Mar
09

A tribute to Mariano’s longevity

By

I can only imagine how Twins fans felt when they learned this morning that Joe Nathan will likely miss the 2010 season. Not only will they have to place a less reliable reliever in the closer’s role, but they’ll have to replace the last man in their bullpen with an even lesser reliever. This certainly changes their season outlook. It might even end up costing them prospects if they eventually determine that they need to bring in a closer from another organization. They’re still the favorites in the AL Central, but the gap just got a bit narrower.

Since his trade to Minnesota and move to the closer’s role, Nathan has pitched six magnificent seasons. his highest ERA in that span was 2.70, which came five years ago. He has converted 247 of 272 save opportunities in that span while posting a 0.93 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, and a 236 ERA+. There’s no doubt he ranks among the best closers in baseball of the past decade. In fact, there might be only one who ranks ahead of him. That, of course, is our own Mariano Rivera.


Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Over the past decade, only 24 pitchers have pitched 500 games in relief (I’ll count Nathan, who is the 24th and has 499). Mariano ranks third with 651, but ranks second in innings pitched at 713.1, just behind David Weathers. Yet he has walked the third fewest batters, 137, despite pitching 171 more innings than Keith Foulke (130) and 180 more than Trevor Hoffman (124). He has the lowest ERA, by 0.32 points. He has also pitched 133 more innings than the next lowest pitcher, Billy Wagner. Mo’s 38 home runs allowed ranks second in this group. The pitcher ahead of him, Mike Stanton, pitched almost 200 fewer innings.

The reason Mo has been able to post such brilliant performances is that he’s stayed healthy. In only one season since 1996 has he appeared fewer than 61 times. That’s 13 healthy seasons out of 14 as a Yankee regular. How many other closers come even close to that? Even Trevor Hoffman has fallen below the 60-appearance mark four times since 1996, including both of the last two seasons. The only other current closer who comes close is Francisco Rodriguez, who has hit the 60-appearance threshold in ever season since 2003 (he had 59 that season, but close enough).

Closers come and closers go. Constant through all of it is Mariano Rivera. We don’t need a special occasion to gush about his greatness, but when situations like Nathan’s do arise it allows us to truly appreciate Mo. He is without peer.

Categories : Pitching

51 Comments»

  1. My first reaction to the picture:

    “OMG, I can see the nipple of God! I’m probably going to hell.”

  2. Rose says:

    “Mo bless you and Mo bless the United States of America”

  3. Moshe Mandel says:

    This was my very reaction to the Nathan news this morning. This was my tweet:

    “Nathan’s injury shows how precarious pitching is, makes Marianos longevity stand out.”

    Mo has gone all these years in the majors without a single major injury, and has remained incredibly effective. Unbelievable.

  4. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    Not only will they have to place a less reliable reliever in the closer’s role, but they’ll have to replace the last man in their bullpen with an even lesser reliever.

    I hear Edwar’s available…

    • I’m curious to see how well Pat Neshek pitches in the spring. He missed all of 2009 with TJS and is currently getting his first post-op game action.

      Back in ’06-’07, he was filthy and could have easily stepped into any Nathan-void. If he can get all the way back, he’d be an excellent closer for the Twinkies… but he’s probably not all the way back yet.

      • A.D. says:

        Yeah if Neshek can come back to anything like original form that will go a long way to fixing the void Nathan’s injury could create.

  5. Thoughts:

    It’s probably stuff-related, which is mechanics related, and vice-versa. Mo’s singular cutter generates excellent velocity and movement without requiring max effort. This allows him to be effective without overexerting himself and exposing him to stress-related injury.

    Mo is easy and relaxed through his delivery, and he uses location and movement to generate swings and misses rather than brute-force velocity.

    Most other closers, however, are (to borrow a brilliant Axisa tongue-and-cheek saying/meme) classic “grunt-and-fart” guys who rear back and try and throw it through a brick wall over and over. Doing that over and over (particularly on irregular rest and high workloads) leads to shoulder and elbow injuries (not to mention diminished location accuracy due to overthrowing).

    It’s probably not a coincidence that Mo and Hoffman, the two best and most durable closers ever, both use non-four seam fastballs as their signature pitch.

    As Axisa also said elsewhere, command >>> movement >>> velocity.

    • Rose says:

      It’s probably stuff-related, which is mechanics related, and vice-versa. Mo’s singular cutter generates excellent velocity and movement without requiring max effort. This allows him to be effective without overexerting himself and exposing him to stress-related injury.

      That being said…who’s the next closer for the Yankees (Post-Mo-dom) Young pitchers these days all throw as hard as they can it seems which requires that max effort. This includes Joba and Phil (if one of them were to go to the bullpen)

      • Well, I’m not saying that hard-throwers couldn’t/shouldn’t be closers, just saying that expecting the post-Mo closer to be teh awesome for a full 13-year stretch is probably impossible.

        Whomever replaces Mo will probably be a awesome closer like Mo was, just not for as long. It’s the nature of the beast. Mo and Hoffmann are outliers, exception to the rule.

        I do love Mark Melancon’s command and deception, though. He’s a quality relief prospect.

      • DCBX says:

        This may not have any particular scientific basis, but I’d like to see D-Rob getting groomed for the position.

    • Chris says:

      Most other closers, however, are (to borrow a brilliant Axisa tongue-and-cheek saying/meme) classic “grunt-and-fart” guys who rear back and try and throw it through a brick wall over and over.

      That’s the typical image of a closer, but most of the effective ones aren’t like that. There are obviously some relievers that are effective with that type of mentality (Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez), but the majority of them fall more into the cool under pressure mold (Mo, Nathan, Soria).

      This is just one more reason that Joba isn’t cut out to be a reliever.

      • I wasn’t at all referring to anyone’s “mentality” or other types of “cool under pressure” mental makeup characteristics when I called most closers “grunt-and-fart” guys. I’m speaking only of physical traits, not mental ones.

        I’m simply saying that closers (non-Mo/Hoffman division) are generally hard throwers/overthrowers who work primarily off of their elite four-seam fastballs that attempt to overpower a hitter, rather than off of cutters/changeups that attempt to fool a hitter. That’s all.

      • bexarama says:

        The loud and obnoxious guys tend to get the most attention, I guess because it’s exciting to see them freak out and all. K-Rod, Papelbon, John Rocker. Mo gets attention for being the Hammer of God and all, but that’s about it.

        (though I was at a Yankee fan board where they were criticizing Brad Lidge’s reaction after striking out Hinske to end the 2008 World Series. Wha? It’s the World Series. The guy can be excited.)

  6. bexarama says:

    I can only imagine how Twins fans felt when they learned this morning that Joe Nathan will likely miss the 2010 season.

    WHAT??!?! I’d heard he was hurt. I didn’t hear that.

    Anyway, Mariano rules. I know, with all the whole “would you rather keep Jeter or Rivera” stuff from a while ago, the answer is Jeter, but the idea of the Yankees without Mariano is freaking painful. Watching him be so awesome for all these years has been a real joy.

  7. There’s a reason I named my fantasy team JesusMo&JoeDiMaggio

  8. Rose says:

    How do you think this will affect him post-surgery? Do 35+ year old pitchers just go back to what they were after the surgery? Does it depend on the person and the rehab?

  9. Ber says:

    How could you so casually count Nathan in that group of 23 elite pitchers when he’s only at 499, and K-rod when he had that season of 59?
    It’s almost on the same level as saying that a pitcher who has had a season with only 19 wins could possibly be as good as one with 20! *gasp*

    • bexarama says:

      who was the person that voted K-Rod #1 on their AL MVP ballot last year? That was just a bad, bad, bad vote.*

      * (looks it up)
      Oh, it was Jon Heyman. I am so not surprised. And then he didn’t even give him a #1 AL Cy Young vote. That is both an incredibly terrible vote and totally illogical to boot. Yay!!!! (And he called his “bad pitching” award the CY OLD? OMG, stop writing Jon.)

  10. JGS says:

    he also threw 86 postseason innings in the last decade and walked just 12 in those

    • bexarama says:

      and five of those walks were in the 2009 postseason (one intentional, two during the WS when he was possibly injured). DFA?

      • JGS says:

        so, 7 walks in 70 innings?

        head explodes

        • bexarama says:

          7 walks and 54 K in 70 innings in the postseasons of 2000-2007. That’s a 7.71 ratio. His 2009 postseason (5BB, 14K), where he walked zomg so many people, brings it down to a shameful 5.67 ratio.

          Holy f-ck. Mariano’s numbers are pretty much just silly to look at sometimes.

  11. Riddering says:

    This is the best way to gush over Mo: laying out in numbers just how much he cuts down the competition.

  12. Ana says:

    If being in love with God is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  13. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    Heh. do you remember when he IBB’d that guy last year, then gave up a hit. I seem to remember somewhere during drama Mo looking over at Girardi like ‘I’m really pissed, but I’m going to let this one pass.’

    In the presser later that week/day, Joe was like ‘yeah, um, we talked about that…’

    IIR even Mo was a little uncharacteristically blunt, as in ‘yeah, wtf?’***

    ***VERY loosely paraphrased.

  14. bexarama says:

    this thread has pretty much moved on so apologies, but wow, I had no idea Nathan was 35. I thought he was younger than that. If this is really bad, this might actually be it for him. :(

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