Caple: The overrating of Mariano Rivera

From SABR member Jim Caple at on September 25, 2013, with mention of SABR member David W. Smith:

Barring an extremely unlikely finish in the AL wild card chase, Mariano Rivera will pitch his final game this week. And thus will end the career of one of the most respected, most beloved and most overrated players in recent memory.

Wait, before you release the hounds, let me make myself clear. Rivera is an outstanding pitcher who has had a long and wonderful career. He played an important role in the Yankees’ return to dominance and their five World Series championships. He is a shining role model for major leaguers. He was a fitting person to be the last player to wear No. 42. I will be sad to see him retire.

But Rivera is not Superman. He wears pinstripes, not blue long johns and a red cape. Rivera is a closer. And like all closers in this modern “They Pitch Only The Ninth Inning” era, he is overvalued.

I have read and heard a lot of people — from bloggers to folks in major leaguer dugouts — contend that Rivera has been more important than Derek Jeter to the Yankees’ success. Really? Including the postseason, Rivera has pitched 1,423 innings in his career. Jeter has played in more than 23,400 innings. That’s about 22,000 more innings than Rivera played — 15 entire seasons’ worth of games. And yet some think what Rivera did in his 1,423 innings was more important than what Jeter has done in his 23,400? Please.

Put it this way: Rivera could not have earned a single save had teammates such as Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams not obtained a lead in the first place. What they and others did in those first eight innings were more important than what Rivera did in the final national spotlight.

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Originally published: September 26, 2013. Last Updated: September 26, 2013.