A career after elbow surgery

When making predictions, beware the narrative
Satuday Night (Open Thread) Fever

Marc Carig, The Star-Ledger’s Yankee beat writer, is never lacking for interesting tidbits. During a slow Saturday, Carig checks in with an item on Mariano Rivera.

Over the years, says Carig, Yankee fans have never really understood what type of elbow surgery Mariano Rivera underwent in 1992. I always assumed it was Tommy John surgery, but the Yankees media guide has always just said “elbow surgery” for Rivera. Here’s how the story ends:

“No, sir,” Rivera said, when I asked him the clubhouse on Friday whether he’d ever undergone a TJ.

Rivera then held up his right elbow, and showed me the scar, which will soon be 17 years old. Rivera then explained that when he went under the knife, doctors originally expected to perform a Tommy John procedure. But, as the future Hall of Famer tells it, when doctors got a chance to check out the ligament, they determined that — surprise! — it did not need to be replaced. The way Rivera described it, doctors simply “moved” the ligament.

Moving that ligament created one of the best players in baseball history. Last night’s nine-pitch save was the 516th of Rivera’s career. It was also his 900th career appearance.

A glance at Rivera’s Baseball Reference page reveals just how dominant he has been. His 1.015 WHIP is 1st among active pitchers and third lowest in baseball history. His K/BB rate is 2nd best among active players and fourth best all time. His HR/9 IP — a meager 0.495 — is first among active pitchers.

To me, though, the most impressive number is his ERA+. Right now, Mariano Rivera has a career ERA+ of 200. Not only is that the best mark ever in that category, but the guy in second place — Pedro Martinez — has a career ERA+ of 154. Rivera has been arguably the best pitcher ever in terms of run prevention as compared to the rest of the league.

As the 8th oldest player in the game, Rivera is heading down the home stretch, but he’s still the best. It will be sad day indeed when he retires, but until then, I’ll love watching him head out there every time the Yanks need to save their lead.

When making predictions, beware the narrative
Satuday Night (Open Thread) Fever
  • Zack

    it really took 10+ years for someone to ask Mariano what surgery he had?
    By the way, what doctor did it? Because I hope the Yankees send them a gift package every October

  • Bob Stone

    Mo is a joy to watch. I hope he keeps it up for years to come.

  • lrod13

    when Mariano retires I will be very sad :(

    • jim p

      Our grandchildren will see Mo get his 5,000th save. He has 3 pitches he hasn’t even broken out yet, and 1 of them can’t even be described in words.

      • sam

        from your lips to Mo’s ears

  • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

    I think MLB should retire #42 league-wide in honor of Mo. I know, it is already retired for Jackie Robinson and for the right reason, too. But the leaugue has to find a way to honor Mo for breaking the deity-barrier.

    • Bob Stone


    • PinstripesForeverDougie

      While I disagree with retiring 42 all over again {Not even the

      great Rivera is significant on the level of Jackie Robinson, no

      one is really}; I think it’s special enough to realize the symbolic nature of Rivera being the last to wear that number.

      It is remarkable to think how special of a number Jackie made #42 & how Rivera is sending it off in unprecendented style.
      There is definitely some mystic & aura in having Mo being the last to wear that number & that special bond is enough for me.

      Finally, let me say this… MLB doesn’t honor their greatest ballplayer, Babe Ruth, with no important tributes, including retiring his iconic number league wide. This disgrace never ceases to anger me and is a cornerstone in my belief that the
      league hates the Yankees & attempts to dishonor them in every way possible

  • zs190

    Um, what’s the cutoff line for that ERA+ ranking? Is it 1000 innings? Because I look at guys like Billy Wagner and his ERA+ is 180, which is pretty darn good. He only pitched 818 vs Mo’s 1073 but still, I find that ranking a bit arbitrary.

    • zs190

      Just to be clear, I definitely think Mo has been the best. But maybe by saying Pedro at 154 ERA+ is second best exaggerates his dominance slightly.

      • cor shep

        yea but it’s a lot harder to be dominant as a starter than as a reliever. So Pedro’s era+ is pretty dirty.

    • Accent Shallow

      Yes, it’s 1000 innings. I’m sure there are some guys out there whose ML careers consist of something like 3 scoreless innings, giving them an infinite ERA+.

      More impressive than Mo? You decide.

    • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

      Yeah, it appears to be 1,000 IP. The only other relievers in the top 10 are Trevor Hoffman and Dan Qusinberry, both of whom are barely over 1,000. The rest of them are all starters.

      But that’s part of what makes Mo as great as he is, his longevity. Other relievers have been as good for a few seasons (Gagne) but none have had both his excellence AND longevity. That’s what makes him so special.

      BTW-Dan Quisenberry is a great candidate for the HOF veterans committee. When he retired, there was a bias against relievers being elected. But now with Goose, Sutter and Eck in the HOF, his candidacy is stronger than ever. 6th all time in ERA+ and collected 244 saves at a time when they were much harder to amass. Like Goose he had routinely had seasons where he pitched 129+ innings. Was one of the most dominant relievers in Baseball for 10 years, longer than Sutter and similar to Goose.


      • whozat

        Yeah, but who fears a guy named “quisenberry”?

        • Salty Buggah

          and he never played for Boston

      • Accent Shallow

        Quis is one of the great Hall snubs, up there with Ron Santo, Blyleven, and Jack Morris (just kidding!)

  • PinstripesForeverDougie

    Also, does anybody think Mo’s mysterious surgery occured in this sort of manner?


    • Steve V

      LOL…that was perfect, Pinstripes

      I am a soon to be 52 year old native Houstonian, and Mo has become my all-time favorite player. It sure is a joy to watch this man pitch, and I know it’s only going to be a year or two at the most before he’s gone. I have seen him pitch in nearby Arlington against the Rangers, and a few times the past 3 years in Yankee stadium. Nothing like a crowd of 45-50 k standing during his entrance with Enter Sandman playing. Such a classy individual, Mo is.

      I am going to try like hell to see his induction in Cooperstown in 6-7 years and maybe visit his restaurant in New Rochelle. Anyone know how far his restaurant is (by car) from Cooperstown?

      • Accent Shallow

        New Rochelle is just north of NYC, so it’s quite a hike.

        (After checking Google Maps, it’s a ~4 hour drive. 221 miles. Yikes)

        I also plan on being in Cooperstown for Mo’s induction. (Which by the way, is a lot less impressive of a town than I’d thought. Very small.)

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        He no machine. He just Mo.

  • miketotheg

    That was an awesome post. I’m gonna go play “enter sandman”. And my neighbor is a red sox fan. He he he.