Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Rivera in Boston August 30

Final 5-2, photo getty

Monday, August 29, 2011


Mariano in Baltimore

Rivera in the 9th v Orioles, 8/29/11, final 3-2. top reuters, bottom, getty

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Rivera in Minnesota

Bottom with Girardi, Sun., Aug. 21, 2011, both getty. final 3-0

Friday, August 19, 2011


Mariano Rivera strikeout rate, walks, and ERA holding up

This article gives some perspective to Rivera's current stats like K's, BB's, ERA, velocity, and pitch values:

8/18/11, "Any worries about Mariano Rivera should be quickly dismissed," FantasyWindup, USA Today blogs, by FantasyPros911, P. DiCaprio

"After a few dicey performances many fantasy owners are asking whether Mariano Rivera is nearing the end of his illustrious career. If he is, there is no evidence of it, as we will see below. If anything, his skill set shows little or no erosion.

Strikeouts - His strikeout rate is up to 8.04 K/9, well above last year's mediocre 6.75 showing. The 2011 figure is down from his peak, but well within his expected range of strikeout rates. Rivera has struck out fewer batters per nine in nine of his 17 seasons.

Walks - His walk rate has gotten even better as he has aged. He has walked fewer than two batters per nine innings in each of the last six seasons, twice walking fewer than one batter per nine. The two seasons? 2008 and 2011, when Rivera walked 0.76 and 0.96 batters per nine. So, 2011 represents his second best control season.

ERA - His current ERA is 2.30, plenty good for anyone. But is it a product of his skill, luck or something else? One way to tell is to look at the more advanced metrics. So let's look at FIP and xFIP (both from and xERA (from -- three of the more useful ERA estimators:

Actual ERA: 2.30
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching): 2.38
xFIP (Expected FIP): 2.70
xERA (Expected ERA): 2.84

These metrics purport to distill a pitcher's ERA into its component parts to see if his ERA is likely to regress to a mean. Here Rivera's ERA is clearly not subject to anything other than a tiny regression.

Pitch Values - tracks pitcher velocity and determines a run value for each pitch type. Mariano's 92.1 average fastball velocity is almost exactly the same as in 2010 (92.2). But we all know his fastball is not his bread and butter. In fact he has thrown it only 11% of the time, by far a career low, aside from 2009, and part of a continued reliance on the cutter as he has aged.

As it turns out he has lost a step on his cutter in terms of run value. Mariano has seen a three-year decline in his cutter run value: 25.2 in 2008, 19.8 in 2009, 16.7 in 2010 and 8.0 so far this year. With roughly a quarter of the season left, we can prorate 2011 to 10.0 by the end of the season. This looks like a big decline, and it is.

The decline is from his career high. Prior to 2008 his cutter run value was 12.2 in 2006 and 11.5 in 2007, seasons in which he had fewer strikeouts, but relied on his fastball much more often.

Of course we expect some decline in a 41-year-old pitcher. But Mariano is still rock solid for fantasy players. And if you do not agree, how many closers would you take ahead of him?

-- Patrick DiCaprio, Fantasy911Pros

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


'Mariano Rivera best relief pitcher in history,' even in regular season alone, Corcoran,

This SI article written shortly after Trevor Hoffman's retirement says Mariano is the greatest relief pitcher in history which is nice but it only looks at regular season. The article also discusses Hall of Fame worthiness. For its purposes, Rivera did all his post season and All Star work for nothing and the Hall of Fame is now a glorified Cy Young Award. website headline, "Trevor Hoffman was no Mariano Rivera but he was a great closer"

"Trevor Hoffman retired on Tuesday with 601 saves, the most in baseball history, which alone puts him in the discussion for being the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Unfortunately for Hoffman, it's a short conversation. By virtually every measure, that title belongs to Mariano Rivera. In some ways, Hoffman benefitted from comparisons to Rivera, his almost exact contemporary, as he was widely regarded as the National League's answer to the Yankees icon. However, now that Hoffman has retired, that league distinction

Yes, Hoffman matched Rivera's ability to convert saves (they both did so at an 89 percent rate over the length of their careers, a better rate than any other closer with 300 or more career saves) and Hoffman had more 20-save seasons than any other pitcher with 15 to Rivera's 14, but the

Rivera has converted more than twice as many saves of more than three outs (115 to Hoffman's 55), and crushes Hoffman in park-adjusted career ERA+ 204 to 141 (with 100 being league average). Having just signed a new two-year contract, Rivera should match Hoffman with a 15th 20-save campaign this season and seems likely to pick up the 43 saves he needs to break Hoffman's career saves record no later than 2012.

Rivera also has a big lead among relievers in most big-picture advanced stats including both versions of Wins Above Replacement (WAR, hereafter referred to as bWAR for Baseball-Reference's version and fWAR for FanGraph's), Baseball Prospectus's Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), and BP's WXRL (roughly Wins eXpected above Replacement, adjusted for Leverage, a cumulative win-expectancy-based statistic for relief pitchers). Given all of that, the more pertinent question is whether or not Hoffman was the second-best relief pitcher in baseball history, and if not, where does he rank on that list?

Scanning those advanced stats as a group, five names continue to pop up towards the top of those lists behind Rivera: Hall of Famers Hoyt Wilhelm and Goose Gossage, Lee Smith, the man whose career saves record Hoffman broke in 2006, and Hoffman and Billy Wagner, both of whom have just retired this offseason. Noteworthy absences from that quintet are three of the five relief pitchers already in the Hall of Fame, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers. Eckersley quite simply didn't spend enough of his career as a premium reliever to merit mention. Though he was dominant for five seasons (1988-1992), he posted a 4.05 ERA over the next five before fading away. He ranks 20th all-time in WXRL, and his bWAR for the relief portion of his career ranks down around 45th among relief pitchers, tied with the likes of Gene Garber and Greg Minton. Sutter similarly had just seven seasons with more than 20 saves and an ERA below 4.00. He ranks 14th in WXRL and ninth in bWAR. Fingers saved 341 games, which stood as the career saves record for all but one year between Wilhelm and Smith, and still holds the record for saves of more than three outs with 201 (Sutter ranks third in that category), but he ranks sixth on the WXRL list, just barely ahead of Wilhelm, and fails to crack the top five in any of the wins above replacement stats.

Getting back to our Big Six of Rivera, Wilhelm, Gossage, Smith, Hoffman, and Wagner, we've already established Rivera as the best reliever in baseball history. As for the rest, we'll start with how Hoffman stacks up against Wagner, his other contemporary. Though Wagner has a decided advantage in ERA+ and was one of the great strikeout pitchers in the game's history -- his career rate of 11.9 strikeouts per nine inning ranks behind only Brad Lidge's 12.0 among pitchers with 500 innings pitched (Hoffman's 9.36 K/9 ranks 28th) -- Hoffman holds the edge in save percentage (89 to 86) and saves of more than three outs (55 to 36). He also ranks ahead of Wagner in three of those four advanced stats, trailing him only in fWAR, which produces the leader board least like the other three because it's limited to the period since 1980. It's safe to say, then, that Hoffman was the second-best relief pitcher of his era, behind Rivera but ahead of Wagner. Hoffman also holds a clear edge over Smith, as well, with Smith's only meaningful advantage coming in saves of more than three outs, which, again, had more to do with when he pitched than how he pitched.

Comparing Hoffman to Gossage and Wilhelm, however, is more difficult because of the manner in which each of those pitchers was used. During his nine-year peak, Gossage averaged 93 innings per season. Take out 1979, which he missed most of because of a thumb injury, and the strike-shortened 1981 and his average jumps up to 104 innings in his seven full seasons during that stretch. Gossage also threw 141 2/3 innings of pure relief in 1975, his first full season as a bullpen stopper. Wilhelm, meanwhile, pitched most of his career before the saves statistic was invented in 1969 and surpassed 100 innings of relief work eight times in his first 14 seasons.

Hoffman's comparatively light workloads play a large part in his his less-than-convincing showings in the wins above replacement stats, all of which are cumulative, and none of which rank him higher than fourth among relief pitchers. Hoffman, who never made a major league start, threw just 1,089 1/3 innings in his career, 30 percent fewer than the amount of relief innings thrown by Gossage, and just 58 percent as many relief innings as Wilhelm. However, WXRL, which is also cumulative but is weighted by the importance of the game situation, does rank Hoffman second (albeit distantly) to Rivera but ahead of the third-place Gossage while bumping Wilhelm all the way down to seventh. Similarly, Hoffman's poor showing on the list of

has more to do with the usage patterns for closers during his career than anything else. In the 18 seasons since his rookie year of 1993, Hoffman ranks second to only Rivera in saves of more than three outs.

As a result, where you rank Hoffman relative to Wilhelm and Gossage really depends on whether you prefer a lock-down, three-out closer, or an

It's hard to ignore the fact that Wilhelm threw nearly twice as many innings of relief while also posting a superior ERA+ (Hoffman ranks 12th in ERA+ among relievers with 500 or more innings pitched, below current Reds closer Francisco Cordero and former Blue Jays and Angels set-up man Mark Eichhorn) and converting far more than twice as many saves of more than three outs. Gossage ranks second all-time in the latter category and is second to Rivera in bWAR among relievers

Wilhelm, meanwhile, leads in WARP among relievers. Hoffman leads the trio in saves, save percentage, fWAR, WXRL, K/9, K/BB, and WHIP, but, again, with just 58 percent as many relief innings pitched as Wilhelm and 30 percent fewer than Gossage.

Each of the three had a dominant run of nine consecutive seasons. If we narrow our focus to those seasons alone, we get the following:

Pitcher Seasons IP ERA+ bWAR WARP WXRL
Hoffman 1994-2003 620 155 21.0 32.9 41.786
Gossage 1977-1985 833 182 28.6 39.3 43.280
Wilhelm 1961-1969 956 1/3 172 19.4 29.9 33.315

That peak performance gives Gossage a clear edge, and Wilhelm's combined advantage in innings and adjusted ERA is just too much to look past despite Hoffman's higher-leverage work. As a result, we get a list of the six best relievers in baseball history that looks like this:

1. Mariano Rivera

2. Goose Gossage

3. Hoyt Wilhelm

4. Trevor Hoffman

5. Billy Wagner

6. Lee Smith

Hoffman's position on that list, as well as his soon-to-be second place standing on the all-time saves list, should hold for years to come. It seems we have finally reached the point at which a closers' ability to accumulate saves has maxed out.

Yes, Francisco Rodriguez just set the single-season mark in 2008 with 62, but Bobby Thigpen's record of 57 had stood since 1990, and other than Rodriguez, who has 268 career saves, there is no active closer under the age of 30 with more than 200 saves to his name, which is still only a third of the way to Hoffman's record total. More significantly, the consistency and longevity Hoffman displayed across his 18-year career (except for 2003, which was lost to a pair of shoulder surgeries) has not become any more common among relief aces. The Hall of Fame doesn't need to include closers the way it needs to included both catchers and second basemen,

"Thanks to Baseball Prospectus's Colin Wyers for supplying WXRL and WARP career leader lists."


The tough-guy Gossage persona falls apart in the following 5 high stakes examples:

In 1980, he only played a third
  • of an inning in post season in the ALCS and was losing pitcher of record. With the season on the line v the Royals, Gossage entered Game 3 leading 2-1. Entering in the 7th with 2 outs and one ROB. Unfortunately, he gave up a single, then a 3 run home run. He left with the Yankees trailing 4-2. He did not pitch the 8th or 9th innings. Why brag about coming in in the 7th inning when you blow it, the game, and the season at the same time? Someday, somebody might look it up.
In 1984, the Padres' final game
  • of the World Series, he did come in in the 7th, but gave up a solo home run. He came back out in the 8th and gave up a 3 run home run. He didn't figure in the loss as the team was losing 4-3 when he entered but the team was counting on him not to give up any more runs. The pressure seems to get to him in big games. This was the game where his manager told him to walk Kirk Gibson, but Gossage decided to pitch to him. Video, Kirk Gibson hits 3 run home run off Gossage in Game 5 of 1984 World Series. Gossage says of Gibson,"I own him."
Helping teams get to big games is one thing, winning big games is another. Recognition as an elite player includes mental as well as physical toughness. It's best not to constantly whine about how much better you are than others when you're not--someone might look it up someday. ed.

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Monday, August 15, 2011


Rivera in Kansas City

Above, Rivera v Kansas City Royals, 8/15/11, final 7-4, ap

Above, Rivera with Russell Martin, 8/15, ap

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Rivera at the Stadium for Jeter 3000 hits ceremony

Mo on right at ceremony for Derek Jeter 3000 hits. Team mates gave Jeter a steel sculpture, 8/13/2011, reuters. Mo also spoke briefly at the ceremony.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Jack Morris says Mariano Rivera "the premier reliever of all time"

Former Tigers pitcher Jack Morris was on WFAN with Joe and Evan by phone Friday, August 12 after the 3pm break. Evan opened by discussing the Tigers, then Joe Benigno asked what Morris made of Mariano Rivera's recent bad outings. Morris joked about how he might be human after all, then said,
  • "He's no question the premier reliever of all time."
At about 2:15 into the interview.


Thursday, August 11, 2011


A popular but especially erroneous stat about Rivera durability in 2010

"Understanding that you can make any point you like with statistics..." Wallace Matthews, ESPN NY, 11/4/2010 (para. 16)

People don't have time to double check everything they read. As a result, misperceptions go viral, like the one that says Rivera only pitched 60 innings in 2010, and that this is proof of something.
Over time you can get people to believe anything. (82% of Muslims in Egypt believe you should be stoned to death for adultery). A national publication, GQ (among others) cited the '60 inning' stat as proof of Rivera's diminished durability. The stat was erroneous to start with because it left out Rivera's post season innings. If they don't count for durability what does?

April 2011, GQ: "Those days are coming to an end. Mariano remains one of the best closers in the game, but he spends ever less time sawing off hitters' bats with his cut fastball: With the exception of his injury-plagued 2002, the sixty innings Rivera pitched last year
It's especially dishonest to make a statement about a pitcher's durability then leave out the post season. In the 2010 regular season he had three 6 out appearances. 2 of them within 5 days, June 23 and June 27 and he got the Win for both.
Quote above from GQ article about Derek Jeter, "Derek Jeter's Swinging Years" April 2011, Seth Mnookin (page 3 paragraph 10).

Rivera's three 2 inning appearances in the 2010 regular season weren't recorded as "Saves" although they were more difficult because all 3 were tie innings in 'away' games. He received the Win for 2 of them:
no decision for the third, Sept. 10 at Texas. Because they weren't 'saves' someone at ESPN will say Rivera's not as good as so-and-so because he didn't have a "2 inning Save." I've seen this done by Tim Kurkjian. He and fellow ESPN guy Wallace Matthews have one job--translating certain players' careers into versions Bud Selig prefers them to be.

It should be mentioned that
No one pitches forever but that's a separate subject.


P.S. Nice to see someone bring up Mo's post season efforts when discussing durability:

8/12/11, "(Mariano's) had a couple days in a row where he's given up runs. I remember in 2009 he kind of got off to that slow start and people were saying is this the beginning of the end?," Girardi said. "And let's not forget, I think he threw two innings in Game 6 against the Phillies. He might have given us five outs against the Angels.""...


Citation about Egypt: 2/11/11, "Pew Global Attitudes Project" conducted 4/12/10-5/7/10, released 12/2/10 (scroll down)


Saturday, August 06, 2011


Rivera at Fenway Park August 5

Top with Jeter getty, bottom ap. Final 3-2 Yankees


"End of 9th: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2"

Mariano Rivera entered the game to a chorus of boos. "...

"Final: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2," Boston Globe, Nicole Auerbach

Also, Mo was named #7 in a 'Top 10 favorite baseball players in the US,' survey by Forbes. He was the only Yankee in the top 10. I usually like to find out the details about polls, wording of questions, how respondents were chosen, but am out of time on this topic. Already had to flip through numerous pages and chit chat just to get the ten names. Halladay, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Ichiro, Mo, Evan Longoria, Chipper Jones, Ryan Howard. 8/3/11, "Baseball’s Most Popular Players," Forbes. Tom Van Riper (E-poll and Nielsen)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Rivera in Chicago v White Sox

top with Girardi, getty, in the 9th with score 3-2, getty, bottom with Cervelli, ap. final 3-2. 9 pitches

Monday, August 01, 2011


Rivera at the Stadium v Orioles

Rivera v Orioles Sunday, 7/31/11, top with team after game, getty. 2nd, reuters, 3rd, ap, 4th ap, 5th with Russell Martin, reuters. Final score 4-2.


At the Stadium v Mariners

Top, getty, bottom Rivera with Cervelli after Mariners game July 26, final 4-1, getty

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