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The Arizona Diamondback Closers’ Cup: Round Two

And then, there were four...

Arizona Diamondbacks’ closing pitcher Matt Mantei Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images

The first round results were more or less as expected. Two were utter blowouts, one was a landslide, but the fourth ended up be a competitive battle, albeit in the end with a clear winner. Still, it sets up the semi-finals nicely. But before we get to those, let’s check in with the first round match-ups

Round one results

#1 Jose Valverde vs. #8 Brandon Lyon: 95% Valverde

Papa Grande stomped his way over Lyon, in an expected manner. Valverde’s role on the 2007 Diamondbacks, the last D-backs team to reach the Championship Series was likely a huge factor here, as he saved 47 games and, never mind Cy Young (where he was 6th), Jose came 14th in MVP voting that year, I think probably making him the only D-backs reliever ever to be mentioned there. By coincidence, Lyon was the man who took over from Valverde, after the latter was traded to Houston following that 2007 campaign. His 42 saves were split across four years with Arizona, without ever being closer for a full season.

#2 J.J. Putz vs. #7 Gregg Olson: 96% Putz

For two years, Putz was among the best closers in the majors. In 2011-12, he had 77 saves and a 2.48 ERA: Craig Kimbrel was the only man with more saves and a lower ERA. But the wheels fell off in April 23, with four blown saves before he hit the DL. By the time he came back, he’d lost the job to Heath Bell. Yeah. About that. Olson had the thankless task of being the closer for the expansion Diamondbacks in 1998, who weren’t very good. He still managed to save almost half (thirty) of the team’s sixty-five victories that year, and retained the job in 1999, until some guy called Matt Mantei arrived in a trade. Whatever happened to him?

#3 Matt Mantei vs. #6 Chad Qualls: 75% Mantei

Ah, there he is! This one was a little closer, and I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t closer still. Mantei managed to overcome being ranked #12 in our Worst Diamondbacks Contracts. He was healthy and effective for about one and a half of the six seasons he appeared for Arizona: the second half of 1999, and then 2003, when he had 29 saves to go with a 2.62 ERA. Qualls took over as closer down the stretch in 2008 from Brandon Lyon, throwing 7.1 scoreless innings of two-hit ball, which got him the job for Opening Day 2009. He was okay with 24 saves and a 3.63 ERA, but fell apart in mid-2010. That included five consecutive appearances allowing at least an earned run, conceding 10 ER over 3.2 innings.

#4 Byung-Hyun Kim vs. #5 Brad Ziegler: 59% Ziegler

This one could easily have gone either way. Kim arguably had the better regular-season numbers, but his performance in the 2001 World Series, blowing saves in both Games 4 and 5, is certainly what people remember of his time with the Diamondbacks. The image of him crouched down on the mound in Yankee Stadium is indelibly seared into the memories of all Arizona fans who watched those games. Ziegler is interesting, in that he was thrust into the role of closer. Over his first 312 seasons here, he was only in that role for the second half of 2013. But his 2015 campaign was one of the best ever, with 30 saves in 32 chances, part of a franchise record run of 43 consecutive save opportunities converted.

Round two polls

#1 Jose Valverde vs. #5 Brad Ziegler


Who was the better closer?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Jose Valverde
    (47 votes)
  • 48%
    Brad Ziegler
    (45 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now

#2 J.J. Putz vs. #3 Matt Mantei


Who was the better closer?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    J.J. Putz
    (75 votes)
  • 17%
    Matt Mantei
    (16 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now

As before, feel free to give your choices in the comments, and explain your reasoning...