I got to witness a little history up close and personal last week. I was at Safeco Field when Mariano Rivera notched career save 600, putting him just two saves away from jumping over Trevor Hoffman as the all-time leader. The Yankee fans in the house (and there were many) were quite noisy. So were some of the beleaguered Mariners fans, including one guy whose taunt as Rivera was pitching was “You’re old!”
Yes, Mo is old—ancient by baseball standards—yet he continues to perform quite well at the ripe old age of 41. He’s like a fine wine. His ERA since he turned 38 is 1.74 ERA. He’s also converted 157 of 170 save chances in that time, which is why he is still the pitcher you want on the mound during Game 7 of the World Series to close out a 2-1 affair.
Baseball is a game of numbers and I find it interesting when people whine about milestones and question why something like 600 saves (or 3,000 hits or 500 home runs) is so special. Those numbers represent ability and consistency… and opportunity. I get that. Teams like the Yankees are going to allow those with ability more opportunities to be successful, but those players still have to be talented and perform well under some of the most intense pressure in the baseball world. And Rivera is quite talented.
The numbers attest to it. Those 600 saves that Mo has don’t include the 42 (which coincidently is the number on the back of his uniform) he has notched in the post season. That’s an entire regular season (and a good one) for some closers.
If you’re not impressed by the 600 saves, here are a few other numbers to think about that come courtesy of a USA Today column by Mike Lopresti:
- 2.22: Career ERA. The second lowest in history for a pitcher with more than 1,000 innings, since the earned-run average became an official stat in 1913.
- 89.3: Career conversion rate in saves.
- 2: Post season home runs he has allowed in 94 appearances, facing more than 500 batters.
- 8-1: Post season record. The lone defeat was Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona. (Yeah, that one still hurts.)
- 4-1: Career strikeout-to-walk ratio.
- 8-1: Strikeout-to-walk ratio this season at the age of 41.
- 5: Hits he’s allowed in eight All-Star innings. Also no earned runs and no walks.
- 1,037: Regular season appearances. In all those games, he’s thrown 13 wild pitches, been called for three balks and committed six errors.
Through it all Rivera has remained a steady and calm force. You never see him wildly gesticulating or dancing and prancing on the mound after a save. Mo lets his cut fastball do the talking. The results don’t lie.