What kind of production do teams receive from players tabbed to replace superstars?
Earlier this week, Mariano Rivera arrived at the Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, Florida, and caused a stir by strongly hinting that the 2012 season would be his final one. The 42-year-old, who has served as the Yankees’ closer since 1997, has shown no signs of slippage, with four straight seasons of ERAs under 2.00 backed by stellar peripherals—strikeout and walk rates better than his career numbers, even—and high save totals. Late last season, he surpassed Trevor Hoffman as the all-time saves leader, and with five World Series rings in hand, the only real challenge that remains is for him to convince manager Joe Girardi to allow him a cameo in center field.
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Despite the barkers, the colored balloons, and Mariano Rivera, there is no Closer Mountain.
As Mariano Rivera tied and then broke Trevor Hoffman’s record for career saves, the YES Network’s Michael Kay kept referring to Rivera being “alone atop the mountain of closers.” Sometimes he said “alone atop the mountain of closers with Trevor Hoffman,” which doesn’t make much sense, because how can you be alone with somebody except in literary depictions of alienated romance, presumably not what Kay was talking about? In any case, Closer Mountain is more aptly described as a pimple, because most closers last about as long as the typical skin blemish and are about as memorable no matter how many saves they have. Compared to Rivera (and Hoffman as well), they are no more than transients traveling between obscurity and obscurity.
Rivera has been the Yankees’ closer since 1997. In that time, he has had eight seasons of 40 or more saves. You well know that saves are a vastly overrated statistic due to the way they seem to indicate leverage but really don’t, so don’t take that as a measure of quality, but rather of the fact that someone felt he was worth running out there with a lead—with the exception of the occasional Joe Borowski ’07, you don’t get a chance to pile up that many saves while pitching poorly.
The saves are the secondary by-product of the two elements of Rivera’s game that make him so valuable: First, he’s simply an exceptionally good pitcher. His current 2.22 ERA ranks ninth all time, 1,200 innings and up division. Literally everyone above him pitched in the Deadball era. The closest pitcher who was primarily a reliever is the Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had a 2.52 ERA overall and 2.49 in 1872 1/3 innings as a reliever, just about all of which was compiled in a less challenging run environment than the steroidal 1990s and 2000s.
As Mariano Rivera leaves his 1,000th appearance behind, see how he stacks up according to Nate's standards.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Before Goose Gossage got into the Hall of Fame and Mariano Rivera reeled off another six superb seasons, Nate turned his statistical eye on the bullpen in the following article, which originally ran as a "Lies, Damned Lies" column on January 6, 2005.
Reminiscing about the all-time saves leader, plus other notes from around the major leagues.
Trevor Hoffman saved 601 games in his 16-year career, more than any relief pitcher in history. Even if many in the sabermetric community believe the save is a relatively useless statistic for evaluating player performance, it is still impressive that Hoffman could stay on top of his game for that many years as a top-flight closer.
The current career saves leader has left the building and ought to head to Cooperstown, but who else deserves to join him?
No sooner had Trevor Hoffmanannounced his retirement on Tuesday than the questions as to his Hall of Fame worthiness came into the conversation. With only five relievers already enshrined in Cooperstown, the ranks of the elected would appear to have plenty of room for the all-time saves leader, but then the same thing might have been said about Lee Smith a few years ago, and he has yet to crack the 50 percent threshold in his nine years on the ballot.
Looking at the decisions facing Andy Pettitte and Trevor Hoffman, and trying to get Billy Wagner to reconsider.
Every offseason, major-league executives, fans and rumormongers are met with storylines and situations involving free agents who are considering retirement prior to the upcoming season. To prevent any sort of Favre-ian ambiguity, this article will serve as a sort of indirect advisory notice to a few pitchers who are on the fence in regards to returning to play next season. By taking a look at a few of the metrics we have here at Baseball Prospectus, we’ll be able to see which players can expect to see their numbers improve or worsen in 2011, allowing us to give the named players a insightful nudge towards playing or towards retirement.
Trevor Hoffman finally reaches 600 saves then apologizes to his teammates, along with other news and notes form around the major leagues.
Trevor Hoffman is likely in the final weeks of his career. Though the Brewers reliever says he won't make a decision about retiring until after the season ends, all signs point to the 42-year-old all-time saves leader bringing an end to his 18-year career that began with the expansion Marlins in 1993.
After being severely wounded as a Marine in Iraq, he returned home to pitch in the Padres' farm system.
Growing up in Houston, Cooper Brannan was a constant presence at the Astrodome. The original Killer B's—Jeff Bagwell, Derek Bell, and Craig Biggio—were his favorites. Like many children, he wanted to be a professional athlete, and he’d tell his parents that one day his dream would come true. The road to becoming a pro, though, had a few odd turns before coming to fruition.
Brannan was a three-year letterman in football and baseball at Highland High School in Gilbert, Arizona, where he had moved to live with his father. He had generated some interest from junior colleges, but was unsure of what direction to go. He had never been guided to pursue a college education or continue playing baseball, and high school graduation was upon him. He had not signed a letter of intent.