Can Dellin Betances Be Baseball’s Top Closer?


Baseball is a game where the best of the best are the guys who are feared as well as dominant. No such position holds as much truth to that definition as the role of the closer. So far, the undisputed top of that class is Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. But 2015 could finally bring forth a forth a true contender to that title and possibly unseat the great Kimbrel. If Yankees’ closer David Robertson leaves via free agency this winter than his old job would fall to Dellin Betances and that would be some treat.

On the mound Betances is a fearsome sight. Standing a towering 6’8″ and weighing in on 260 pounds he’s a truly intimidating creature. Last year he finally made the big league club after having transformed his game plan. According to fastball averages a top speed of

Jun 15, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) reacts after recording the final out against the Los Angeles Angels at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Angels 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

about 96.6 miles per hour, the same as Kimbrel. Both Kimbrel and Betances can reach triple digits on hiss fastball which is lethal especially when complimented by their sweeping sliders and deadly curveballs.

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Betances’s slider is just flat out nasty and it averages a speed of about 83.0 miles per hour. A whole 13.6 mile per hour difference which is incredible. Compared to Kimbrel, whose slider reaches 86.6 miles an hour, Betances can mix his pitches and throw off hitters more effectively. As far as curveballs go Betances’s looks a lot like his slider although he doesn’t use it as much as his other pitches. Kimbrel uses his curveball more and it’s a toss up to decide whose is better.

Intimidation wise you’d have to chalk it up to Betances. He doesn’t hold back. While Kimbrel tends to work the count more Betances will come right at you. Size wise it’s a no contest. As I said, the 26-year old Betances (Worth noting that Kimbrel is also 26) boasts his size on his back wearing an unusual “68” on his jersey (Yes, that in fact is a tribute to his own height). Kimbrel is just 5’11’ (And I grudgingly write “just” while wishing I could be that tall) and weighs in at 220 pounds, a whole 40 pounds lighter than the Bronx Bomber.

If you want to see the level of shock and awe Betances’s fastball slider combination provides look no further than this appearance against the best hitter in baseball. Oh yes, the exciting match up against two time MVP Award winner Miguel Cabrera (Video Courtesy of MLB.Com).

Yeah, that says something. Betances pumped up the heat with the fastball and set it up with some crazy good sliders. Making one of the best players in the game look silly isn’t easy but the big righty made it look as much right there. Watching that at bat was exhilarating and it’s one of the best examples of Betances’s ability.

Here’s Betances’s 2014 numbers compared to Kimbrel’s

Dellin Betances: 70 games, 90 IP, 5-0, 1.40 ERA, 135 K’s, 1 Save

Craig Kimbrel: 63 games, 61.2 IP, 0-3, 1.63 ERA, 95 K’s, 47 Saves

A few things to keep in mind here. One, Betances served as the Yankees set up man in 2014 and only got the chance to close one game which he did successfully, Two, Betances often threw multiple innings which is why he has so many more innings than Kimbrel. Three, the strikeouts. Oh boy the strikeouts. Betances broke the Yankees single season strikeout record for a relief pitcher, beating out Mariano Rivera’s mark of 130 set back in 1996. Anytime a relief pitcher is mentioned in the same breath as Rivera you know they did something great. Yeah, Betances’s year was stuffed to the brim with “K” after “K” after “K” and no team knew that pain more than the New York Mets. On May 15th he came out of the bullpen to escape a jam and then proceeded to put on a show (Video Courtesy of MLB’s YouTube channel).

Count ’em! Six straight strikeouts! Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada! Also known as the heart of the Mets’ lineup. Impressive is an understatement for what he did that game but it’s nothing he didn’t do all season long. If you’re a fan of the National League you’d know that for some reason Kimbrel struggles against the Mets. Every pitcher has his bugaboo but it’s worth noting while we compare the two.

You may be saying “Well, can Betances close?”. Actually, I really hope that’s a question that’s not being asked because in today’s game we know the difference between the eighth and ninth inning is just the number under the “innings” column on the scoreboard. It’s all mental and both Betances and Kimbrel have that classic bulldog mentality. I don’t even need to show a video of Kimbrel because you already know what he does when he steps on the rubber.

Betances’ future as a closer is contingent on what David Robertson decides to do for the 2015 season. If he bolts the Bronx then last season’s pinstriped sensation will take over his job. For now, Craig Kimbrel’s reputation as the best closer in all of baseball is safe but next year he could be facing a serious challenger to his reign. Will Betances take the top spot away from Atlanta’s star hurler? It’s definitely a story to watch when the 2015 season rolls around.