Best Red Sox Closer: Nominees

Lose Remerswaal

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I'd guess you could say the first Red Sox closer was The Monster, Dick Radatz

Since then there have been 15 other relievers with 47 or more saves for the Sox. Why 47 for a cutoff? Because that lets us include all 4 World Series closers. Why use saves as the criteria? Because I'm not sure what other stat defines a Closer, and this thread is about Best Closer, not Best Reliever.

Listed here in alphabetical order are those 16. Remember, nobody knew what a "Save" was when Radatz and some of the other pioneers of the back end of the bullpen were closing games, their stats were compiled retroactively.

Bill Campbell
Mike Fornieles (pre save era)
Keith Foulke
Tom Gordon
Craig Kimbrel
Ellis Kinder (also pre-save era)
Derek Lowe
Sparky Lyle (partially pre-save)
Jonathan Papelbon
Dick Radatz (pre save era)
Jeff Reardon
Heathcliff Slocumb
Lee Smith
Bob Stanley
Koji Uehara
Ugueth Urbina


Just missing the cutoff, but also in the top 20 are Jeff Russell, Dick Drago, Tom Burgmeier and Mark Clear

So, who was the best closer for the Boston Red Sox? For purposes of this discussion, only their time in Boston should be considered.

You can nominate ONE closer in your post, so think carefully. Any and all supporting stats, facts, memories, and feelings are welcomed. Nominees do not have to be these 16 (or 20) if you have a good reason to nominate someone else. Like a guy who actually closed out a World Series, even though he didn't get the save.

Put your nominee in BOLDFACE. I'll take the 10 Closers with the most nominations and put them into a poll sometime next week. I expect the first 3 WS closers will get the most nominations and votes, but I'll be happy to be surprised.
 

SocrManiac

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Hard not to nominate Slocumb just for bringing Tek and Lowe in.

It's really difficult to separate "best" from "most important." Foulke's '04 postseason run was incredible and may have ended his career, but was he the best the Sox had?

Lee Smith sticks out in my mind as the guy that taught me what a closer is during my formative baseball years. He was big, intimidating, and overpowering. He averaged 11.2 SO/9 with the Sox- he was always going to K somebody in an appearance.

It's hard to remember just how good Papelbon was given the fact he lost his damn mind. He's going to be the Sox all-time saves leader for a long, long time. I'm not in love with the Closer position in general, but he spent some dominant years in the position.
 

HowBoutDemSox

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Not going out on a limb, I'll nominate Koji Uehara. He didn't walk anyone, most of his saves were low stress, and if memory serves, he struck out the final batter in each round of the 2013 playoffs. He was an absolute joy to watch.
His Red Sox tenure was the stuff of legends. 192 ERA+, highlighted by a preposterous 379 ERA+ in 2013. 291 strikeouts to 37 walks. 7 saves in the 2013 postseason alone, winning the ALCS MVP award. Just a joyous player who was clearly beloved by his teammates just as much as by the fans.
 

jose melendez

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I'd take peak Koji over anyone else on that list. It's the most I've ever enjoyed watching a pitcher not named Pedro or 1995 Wakefield.
 

donutogre

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Someone already nominated Papelbon, but I have to give him props. His dominance I feel has been downplayed because 2007 kind of gets forgotten between 2004 and 2013, and because he did truly become a bit of a prick there in the end. But, Pap has a slight edge on Koji as far as ERA+ goes (197 to 191) over nearly twice as many innings. And yeah, Koji's ERA in 2013 was preposterous... but Papelbon put up 517 in 2006. Insane!

He was also insanely good in 2007 as well and was just huge in the postseason, not giving up a single run. He wins on longevity and his 2006-2009 surpasses Koji's 2013-2016 by many metrics.

Don't get me wrong though, I am not shitting on Koji. I just want people to remember how fucking good Papelbon was. But the fact that Koji almost never walked anyone is huge in terms of the security you feel when he was on the mound.

EDIT: Pap 2006-2009: 251 games, 151 saves, 1.74 ERA, 271 ERA+, only 17 HR, 312 strikeouts to 60 walks (not as impressive as Koji obviously, but not too shabby)... it's a pretty damn good run.

Oh yeah, and his 2008 postseason was as good as 2007, no runs given up either year, multiple 2 inning appearances to close the door.
 
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luckysox

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Koji Uehara (2013) - And really, it doesn't feel close to me. I simply did not get stressed when he was on the mound. I just didn't. Foulke was a balm to his team and sits high in my mind due to 2004 being THE season, and 2007 Papelbon was also amazing, and exciting in his own right. But if I weigh every single part of these three (and I feel like winning and closing out a WS is really one of the most important criteria in my mind) and their seasons + post-seasons, I choose Koji because of his numbers, the fact that he had those numbers as a guy who never threw hard, and his personality. It. Was. The. Best. I absolutely loved that guy, not just as an amazing pitcher who brought out the "we got this" swagger in me whenever he was in the bullpen, but as a guy who seemed like a great teammate, a guy who seemed to embrace a culture that must have been weird as hell at times for him, a guy who smiled a ton, and a guy who was not a moron. Foulke was pretty much just there (personality-wise), though he was a great closer for us. I found Papelbon reminded me of every moronic, over-hyped jock that I ever knew in high school and it turned me off, though I sure do remember that pick-off of Holliday fondly.

Can someone add the "soon" Koji gif? I'm really bad at that stuff, but it is necessary.
 

BaseballJones

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Papelbon's career was better with Boston than Koji's. But I'll take peak Koji over anyone. He had a 3-year run as Sox' closer.

2013: 1.09 era, 379 era+, 21 sv, 0.57 whip, 12.2 k/9
2014: 2.52 era, 159 era+, 26 sv, 0.92 whip, 11.2 k/9
2015: 2.23 era, 194 era+, 25 sv, 0.92 whip, 10.5 k/9
TOT: 1.86 era, 222 era+, 72 sv, 0.77 whip, 11.5 k/9

And in the playoffs for Boston he was preposterous. 13 games in 2013 and 2 in 2016:

15.2 ip, 8 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 17 k, 0.57 era, 7 sv, 0.51 whip, 9.8 k/9

I stressed when Foulke closed games. I stressed when Papelbon closed games. I never stressed when Koji closed games. Not one time. It must be how Yankee fans felt with Mariano all those years. He comes in, you know the game is over. When Koji came in, it was usually 1-2-3 no drama, just eliminating batters with ease.


BTW, Papelbon's 4-year peak with Boston was also SICK.

2006-2009: 1.74 era, 271 era+, 151 sv, 0.92 whip, 10.6 k/9

So you could make an argument for him too. Guy was unreal. But I'm going with KOJI.
 

greek_gawd_of_walks

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Part of what makes Koji's run (especially 2013) with the Sox so memorable and impressive is that he was the third option at closer to begin his tenure in Boston. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey both flamed out with arm injuries, opening the door for Koji to have one of the most dominant stretches by any pitcher ever.

During the final 40.1 innings of the 2013 regular season, Koji held batters to a .234 OPS and one measly earned run. Add on the 14.2 postseason innings, Koji pitched to a 0.32 ERA and converted 24 of his last 25 saves. Simply unbelievable. Ninth innings will never, ever feel as tranquil and secure again.

Koji
 
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lexrageorge

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I do remember Sparky Lyle; still don't know they Sox traded him for a nondescript 1B.

I will have both an irrational and rational (he was convicted of murder) hatred for Urbina.

Bill Campbell was the first true closer I recall for the Sox. His 7.3 K/9 would have been among the league leaders in 1977. But over 300 combined innings in 1976 and 1977 cost him. I also remember him blowing a lot of saves in 1978, but his peripheral stats were actually better in 1978; an unsightly 0.391 BABIP seems to have done him in.

Lee Smith was really good, but he had some issues with pitching in a "non save" situation. Jeff Reardon's story is the most tragic; home town hero, excellent career, hit his decline phase in Boston, was booed mercilessly, and ended up in a very sad place after his career.

Kimbrel's 2017 may be the most dominant season by a Red Sox closer. But it didn't lead to a title. Kimbrel was superb in the 2018 regular season, but then fell off at the end and was frightening in the playoffs.

Lowe gets extra credit for his start in Game 7 of the ALCS on 2 days rest.

Papelbon had the best Sox career as a closer. Foulke had the most heroic contribution to a title . Koji's 2013 was the most magical. Not sure how I can put it any other way.

Nominee: Koji in a squeaker, with Papelbon my 2nd nominee. The tiebreaker is that I only saw one game at Fenway in 2013, and Koji ended it by striking out Matt Carpenter in a 7 pitch at bat.
 
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Lose Remerswaal

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Remember to BOLDFACE your nominations. And multiple nominations are recommended, as only the Top 10 make the poll.

You should consider the full length and breadth of their Red Sox career. Peak is cool, but if the guy sucked his first or last two seasons that should be taken into account.
 

Zososoxfan

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I'll give a tip to Koji over Paps due to the lower BB numbers. Splitting hairs obviously, but even with a lights out closer you want them to keep the bases empty protecting a tight lead. Everyone in the ballpark and watching at home knew Koji had total command up there--he didn't leave any doubt.
 

JohnnyTheBone

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Koji Uehara -

Billy Wagner was fun to have around for a while. 13.2 innings, 22 Ks, 1.98 ERA. Would have loved to have him around for a full season.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Much as I love Koji, I don't really see how it can be anyone but Papelbon. His peak was comparable to Koji's, and he did it longer for the Sox.

But since no one has officially nominated him yet, I'll go for DICK RADATZ. Also an incredible 3-year peak, immediately followed by injury and decline.
 

wiffleballhero

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In the simulacrum
KEITH FOULKE
Second.

He's a man for his time and place. Foulke was nails in the most important two weeks of Red Sox history.

Since we are talking about closers I'm leaning hard for Foulke here. The whole position is all about performance under atypical pressure. That was the peak. To my mind he gets the nod because of the unique situation. A bit of a trump card, for sure. But still, that is my vote.
 

Tokyo Sox

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Someone already nominated Papelbon, but I have to give him props. His dominance I feel has been downplayed because 2007 kind of gets forgotten between 2004 and 2013, and because he did truly become a bit of a prick there in the end. But, Pap has a slight edge on Koji as far as ERA+ goes (197 to 191) over nearly twice as many innings. And yeah, Koji's ERA in 2013 was preposterous... but Papelbon put up 517 in 2006. Insane!

He was also insanely good in 2007 as well and was just huge in the postseason, not giving up a single run. He wins on longevity and his 2006-2009 surpasses Koji's 2013-2016 by many metrics.

Don't get me wrong though, I am not shitting on Koji. I just want people to remember how fucking good Papelbon was. But the fact that Koji almost never walked anyone is huge in terms of the security you feel when he was on the mound.

EDIT: Pap 2006-2009: 251 games, 151 saves, 1.74 ERA, 271 ERA+, only 17 HR, 312 strikeouts to 60 walks (not as impressive as Koji obviously, but not too shabby)... it's a pretty damn good run.

Oh yeah, and his 2008 postseason was as good as 2007, no runs given up either year, multiple 2 inning appearances to close the door.
This is very well argued for Papelbon.

I nominate 上原浩治 / Uehara Koji / KOJI!

C98F4CC8-352B-474A-A427-7DF5034936BA.jpeg
 

Captaincoop

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Koji is the guy for this question. He was the greatest calming presence ever in a tense ninth inning.

But when I thought back to guys I felt most comfortable watching walk in from the bullpen in a tight save situation, another one my mind went to was Derek Lowe. He was really good in 2000 as the fulltime closer, solving a problem the Sox had in the previous few years being able to hold leads. Higher on the list than he may get credit for.
 

Joe Sixpack

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Foulke for postseason dominance. His run in 2004 was insane. I'm going to post the summary from Wikipedia which sums it up:

In the 2004 postseason, Foulke appeared in 11 of 14 games, throwing 257 pitches over 14 innings. He would rack up 19 strikeouts and over the entire stretch would only allow exactly one earned run. While Foulke was marvelous (1.80 ERA) in the World Series, his most crucial work was in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, when he pitched in five games and didn't allow a run. With the Red Sox down, 3-0, in the series, Foulke threw 100 pitches over the next three days to help his team force Game 7. Foulke was on the mound when the final out was made in the 2004 World Series. He induced Édgar Rentería of the St. Louis Cardinals to hit a one-bounce ground ball back to him which he flipped to first, thus clinching the Red Sox' first World Series Championship since 1918.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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I'll put in a vote for Craig Kimbrel, even if he won't win.

The dude sucked ass in the postseason but technically never blew a save en route to the title and was nails pretty much every time he went out during the regular season until some hiccups in his final year here. He was maddening to watch, walking the ballpark, giving up hard hit balls, etc., but when he was on, he was virtually unhittable and would make guys look bad in the process.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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To comply with the rules, a second post (If permitted:

Also, even though he was never the "official" closer, Hideki Okajima did the job every time he was asked to. And while it may be too early tell just yet, Brandon Workman is showing he might have the chops (not bolding because it's too early).

If we can't do this, then I'll go with Kimbrel since he was "official."
 

Monbonthbump

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Koji, Radatz, Paps, Kimbrel, and and Lowe. In order. But if Lowe gets to count, I would like to mention a reliever/starter who has not been mentioned yet. That would be Ivan "Ike" Delock.
 

Kliq

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It is Papelbon. I know everyone loves Koji and he was awesome for a bit, but as noted above, their Red Sox career ERA+ is almost identical and Papelbon was here for twice as long.
 

BillMuellerFanClub

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Also, even though he was never the "official" closer, Hideki Okajima did the job every time he was asked to.
I loved his unorthodox delivery where he was looking straight in the dirt during his release. This really highlights some of the success Boston had in Japanese relief pitchers from 07-13 with Okajima and Uehara - but let's not forget about Junichi Tazawa.

2012-2014:
175IP, 181/34 K/BB, 2.62ERA, 157 ERA+

My vote goes for Koji Uehara. I was looking over the 2013 roster the other day, remembering that edition of the team as probably the most fun and unexpected baseball experience I can recall. Amazing that the team itself was unremarkable in terms of talent, but I remember feeling so confident in the team wire-to-wire. Koji was a big reason why.
 

Bergs

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I love me some Koji, and Foulke's 2004 was fucking legend, but it's Papelbon. His peak was so ridiculous that I think a lot of us underappreciate his non-peak (but still very effective) years.
 

terrynever

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Radatz struck out Mantle 44 times in 63 career matchups. Some were after Mick’s bat slowed down in 1965. Mantle went to the plate knowing he was overmatched.
 

edoug

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If only Zim had brought him in in the '78 playoff instead of Steamer who promptly gave up a double to Munson and HR to Jackson.
Yeah, not his first, let's say, questionable decision that season.
 

inJacobyWeTrust

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I have to vote for KOJI, his stats were insane even with limited velocity and the energy he brought was amazing.

My phone still autocorrects KOJI to all caps whenever I type his name because of how many times I sent texts in 2013 and beyond that just said "I LOVE KOJI". In 2013 he struck out 101 batters in 74.1 IP with only 9 (!!!) walks. Those are video game numbers, and he performed in the postseason too.