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Rivera’s Success Due to Low Innings Total?

By Mike Silva ~ June 27th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees.

The good folks at Baseball Think Factory linked up the comments I posted by Goose Gossage during his interview with WFAN’s Evan Roberts. In case you aren’t aware, Goose basically said that Rivera’s job was far easier than closers in his day. As a matter of fact, Goose called himself a “relief pitcher,” not a “closer,” since he had to pitch as many as 3 innings at a time.

A comment by someone with the handle RayDiPerna made some interesting points. Check it out:

Five Facts About Mariano Rivera:

1. He is a great short relief pitcher who never had a bad season.

2. He is a deserving Hall of Famer by the standards set out for relief pitchers.

3. He did not fare well in a very short stint as a starter in the majors.

4. He pitched a wildly low number of innings for a Hall of Famer. Only Sutter pitched fewer innings without outside circumstances intervening (as they did with, e.g., Paige).

5. He only had two managers, both who babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.

I am not sure the innings argument is fair when you are comparing Rivera to any modern day closer. There are a bunch of setup men/pitchers that closed for a brief period ahead of him. They include Roberto HernandezJose MesaJulian Tavarez, and Tom Gordon. Every other closer from 1995 onward has less innings than Rivera. This includes Trevor Hoffman, who is easily the closest comparison when you talk about performance. John Franco pitched 21 seasons and only has 65 more innings to date. The early part of his career was pitched in the eighties, where closers still were expected to get more than three outs. Of course, Dennis Eckersley and Tony LaRussa changed that in 1987.

In short, relievers like Gossage, Lyle, and Fingers have a gripe about the utilization of the modern closer. Rivera just happens to be symbolic of the best, not an exception to any modern closer utilization.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to Rivera’s Success Due to Low Innings Total?

  1. Chuck Johnson

    Absolutely and without question.

    Goose had fifty-seven saves of seven outs or more.

    Rivera, Hoffman and Eckersley had eleven.


    And five of those belonged to Eck.

    I worked for the Eastern League for five years in the promotions department and I’ve always had the idea of the “Closer of the Game.”

    You’d pick ten guys as potential contestants.

    In the fifth inning, you’d go under the stands or in the parking lot and have them throw. Obviously you don’t want some guy who throws like Betty White, he’d have to show some form and ability.

    Once you picked your winner, you would sign him to a one day contract, like Bill Veeck did with Eddie Gaedel.

    The only way he gets into the game is we would have to be up by three heading into the ninth inning..the minimum requirement for a save.

    You don’t think John Doe Mailman couldn’t get three outs before he gave up three runs?

  2. Jakeneck

    John Doe mailman = Mo? Whatever your on, I want some buddy. What’s your middle name? “get off my lawn”?

  3. Dave

    You know I think this could be a really interesting discussion. Too bad both Goose and “RayDiPerna” can’t just have it without throwing their own personal biases in the mix.

    Really Ray, language like “babied him to the greatest extent” and a “wildly low number of innings” make you sound like nothing but a hater with an axe to grind. Same thing for Goose when he referred to Rivera’s job as a “piece of cake.”

  4. Mike Silva


    I think we are comparing “apples” and “oranges”

    The closer role changed to a 1 inning affair around ’87 (if you blame Eckersley and LaRussa).

    Not sure it’s fair to Rivera to compare him to Goose. I also wonder if consistent exposure to Mo of 2-3 inning saves would render him less effective. Remember, he wasn’t a good starter. Although 3 innings is once around the order.

    Something to think about.

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