The greatness of Rivera, the greatness of Jeter

Yankees sign Dominican shortstop Christopher Tamarez
Game 119: Ace vs. Ace

It is no secret that Mariano Rivera is the best at what he does. We’ve watched him ply his craft with precision for the past 15 years, and it has been nothing short of a revelation. Closers come and closers go, but Mo has outlasted almost all of them. This morning at Baseball Prospectus, Tommy Bennett wrote about Mo’s greatness. He not only has the rare ability to consistently prevent hits on balls in play, but he also keeps baseballs in the park at a better rate than his peers. The takeaway line: “A pitcher like Rivera, who is extreme in almost every way possible, simply doesn’t rate properly if you use the same metrics used to measure other guys.”

Yesterday Joe Posnanski wrote about Mo, but pitted him against Jeter as the most important Yankee since 1996. You might get frustrated while reading — the post really does ramble a bit — but the conclusion comes down to heart vs. head. Well, for some at least. It’s Jeter for me without question. Mo is Mo and is the greatest ever at what he did. But I think what Jeter has done is more important overall.

Yankees sign Dominican shortstop Christopher Tamarez
Game 119: Ace vs. Ace
  • ed


    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


      • Marcus

        Duck season

  • Ed

    Mo is Mo and is the greatest ever at what he did. But I think what Jeter has done is more important overall.

    That says it pretty well. Playing at a HOF level ~95-99% of the time beats being the best ever and only playing ~5% of the time.

  • pete

    how is this even a question? Mo is god, but there’s no way any reliever could ever be as valuable as an everyday player, unless said everyday player wasn’t very good. Jeter is very good.

  • Matt Imbrogno

    I said it on Twitter last night and I’ll say it here now: I’d rather have gone through 1996 to now with Jeter and an average closer than with Rivera and an average shortstop.

    • Esteban

      Bingo Bongo.

    • Steve H

      This is probably the most important point.

      Who would have played SS instead of Jeter realistically?
      Who would have closed instead of Mo realistically?

      There is a list of a ton of capable (but clearly not Mo) closers would would have been available in this timeframe.

      The list of SS’s is short. Very short.

  • Steve H

    Mo is Mo and is the greatest ever at what he did. But I think what Jeter has done is more important overall.

    Exactly. Adam Vinatieri is one of the best, most clutch kickers in history(but not in Mo’s class for relevance in sport). But for the 4 Super Bowl rings he won he wasn’t in the top 20 most important players on the team.


    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      This. Every single word of this.

  • CBean

    Mo is greatness personified. That being said, I think Jeter is incredibly important to this organization, and not just in his role as SS. He’s pretty much been the face of this organization since he came up, and you can’t buy the PR he can generate. Honestly, I became a baseball fan much later in life, and I didn’t really know who Mo was when I went to my first game. I knew who Derek Jeter was though even when I didn’t even know I liked baseball.

  • Esteban

    Thank God that the Yankees were lucky enough to have both of them and instead had the luxury of having a great SS and the greatest closer.

  • Jobu

    It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years. I agree that Jeter has been the more important and valuable player. I am curious to see if he can slow his decline over then next few years and to see when Mo will begin to decline. According to fangraphs, Jeter has a 2.1 WAR so far this year vs a 1.4 WAR for Rivera. So it is pretty clear that Jeter will be more valuable this year. If Jeter can keep his production at the current level for another three years it would be tough for Rivera to match. However, if Jeter continues to decline it is possible that Mo could outproduce him.

    Which of the two do you guys think will have the higher WAR over the next three years?

    • Ed

      What WAR are you going by?

      I’ll take Jeter for Fangraphs WAR and Mo for Baseball Reference WAR.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Did anyone ever explain what the specific calculation differences between them are?

        • Esteban

          Is it the fielding metrics/numbers they use?

        • Ed

          Just finished reading something on it. Kinda long, but if you’d like to read it, it’s here.

          Short version:
          FG = Almost exclusively based on FIP

          BBR = Uses runs allowed, and compensates for defense by using the team’s overall Total Zone rating to come up with an adjustment factor.

          That’s the major difference.

          Other differences: Replacement level is computed a little differently, BBR adjusts for quality of opponent but FG doesn’t. Looks like BBR includes leverage for all pitchers, but FG only does for relievers.

          The huge differences will be in the high strikeout, high ERA guys. And guys that consistently outperm their FIP, like Mo, will be treated nicer by BBR.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Gotcha, thanks.

            It’d be nice for some uniformity here, or at least have them called different things besides just “WAR”. Like fWAR or rWAR or something.

  • Chris

    One thing to consider in comparing Mo and Jeter is how much more important relievers are in the post season than in the regular season. Because of the extra off days, Mo can pitch in high leverage situations almost every game.

    For example, last year Mo faced 63 batters in the playoffs. Jeter had 74 PA in the playoffs. Considering that all of the batters Mo faced were in high leverage situations, you could make an argument that Mo was more influential than Jeter in the playoffs last year.

  • Jersey Johnny

    I agree with this post, Jeter was great. However, management’s blind loyalty to Jeter is hurting the team. No player, not Jeter, not Rivera not even Babe Ruth is bigger than the team. Do the right thing and get him out of the leadoff spot and bat him 7th, where he now belongs.

    • bexarama

      I thought you gave up on this team and weren’t gonna bother with them any more.

      • Jersey Johnny

        I am but I am not done criticizing the team for stubbornly sticking to Jeter in the leadoff spot. Get the punk out of there, he’s only doing more harm than good.

        • bexarama

          That’s nice.

          It’s also totally not what this post is about, like, at all.

          • Jersey Johnny

            I know. By the way, are you Suzyn Waldman?

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Are you Jim McGreevy?


            • bexarama


              Didn’t you say you’re a Jets fan? You should be used to like, more hardship than this.

              • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                I’m a Jets fan, and I’m not pathetically fatalistic and morbid.

                • bexarama

                  I don’t think most would be. Just when you’re a fan of a football team that’s been historically unsuccessful, and you’ve stuck with them through everything, and you’re a fan of a baseball team that’s been historically successful, and slumps are a part of pretty much every baseball season, you know, you’d think you wouldn’t give up on the baseball team based on a rough patch.

                  Just saying.

                  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


                    Being a fan of a team that hasn’t had much success doesn’t make you have a shitty world perspective by default.

                    • Jersey Johnny

                      I have different expectations for the Yanks and Jets. It’s like having two sons. The one who went to an Ivy League school who is expected to be a CEO and make shitloads of money, and one is a perpetual pothead where a managerial job at McDonald’s would be a great accomplishment.

  • bexarama

    Yeah, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Posnanski’s article. It’s just very rambly and he seems pretty waffly on taking a stand when the obvious answer is Jeter, with no offense to Mo who’s the GOAT and all that. It’s definitely interesting to read, though.

    And no, I was not one of the 21 people who voted for Pettitte on Posnanski’s website. ;)

    Also, apologies if this is terribly OT but since this post is partially about Mo (I would love to read that BP article but I don’t subscribe sob sob), epic failure:

    • Carlosologist

      That has to be the stupidest shit I’ve read this season.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I don’t know why you is offended by that, Yankees fan.

    • Kit

      That really is an epic failure. I’m offended.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Yeah, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Posnanski’s article. It’s just very rambly

      That’s kinda his schtick.

      • bexarama

        I know, but he sometimes pulls it off very well. Not here, though.

  • teddy

    i think mo was more valueable in ps

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Fun Fact: Mariano has a career postseason WPA of 11.163. You’re not going to top that, nobody is.

      But he also has the advantage of getting the final out that often moves your win probability from somewhere in the 80th percentile into the 100th percentile, so that tacks on the WPA a lot.

      For the record, Jeter’s postseason WPA is less than one win total (0.528).

      All that being said, I’d quibble with your pronouncement that Mo was more valuable than Jeter in the postseason for this main reason: Mo’s degree of difficulty is still far lower.

      Yes, I know, it’s the uber-pressure of the final outs of the most important games. I get that. I’m not dismissing it. But Mo is still only asked to face and defeat 3-6 guys per night in the playoffs, tops, and with a lead. Jeter has to bat 3-6 times each night and also play 9 innings of defense.

      Mo was more valuable than Jeter in the playoffs simply because he did his job better than Jeter did his (fewer slumps, less bad performances). But what Jeter was tasked to do for 9 innings every night is a little harder to do than what Mo was tasked to do for 1 or 2.

      In my humble opinion.

  • Richard Iurilli

    All you guys saying that it’s not Mo aren’t true fans. Not even close.

    /The guy before me’d

  • cano-is-the-bro

    this whole thing is like asking who i’d rather fuck: megan fox or scarlett johansson?

    the answer would be both of them.

    I love jeter and mo and they have both been extremely important for the yankees throughout their careers. Both are gonna be no doubt HOFers. It’s like having your cake and eating it too