Top 5: Closers in 2015 AL East

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Sep 18, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger (26) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 8-6. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5) Brad Boxberger – Tampa Bay Rays

ERA 3.71, FIP 4.26, WAR 0, K/9 10.57, SV 41, SVO 47, BABIP .296

It Factor – All Star closer who probably shouldn’t be used as a non-closer too

Look at that FIP, it’s really bad for a relief pitcher, never mind a closer. Now check out the SV. Spoiler alert, that’s the highest number you’re going to see in this list. Yep, Boxberger racked up 47 saves, the highest in the American League and 4th highest in all of baseball. Now if ever I needed justification that the stat doesn’t necessarily reflect on a pitcher’s ability, this would be it.

That’s not to say Boxberger is Brad…er…bad. On the contrary. His K/9 of 10.57, even despite some of his struggles, is a really solid number that is typical for the best closers in the Majors. He may have blown 6 saves, but when compared to the 41 that he actually converted the number is so small as to be almost moot. So why then is he worth 0 WAR, the baseball nerd way of saying worthless? Where to begin?

Behind the common statistics on Boxberger lie something far more worrying, he had a win-loss record of 4-10. This is worrying, not necessarily for the high number of losses, but for the sheer number of non-save situations that he was called upon to pitch in. The Rays had their share of bullpen problems this year and, unfortunately for Boxberger, refused to commit to him as a permanent closer.

He was used and abused in just about every situation early on in the season and by the time September came around, it started to show. He pitched to the tune of a 7.20 ERA in the month, giving up 9 hits, 8 runs and 3 homers in only 10 innings of work in the month. Ouch.

Suffice it to say, Boxberger’s struggles probably didn’t help Tampa as they slid rapidly down the table with only Boston as the unenviable fig leaf between them and the cellar. The good news for Tampa Bay fans, all three of you, is that likely Boxberger’s struggles are by and large not of his own making. He has the stuff to be a quality closer. His fastball lost some of its pace and his big-out changeup some of its bite, but that can all be put down to fatigue from which he will recover. He pitched some 63 innings in 69 games on the year, which is a lot for any reliever, let alone a closer.

Who knows what the offseason holds for Tampa, but expect Boxberger to be a feature in their 2016 bullpen, if perhaps not quite as frequent as in 2015.

Next: 4 - Roberto Osuna