"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

How Do You Spell Relief?

I have three new pieces up on SI.com today as the lead part of a larger package on closers. In the first, I rank today’s closers from 1 to 30. In the second, I look at the resources teams are devoting to locking down the ninth inning. In the third, I take a look at how closers are made and point out some of the top closers-in-waiting around the game.

I’m sure many of you will be upset to learn I ranked Mariano Rivera a mere fourth out of the thirty closers. Here’s my comment on Mo:

The Great Rivera had perhaps his best season last year, converting 39 of 40 save chances while posting a 1.40 ERA and 0.67 WHIP. Since 2003, he has posted a 1.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and converted 91 percent of his save opportunities. He’s the greatest closer in the history of the game, but at 39 years old, he may only be the fourth-best closer in the game in 2009.

Who are the three closers I ranked above the Yankee great? Check it out.

Also included in the package is Tom Verducci’s list of the top 10 closers of all time (which includes two Yankees), and accompanying pieces on Joe Nathan by Steve Aschburner and Heath Bell by Ted Keith.

Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email %PRINT_TEXT


1 williamnyy23   ~  May 5, 2009 2:37 pm

My SI ban prevents me from clicking on the links, but I'd imagine you selected Nathan, Papelbon and Krod ahead of Mo. If the criteria is long-term going forward, you could make a good case, but otherwise, I'd have a problem elevating anyone over a man with Mo's sustained excellence who just happens to be coming off his best season ever (although I admit the off season surgery is a factor). After all, the same sentence could have been written last year (substitute "but at 38 years old, he may only be the fourth-best closer in the game in 2008.), and it would have been wrong.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 5, 2009 2:41 pm

I'm evaluating expected reliability for 2009 only, and you're only right about two out of three. Last year, Rivera would have ranked second to Brad Lidge, but Lidge is not one of the three I ranked ahead of Rivera either.

3 williamnyy23   ~  May 5, 2009 2:49 pm

[2] Lidge had an ERA+ of 225 in 69.1 innings, while Mo had an ERA+ of 317 in 70.2. When you factor in Mo facing better competition, I don't think he takes a back seat to anyone. In fact, I'd rank Nathan, Soria (who I'd further guess is your #3), Papelbon and maybe even Krod ahead of Lidge in 2008.

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 5, 2009 3:23 pm

Lidge was the only one who didn't blow a single save in 2008 and he also led the majors in WXRL (Baseball Prospectus's competition-adjusted, win-expectancy-based cumulative stat for relief pitchers), with Mo coming in second.

5 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 5, 2009 3:45 pm

Mo pitched better than Lidge last year, but in terms of job description, I agree, Lidge had the better closing season. Just a matter of luck how their runs were distributed, but that luck had a very big impact on the Yanks' and Phils' respective won/loss records.

I think Mariano was historically unlucky last year. There have been only 4 pitchers since 1901 who have allowed 11 or fewer runs and lost 5 or more games. Mariano by far had the most innings and best other stats amongst those 4.

6 Rich   ~  May 5, 2009 4:59 pm

Using WPA for 2008, Rivera was 2nd last year to Lidge. Soria was 3rd.

7 Rich   ~  May 5, 2009 5:02 pm

I just read Cliff's comment at [2]. Rivera's WPA this season isn't particularly impressive.

I'm not sure that he is 100% recovered from the offseason surgery, which is why I never would have used him for a four out save in April (or May).

8 PJ   ~  May 5, 2009 5:05 pm

“How Do You Spell Relief?”


How else?

I just dated myself on here again, didn't I?

Good thing I didn't mention Speedy Alka-Seltzer!

He's like "The Speedy Carl Crawford," only fizzier...

: )

9 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 5, 2009 5:11 pm

Over 9 innings, WPA is the wrong tool to employ to rate Mariano Rivera's recovery from shoulder surgery.

In addition to his physical comfort/pain level, the Yanks should be looking at his velocity, command and the movement of the cutter.

His velocity seems normal for him for April, he's striking out a lot of guys and walking nobody. He let up 2 homers. If he's not feeling pain, he seems ready to go to me.

10 Rich   ~  May 5, 2009 5:16 pm

[9] What stat is right to use for a 9 inning sample?

11 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 5, 2009 5:18 pm

Uh, velocity, strikeouts, walks, and homers.

12 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 5, 2009 5:19 pm

And PFX data on the movement, I guess.

13 Rich   ~  May 5, 2009 5:30 pm

[11, 12] OK. Maybe, although as I said, I don't think Mo's arm strength, and perhaps durability, have fully returned, so any assessment, either through observation or stats, is probably incomplete.

14 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 5, 2009 5:43 pm

sure, if he looks off to you, that's probably the best way to tell.

to me, he seems to be in normal "april" mode - but even if he was perfect this year, better to be careful with him at this age and this close to surgery.

15 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 5, 2009 5:46 pm

For what it's worth, my rankings were based on projecting the 2009 season, not based on what they did in April.

16 Diane Firstman   ~  May 5, 2009 7:10 pm

I heard that Speedy and the Pillsbury Dough Boy were like .... you know .... buddies!

(I can't believe I ate (and remembered) the whole thing)

17 williamnyy23   ~  May 5, 2009 7:49 pm

[5] Right, Lidge had the better closing season, but I was thinking more along the lines of who was really the better pitcher. Also, considering the NL/AL difference, I don't think you can necessarily compare pitchers in each league with an adjustment (be it empirical or intutitive).

18 PJ   ~  May 6, 2009 3:35 pm

[16] heh heh

Careful, Diane! By remembering and posting such a tagline, you dated yourself, too...

I like when folks say things such as, "My first game was in 1983."

I still have socks older than that!

It sure is a good thing that "60 is the new 40!"

I feel younger already! Somebody needs to tell my knees, back and hips that, though... as well as my golf game...

: )

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver