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Steve Cishek sinks into role as MLB's best closer

Steve Cishek
Steve Cishek
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With the retirement of Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, many of the game's best relievers have scrambled to fill the role of the best closer in baseball. With a unique delivery and a pitch with signature success, the best closer in baseball may actually be Steve Cishek of the Miami Marlins.

Last season after the All-Star break Cishek went a perfect 17 for 17 in save opportunities and posted a near perfect 0.93 ERA. He also recorded 202 strikeouts in 194.1 career innings and is currently working a consecutive save streak of 32 dating back to last June, which is the longest active streak in the Majors. He's three straight saves into this season and his 29 consecutive saves last season is the most in Marlins history.

The prototypical cookie-cutter closer is a big body pitcher a fastball similar to that of Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. Cishek is a slender 6-6 pitcher with a unique sidearm delivery that almost appears as the submarine delivery. The sinker is his go-to pitch and his arm angle makes that pitch nearly impossible to hit.

"Any sort of deception helps," Cishek said. "You gotta be at little bit different to get people out in this game."

Cishek has said that he's always pitched with that unorthodox delivery since his childhood and what makes it bizarre is that it looks like and he feels like he is throwing over the top. It's also a delivery that very few pitchers in the bigs can pitch with. He has the ideal frame for it where as pitcher like Josh Collmenter of the Arizona Diamondbacks would look like a softball pitcher if he tried it.

"There's a flexibility factor," Cishek said. "If you're a big bulky guy you're not going to have the same arm angle I got."

Successful hitting comes from timing and anticipation. After eight innings facing pitchers who throw overhand and in the pivotal ninth inning the winning team's closer, the team's best reliever if not best pitcher, comes in and instead of throwing heat like everyone else he throws a sinker from a slinky like sidearm delivery. Anyone who has to beat that pitcher in the ninth inning is screwed, and that's been the case for many of the Marlins' opponents.

Mariano Rivera became the best closer in all of baseball because of his signature cutter. Cishek has his signature sinker with a complementary slider that can put him in that role for at least the rest of the decade.

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