for the late innings.
Luis Arroyo of the Yankees is an example. I saw him pitch often in the early 1960s, he had a great year in 1961, and while not a 2013 style one-inning closer, he pitched the late innings in many key games and the Yankees won.
In 1961 he finished 54 games and pitched 119 innings. Not a "closer" in today's parlance, but a guy who finished games successfully.
The combo of Brosnan and Henry, similar. Not a closer in the exact sense of today, but finished lots of games successfully. I'm sure there are many other examples.
The fallacy of the anti-closer argument is that it defines the issue too narrowly.
I'd agree that having your "closer" used exactly like 2013 closers isn't that vital. Having one guy pitch every ninth inning isn't critical to me.
But I would also argue that having a very good pitcher or two available for the late innings is crucial. Whether you do it 1960s style or 2013 style is way less important. But the idea that virtually any major league caliber pitcher can be thrown out there in the late innings, I'd dispute.
In 1999 the Reds used Danny Graves and Scott Williamson as co-closers. It was very successful. Was that a 2013 style closer situation? I'd argue not. Still the Reds used two very good pitchers to finish off close games -- that's what I'd argue is necessary.