Lindbergh: Ranking Mariano Rivera against baseball’s best starters

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus on March 22, 2013:

Recently, Mariano Rivera revealed that 2013 would be his final season. It wasn’t unexpected news, in that Rivera is 43 years old and coming off a serious injury that caused him to consider retirement in 2012. But the report, however predictable, hit many fans hard. Not only is Rivera respected and beloved both inside and outside of New York (a relative rarity for a big, bad Yankee), but he’s shown so little erosion in his skills that it’s possible to picture him throwing his cutter until he turns 50. Most players go through a decline phase, which gives us time to get used to the idea that it’s about to be over. Rivera really hasn’t, except in the sense that he’s less durable than he once was.

Rivera’s announcement inspired many written responses, one of which was an email to me from a reader named David Greene. “Rivera’s true ranking among pitchers all-time,” the subject line said.

I can’t get my arms around the idea that 60 (or so) starting pitchers in the history of baseball are “greater” than Rivera, as career WARP stats would say. … So maybe the real answer to my question is how many relievers relative to starters ought to be included in any all-time team of 25 or 30 players? Is that a question for analysis or only for opinion?

How good is Rivera, really? And is it possible to compare him to baseball’s best starters?

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Originally published: March 22, 2013. Last Updated: March 22, 2013.