What is your opinion of the A.J. Pierzynski signing?
MJH on accountability
From Baseball Reference (via BBTF, which has a 100-post thread on this):
Mariano Rivera is 40 years old, still pitching extremely well, and is first in baseball history in ERA+. Among active pitchers, he’s ranked first in ERA, WHIP, H/9IP, K/BB, HR/9IP, WPA, and fielding percentage. (Go ahead and carefully re-read that last sentence.)
...Discussions of the “best ever” in sports are always difficult but perhaps none are more difficult than baseball pitchers. The way that pitchers are used has changed so dramatically that it’s tough to compare pitchers today to pitchers from 100 years ago. Rivera is certainly the best closer in history but how can we go about evaluating him on the same scale as pitchers who threw complete games virtually every time out and didn’t often have the benefit of a bullpen behind them?
...The bottom line is that Rivera has amassed the best numbers in MLB history, albeit over many MANY fewer innings than many other Hall-of-Fame quality pitchers, but also did it under just about the most difficult circumstances.
Now, the thought -- at least a few years ago, that is -- was that starters moving to relief generally lop about 25% off their ERA, and I would assume the opposite holds true if you're a reliever moving into a starting capacity ... adhering to that theory, Rivera would still have a sub-3.00 ERA in his career if he was a starter. Not the best ever, of course, but very good. And there's not much reason to believe that Rivera, despite having the best RATE stats ever, is more VALUABLE than a Pedro or a Clemens in terms of actual value added. But it's something that seems to come up over and over, and something worth thinking about.
Hard to say. It's between him and Ryan Drese.
And R.A. Dickey.
His cutter certainly has to be in the best pitch of all time conversation. Right?
In the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, James has these guys down as having the best pitches ever (starters only, he has Rivera's FB at No. 2 behind Goose Gossage's FB):
Fastball: Walter JohnsonCurveball: Sandy KoufaxChange-up: Stu MillerSlider: Steve CarltonKnuckleball: Hoyt WilhelmForkball/Splitter: Bruce Sutter
My "real" answer is much more complicated. I think it depends on what we consider to be "the best pitcher of all time" to be. If I need one inning, life-or-death, I take Rivera. But which Rivera? His stuff used to be better, but now he's a better overall pitcher. Do we go with 2000, where his dominance as a closer (because of the World Series) was cemented, or 2005, in which he had his perhaps greatest year? And if we're picking a particular year, do we throw Gagne's 2003 season from which to choose? Or do we go "overall body of work"?
Overall, Rivera is the greatest reliever of all time, period, no questions asked. Compare it to Trevor Hoffman, arguably number 2, and it's like comparing Cliff Lee to Ryan Drese.
But the key word there is reliever.
If it's a 3-2 game, bottom of the 9th, runners on first and second with no outs, I bring in Rivera, no doubt. Of all of the guys in the history of baseball that I could bring in, he's my man. So if that's the contest of "who is the greatest pitcher of all time," then yes, he wins.
But let's say it's game 7 of the World Series. I don't send Rivera out there to start. And to me, that's the most important thing: the greatest pitcher of all time has to be a starter. Rivera, even in a good year, gives you 80 innings. A TORP these days, including playoffs, will give you 250 innings.
And what constitutes best pitcher? You could have the greatest arsenal of all time (80 fastball, 80 slider, 80 curveball, 80 changeup), but if you have terrible command, then you're not going to be in consideration. Alternatively, if you have great command but mediocre stuff (Jaime Moyer comes to mind), you aren't going to be anything special either.
So my vote for greatest of all time? Maybe it's because I'm young, but I take Greg Maddux.
My ultimate game 7: Maddux goes 6, then Eckersley, Gossage, and Rivera.
Also, using WAR, Rivera gets 36.1 while Maddux gets 120.6. Not to discount Rivera, but Billy Beane said that you can take a mediocre starter, make him a closer, and all of a sudden everyone wants him. I think the closer position is very overrated.
And to me, that's the most important thing: the greatest pitcher of all time has to be a starter.
I think this is true, unless you had some incontrovertible evidence to suggest that a particular dominant relief pitcher had the talent level/pliability/endurance/arsenal to pitch at the level of, say, a Young/Clemens/Johnson IF he was moved to a starting role. And I don't think there's a single team in baseball that would keep a pitcher of such rarefied dominance as a reliever.
Not the greatest pitcher ever, but here's a cool presentation on Rivera's cutter the NYT did back in June.
Yes, I loved that presentation. One of the cooler things I've seen to come out of Pitch f/x.
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