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Alex Colome: 2017 closer

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

In a recent press conference, President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman and Manager Kevin Cash admitted 2016 was a disappointing season for the Rays. The team’s 68-94 record looks even worse when several analysts, including Baseball Prospectus, projected the team to win 90 games. Silverman and Cash said the team's 2017 goal is to get back into pennant contention, and they hoped to build on some of the "bright spots" in an otherwise disappointing season.

The Rays usually go through closers like Hogwarts goes through Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers - a new one every year. Still, one of the brightest spots of the dismal 2016 season was Alex Colome’s emergence as closer. From 2013 to 2015 Colome pitched well as a reliever and spot starter, but never made the opening day squad. This year in spring training Colome was one of many contenders for the closing spot vacated by the injured Brad Boxberger. When Colome took hold of the job, he didn’t let go.

Colome earned 37 saves, tied for fourth in the American League, and two wins (even though one win was on the last day of the season, after he blew a save, which is why reliever "wins" mean nothing). That means he played a critical role in 57% of the Rays’ wins. He represented the team in the All-Star game. He established himself as one of the top relievers in the league, even as the rest of the bullpen and at times the team was collapsing around him.

The 27 year-old hurler showed great improvement from 2015 to 2016. In 2015, Colome started and relieved, pitching 109 innings. He had an 8-5 record with an ERA of 3.94. He struck out 7.22 batters per nine innings, walked 2.54 per nine innings, and allowed a BABIP of .317.

Colome improved across the board in 2016, except for wins, which as we have stated many times at DRaysBay, is not as strong an indicator of a pitcher’s quality. Colome struck out 11.28 batters per nine, walked fewer, at 2.38 per nine, and allowed a .280 BABIP. His FIP was 2.92 and fwar 1.1. bwar shows Colome at 2.2 WAR. He was fourth on the Rays in ERA, and led the team in WHIP.

One big difference in Colome’s pitching style between 2015 and 2016 was his virtual abandonment of the curve ball. In 2015, 9.9% of his pitches were curves; in 2016 0.5% were curves and 0.5% were sliders. In 2016, he threw 52% fastballs and 47% sliders. And it worked.

Colome wasn’t Mariano Rivera, but he was a very effective reliever, arguably the best closer the Rays have had since Fernando Rodney in 2012. No other pitcher emerged from the bullpen to rival his effectiveness. He’s only 27 years old, made a mere $521,700 this year, and is not eligible for arbitration until 2018. I expect, barring injury, Colome will become the first Ray to keep the closer’s job two years in a row since Rodney in 2012-13.