Might this be the last season for the greatest closer of all time?
It's no secret that he's the greatest closer of all time. In fact, it's not even close. And don't assume that he became the greatest closer ever when he passed Trevor Hoffman for the lead on the all-time saves list. He could have retired several years ago and he'd still be the greatest ever. That's how great he is.
If you disagree, I really don't know what to tell you, but it's clear that you haven't been paying attention.
Rivera leads all active pitchers in walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP). For those of you who aren't stat geeks, that means he allows less baserunners than anyone in baseball. He's actually 2nd on the career list behind Hall of Famer Addie Joss, who played from 1902-1910, which was obviously a much different era.
His ERA+, which is a pitcher's ERA adjusted for his specific time period, is 206+. That's the best ERA+ in baseball history, and it means that his ERA is lower than 1/2 of the league average over the course of his career.
As if that weren't enough, one would be remiss to neglect his stellar postseason performances. As a Red Sox fan (AKA Yankees hater), I'll always remember the 2004 ALCS fondly, when he blew saves in consecutive games to help let the Red Sox move on to their first World Series championship in 86 years.
Aside from those games and game 7 of the 2001 World Series, however, Rivera was untouchable in the postseason. Whether it was as a setup man for John Wetteland in 1996 or as a closer for the rest of his career, Rivera thrived when a big game was on the line, and has a postseason ERA of 0.70, giving up only 11 earned runs in 141 postseason innings.
He hasn't shown his age at all, either. Last year was as good as he's ever been, as he finished with 44 saves and a 1.91 ERA.
If this season is indeed the end of the line for Rivera, as he has been hinting, it will be bittersweet. It will be nice to never have to watch the Red Sox (and everyone else) swing blindly at his cut fastball, one of the most devastating pitches any pitcher has ever had, but it's going to be a shame to have to say goodbye to one of the true all-time greats.
He hasn't said anything for sure, but you can bet that I'll enjoy watching him continue his mastery over AL hitters... even if I'm still rooting against him.