No Surprise Here, Mariano Rivera Simply Sensational In Spring Debut

It goes without saying that Mariano Rivera will go down as the greatest closer of all time. Anyone who tries to argue different needs to get off the crack pipe, to put it bluntly.

From Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated comes this (which most of us already knew, but it’s incredible every time we read it):

Here are Rivera’s rate stats for the last 16 years combined:

2.03 ERA (224 ERA+), 0.97 WHIP, 0.4 HR/9, 8.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 4.32 K/BB

Rivera has averaged 71 innings pitched per season over those 16 years (including the current, incomplete campaign). Over that span, only three pitchers have equaled or bettered each of those rates in a single season of 50 or more innings pitched: Pedro Martinez in 1999, John Smoltz as a closer in 2003, and Jonathan Papelbon in 2006. Rivera has put those rates up over 16 seasons.

To be fair, he hasn’t had a single season in which he has matched or beaten each of those marks, but he hasn’t strayed far from them either, and he has only become more consistent over time. Since 2003, Rivera has had an ERA+ below 200 in just one season and has put up these rates over the last nine years combined:

1.88 ERA (237 ERA+), 0.93 WHIP, 0.4 HR/9, 8.4 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 5.47 K/BB

Yes, that’s a 1.88 ERA over 588 games by a pitcher in his age 33 to 41 seasons.

Need more?

Well, Rivera’s career ERA+ of 205 is the all-time record among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched. Pedro Martinez is second at the list at 154, not even close, and the next relievers on the list are Wilhelm and Dan Quisenberry at 147. One could counter that by pointing out that Rivera hasn’t had his decline phase yet, but he’s 41 years old.

At this point, he’ll either retire without declining (a possibility seeing as he’s only signed through 2012), or retire at the first sign of decline. Meanwhile, he is on his way to his 12th season with an ERA+ of 200 or better.

Using a minimum of 50 innings pitched, the next two men on that particular list are Martinez and Joe Nathan, both of whom did it five times, or less than half as many times are Rivera. He is also the only man ever to have two seasons with an ERA+ above 300 in 50 or more innings, doing so at ages 35 and 38.

How about this: according to bWAR, a cumulative stat, Rivera has been almost as valuable in 1,206 career innings as Dennis Eckersley was in 3,285 2/3 career frames (55.8 wins above replacement to 58.7), and exactly as valuable as Sutter (25.0) and Hoffman (30.8), two other Hall of Fame closers (one already in, one a shoo-in), combined.

Then there’s the postseason.

That’s right, Rivera dominates his field that completely without even factoring in the 139 2/3 innings of a 0.71 ERA that he has contributed in the most important games of his career. That’s the equivalent of two more seasons of some of the best pitching of his career against some of the stiffest competition.

In 94 postseason appearances, 58 of which have lasted more than one inning, Rivera has posted a 0.77 WHIP, a 5.19 K/BB, and allowed just two home runs (and, considering the milestone that prompted this piece, saved 42 additional games).

Included in those 139 2/3 frames are a postseason record 34 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings compiled from 1998 to 2000, three seasons which ended with Rivera recording the final out of a Yankee championship.

And here’s an even more insane thing about Mariano Rivera—he’s just as darn good in spring training as he is when the games count.
From 2006-2011, Rivera appeared in 44 official exhibition games, pitched 43 1/3 innings, allowed just 19 hits (.130 OBA) and 5 walks (0.55 WHIP), gave up only 2 earned runs (0.42 ERA), and struck out 54 (11.2 K/9 inn).
So yeah, even in practice, Mo is inhuman.

Rivera’s 2012 spring debut was a 1-2-3 inning against the Phillies Sunday in Tampa.  He threw a total of 14 pitches, but only because Luis Montanez somehow managed to wrangle up a 10-pitch at-bat.

Rivera summed it up best. “Just trying to get people out, and go home,” said the greatest closer of all time.

Couldn’t have said it better.



  1. fantasyfurnace

    With so many stats on Rivera, they should add a subject manditory in all colleges called, Marianology; the study of a major league phenom! It will be a sad day for Yankees fans and fans of baseball when the day comes when he hangs up his uniform.

    Nice Post!

    • djpostl

      Lol, that is a great suggestion. And yes, it really is going to be a sad day when he calls it a career. I have great admiration for Bernie, Jeter, Jorge, Andy and the other Yankees of that great generation, but Mo will always be the man for me.

      He wasn’t just the best, but he carried himself in a way that the vast majority of others don’t.

  2. hairygrim

    Rivera is simply a legend. A complete definite for the hall of fame, and up there with Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio and Jeter for the greatest Yank of all time. I am an Astros fan but can’t help but wonder how much better the houston roster would be if Mo pitched at Minute Maid Park!

    • djpostl

      Yeah, I think a lot of teams wonder how the last 16 years would have been for them had they been fortunate enough to have Mo on their roster.

      As a lifelong Yankees fan I know exactly how lucky I have been to watch him put on the pinstripes day after day.

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