Mariano Rivera is a unique player: like Babe Ruth, Rickey Henderson, Nolan Ryan

19 09 2011

The major league players most like Mariano Rivera are Babe Ruth, Rickey Henderson and Nolan Ryan.

Some players stand so far above the field that no one is even close.

Rivera today passed Trevor Hoffman to become the all-time career saves leader with 602. But it’s not even close who’s the best relief pitcher ever. Just like it’s not even close who was the best base stealer ever or the best strikeout pitcher or most unhittable pitcher ever.

Look at how these players blew away the field:

Nolan Ryan. He struck out 5,714 batters, 839 strikeouts more than Randy Johnson, who’s second with 4,875. That’s 17 percent more than anyone ever. Give Johnson his best two seasons each one more time, and that’s not enough to catch Ryan. And it’s not just strikeouts. Ryan had seven career no-hitters, 75 percent more than Sandy Koufax, who is second with four. Ryan had as many no-hitters as Koufax and Bob Feller combined. For good measure, Ryan also holds the single season strikeout record, though that one is by a single K over Koufax.

Rickey Henderson was similarly dominant as a base-stealer, finishing with 1,406 for his career, half again (actually 49.89 percent more, if you want to be precise) as many as Lou Brock‘s 938. After breaking Brock’s record, Henderson stole as many bases as Willie Mays stole in his entire career. Then he stole another 130, as many as he stole in setting the single-season record. That record was 12 more (9 percent more) than Brock’s record of 118. Henderson also holds the all-time records for runs and homers leading off a game, and held the walks record until Barry Bonds blew past him.

Babe Ruth‘s all-time homer records have long since fallen: Roger Maris got his single-season record, Hank Aaron his career record, Mickey Mantle his World Series record. But when Ruth retired, he was hundreds of career homers ahead of the field. He still is way ahead of everyone in one category: 12 league homer titles, way ahead of Mike Schmidt, second with eight. And, oh, yeah, Ruth was a hell of a pitcher, too. Of the few major leaguers who pitched and played a position, no one was close to as good as Ruth as a pitcher, let alone as a hitter.

Rivera is similarly unique in baseball history. Don’t compare him to Hoffman, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Lee Smith or any other great reliever. It’s just not close. OK, it’s close in career saves with Hoffman, and Rivera doesn’t hold the single-season saves record (Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 in 2008).

Here’s where it’s not close: Hoffman had a 2.87 career ERA and only two seasons with an ERA under 2.00. Rivera has an ERA of 2.22, with 10 seasons under 2.00. (Smith had one season under 2.00, Gossage three, Eck three, Fingers three, Wilhelm six, Sutter two.) Rivera has more seasons under 2.00 than the last three relievers elected to the Hall of Fame combined. 

And we haven’t even gotten to post-season yet. But let’s do that: Rivera’s 42 saves in the post-season are more than double the next-closest pitcher, Brad Lidge at 18. OK, but he pitched his whole career in the era of three rounds of the post-season. So let’s just look at his World Series performance: 11 saves, nearly twice the six saves by Fingers, who’s second. With four pitchers tied at third with four saves, you can’t choose two relievers who can combine to match Rivera’s World Series save total. (Here’s a fun fact: One of those guys with four saves was John Wetteland. Rivera set up three of those saves.)

How about post-season ERA: Rivera is under 1.00 in career ERA for the World Series, League Championship Series, Division Series and, of course, total post-season. He’s had 21 post-season series (out of 31) when he didn’t give up an earned run and only two series with an ERA higher than 2. In 94 post-season games, he lost once (Game 7 in the 2001 World Series, on a bloop single).

Sabermetricians like to pretend they can prove that there’s no such thing as clutch performance (they can’t). Here’s the proof that Rivera has been the greatest clutch performer in baseball history: In 139 post-season innings (two seasons’ worth for Rivera, so that’s plenty of data), facing the best teams in his league or the very best team in the other league, Rivera has a lower ERA by more than a run and a half than his spectacular regular-season ERA.

About these ads

Actions

Information

12 responses

23 09 2011
Jeff

Great job! Mariano is just an outstanding player(an my personal favorite). When I was a kid and the Goose was “getting loose”, you knew the game was over. Amazingly, Rivera has taken it to a whole new level.
I love the Goose, but I confess to being disappointed in his remarks about Mo. He’s a Hall of fame reliever, so his opinion is worth a lot more than mine. Still, he just comes across as sour when he feels he has to talk about how Rivera can’t compare to the relievers in his day. I don’t think anyone can assume to carry a 2.22 ERA during the time in the majors that Mariano did. If the Goose thinks it would be a “piece of cake”, then I don’t think he is being objective.

23 09 2011
hatedyankees

Thanks, Jeff. I loved the Goose (who had to wait too long to get into the Hall of Fame), too, and Sparky Lyle before him. But no one compares to Mo. Goose isn’t the first old-timer who didn’t appreciate the younger generations. Figures a guy who was that fierce on the mound would turn cranky as he ages.

19 10 2011
Jorge Posada has been better than most Hall of Fame catchers « Hated Yankees

[...] the “core four” Yankees from Posada’s time, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are automatic Hall of Famers whose credentials are so strong they overcome the [...]

14 10 2012
Derek Jeter’s post-season career: One of the best seasons in baseball history « Hated Yankees

[...] have to do it without either of the sure Hall of Famers who led the way to their last five titles. Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher in baseball history, went down for the season earlier this year. Andy [...]

19 10 2012
Getting swept sucks; salute the winners and enjoy what we’ve had « Hated Yankees

[...] is the first post-season sweep of the Torre and Girardi generation of Yankees. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera still haven’t been swept in the post-season. In fact, the last time the Yankees were swept in [...]

13 01 2013
A champion like Bernie Williams would be a sure Hall of Famer in football or basketball « Hated Yankees

[...] too early to say who will make the Hall of Fame from the Yankees of the 1990s and early 2000s. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are slam dunks. Roger Clemens would be automatic if not for the suspicion (despite [...]

12 02 2013
Kevin Youkilis joins a long line of Red Sox heroes who’ve become Yankees « Hated Yankees

[...] Mariano Rivera stands unrivaled as the best reliever in post-season history. But I believe Sparky had the best performance of any reliever in a single post-season. [...]

4 07 2013
Mariano Rivera — incomparable in all sports | Hated Yankees

[…] When Rivera became the all-time career saves leader in 2011, I wrote about how unique he was in baseball history. […]

2 11 2013
Wrapping up the 2013 season: Congrats to Red Sox, Mo, Pettitte | Hated Yankees

[…] blogged before about why Mariano Rivera is one of the most unique baseball players ever and why he’s one of the most incomparable pro athletes ever in any […]

15 12 2013
Joe Torre should have made the Hall of Fame as a player | Hated Yankees

[…] you add the retirement losses of Rivera and Andy Pettitte to the free-agent losses, the Yankees have lost more than they gained in the […]

25 09 2014
Derek Jeter’s legacy: Post-season excellence against the best pitchers | Hated Yankees

[…] face the best closer of all-time, since he spent nearly his whole career building leads for Mariano Rivera to save. But still, he faced six of the top 11 career saves leaders in the post-season: Trevor […]

28 09 2014
Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera: best teammate tandem ever | Hated Yankees

[…] baseball’s greatest-ever post-season hitter, and Mariano Rivera, baseball’s greatest-ever reliever and post-season pitcher, played together for an incredible […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97 other followers

%d bloggers like this: