In response to BMav's comment:
In response to notin's comment:
I think closer value is massively overstated, and for every 1986 Angels team you mention, there is a 2001 Diamondbacks that managed to overcome just as easily.
And while I have no problem agreeing Rivera is the greatest RP in history, it still does not really ever justify him being an MVP of the Yankees in any season. I tend to agree with WAR here as it says these guys are not as impactful as many fans think. Entire BULLPENS combining for 10 or 12 WAR is impressive and important to have, but singling out one guy who thrwe 70 innings as the team MVP seems like throwing glory around for the sake of it.
As for Petttite and Rivera, absolutely Andy was worth 20% more. Petttite threw 204 innings tha season; Rivera threw 70. There is a defintely value in throwing 204 innings. The lesson there is that even the middle rotation guys have a greater impact that the closer. Why? They have the ball more often. That's why. And while Pettitte was not reeling off ace-like stats, he was hardly incompetent on the mound as well. He managed to pitch well enough to use up the bullpen for 204 innings. Even if Rivera threw 70 innings and only faced 210 hitters (he faced 259), that is not as valuable as Pettitte throwing 204. A team only has about 1400 IP in a season, and a pitcher who takes up 14% single-handedly of that workload is important
Damon might be one guy you single out. But what is the cse for Rivera as MVP of the 2008 Yankees over A-Rod or 20-game winner Mike Mussina.
So you disagree with paying closers more then setup guys?
Did you watch the 1986 playoffs? What was your expectations of those two series after the blown saves?
How bout the blown save of Rivera in 2004 as an example? Remember how that changed the momentum? I just named 3 examples that were historic in nature involving just the Red Sox in the playoffs. You said you can name examples the other way just as easily. I tend to doubt it. But they do happen. Especially with the help of guys like Schilling and Johnson. Kind of think they were perfectly built to overcome the situation. Let me just say I believe emotion is a huge factor in sports and blowing saves is very emotional and can devistate a team.
We disagree that solid innings eating is equal to historically great closing, even if 3 times the innings are pitched. But their is something positive to eating innings.
One of the main things I fear the rest of the season is Koji going down. Probably more so then any player. Tazawa or Breslow closing playoff games will likely be disastorous, don't you think? Shoot, I still fear Koji come playoff time. He hasn't dealt with either huge pressure yet[such as Tampa Bay series coming up] or a blown game. And he has been shakey in past playoffs.
ARod had a solid season. But 104 runs, 103 RBI's was about 40-50 less then he had the year before, so how good of a season could it have been. And ARod was in his 4th straight season of being a negative player player on defense. His defense stunk. The OPS was a strong .965, but it was still somewhat in the mega juice era. Comparing those facts to one of the best closing seasons in the last 25 years, its no contest for me. Rivera blew just 1 game and had by far his best stat season as a closer.
As for Mussina, he had an excellent season. But it wasn't as good as Rivera's. How bout this for my last point. Rivera only pitched 70 innings. But how many of those innings were in games where the game was in doubt? In other words, Rivera didn't play that much, but when he did, it almost always mattered. Mussina pitched in 34 games. 12 of those games were decided by atleast 5 runs. Where as Rivera pitched in only 6 games out of 64 decided by 5 runs or more. Thats 35% vs 9%. Add the dominance of those innings by Rivera[316+ vs. 131+], with the mental impact and its easy edge Rivera. Same point goes with ARod's innings and WAR stats. I don't think all WAR is created equal.
I am not convinced.
I remain completely convinced that closers are overrated as a position. It seems to me your argument is more about how the other players fared against their non-Yankee peers and about Rivera as a reliever, and not really about value of each to the team. So Rivera had the greatest closing season ever (Debatable, but for the sake or argument, I will agree.) Does that make him a team MVP? If Ken Walter had the greatest season ever for a punter in 2003, would he have been more valuable to the Patriots than Tom Brady?
MLB might agree with you that closers are special based on their pay scales, but as this is a recent agent-induced trend, how far are we from seeing similar arguments for holds? In fact, the reason teams overpay for a closer is about the only reason we do not see more committee-style bullpens anymore, yet many committees have proven to be as effective as many closers. And I will go into my frequent rant about how the 2003 committee for Boston was not ineffective because it was a committee, but rather because it was a collection of average to below average pitchers who were often misused.
You can argue that owners agree with you on closers. I can argue that sabermetricians and mathmematicians who study all aspects of the game agree with me, which is why closers have fewer WAR. This is not a flaw in the way WAR is calculated, and not a flaw in the system where are WAR are not created equal. This is the result of years of study of the game and the impact of the closer. I can also argue that the BBWAA agrees with me, which is why so few closers are in Cooperstown.
While I am sure emotional momentum does exist, I do not believe it can be stated to do so universally with a sweeping generalization. Some players probably are devastated by the losses you mention. Others are probably not nearly as devastated, if at all. These are human beings, and therefore each can respond to any situation differently.
For all the doubt everyone had about the 1986 Red Sox or the 1986 Angels and their ability to bounce back, didn’t we all have similar doubt about the 1975 Reds after Carbo and Fisk? Or about the 2008 Rays after they had a 7-0 lead in the seventh inning of a closeout game, and the series still went the distance? Didn’t it feel inevitable after Pedroia’s home run in game 7 that the Sox would complete the comeback? And yet here we are. And really, how devastated were the Angels by Dave Henderson’s home run (not counting Donnie Moore and his extreme emotional instability)? They came back and tied the game in the ninth and nearly won the game and series outright that very inning, if not for some remarkable bullpen artwork by Shag Crawford to leave the bases loaded.
I hate the argument that closers always get “the most important outs” and that they always pitch with the game on the line. This is blatantly not true. Sure it happens sometimes, but I can never accept that pitching to the 7-8-9 hitters with a 2 or 3 run lead, constitutes the game being on the line. And that situation constitutes about 20% of all save chances. In fact, given that the role of a closer has been all but reduced to a ninth inning specialist, does pitching one-third of the time for one inning with a 3-run lead really a situation that requires greatness? How about a 2 run lead for one inning? At the end of the day, you are trying to say that Rivera (or any closer) is the most important player on the team because he was able to go one full inning without giving up maybe 3 runs. Most of the time.
And we won’t even get into the advantage of the closer never having to face the same hitter twice in one game and allowing for adjustments.
As for the set up guys, who is pitching with the game on the line? The guy who comes in to start the ninth with a 2 or 3 run lead? Or the guy brought into the seventh inning with the bases loaded and the cleanup hitter due up? Closers are typically the best relief pitchers, but they are not always (re: pretty much never) brought in to those critical at-bats midgame.
Bullpens are very, very important, but quantify their contribution using solely the closer (which is done by many fans and even some sportswriters) is a gross understatement. A team will throw some 1450 innings in a season. The rotation will take up about 900 of those, leaving about 550 relief innings. The closer will throw 70-ish, or less than 5 % of his team’s innings. Less than 2% of the time does the closer have the job of protecting a one-run lead for one inning, his toughest job. And given their usage, the “tough save,” or save when the pitcher enters with the tying run on base, is all but a thing of the past.
In fact, if the Sox 2003 “bullpen by committee” taught us anything, it was that Bill James was absolutely correct when he cited that the most important outs are not always in the ninth. As bad as the Sox bullpen was that year, during the 54 games before Byung-Hyun Kim was acquired the Sox lost only 3 ninth inning leads. Three, and they compiled a 1-2 record in those games. Now, how many seventh and eighth inning leads? Too many to mention. (If the Sox had a good bullpen core capable of handling the seventh and eighth innings, Grady might have had a little more confidence in his bullpen and taken Pedro Martinez out a little bit sooner, like right after Giambi homered off him, and then 2003 might have had a much happier ending.)
Meanwhile, a pitcher who throws 200IP, or about 14% of his team’s innings, is marginalized and deemed less valuable for the crime of not being elite among his peers. During the off-season, you made a brilliant observation about how the Sox will, and I quote “have a better offense than people realize” using no more data than the pitches per plate appearance from their projected lineup. You were spot on. You realized the value of wearing down pitching staffs then, but now you have to see the value from the other side, this time in a pitcher who can throw as many innings Pettitte did that year, and at least see how he was as valuable to his team as someone who was one the mound for barely one-third of the amount of time he was.
If you want to argue that Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher in history, it is going to be tough. Mostly because no one will argue with you about that. But if you are going to argue that he was ever the Yankee team MVP, or that any closer anywhere should be, it is difficult to make that argument convincing to me.