There are 30 closers in baseball. Of those, 31 have made an All-Star team in their career. Of those 31 closers, 32 are on the 2011 All-Star roster for their respective league. Well, those numbers might not be exact, but it's a good guess.
It didn't used to be like this:
Soon, we'll watch All-Star Games with John Wetteland at first base just to fill in the roster. Two theories:
- Everything changed after the "This Time It Counts" campaign. Managers starting selecting rosters to win games because that time it counted. Then the next time it counted. Suddenly, things started counting. And what better way to win than by inserting closer after closer into the game starting in the fifth inning? Sure beats pitching some random starter pitching on two days' rest.
- Everything changed after the tie in 2002. Managers stacked the teams with relievers in case of another extra-innings nightmare.
Whatever happened, about a third of the closers in baseball are making the team now. In 2011, there were actually 13 relievers selected for the game: seven for the AL, and six for the NL. Four aren't even closers -- Aaron Crow, David Robertson, Tyler Clippard, and Jonny Venters -- which is a record for setup men. Usually, there's just a token middle reliever mixed into each roster.
Of the 126 pitchers with more than 100 career saves, 98 of them have made an All-Star team, while only 28 have not. Of the 139 pitchers who have had a 30-save season in their career, 100 have made an All-Star team, while 39 have not. So close to three-fourths of the closers who hold a job long enough to rack up 30 saves in a season, or 100 in their career, will make an All-Star Game at some point.
There's a little causation/correlation snag here -- those pitchers usually hold their jobs because they're good, not because their fathers know someone with some pull down at the Rotary Club. Also, the closer's role is often given to the best reliever on a team, so there is already a filtering process in place.
But of those lists up there, several of the pitchers came before the every-team-has-a-closer-or-they-forfeit-the-season era. If you eliminate the Ron Perranoskis and Firpo Marberrys of the past, modern closers have an even better chance of making an All-Star Game someday if they can keep a job.
With that, here are the best closers in history to never be an All-Star:
3. Joe Borowski
At this point, you're probably thinking, "Say, that guy wasn't very good. There's no way he's the third-best closer not to make an All-Star Game." And you're probably right. He just had the most saves in a single season of anyone who didn't make a team, and while saves are a pretty odious stat, it was a pretty good tie-breaker. I didn't want to pick Mike Timlin, Mike Jackson, Mel Rojas, Antonio Alfonseca, Billy Koch, or Kevin Gregg for any "best closer" list. Of those, Jackson was probably the best reliever on the list but he was only a full-time closer for two seasons.
But the point is that the list is short. Borowski has a legitimate argument. And that should frighten you a bit.
2. Gene Garber
He's a tough call because he predated the modern closer usage by a little bit, but he picked up MVP votes in 1982, a season in which he had 30 saves. That's closer enough, and his career innings pitched total puts him ahead of Perranoski for this list. He was still a part of the old school, too, regularly pitching more than 100 innings in a season. Or, as Rich Harden likes to call that: "2005-2011."
1. Huston Street
Here's the real freak: he's actually good. He's been good for a while. He was a Rookie of the Year as a closer, and he's held down a closing job pretty consistently for a while. He's had two 30-plus save seasons, and he's closing in on 200 career saves. He should have been an All-Star by now based on the closercentric selections of the past few seasons.
Street will probably make an All-Star Game one day. If he doesn't, he'll be a complete anomaly -- the best of the least impressive, or something. In a world where Danny Kolb, Mike Henneman, andhave all made an All-Star team as a closer, that's almost a more impressive legacy.