All closers will get saves, great ones and lousy ones. Better pitchers are likely to get more saves because they are less likely to blow their chances. It doesn't really matter too much whether the team you are closing for is good or bad.
But there are 2 real reasons you draft one closer before another, sometimes way before another. One is that you are paying for reliability. Jason Motte was a hyped closer before the season, but he stunk it up in a couple chances and now looks pretty far from having a chance at a lot of saves. Kevin Gregg won the job over Carlos Marmol, but he's been shaky, so it is hard to count on him for 40 saves. BJ Ryan has the job right now, but he has lost a lot of velocity, and has been real shaky because of it, so he could lose his job at some point. Troy Percival and Trevor Hoffman are old, so iffy options. Hoffman is already hurt. We'll see how long Percival lasts. There are plenty of other guys that could theoretically lose their jobs, because they aren't great pitchers and have a relatively short leash.
The other main reason you draft one closer over another, is because they help you out in Ks, ERA, and WHIP as well as saves. Top K guys can finish the year with 35 more Ks than weak K guys. Top ERA/WHIP closers can easily finish 2 full ERA points lower than weaker ones, and 0.25 WHIP points lower than weaker ones. Relievers only pitch about 1/3 as many innings as starters, but with such huge disparities in ERA and WHIP, those effects are still pretty big. The difference between a 2.00 ERA and 4.40 ERA RP is the same as the difference between a 3.60 ERA and a 4.40 ERA SP. The difference between a 1.00 WHIP RP and a 1.30 WHIP RP is the same as the difference between a 1.20 WHIP SP and a 1.30 WHIP SP.
So when you draft a great closer instead of a weak one, you not avoid the risk of your closer losing his job, but you also (in effect) turn a 4.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 140 K SP on your team into a 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 175K pitcher. Those combined benefits are worth quite a bit.
Inukchuk wrote:I've argued Nathan in the past, but I have no argument with Paps. Despite the fact that he might not have been the top rated closer last year, he still has a great chance to end any given year at the top.
RP is volatile enough that you have to weigh potential and situation very heavily into your rankings...
Agreed, which is why I tend to rank RPs (well, pitchers in general) into tiers. You can normally put closers into 3-4 groups. Top: great ratios/good team(opportunities)/job locked-down/consistant Great: good ratios/firm grasp on job/consistant or recent breakout Good: iffy ratios/ton of opportunities/looking over their shoulder O.K.: iffy to bad ratios/closer 1a or 1b for team/average team