MLB Players Of The Decade: Top Closer Will Be Someone Not Named 'Rivera'

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 19: Brian Wilson #38 of the San Francisco Giants stands on the mound in the ninth inning of Game Three of the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 19 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brian Wilson

Rob Neyer finishes choosing his Team of the Decade by selecting a relief pitcher, and you might be surprised by his choice.

Rob Neyer is predicting who will be the best players of this decade at each position. You can view all his previous selections here.

I'm not going to spend a great deal of time sorting through the candidates for Closer of the Decade becau se 1) there aren't many outstanding candidates, and 2) it's a fool's errand, considering how few closers maintain their exceptional vigor for more than a few years.

Let's start with this. There are three active closers with earned-run averages below 2.00 over the last two seasons: Joakim Soria (1.97), Andrew Bailey (1.70) and Mariano Rivera (1.78).

There are few bigger fans of Mariano Rivera than your current interlocutor, but even I have a hard time imagining Rivera pitching brilliantly into his late 40s.

Meanwhile, Soria and Bailey will celebrate their 27th birthdays this spring, only 13 days apart. 

Anybody else worth considering? Yeah. Two guys. Brian Wilson because he's a workhorse and Neftali Feliz because he's a wunderkind. I'm sure you've got other favorites but frankly there are a lot of relief pitchers with good stuff and I really can't present the CVs for all of them here. I mean, we've all got weekends to start thinking about.

Oh, and we'll definitely be watching Aroldis Chapman and Chris Sale. Both are too inexperienced -- that is, they've not really been battle-tested -- for serious consideration here, plus Chapman might throw too hard to stay healthy and Sale might wind up in the White Sox rotation someday. Boston's Daniel Bard is interesting, too, and figures to be a closer before too terribly long. But one season just isn't enough to go on.

So here are those four candidates and some 2009-2010 numbers:

         WAR   IP   K/9  K/BB   HR/9
Bailey   6.4  132   9.1   3.6   0.54
Feliz    3.5  100   9.9   4.2   0.63    
Soria    6.5  119  10.6   4.4   0.68
Wilson   4.9  147  10.8   3.3   0.37 

There's a lot to like about all these guys, but Feliz just hasn't proved that he's got real staying power and Wilson ... actually, I can't think of anything negative to say about him. He's a couple of years older than Bailey and Soria, but then again we're only asking him to pitch like that for another seven or eight years. And you have to like his demonstrated ability to stay healthy for two whole seasons, and to limit the long balls.  Do we believe Wins Above Replacement, or do we believe Beard Above Average?

Actually, the best way is a combination of WAR and BAR. And when I mix those up -- and take into account the plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face fact that Brian Wilson's beard is actually sort of ridiculous -- I come up with Soria because he's the perfect age, he's got the perfect statistics, and he usually sports a neatly trimmed beard. And it's got nothing to do with him being the best player on my favorite team. Cross my heart and hope to die.

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