Mariano Rivera Blows Save, Shockingly World Doesn’t End

Still, let’s take this opportunity to salute one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Still, let’s take this opportunity to salute one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Photo: Getty Images

For most relief pitchers, a blown save is just part of the game. Shit happens. But Yankees icon Mariano Rivera is not most pitchers, which is why his blown save against the cross-town rival Mets has caused so much consternation around the league. To be sure, Rivera has received no shortage of accolades over his career – the dude’s nickname is “The Great Rivera” after all – but it’s still worth taking a moment to look at just how remarkable he’s been. Let’s examine the evidence:

– Rivera is 43-years-old, making him the oldest player in the major leagues. He’s coming off a year in which he tore his ACL, and missed almost the entire 2012 season. Normal humans, especially normal middle-aged humans, don’t bounce back like this.

– The oldest player in baseball is leading the American League in saves, and despite last night’s failure – his first blown save of the season – still carries a ridiculous 1.86 ERA. His career ERA is 2.20; the guy is as good as ever.

– With 18 saves, the oldest player in baseball is on pace to record 57 saves this season. The major league record is 62. In other words, the record is in play.

Okay, so that should put what he’s doing this season into perspective: baseball’s oldest player is still among its most dominant. But what about his career?

– Rivera announced that he will retire after this season, his 19th. He already holds the career saves record, and at this rate, he’ll retire with 683. Or 82 more than Trevor Hoffman, number two on the all-time list.

– Even more astonishing: Rivera’s career ERA of 2.20 is 13th on the all-time list of pitchers with a minimum of 1000 innings pitched.

– 13th doesn’t sound all that impressive until you realize that of the dozen players ahead of him, all of them pitched in the Dead Ball era, the last retiring in 1927.

– The next highest-ranking current player is Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, whose 2.70 ERA comes in at number 80.

– Rivera’s career average of .9976 hits + walks per nine innings is second all time to Addie Joss’s .9978. Addie Joss retired in 1910, and if Rivera pitches the rest of the season the way he’s pitched so far, the all-time record is his.

– Adjusted ERA+ measures a pitcher’s effectiveness while taking into account his ballpark. Rivera’s 206 ERA+ is tops all time. Number two is Pedro Martinez with 154. Rivera is quite simply on a different plane.

Granted,Rivera is a relief pitcher, so some of these comparisons are unfair. That he’s the greatest relief pitcher in history isn’t up for debate, but he’s also among the best pitchers period.  But even more impressive than his regular season dominance has been Rivera’s post-season performance.

– His 42 post-season saves are tops all-time. Number two comes in at 18. His 96 games pitched are also tops all-time. Number two has 55. (And, yes, we realize that the modern era’s expanded post-season play has given Rivera more opportunities; but look below to see what he did with those opportunities.)

– His .889 winning percentage is second all time.

– His 0.70 ERA is number one, and he pitched almost five times as many innings as number two.

– Oh, and he has been the most valuable player on a Yankees dynasty that won five World Series (sorry, Derek).

Perhaps the most amazing factor in all this is that Rivera essentially did it all with one pitch, the cut fastball which he’s called a gift from God. Jim Thome called it “the single best pitch ever in the game.” ESPN’s Buster Olney called it “the most dominant pitch of a generation.” Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci called Rivera “definitively the best at his position by a wider margin than any player at any position in the history of baseball. There is Rivera, a gulf, and then every other closer.”

So he blew a save. He’s human after all. But he’s also a once-in-a-generation player, and in this – his final season – we should all count ourselves lucky that we were able to witness him in action.

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