Thursday, September 22, 2011
Rivera the best reliever of all time, Fan Graphs, Slowinski, low ERA and walks, high K's, not just 'save' stat
Rivera's low ERA, low walk rate, high strike out rate, high WAR and WPA put him above others, not just the 'save' stat.
9/20/11, "The Best Reliever of All Time, Mariano Rivera," FanGraphs, Steve Slowinski
"If you prefer old-school statistics, Rivera has the lowest career ERA (2.06) of any relief pitcher to throw more than 200 innings.* That’s considerably lower than Trevor Hoffman (2.87 ERA), and better than any of the current relievers in the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm (2.52), Goose Gossage (2.63), Bruce Sutter (2.83), and Rollie Fingers (2.83), and Dennis Eckersley (2.85**). And not only that, but in an age where relievers typically don’t shoulder large workloads, Mo has thrown 1,159 innings —
- the 14th most in major league history.
Mo has the lowest walk rate of the Hall of Fame relievers (1.9 walks per nine), and
- his strikeout rate is by far the highest (8.3 per nine). He’s only blown 65 saves,
- while Goose Gossage blew 97 and Bruce Sutter blew 90…
- yet Mo has pitched in over 1,000 games while Gossage appeared in 900 and Sutter in 650.
You can go on and on with the comparisons, but they’re still just as unremarkable; in short, the traditional stats make Mariano out to be a soul-destroying, bat breaking machine.
And when you turn to the new-school statistics, you find that it’s not just saves that really likes Mariano; it’s everything. He has the most career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of any relief pitcher and by a longshot too. Heck, only nine relievers have ever pitched good and long enough to accrue over 20 WAR, and of those nine, only one has ever cracked 30. With 38.3 WAR,
- the next closest player (Goose Gossage) is a full 9 wins behind.
But it only gets better. Mo has by far the most Win Probability Added of any relief pitcher (55 WPA) over the course of his career, a full 23 ahead of the next closest guy (Trevor Hoffman). And he may have recently set the all-time saves record, but
- he’s already the all-time leader in Shutdowns (539).
This one save doesn’t change his place in history, but it does serves as yet another of how the saber and mainstream aren’t as far apart as you’d think. It doesn’t matter what statistics you like to look at, the final conclusion is the same: Mariano Rivera is not only the best old reliever of all-time; he’s easily the best reliever the game has ever seen. The role of the closer may be a young one and not steeped in legend yet,
- but Mo is crafting his own over in New York.
*You guys are so smart. One reader caught that Mo’s career ERA is actually 2.22, while I listed above that it’s 2.06. The numbers I referenced above are Mo’s stats as a relief pitcher; he had 10 starts early in his career that inflate his career ERA. And since Dennis Eckersley also started some games, I excluded all games started when comparing the relievers against each other.
**Again, this is Eckersley’s ERA as a relief pitcher."
The author mentions 1159 innings for Mo. Of the 1209 listed as of 9/21 in B-R I'm assuming 50 innings in 1995 were as a starter and 17 were as a reliever. This still leaves out the post season. If the topic of durability is discussed including innings pitched, it is quite misleading not to mention the post season in all cases. Obviously Rivera's work is the most severely slighted when post season durability is left out-- although it is "accepted" practice to do so in some baseball stat discussions-assuming one wants to be accepted by people who cheat others out of their career. It is not Rivera's "fault" that 3 levels of post season play began in 1995. It doesn't make those before him "unlucky" to have had more time to rest up. In the old days when they didn't make much money players got 2nd jobs over the winter. It was just different. It's no one's fault and no excuse to cheat someone out of what is often his most demanding work and in adverse weather conditions. I enjoyed the article, just think post season must be mentioned in durability discussions. ed.