Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

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    Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    by Greg Couch/FoxSports:

    It’s amazing how smart you can make someone look if you dumb things down enough. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been hailed as a baseball god this week for breaking the all-time saves record, and it’s true that no one has ever been better at doing what he does: pitching one inning in relief without giving up three runs.

     

     

    It is a special skill to jump over the lowest hurdle again and again without ever tripping. But is it the stuff of Willie Mays and Babe Ruth, or even Greg Maddux? The truth is, if you can’t throw one inning without giving up three runs, then you don’t even belong in the big leagues.

    That has been a huge portion of Rivera’s 603 saves. The save has come to mean something totally different from what it did years ago, from what it did even 15 years ago. Yet his save total is being used to measure him through history, to judge him better than the past, when the guy who closed the game might come in during the seventh inning, bases loaded, no outs, one-run lead.

    “I used to love that,’’ said Goose Gossage, Hall of Fame reliever. “They used to use and abuse us, but think of the pressure. You couldn’t even let them put the ball in play.

    “But when I pitched the ninth inning to save a three-run lead, coming in with no one on base, I felt guilty. I would go home and be embarrassed. Rivera is an awesome pitcher, but what he’s doing is easy. It really is.’’

    This isn’t to doubt the greatness of Rivera, one of the best relief pitchers of all time. He might even be The Best, though there is no way of knowing because his all-time status is attached to his saves number.

     

     

    He will probably end up with more than Rollie Fingers and Gossage combined, though Fingers and Gossage are his equals in the best-ever argument. Maybe Bruce Sutter, too.

    The problem isn’t with Rivera; it’s with the save itself. And it’s with an ESPN mentality that sells the “wow’’ factor and insists that the best today is better than the best ever was before. The numbers and rules and statistics are perverted to prove it.

    We need a little perspective on Rivera. The past is the place to find it.

    “Mariano Rivera is a great relief pitcher,’’ Gossage said, and then he paused a couple of seconds and added, “In the modern sense. What he did and what we used to do is apples and oranges. It’s not fair to compare what closers today do with what we did.’’

    The truth is, Rivera’s number is a fraud. Rivera isn’t. The number is.

    The entire save statistic is a mistake, at least the way it’s figured and fabricated.

    The statistic itself is on steroids, built up and bloated to produce much more than it should, to create a real and marketable excitement over false accomplishments.

     

    It's been a season to remember for Mariano Rivera. Take a look at some of this year's milestone saves.

     

    And it is just another example of our need — mostly the media’s — to tell us that what we’re seeing now is bigger and better than anything before. Ever!

    That isn’t right.

    But Rivera has 603 saves. Gossage had 310. Fingers had 341.

    “Rollie Fingers is the greatest relief pitcher I’ve ever seen,’’ Gossage said. “The save, the way it’s being used today . . . it’s convoluted. When you’ve got a three-run lead and you come in in the ninth inning, if you can’t save that game, then you’re in trouble. You’re not very good.’’

    Gossage might sound like one of those old-timers who insists that everything was better in his day. He is forced to fight the modern mentality. But in his case, he’s right.

    Do you think anyone will ever get to 600 saves again?

    “Abso-freaking-lutely,’’ Gossage said, only he used a different F-word. “Four or five of us in the past would have gotten there if we’d have been used the way they use these guys now, just to get saves.’’
     That includes all, or almost all, of Gossage’s, Fingers', Sutter’s, Sparky Lyle’s, Dan Quisenberry’s and Lee Smith’s careers. Those are the guys Gossage kept mentioning.

    Just like Rivera, they all could get saves for finishing a game when they pitched the final three innings; or when they entered with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck; or when they threw at least one inning with no more than a three-run lead.

    The stat was created by legendary Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who correctly thought there needed to be some better way to measure relief pitchers. Back then, as Gossage pointed out, the bullpen was just a junk pile of washed-up starters who couldn’t throw nine innings anymore, or guys who weren’t quite good enough to start.

    Slowly, relievers developed a real value. But then a strange thing happened. The save stat actually changed the game, instead of reflected it.

    Pitchers became specialists, and managers began to use their relievers in ways to get the save.

    “They didn’t want to be second-guessed,’’ Gossage said. “I was there for the whole evolution of relief pitchers. Managers wanted to be able to say that they did the right thing, they put in their closer to close. They go by a big Bible of how to use relievers now. Righty faces righty. Lefty faces lefty. Face one batter. Don’t use a closer more than one inning. They use three guys now to do what we used to do by ourselves, two setup guys and a closer.

    “They’d put me in when we were losing by a run, with men on base, because they needed to get that out. If we had a three-run lead going into the ninth, they didn’t even put me in. Anyone can finish that. Today, if a closer comes in in the eighth inning, it makes headlines. It’s embarrassing.’’

    So we called Stats LLC to see whether Gossage knew what he was talking about. How many of Rivera’s 603 saves came when he threw just one inning, entering a game with a three-run lead and no one on base? How many in the same situation with a two-run lead? And what about the same numbers for Gossage?

     

     

    Here are the numbers:

    Rivera has had 291 saves in which he pitched one inning, entering a game with no one on base and a three-run lead (129 times) or a two-run lead (162 times). That accounts for almost half of his saves.

    Gossage? Thirty-three times (13 with a three-run lead and 20 with a two-run lead). That accounts for about 11 percent of his saves.

    Gossage saved 52 games in which he recorded seven outs or more.

    How many times has Rivera done that?

    Once.

    Trevor Hoffman, whose record Rivera broke, did it twice.

    During the evolution of the save, it has been only about 15 years since most saves came after throwing one inning or less.

     

    The stat has not stood the test of time, and that has made it appear that Gossage hasn’t, either. It took him nine years to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, because his spot in history was attached to a number, 310, that didn’t look impressive anymore after he retired. And now, a bigger and better number comes up from the greatest reliever of this generation, and the narrative insists that the number tells a story through history.

    You know, in some ways, it’s not even fair to Rivera. He has been turned into a ninth-inning specialist thanks to a faulty statistic.

    When he broke the record against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, he came into the ninth inning with a two-run lead, nobody out. With his unhittable cutter, you just knew the record was his. Thirteen pitches later, he had the save.

    What had he saved exactly?

    Rivera has been used for longer stretches in the postseason and been brilliant then, too. Imagine the thrill of watching him in the seventh, bases loaded, one out, tie game. Who knows what he could have done if we hadn’t dumbed things down.

    But instead, we might have actually shortchanged his greatness.

     
  2. You have chosen to ignore posts from LloydDobler. Show LloydDobler's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    I agree the save is a total BS stat. Two examples why:

    (1) Sox vs. Braves, '05. Good Guys lead 4-1 in the 9th. Foulke enters and gives up two runs on three hits. Runners at the corners with one out. Franco crushes a grounder up the middle for a sure single, but it takes a weird bounce off the mound to Renteria, who steps on the bag and gets the game-ending double play. Foulke pitches like crapy and gets a lucky bounce, but he gets the save. Not picking on Foulke, I just remember because I was there.

    (2) Rangers-Orioles, '07. The Rangers win 30-3, yet Wes Littleton gets the save because he pitched the final three innings.

    So, yes, the save stat is bogus and should be reinvented. Yet this in no way diminishes Mariano Rivera's greatness. Should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Should (but won't) be unanimous.
     
  3. You have chosen to ignore posts from jesseyeric. Show jesseyeric's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    The saves total may well be what the casual fan will look to as the bench mark for greatness, but anyone who has studied the game knows that his below 1 ERA in postseason games which amounts to almost two full years of regular season games is the true bench mark for Mo.

    The other thing with him is that he has failed, but unlike all others before him, he comes back and doesn't allow that failure to remain in his head.

    I have watched Fingers, Sutter and Gossage all in their prime. I can fuly appreciate their greatness, but in the end, Mo still stands above them all.

    We like to point fingers at this era in baseball as the steroid years. So let's add that to Mo's resume. He was busting bats of all the juiced players. Their cheating still could not over-ride his greatness when the game was on the line.

    And regarding that 3 out 9th inning. Let's ask all the closers during the 2009 post season how that wqorked out for them. Oh, that's right, every oe of them got destroyed except one closer. Mo!

    He is the greatest Yankee since Mickey Mantle.
     
  4. You have chosen to ignore posts from Beantowne. Show Beantowne's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    I agree the modern save as a stat is flawed. Who know if Mo could've held up to the work load of guys like Goose...

    To diminish what he's done for 17 years and what he's accomplished in the post season (which is not a small sample by any means). His "record" is nothing short of amazing, even more so is that he's still at 42 years old the best in the bizz...

     
  5. You have chosen to ignore posts from ZILLAGOD. Show ZILLAGOD's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    While I have lots of respect for Rivera, stating that he is "The best relief pitcher of all time" is a stretch.

    He certainly is in the mix and is very good at what he does. But , slighting the guys who did it in different eras is totally unfair.

    Jesse Orosco was a great reliever and he lasted a long time, same for Kent Tekulve, Jeff Reardon and Lee Smith. But, these guys do not hold the all time saves record does this mean they can't be considered?

    I think Gossage has a valid point and the fact that he is a former Yankee means he speaks honestly and this is not just some sour grapes issue.

    Alex Rodriquez could break every record held by Hank Aaron or Stan Musial and I would have to say that becuase of the difference in the way the game is played nowadays compared to then, these records, while not meaningless, would have to be put into perspective.

    It's like comparing Wayne Gretzky to Gordie Howe. The difference in hockey in the 50's and 60's compared to the way it was played in the 80's and 90's is night and day.
     
  6. You have chosen to ignore posts from LloydDobler. Show LloydDobler's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]While I have lots of respect for Rivera, stating that he is "The best relief pitcher of all time" is a stretch. He certainly is in the mix and is very good at what he does. But , slighting the guys who did it in different eras is totally unfair. Jesse Orosco was a great reliever and he lasted a long time, same for Kent Tekulve, Jeff Reardon and Lee Smith. But, these guys do not hold the all time saves record does this mean they can't be considered? I think Gossage has a valid point and the fact that he is a former Yankee means he speaks honestly and this is not just some sour grapes issue. Alex Rodriquez could break every record held by Hank Aaron or Stan Musial and I would have to say that becuase of the difference in the way the game is played nowadays compared to then, these records, while not meaningless, would have to be put into perspective. It's like comparing Wayne Gretzky to Gordie Howe. The difference in hockey in the 50's and 60's compared to the way it was played in the 80's and 90's is night and day.
    Posted by ZILLAGOD[/QUOTE]


    Valid points. Always hard comparing eras and roles. But I can say this: One-run lead, 9th inning, playoff game, and I can pick any pitcher who ever lived? I'd take Mariano Rivera.
     
  7. You have chosen to ignore posts from gr82bme. Show gr82bme's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark : Valid points. Always hard comparing eras and roles. But I can say this: One-run lead, 9th inning, playoff game, and I can pick any pitcher who ever lived? I'd take Mariano Rivera.
    Posted by LloydDobler[/QUOTE]

    I think Rivera's a great pitcher and class act - but I respectfully disagree with your scenario.  Rivera would certainly be on a list, but Quessenberry, Gossage, plenty of others would do the trick as well.  Again, no knock on Rivera - first ballot HOF'er and deservedly so.  But to lump him in a category with "closers" from other era's is folly.  He's terrific, but not the best ever.
     
  8. You have chosen to ignore posts from DaffyDan. Show DaffyDan's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    I think, without a doubt, Mariano Rivera is the greatest pictcher to ever have 603 saves. 

    And I am unanimous in that! 

    -Daf. 
     
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  11. You have chosen to ignore posts from dgalehouse. Show dgalehouse's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    Are we putting Mariano in the same class as Quisenberry , Orosco , Reardon, Lyle and the immortal Kent Tekulve?  Really?  Really?  This is about the dumbest thread ever.  As much as I despise the Yankees , I realize just how consistently great Rivera has been.  Let's try to keep it just a little more real folks , unless you want to lose all credibility.    I guess John L. Sullivan was a better fighter than Ali or Louis or Marciano , because John L. would fight 75 rounds , bare knuckled.  Conditions always change from one era to another, but true greatness is always obvious to the objective and knowledgable observer. 
     
  12. You have chosen to ignore posts from andrewmitch. Show andrewmitch's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    That's why I don't think he's as good as guys like Goose or Quiz - the best year ever by a reliever?  Perhaps that's Willie Hernandez in 1984 - includes the post season and over 100 innings in relief...........Rivera is the King though - the King of the e-z save.  That's a no brainer.....
     
  13. You have chosen to ignore posts from gr82bme. Show gr82bme's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]Are we putting Mariano in the same class as Quisenberry , Orosco , Reardon, Lyle and the immortal Kent Tekulve?  Really?  Really?  This is about the dumbest thread ever.  As much as I despise the Yankees , I realize just how consistently great Rivera has been.  Let's try to keep it just a little more real folks , unless you want to lose all credibility.    I guess John L. Sullivan was a better fighter than Ali or Louis or Marciano , because John L. would fight 75 rounds , bare knuckled.  Conditions always change from one era to another, but true greatness is always obvious to the objective and knowledgable observer. 
    Posted by dgalehouse[/QUOTE]

    Quisenberry, Reardon perhaps - the rest (Tekulve may be close) not so much.  Nobody was saying Mariano wasn't great, but I'm not going to crown him the "best" reliever of all time sorry about that.  Best closer is debatable - was he better then Eck?  Gossage?  Fingers?  Q?  He's certainly the best of the one-inning closers, but when you broaden the topic to reliever, there are plenty of others who are as great as he was given their roles in the era they played in.
     
  14. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    Ok, forget the damn saves total.  Everyone agrees it's a flawed stat.

    Rivera has pitched 1,349 total innings including regular season and postseason.  His ERA is around 2 and his WHIP is under 1.  Those are amazing numbers any way you look at it.
     
  15. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    As for the 'can't pitch more than an inning' notion, in the postseason Rivera has logged 139 innings in 94 appearances, or about 1.5 innings per appearance.  He has a postseason ERA of .71 and a WHIP of .77.
     
  16. You have chosen to ignore posts from user_4411895. Show user_4411895's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]Are we putting Mariano in the same class as Quisenberry , Orosco , Reardon, Lyle and the immortal Kent Tekulve?  Really?  Really?  This is about the dumbest thread ever.  As much as I despise the Yankees , I realize just how consistently great Rivera has been.  Let's try to keep it just a little more real folks , unless you want to lose all credibility.    I guess John L. Sullivan was a better fighter than Ali or Louis or Marciano , because John L. would fight 75 rounds , bare knuckled.  Conditions always change from one era to another, but true greatness is always obvious to the objective and knowledgable observer. 
    Posted by dgalehouse[/QUOTE]

    Yogi's 10 WS rings are also a faulty benchmark.

    When Rivera also sets the record for highest voting percentage for HOF (possibly 100), will that also be a faulty benchmark?

    Rivera is probably better than Bob Stanley, but there are no objective benchmarks in RSN.  ...unless of course they favor the olde towne teame.
     
  17. You have chosen to ignore posts from jrh1194. Show jrh1194's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark : Quisenberry, Reardon perhaps - the rest (Tekulve may be close) not so much.  Nobody was saying Mariano wasn't great, but I'm not going to crown him the "best" reliever of all time sorry about that.  Best closer is debatable - was he better then Eck?  Gossage?  Fingers?  Q?  He's certainly the best of the one-inning closers, but when you broaden the topic to reliever, there are plenty of others who are as great as he was given their roles in the era they played in.
    Posted by gr82bme[/QUOTE]

    I would definitely take Rivera over Eckersley or Quiz. I think that Gossage and Fingers were pretty close to Rivera.
     
  18. You have chosen to ignore posts from gr82bme. Show gr82bme's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark : I would definitely take Rivera over Eckersley or Quiz. I think that Gossage and Fingers were pretty close to Rivera.
    Posted by jrh1194[/QUOTE]

    Fair enough, and by no means am I trying to diminish Rivera's accomplishments in the least.  IMO the "save" as it pertains to modern pitchers (post 1990) by no means determines a pitchers level of greatness in comparison with his peers from another era.  Other stats (ERA, WHIP, K/BB) are somewhat lessened for a "pure" modern closer as he's only pitching 1 inning (never pitches tired and often doesn't go two days in a row).  Also, "opportunities" are a key facet.  Don't you think Rivera had more opportunities to get a save because the Yankees were so darned good all of these years.  Give him the same periferial numbers but pitching for most other teams (non-annual contenders) and perhaps he'd have to pitch for several more years to get to 600.  Again, not "thrashing" his accomplishments or his place in history - I just think he's one of the best, not "the" best relievers in baseball history.
     
  19. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    I think Rivera's postseason numbers are what really set him apart and show how dominant he has been.  139 innings, 86 hits, 21 walks, 11 earned runs.  And all against playoff teams.
     
  20. You have chosen to ignore posts from TheExaminer. Show TheExaminer's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    Rivera might be the greatest closer of all time, I don't know. He's good, but part of it is because of simple longevity, and the fact that he played on a good team for his whole career. One thing I do know, and that is the fact that he BLEW GAME 7 OF THE WORLD SERIES in 2001 is almost completely forgotten. No one ever brings it up. Why is that? It's the individual version of the team collapse NYY endured in 2004. I distinctly remember that game against Arizona. Near the end of the top of the 9th inning, the camera panned to Rivera in the dugout--he was sitting there waiting for NYY to get done batting so he could go in and finish the WS victory. There was a look in his eyes that I'd never seen before, and have not seen since, it was fear. Very subtle, but it was there. I remember thinking that he looked nervous, like he didn't want to go out there. I blew it off at the time--only my imagination--then he melted down and blew the game. Naturally, I was thrilled, and got to say "I told you so" afterward, but no one ever talks about this. It's like it's sports taboo to bring it up. But be that as it may, it's a blight against him that can't be erased. The whole reason they strap it on is to get to THAT moment. Blowing it is hard to get past, and has rarely been done by any pitcher in MLB history. So no matter what they say about him, I always come back to that, and my praise is checked just a little. 
     
  21. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    Rivera has two big blown saves on his postseason record.  Anybody who is in that situation that many times is going to get burned.  Papelbon was perfect until his meltdown against the Angels.  Eckersley gave up two huge postseason home runs. 
     
  22. You have chosen to ignore posts from TheExaminer. Show TheExaminer's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]Rivera has two big blown saves on his postseason record.  Anybody who is in that situation that many times is going to get burned.  Papelbon was perfect until his meltdown against the Angels.  Eckersley gave up two huge postseason home runs. 
    Posted by Hfxsoxnut[/QUOTE]

    Yeah, but game 7 of the WS is bigger than big--it's the ultimate. And you're right, I forgot that he set the comeback of 2004 in motion with a blown save there, so that goes against him as well as the team. But oh well, he's a NYY, I can find all kinds of things wrong with him!
     
  23. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    The Red Sox have gotten him quite a few times over the years, compared to other teams anyway.  I'm certainly not unhappy about that.
     
  24. You have chosen to ignore posts from pinstripezac32. Show pinstripezac32's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark


    '' It's like it's sports taboo to bring it up. But be that as it may, it's a blight against him that can't be erased  '' TheExaminer



    yeah he blew gm 7 in 01

    but it was ironically  his throwing error, he's a great fielder,

     and a bloop single with a drawn in inf

    in his 2nd inning of work

    that makes it easy  to think about the 42 post season saves

     when he didn't blow it







    as far as looking scared LOL





    he blew one in  04, no question about it

    but there were extenuating circumstances


    I'm guessing it's kind of hard to pitch after just getting back

    from your home in panama with your family still all upset

    because  your cousin was electrocuted by your pool filter


    I thought he blew one vs clev but it mighta been a loss

    42 -3

    what's not to love









    139 innings in 94 appearances, or about 1.5 innings per appearance. He has a postseason ERA of .71 and a WHIP of .77.


    good info nut
     
  25. You have chosen to ignore posts from Thesemenarecowards. Show Thesemenarecowards's posts

    Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark

    In Response to Re: Rivera's record is a faulty benchmark:
    [QUOTE]Ok, forget the damn saves total.  Everyone agrees it's a flawed stat. Rivera has pitched 1,349 total innings including regular season and postseason.  His ERA is around 2 and his WHIP is under 1.  Those are amazing numbers any way you look at it.
    Posted by Hfxsoxnut[/QUOTE]

    Yup. 

    I agree that he is not in the conversation for say the 20 best pitchers of all time but his #'s are remarkable no matter how you slice them. 

    He did choke in the most pressure packed outing of his career.
     

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