As the Oakland Athletics try to continue their winning ways long enough to hold off the Texas Rangers for the American League West crown, they have closer Grant Balfour to thank. Balfour is quickly emerging as one of the better closers in Major League Baseball. We all know how important it is to a team to have a successful and reliable closer. The fact that Balfour emerged last year isn’t a coincidence since the A’s won last year as well.
This year he is on pace for a ton more saves of course and while he does not lead the majors in saves, he does have a few things on the other guys that are quite important. For example he might only have 25 saves but he has a 1.63 ERA which ranks him third in the majors behind only Craig Kimbrel and Joe Nathan. That cuts those in front of him in less than half. Factor in one more little stat called blown saves and those in front of Balfour go away completely.
Among the leading several closers in MLB, the only one that has zero blown saves is Balfour. He has 25 saves in 25 save chances. Kimbrel has blown three saves and only has a few more saves than Balfour. Nathan has only one blown save and the leading ERA among all closers. I would agree that the now legendary Nathan is still a step ahead of Balfour but if he continues on the path he is on, Balfour has the potential to write his name down as one of the best.
As with all of the closers of the past decades though, the factor that takes a closer from great to legendary is longevity. Whether Balfour has the long time staying power remains to be seen. The A’s obviously hope he does.