March 14, 2013
Barring a late-spring signing of Jose Valverde, the Tigers will be turning to a pitcher new to the closer's role (or, in the case of Octavio Dotel, many years removed from his last closing opportunity). Things have been rough in the bullpen in spring training, particularly for the assumed front-runner Bruce Rondon, who has allowed five hits (including a home run) and five walks in just four appearances to date.
The competition appears now to be a bit more wide open. Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel join Rondon as options for the ninth inning in Detroit. Who fits best? To help answer that question, I took a look at what characterized the most successful pitchers to move from a setup role (or other bullpen role) into a closer role the next season.
In a research piece for FanGraphs+, I found that relievers who typically make a 20+ save jump from the previous year exhibit two characteristics in particular: a high strikeout percentage and high fastball veloc...