Ever since June 9th, one day after Grant Balfour gave up 5 runs to the Seattle Mariners, the Rays have been using a closer-by-committee. Players such as Juan Carlos Oviedo, Jake McGee, Brad Boxberger, and Joel Peralta have all been given chances to earn a save. While this move has worked so far, it is time to end the closer-by-committee and name McGee the Rays closer.
This season, McGee has been one of the most dominating relievers in all of baseball. He leads AL relievers in ERA at 1.17, and he pairs that with a 10.3 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9. It isn’t the first time McGee has dominated either- in 2012 he put up a 1.95 ERA and after struggling early in 2013 he had a 2.76 ERA from the beginning of June until the end of the season. From a pure stuff point of view, McGee has what you always want from a closer- a power fastball. He throws in the mid-upper 90’s with ease, and he does it from the left side. This season he has also developed his curveball nicely. He still rarely needs to throw it given how great his fastball is, but having it around means that hitters have to worry about one more pitch. The best part about McGee is that he has great command of his fastball, which makes him pretty much unhittable. McGee absolutely has the big stuff and dominating results that you want to see from a closer.
If that isn’t enough alone to name McGee closer, there are other reasons to do so. Bullpens generally benefit from having players in defined roles, and that is what the Rays were hoping to accomplish when they signed Balfour in the offseason. But by having a closer-by-committee, Rays relievers have not been able to find their niche. Players don’t know when they will be coming into games until they are told to start warming up, and that can make it hard on them to be mentally prepared to pitch. But if McGee, or anyone for that matter, is named closer, every player can slide back into a defined role. Having one closer is beneficial to an entire bullpen, and McGee has proven himself worthy of being a closer.
Of course, there are potential issues with McGee being a closer- the biggest being a lack of experience in the 9th inning. You truly never know how a pitcher will react to the pressure of pitching in the 9th inning when your team is up by 1 run. Oviedo and Balfour have proven themselves in a closer role before, and both have been pitching well lately. Because the Rays have so many experienced options, there has been no reason to rush McGee into the role. However, with how dominant McGee has been lately, the lack of experience is something that can be looked past.
You can’t ignore McGee’s dominance for much longer. Regardless of how the rest of the bullpen pitches, McGee deserves the closer job because of the body of work he has put in this year. Joe Maddon has the opportunity to allow all of his pitchers to slide into their niches by naming McGee closer, and it is an opportunity he should take advantage of.