Comments on: POLL: Is Mariano Rivera the greatest pitcher in baseball history? This and that about baseball stats. Tue, 16 Jul 2013 17:01:55 +0000 hourly 1 By: Arjan Wed, 25 Aug 2010 15:37:25 +0000 Do we have stats on Rivera's performances in games when he doesn't get a W/L/S/BS? Saying he's 'no use unless he has a lead' isn't necessarily true. Keeping a game close so that his team can come from behind later or break at tie is an important contribution. Yes, the numbers are astounding in pressure situations, but what are they the rest of the time?

Would Rivera struggle 3rd time through a line up? Yeah, but only a little. Would Seaver, Koufax etc struggle pitching day after day in high pressure situations with everything on the line? Possibly, but only a little.

The job of a pitcher is to get outs without giving up runs, and Rivera has done this as well as anyone throughout history. The job of the team is to win and every save (however flawed the stat) is a W for his team that they wouldn't have got if he'd failed on that day.

A starter can help you win every 5 days but a reliever is pretty much available every time you need him. Roger Clemens couldn't start games 3, 4 and 5 in 2001 WS but Rivera played a big part in helping them to win all 3. (Taking selected examples isn't ideal, but this is just illustrating a point, not proving it.)

Some have stated they'd prefer an ace starter over an ace closer. But a shut out is only any good if your offense scores a run as well. Starters need runs to get a win, closers need a lead to get a save. Every statistic needs qualification.

By: Dave V. Tue, 17 Aug 2010 15:42:48 +0000 #204 & @207 MikeD - you make a lot of great points in your posts and I'm in agreement with your statements. Since JeffW brought the topic up though (and many others within this thread think that hitters would feast on Rivera if they saw him as much as they do a starter), I wanted to take a look at the top 25 guys in terms of plate appearances vs. Rivera. If you combined all of their numbers, what would they look like?

The top 25 guys in plate appearances vs. Rivera have:

--618 Plate Appearances
--560 AB's

Well that works out kind of nicely, as that's pretty much a regular season's worth of appearances and AB's. So what are the "season" numbers for the Top 25?

--618 Plate Appearances
--560 AB
--139 Hits
--13 HR
--62 RBI
--49 BB
--5 HBP
--99 K's
--.248 Batting Average
--.312 OBP%

MikeD mentioned many of the guys Rivera has faced the most. Of the Top 25, taking away the PED issues, you have at least 5 HOF'ers (Manny, Palmeiro, F.Thomas, Pudge & Thome). You have 2 borderline HOF guys (Damon & Edgar). And you have many other players who have had good to very good careers (D.Ortiz, Tejada, Delgado, M.Young, Durham, G.Anderson, V.Wells, Huff amongst them). At the least, of the Top 25 guys he's faced, the majority were All Star caliber at points in their careers.

We'll never know how these guys would have done if they faced him 3 to 5 times a game as a starter. And I agree with MikeD in that some guys do great vs. pitchers, others don't and that you can't judge pitchers (or hitters) just based on things like that. But we do know that if we took a "season" from the guys who have faced Rivera the most, that "season" would be pretty putrid...

By: R9684 Tue, 17 Aug 2010 00:49:20 +0000 "Where's the artistry? Where's the thinking? Hell, the cutter isn't even that entertaining a pitch. Give me a Maddux or a Pedro or a Seaver or a Carlton throwing tricky heaters and shifty breakers. Those are pitchers."

Having watched him for the last 14 years I think he is like a surgeun on the mound or a picasso. When he is on,(which is most of the time) it is very entertaining to watch him carve up batters with pin point precision and make major league hitters look like little leaguers. Rivera is also a smart pitcher, he pays attention to hitters approaches and makes adjustments based on what he has seen during the game and from past games. He might throw them 4 inside cutters so they're thinking its coming again and then paint it back door. Or he might start the at bat with a two outdoor cutters cause he knows the hitter is expecting it to be inside. He mixes in two seamers vs right handers, climbs the ladder. You get the idea.

"there's no way Rivera can be more than the best modern closer."

He could also be considered best closer ever not just modern closer. Along with best postseason pitcher ever. One could make very strong arguments for those claims.

By: Zachary Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:39:55 +0000 @ 186

Ruth didn't fail as a starter. Hell, he'd have won the Cy Young at least once if they'd had such an award. My point was that the Yankees decided Rivera couldn't handle starting duties. I'm sorry, but smart teams don't throw guys for 70 innings a year if they can throw 'em for 200, and for all their faults, the Yanks aren't stupid. Whether he could have handled starting or not is mostly irrelevant (I personally think not - even Sandy Koufax needed two pitches, and his heater and curve may be the best of their kind ever thrown). The point is that his own team didn't really even try him in the Majors despite the fact that he'd come up as starter. Since we absolutely know that starters provide more value than relievers, there's no way Rivera can be more than the best modern closer.

I'll tell you what. Mariano has averaged about 70 innings a year since he became a closer. Tom Seaver averaged about 240 a year over his entire career (and over 260 in his prime). Prove to me that 70 innings of Mariano plus 170 innings of replacement value equal 240 innings of Seaver and we can start talking about Mo as the GOAT.

If the greatest pitcher title is supposed to lead to something tangible, that's the only way to do it. If it's purely an aesthetic thing, there's even less a chance that Mo's the guy. The man throws one pitch. I'd say that he's a thrower more than he is a pitcher. Where's the artistry? Where's the thinking? Hell, the cutter isn't even that entertaining a pitch. Give me a Maddux or a Pedro or a Seaver or a Carlton throwing tricky heaters and shifty breakers. Those are pitchers.

By: jk Mon, 16 Aug 2010 20:53:35 +0000 My comment before was deleted so i might as well say... blahblahblah

By: Mike Felber Mon, 16 Aug 2010 09:45:47 +0000 10 starts before his superb pitch & before his velocity emerged told nothing. He may have been a very good starter, though it is unlikely he would have been just as dominant in the more challenging role. Johnson was also better in peak value than the others: that is a combination of IP & efficiency. Would he have pitched nearly as effectively his whole career in the modern era, w/mainly just a great fastball? That is the key question.

By: Matt Y Mon, 16 Aug 2010 03:12:11 +0000 Hoffman's ERA+ is surprisingly low actually (for a closer of his stature) at 141 (1200+IP), whereas Wagner's is 185 (just under 900 IP), and Mo's is 206 (just under 1200IP).

By: JeffW Mon, 16 Aug 2010 03:02:48 +0000 MikeD,

Thanks for filling in some of the specifics on Rivera's backstory. I admit to having studied the BBR stats on Rivera, and noted that he didn't "age" well in his starts. But they obviously don't tell the whole story.

My read was that the second and third times through the lineup, he got roughed-up pretty good (allowing that his 7th-8th-9th inning work was almost all in relief).

He did fine the first time around, however. To me, that meant the hitters adjusted well to what he had in subsequent at bats (something that relief work can hide, to a degree).

Or, he didn't have the stamina to make it through six or seven innings on a regular basis at the Major League level.

I would guess that he also learned quite a bit from Wetteland (just a hunch, as Wetteland is now Seattle's bullpen coach).

I agree that 10 starts in one's rookie season isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of whether a pitcher can make the grade. For whatever reason, I always just assumed that things worked out well in the pen.

Thanks again for the nice explanation.

By: MikeD Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:14:30 +0000 @228, JeffW -- "Could Rivera be as effective, if hitters saw him as much as they face Moyer? That was the point of the comparison. In converting Mo to relief, the Yankees clearly thought "no"."

That statement is not correct, or at the very least it's a little too strong when it comes with the supporting qualifier "clearly." As I think you correctly noted, Rivera ended up in the pen out of circumstance, or to fit the needs of the Yankees at that time. Rivera became a very different pitcher as he developed from '95-'97, as his fastball as a starter increased into the mid-90s and then he mastered his cutter in '97. The Yankees were developing him as a starter, but injuries, arm surgery/rehabilitation and normal development for someone who didn't start pitching reguarly until he was 20 made him both a work in progress and someone difficult to project, especially prior to the emergence of his fastball and cutter. What they basically knew about him is he was a very good athlete, very smart, highly competitve, and seemed to have natural feel for pitching considering how late he started. His best pitch in the minors was his change-up, which he shelved once he went to the pen.

After Rivera reached the majors for the second time in '95 with his newly found fastball, the Tigers inquired about Rivera as part of trade for David Wells, with the goal of making him a starter. (The M's, after facing Rivera in the '95 playoffs, also asked for Rivera when they were working out a deal with the Yankees for Tino Martinez, and then later again, hoping to steal him for Luis Sojo, figuring the Yankees weren't sure on if they were going to turn over the SS position to some rookie named Jeter in '96. Ha! Unknown if the M's planned to use Rivera in the pen or as a starter.) Gene Michaels, fortunately, passed both times, even though they weren't 100% sure which direction they wanted to go with Rivera. Ultimately, they decided he would help them best out of the pen because that fit their needs.

Years later (I'm guessing around '02 or '03), I saw Michaels interviewed about Rivera. He was asked if he thought Rivera would have made a good starter. He laughed. His answer was something like, "of course, he'd have been a great starter. We just didn't know then what we know now." The interviewer then asked Michaels if they had a mistake, and should they have made Rivera a starter. He responded with the same laugh, and answered, basically, "considering what he's done, it would be hard to say it was a mistake."

My point on all that is that it wasn't clear, because Rivera was a work in progress and was only just reaching his peak with velocity, and hadn't quite mastered the cutter that would make him a legend. Andy Pettitte throws a cutter, and it's a good one, but he has nowhere near the level of control or break on it as Rivera's. It would be a mistake to assume that multiple looks at it means MLB hitters would figure it out. I think the odds are they wouldn't.

Yet this is all a guessing game on both our parts. We'll never know, because they sent Rivera to the pen. No one can argue with the results.

Happy to see this thread kept going. Andy (I think it was Andy) get's an A for creating a poll that kept high traffic, and even spread to other baseball sites.

By: Matt Y Sun, 15 Aug 2010 17:41:52 +0000 Being a serviceable 4th-5th starter at age 47 is an impressive accomplishment, but Moyer's basically 2-3 notches below borderliner Tommy John and 1-2 notches below Kaat. There are a boatload of Moyer's metrics that fall well short of even the borderline HoFer line. Surely an inspiration for all us 40+.