What's so great about Mariano Rivera?

Like the title says: what’s so great about this guy?

I’m at best a casual baseball fan (read: I’ll watch the playoffs if it’s a deciding game, and I’ve heard of at least one of the pitchers), and from what I could see last night, he’s a good pitcher. Nice control, nice speed, etc. But the FOX guys seem to think he’s God. “He went three innings! Amazing!” Now, maybe this is just my incomplete understanding of baseball, but if Rivera is so good, why doesn’t he, you know, pitch in the rotation?

I always kinda figured that closers were guys that were either (a) not good enough to go more than a couple innings or (b) good pitchers that’d lost a little something. In either case, no matter how good a closer Rivera is, wouldn’t pretty much any starting pitcher be better than him?

Or do I have the logic of the closer completely wrong? 'Cause nothing Rivera was doing last night seemed more stunning that what Pedro did, and Pedro went 7+ innings. (And does so routinely.)

You got it all wrong ,but others can explain why.(I don’t type fast enough) BTW, Dodger closer, Eric Gagne, w/55 straight saves this year will probably win Cy Young award in NL, given to best,not most valuable ,pitcher.

That’s my point, though. If he (or Gagne) is the best, why aren’t they pitching full games? If Gagne is so dominant for one inning, why won’t that translate over an entire game (or 6 innings, or whatever pitchers usually go for)?

Closers are a somewhat different breed. They have to start fast, right out of the chute, but only have to pitch one inning. They’re always pitching in pressure situations, their team is ahead, late innings, little chance to come back if you make a mistake. Starters don’t have that kind of pressure, they have to eat up innings, if they give up a run here or there, that’s expected.

Rivera is special because he’s had fantastic success as a pitcher in the post season. Many saves, microscopic ERA, if the Yankees are ahead going into the 9th, it’s pretty much a lock. This one was one of the classics, 3 innings, in as high a pressure situation as you get, and he gave up no runs. Closers don’t do 3 innings, they rarely do 2. Rivera is the exception to that rule, he does 2 innings often in the post season.

Closers have to be great, every time out, for 1 inning, starters have to be good for 7 innings.

Also, because they only pitch 1-2 innings at a time, they can be involved in 4 straight games, helping close out every win. Starters need 3-4 days of rest between.

Your question is nearly the same as:

If Carl Lewis was the fastest man in the 1984 olympic 100 yard dash, why didn’t he compete in marathons?
A few pitchers have made the transition from starter to closer – Dennis Eckersely (sp?) and John Smoltz are two of the more successful ones. However, by and large, there are different physical demands for each.

Yeah, a starting pitcher can take as long as he wants to warm up before the game. A relief pitcher has to be able to get warmed up very quickly. Many starters must have adequate warmup, and are not able to come into a game on short notice and still pitch effectively.

Chesesteak & mouthbeaker are right. Relievers used to be failed starters, but in last 30 years the whole pitching thing has changed. Now all a starter has to do is get a “quality start”-7 innings - 3 runs or less. In 1968 Juan Marichal had 30 complete games-there were no pitch counts. This year doubt any had more than 4-5 complete games.

And 30 years ago guys just threw their arms out-no Tommy John or rotator cuff surgery was available for pitchers.

[nitpick]
A “quality start” has an even less stringent definition - six innings.
[/nitpick]

The major league leaders in complete games this year were Mark Mulder, Bartolo Colon, and Roy Halladay, with 9. Halladay and Mulder never walk anyone, which explains the durability; I’m not sure why they left Colon in so long.

Eric Gagne is a great pitcher but pitches relief because he just doesn’t have the durability a starting pitcher does. The comparison to Carl Lewis was very apt.

Rivera’s legend is, of course, due to his amazing run of playoff success; he’s been very good in the regular season, but his postseason performance is astonishing. I suspect most relief pitchers COULD pitch a lot of 2 and 3-inning games, but Rivera is one of the few who does in the playoffs largely because his manager, Joe Torre, tends to manage different from other managers in the playoffs; once the postseason starts he tends to manage in such a way that he does anything he can to win every game. So if he needs Rivera to pitch extra innings, so be it. Other managers tend to manage the way they do during the regular season, keeping players in assigned roles and trying to save their pitching strength. Torre, IMHO, is on the right side of that strategic debate.

Not so much for “closers” per se, but oftentimes a reliever is entering the game with men on base and does all his pitching from “the stretch,” whereas your typical starter more frequently has the luxury of pitching with a wind-up.

Good relievers tend to have one pitch that is VERY good and maybe one other good one. Starters have to have 3 or 4 pretty good ones to be successful.

Rivera throws a nearly impossible to hit cut fastball, which is basically just a fastball with a sharp break at the end, but not like a curve. It is very difficult for lefties to hit.

Gagne throws very hard (95 mph) and then mixes in either a slow curve or a straight change that has the same arm action and the hitters are almost always fooled.

However, if these guys had to go through the batting order two or three times like a starter does, the batters would start to figure out their pitches.

Mariano Rivera is great because of the movement of his cut fastball, as BobT pointed out. But what also sets him apart from other closers is his poise. He never gets rattled. Many pitchers fidget, walk around the mound etc. after giving up a few hits. Rivera just stands there placidly, even serenely, waiting to get the ball back and try again.

Rivera came up in 1995 as a starter and finished the season with an ERA of 5.51. The pitching coaches realized he couldn’t sustain his velocity over several innings, so he was converted to a reliever. In 1996 he was the “set-up man” to closer John Wetteland and was so effective the Yankees let didn’t purse the free-agent Wetteland in the offseason.

As a Yankee fan, it’s been a marvel watching him pitch in the postseason the last several years. Without him, I truly doubt they would have won four world series in the late '90’s.

Ok-quality start is 6 innings- sorry. BTW, it is fun to ask “old timer” pitchers about today’s pitchers. I know Carl Erskine, Clem Labine,& Ralph Branca. Their answer will be on the order of "pussies, girls, babies, fuckin’ pitch count etc. etc. " No, not just envious of their $$, they really have no respect for today’s pitchers. Of course don’t ask Branca about a starter being used for a hitter or two in relief.

You can also ask Ralph Branca at what age he washed up.

He was pretty much done at age 28.

I know- career ended w/huh?.. Detroit Tigers. He never mentally got over the Thomson HR. He told me he “fell & hurt my back in the locker room” in 1952 & was done. I did not attempt to offer an opinion that some accidents, indeed many, are caused by psych issues.(Branca is 6’ 3" 230- & a hot tempered Italian)

Actually Branca came back to the Dodgers for one last game in 1956.

Clearly pitch counts weren’t used in the way they are today. However, is it possible to reconstruct pitch counts from older games, or were compiled records of balls, strikes, and fouls not kept?

Clearly pitch counts weren’t used in the way they are today. However, is it possible to reconstruct pitch counts from older games, such as those by Carl Hubbell or Harvey Haddix, or were compiled records of balls, strikes, and fouls not kept?

Bah, I see I’m double-posting.

I think only if game was preserved on videotape ,kinescope, or the transcript of a recreated game (the kind Reagan did years ago). The attitude was “a tired Marichal is better than anyone in the bullpen.”