Best Red Sox Closer: Nominees

Average Reds

Dope
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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.
Beat season (and really it was 2/3 of a season, since he didn’t become closer until late May) I’ve seen from a Sox closer.

Wish we’d had him earlier in his career.
 

Norm Siebern

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Let me throw in another name just because I believe he deserves mention. John Wyatt, a veteran from the Negro Leagues, held down the bullpen for the Impossible Dreamers in 1967. Not the gaudy numbers of modern day closers, but he and the rookie Sparky Lyle held down the back end of the bullpen in 1967.

And I will be forever grateful to Keith Foulke for being the Jesus of 2004. In my mind he was the savior, and of all the players on that team I have believed him to be the one who never got his fair share of credit.

Having said all that, however, Dick Radatz is my nominee. When I think of imposing, intimidating closers, it is Dick Radatz that I envision. In the modern game, where he would throw 65 to 70 innings a year rather than the 120-140 a year common in his time, he would have been relatively impossible to hit. Throwing only 1 inning an outing he wouldn't have burned out after three years, and he would have bettered Kimbrel's K to IP rate of 2017.
 

normstalls

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Papelbon

He was a goofy beast for the Sox, plus he signed a baseball for my son on his 8th birthday. (Plus bonus points for being home grown)
30058
 

4 6 3 DP

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KEITH FOULKE

As long as I live, I've never been so physically impaired by a sporting event as I was in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. The strikeout of Clark by a totally gassed Foulke makes him my #1 no matter what else he did in his Sox career post 2004.
 

keninten

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Nov 24, 2005
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Koji for me partly because of his personality. If I throw in personality I`ll also nominate Tim Wakefield. He only got about 20 saves but the more recogition he can get for anything is cool with me.
 

mikeford

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Keith Foulke gave away the rest of his career to win us the 2004 World Series.

They should retire his number. I'm not exaggerating.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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KEITH FOULKE

As long as I live, I've never been so physically impaired by a sporting event as I was in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. The strikeout of Clark by a totally gassed Foulke makes him my #1 no matter what else he did in his Sox career post 2004.
there was some serious Degree of Difficulty in those games. Koji was incredible but the pressure wasn't the same. I was leaning towards UE, but this might make me reconsider
 

terrynever

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Where did that come from? From Retrosheet I'm getting 16 AB - 12 Ks - 3 BB - 3 H - 1 HR
My bad. I used the AP story after Dick died. They threw it in late in the story, attributing the stats to Bill Lee. Not the greatest source for stats.


 

StupendousMan

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T-shirts! That reminds me, I designed one way back in 2013 ... and the design is _still there_ in the on-line store! Check it out.

Custom T-shirts "unhittium" design

It's pretty clear that my design skills are weak, but maybe it could be good enough to wear around the house.
 

scotian1

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AS someone who has watched the Sox from the late 60s to the present, there was no one more dominant than Dick Radatz. Where some closers are dominant for an inning maybe 2, he was often dominant for the final 3 or 4 innings of a game.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Beat season (and really it was 2/3 of a season, since he didn’t become closer until late May) I’ve seen from a Sox closer.

Wish we’d had him earlier in his career.
It was later than that even. He recorded a save in May, but he wasn't actually given the closer role until the end of June when Bailey hit the DL for good. June 26 was Koji's second save and first of three in three games .

I want to throw a name in the mix that probably only deserves the mention and not an official nomination: Jeff Gray. He only closed for about three weeks in 1990 when Jeff Reardon got hurt, but he came back in 1991 and was having a stellar year in a set up role (50 appearances, 61 innings, 2.34 ERA, 0.795 WHIP) when he suffered a stroke just before a game. Despite missing the final two months of the season he still ended up third in the league in holds. He may well have been the heir apparent to the closer spot once Reardon moved on, but he never came back. He's always been one of my favorite "what could have been" stories.
 

BornToRun

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Papelbon; at his peak nothing was more exciting than his angry face and high heat.
Papelbon was a jackass but he was our jackass. It’s gotta be him.

He wasn’t just an amazing regular season closer, his postseason numbers are also fantastic.
 

DamageTrain

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Papelbon. I remember in late June 2006 when I was on a business trip and learned he gave up an ER. "Darn it, I said, that means his ERA has doubled." My colleague somewhat condescendingly explained to me that that is not how ERA works. Then he got quiet when I explained that was only his second ER in 35 appearances.
 

Jake Peavy's Demons

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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, 193 ERA+
Don't forget about Takashi Saitō! His lone season in 2009:

56G, 55.2IP, 2.43ERA, 157 ERA+
 

lexrageorge

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Papelbon's stuff was especially nasty during his prime years, which were 2006-08. In September 2007, when the Sox were clinging to first place over a surging Yankees team, Papelbon walked 0 batters in 11 innings. He had one bad outing, when the Sox had a 7-2 lead over the Yankees in the 8th. Okajima blew up (2 HR's, a walk, and a single), and Papelbon came on to put the fire out, and failed. But he was facing the varsity: Jeter, Abreu, and A-Rod, and sometimes those guys win. But he was otherwise lights out, and didn't allow a single run in 10 2/3 post-season innings, and was even more dominant in the 2008 playoffs (13K's, 2 BB's in 10 1/3 innings).

The first real chink in his armor came in the 2009 ALDS against the Angels. The Sox were overmatched that series, but were ahead 5-2 in the 8th of Game 3 in Fenway. Papelbon came on with 2 on and 2 out, and Juan Rivera found a gap in right field, scoring both runners. The inning would end with the pinch runner getting picked off first base, and the Sox still ahead 5-4, and would add an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.

In the top of the 9th, sporting a 2 run lead, Papelbon threw 29 pitches. Four of them were an intentional walk to Torii Hunter. Of the 25 thrown in anger, all of them were fastballs. After a bases clearing single by Vlad Guerrero gave the Angels a 6-5 lead, Papelbon was done, never again to pitch in the postseason. Of the 29 strike pitches thrown in the 8th and 9th, the Angels made contact on 12, with only one swinging strike. It remains a mystery to this day why Papelbon could not mix in any of his secondary breaking pitches, a strength of his during his prime days.

The walks ticked up in 2010 and 2011. But he was actually superb again in the stretch run in 2011, but blew two very costly games to the Orioles in September, as not even he could avoid the curse of the BABIP gods that struck nearly every pitcher in the staff that month.
 

Norm Siebern

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Keith Foulke gave away the rest of his career to win us the 2004 World Series.

They should retire his number. I'm not exaggerating.
This is what I mean when I call him Jesus. I agree completely, he is as big a hero as any from that fabled team and in my opinion has never received his due credit.
 

kartvelo

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There are several super-studs nominated here, and I can't argue with them or their accomplishments or their durability or their dominance or their place in Red Sox history, but I have to say that I've never felt more calm at the end of games than when Koji was on the mound.
 

RoDaddy

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In 2007, Bill James wrote a list of the greatest relief seasons of all time in all of baseball and had Radatz listed number 1 (1964) and number 3 (1963)! (Koji and Kimbrel would be high on that list today).

https://www.billjamesonline.com/article171/

I’d put Radatz and Koji 1A and 1B as the greatest Sox closers in no particular order. Very different pitchers, Radatz with the great moving fastball (his only pitch I believe) and Koji with the unhittable soft cheese and splitter combo. But as mentioned by others, you have to give Radatz major points for the RIDICULOUS OVERUSE he dealt with compared with today’s coddled one-inning relievers. Radatz once pitched 15 innings over two consecutive games (6 in one game, then 9 of an extra-inning game the next night)! Had he been taken care of, he would’ve lasted several more dominant seasons, maybe even into ’67 and we might have won it all then.

But lots of great Sox closer memories - and great closers. I remember hearing “Soup’s on” many times from the broadcast booth when Campbell warmed up. Mark Clear’s “cleaver”; I couldn’t imagine any RH batter getting too comfortable in the box against him after a high and tight fastball knowing the cleaver was coming next. I think Mike Timlin and Greg Harris should also get honorable mention even though neither closed that often - wish the Sox had let Harris pitch lefty just once!
 

The Raccoon

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For retiring 37 batters in a row and slapping Victorino my nomination goes to Koji.
Yes, the post season 2013 may have played a role as well...
 

Pandemonium67

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The Monster will always have a special place in my heart. I remember his one career HR, in KC, I believe in extra innings. I remember reading in the Globe that the next day he was out at the batting cage, giving hitting advice.
 

GlucoDoc

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Dec 19, 2005
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While I loved Koji, will always remember Foulke for what he represents for the Sox, I am old enough to have vivid memories of "the Monstah" Dick Radatz whom i watched in my early teens. He pitched for a very mediocre club but when he came in during his dominant years he was lights out and, for a moment, made us forget the mediocrity of that year and the disappointments of decades. His presence on the mound made the Sox worth watching. (And, as I recall, that meant spending a buck and a half to get same day grandstand tickets of which there were many available, and then hoping that the Sox did well enough that he would actually make an appearance.)
 

MartyBC

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Jul 22, 2017
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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.
KOJI he was also my daughter’s first favorite player.
 

sodenj5

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I had this exact Koji v Papelbon argument with someone on Twitter like 2 weeks ago.

It’s Papelbon, and it isn’t particularly close. Papelbon’s peak season in 2006 was worth 5.0 WAR. That’s absolutely absurd. His highest high was far better than Koji’s and his career run was a longer, more sustained run of success than Koji’s.

You can argue that Koji was more efficient, you felt more confident with Koji, that his style of pitching was your preference, but the bottom line is Papelbon was insanely good early in his career, and very good for most of his Red Sox career.
 

WenZink

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Dick Radatz

His stats from 1962-64 are unbelievable. You had to see him pitch to believe them. I am just old enough to have seen him.
Sox were a crappy team, but the deal was that whenever a starter had to come out with the game tied or Sox in front, it was time for Radatz. And it didn't matter if it was just the 6th inning and he'd pitched the last 3 games. It just didn't matter.
 

opes

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Foulke for 2004 hands down. There are some good closers we've had over the years, but Foulke willed himself to literally save the Sox. If you needed an arm, Tito always picked Foulke. Sure he doesnt have the career numbers of Eckersley, or Rivera but without him in '04 the Sox would have gotten destroyed and that's the honest truth. Schilling had a stitched up ankle for 1 game, but Foulke threw until his arm almost fell off. Papelbon or Koji would be the obvious choice, but Foulke probably sacrificed his arm and was never really the same after that.

This makes me tear up everytime I see it. If anyone deserved to get that last out, its a short list. I'm with @mikeford , retire it.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCBFjmtLgSI