Mariano Rivera: Greatest Pitcher Ever?

Via Baseball Reference:

Mariano Rivera is 40 years old, still pitching extremely well, and is first in baseball history in ERA+. Among active pitchers, he’s ranked first in ERA, WHIP, H/9IP, K/BB, HR/9IP, WPA, and fielding percentage. (Go ahead and carefully re-read that last sentence.)

He’s an 11-time All-Star, finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young 5 times, and received MVP votes in 9 different seasons.

He’s also the career leader in post-season ERA (despite having more IP than every other pitcher in the top 10) and has been a part of 5 World Series championship teams.

To me, it’s impossible to say with any authority whether or not Rivera is or isn’t the best pitcher ever. Though after reading that piece, it is hard to deny that he’s one of the elite pitchers of all-time. Not just relievers, but starters.

So what do you think, is Rivera the best pitcher of all-time? Vote in our poll and let us know what you think in the comments section.

To help you decide, here are Mariano’s stats:

Year W L ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP
1995 5 3 5.51 19 0 67.0 71 43 41 11 30 51 84 1.507
1996 8 3 2.09 61 5 107.2 73 25 25 1 34 130 240 0.994
1997 6 4 1.88 66 43 71.2 65 17 15 5 20 68 239 1.186
1998 3 0 1.91 54 36 61.1 48 13 13 3 17 36 233 1.060
1999 4 3 1.83 66 45 69.0 43 15 14 2 18 52 260 0.884
2000 7 4 2.85 66 36 75.2 58 26 24 4 25 58 170 1.097
2001 4 6 2.34 71 50 80.2 61 24 21 5 12 83 192 0.905
2002 1 4 2.74 45 28 46.0 35 16 14 3 11 41 163 1.000
2003 5 2 1.66 64 40 70.2 61 15 13 3 10 63 267 1.005
2004 4 2 1.94 74 53 78.2 65 17 17 3 20 66 232 1.081
2005 7 4 1.38 71 43 78.1 50 18 12 2 18 80 308 0.868
2006 5 5 1.80 63 34 75.0 61 16 15 3 11 55 252 0.960
2007 3 4 3.15 67 30 71.1 68 25 25 4 12 74 144 1.121
2008 6 5 1.40 64 39 70.2 41 11 11 4 6 77 319 0.665
2009 3 3 1.76 66 44 66.1 48 14 13 7 12 72 244 0.905
2010 3 2 1.06 44 24 42.1 23 7 5 1 7 36 379 0.709
16 Seasons 74 54 2.21 961 550 1132.1 871 302 278 61 263 1042 *206* 1.001
162 Game Avg. 5 4 2.21 67 39 79 61 21 19 4 18 73 206 1.001
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2010.
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7 Responses to Mariano Rivera: Greatest Pitcher Ever?

  1. Bronx Knight says:

    Good Lord, I love Mariano. But he's just a reliever. His 1100 IP are the equivalent of just 6 seasons from a full-time starter.

    Assuming that he had the stamina to pitch 6+ innings every five days, would his numbers be as gaudy if he had to go through the lineup four or five times in a game? If guys could see him four times, and make adjustments at the plate? Could he make it as a starting pitcher with just one pitch?

    On the other hand, that cut fastball is probably the greatest single pitch any pitcher has ever thrown. Everybody knows what's coming, and they still can't hit it — or if they do, it breaks their bat. Plus he can essentially put that cutter wherever he wants, like a machine.

    Because of his limited output, a closer can never match the contributions of a great starter (this is why Mo's WAR is only about 1.3, compared to CC's 3+, despite Mo's fabulous numbers). But here's an analogy: in boxing, in comparing fighters from different weight classes, we sometimes talk about who was the greatest fighter ever, pound-for-pound. So maybe we can do the same thing for Mo: inning-for-inning, the most devastating pitcher ever.

  2. Rob Abruzzese says:

    I like it, inning-for-inning Mariano Rivera is the greatest pitcher ever.

    • Mike S. says:

      Anyone who knows me knows how much I revere Rivera. I like that terminology of inning for inning. It's hard to compare Mo to someone like Gossage, who pitched 2 2/3 in the 1978 163rd game vs. Boston and who threw 134 1/3 innings that year in 63 games. That is an average of more than 2 innings per appearance.

      In 1949, Joe Page pitched in 60 games, all in relief. 135 1/3 IP. You can do the math.

      The game has changed. I'd rank Mo way up there, but it's hard enough to compare him against relievers of the past, let alone the great starters, like a Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver, Christy Mathewson or a Koufax in his prime.

      One thing I would like to know is this. No one has been voted into the HOF unanimously. Instead of having us wait several years to find out who the idiots are, could those writers now having HOF votes and who won't be voting for Rivera as soon as he becomes eligible for the HOF declare themselves NOW? Why make us wait to see who the idiots will be? Declare yourselves now and try to justify, right now, why you would NOT vote for Rivera as soon as he hits the ballot.

      Steroids? No. Character? No, you won't find a classier ballplayer or one more respected by his peers. The numbers? They speak for themselves, especially those postseason numbers. The fact he is a reliever? Please.

      There are few players who have dominated their era as much as Rivera has dominated his. He is the Babe Ruth of closers.

      But no one has been elected unanimously and some idiot(s) will not vote for Mo. It reminds me of this classic line by Dick Young when 23 voters (yes, 23. Amazing. Mays got 409 of 432 votes) did not vote for Willie Mays when he hit the ballot:

      "If Jesus Christ were to show up with his old baseball glove, some guys wouldn't vote for him. He dropped the cross three times, didn't he?"

  3. Setherley says:

    As a yankee fan of some 70 years I have seen all of the major players for the yankees.
    I doubt there is any pitcher as good as mariano inning for inning in their career. At his age and still piching good is a testimonial to his greatness.
    He is the beast pitcher inning for inning in the history of baseball in my opinion. GO MR and keep it up as long as you’ve got it. Every Yankee fan loves you!!

    A. Setherley

  4. coolnewyorker says:

    Inning for inning? Mariano's VS any HoF starter?

    Not fair for either pitcher. Starters get to be seen several times by batters in a game but they have more than an inning to either lose or win for the team.

    Mariano's innings are often one, occassionally two (or seldom three) in a game to save or to blow, often in gut wrenching clutch situations with mere one to three run edge to preserve.

    No other reliever is even close, by comparison.

    Forget the post-regular season performance. Nobody is better. NOBODY. Period!

    Any HoF voter who does not induct him on first ballot should be sent to Guantanamo for causing terror. Or in front of firing squad…just to make sure.

    Let's face it, Mariano is one of those peerless athletes who come to our lives once in a generation…the likes of the Babe, MJ, Gretzky, Pele, Phelps…etc.

  5. Eric Communiello says:

    If you're talking about the most dominant pitcher in the history of baseball, then yes, I think you could argue Mariano is number one. But when it comes down to trying to decide who the greatest pitcher of all-time is, I don't think Mo can really contend. Starting pitchers just have a much larger resume than Mo.

  6. smurfy says:

    He is the most beautiful pitcher now extant. His motion is pure grace. In my memory, only Koufax was as fluid.

    Naming the "best" is only an ego game, enough that he is superlative. (Aside from that, starting vs relieving vs closing are different, each with ditinct demands. Mariano is par excellence in the cauldron of climax.)