Top 5: Closers in 2015 AL East

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Oct 6, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) throws against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in the American League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

1) Andrew Miller – New York Yankees

ERA 1.90, FIP 2.16, WAR 2.0, K/9 14.59, SV 36, SVO 38, BABIP .241

It Factor: Still the best in the league

Zach Britton, we learned, was runner up for Reliever of the Year 2015. Who did he lose out to? Why Andrew Miller of course.

A cursory glance at Miller’s stat line for the year seems pretty normal, much in line with Britton’s, until you come to that K/9 and spew your coffee. You’re not reading that incorrectly. Miller sent away batters by way of the K some 40.7% of the time, an absolutely obscene rate that is all but unrivaled in baseball today. Craig Kimbrel, for comparison, has a strikeout rate of 36.4%, itself completely absurd, but well below the high bar set by Miller. Perhaps the only reliever who can rival, and indeed best, Miller is Aroldis Chapman, himself with a 41.7% strikeout rate (it had been a whopping 52.5% in 2014!) and a hilarious K/9 of 15.74.

Even so, Miller is easily the top of the pile in the American League, a league far more challenging to pitchers as a whole. In fact, AL East is perhaps the hardest of the bunch to be an effective pitcher and Miller takes it all in his stride.

Miller, of course, is no stranger to Boston. A major bullpen piece for the Red Sox from 2011 through 2012 when, as he was on the verge of free agency, he was traded to Baltimore for one Eduardo Rodriguez. Perhaps former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington’s most lasting trade. Yet certainly now the gaping void left by Miller’s departure is felt more acutely than ever. Boston has lacked an effortlessly solid and endlessly capable reliever to just come in and shut the opponent down ever since.

During his tenure with the Red Sox, Miller’s fastball took centre stage. Sitting at 95-96 MPH it shows knee-buckling bite and was thrown interchangeably with his trademark slider. Since joining the Yankees this year and settling into his role as a closer, his slider has stepped forward and become the more used pitch of the two. Both pitches, it must be said, are fully capable of being all but unhittable on any given day and can all-too-easily cause many a swing and miss, as the numbers show.

As the Red Sox, under new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, look to rebuild the bullpen this year and potentially add a closer to back up Koji, they will certainly be hunting for someone of the calibre of Miller. He is the perfect, flawless closer. He comes in and shuts the door. He’s done it consistently and shows no signs of letting up. That’s why he’s number 1 on this list and number 1 in the Yankee bullpen.