In this post I will dare to bash the now all times save leader with the help of one statistic. In the process I will show you my most likely one reader why Trevor Hoffman will always be the number one closer of all time and Mariano Rivera will tragically be number two.
In order to begin to prove my point here are some statistics…
Trevor Hoffman pitched from 1993-2010 while Rivera has pitched from 1995 to the present so Hoffman has one more year of experience under his belt. However when it comes to a pitcher’s statistics, especially a closer’s, what matters more is whether or not that closer pitched for a winning team because wins meant save opportunities.
While Trevor Hoffman played he was with three different teams, the Marlins (1993), Padres (1993- 2009), and the Brewers (2010-2011). Mariano Rivera has pitched for the Yankees from 1995- present day.
During their careers they each have played for teams with very different winning percentages. During his career Rivera’s Yankees have a winning percentage of .613 while Hoffman’s teams have a winning percentage of .495. As you can see, the amount of wins Rivera’s teams have produced has helped him a lot as it gave him more opportunities to come into games and close them out for a save. Both of them share the same “converted” save percentage at 89% which shows us that they would be very even in general terms when it comes to save converted however what it doesn’t show is in my mind a closer’s most important statistic, games pitched.
For closers the amount of games they pitch in easily determines which one is better and which was isn’t. Hoffman: 1,035. Rivera: 1,038. That simple three game difference is all I need to proove my point. Now you could bring in ERA and K’s and all of those statistics where Rivera is ahead but when you look at a closer, and you look at who is going to go in when the game is online and his team is ahead more often, you have to choose between the closer with a higher or lower winning percentage for his team. If I got to choose, I would pick the former.
In the end you could look at WAR and all those statistics and try to prove your point. But to me the fact that Rivera constantly pitched for a much better team than Hoffman is the reason why he is number two in the list of top closers of all time to me. If Hoffman had pitched for the Yankees during his career I can guarantee you that he would have more saves than his current 601 because he would be pitching for a team that gave him more chances to come in and close the game out. To constantly pitch for losing teams and to constantly get saves is more important to me than save totals or strikeouts, etc. In the end, if a closer is able to get almost the same amount of saves as another closer and does it for persistently losing teams, how could you not argue that Hoffman, that exact pitcher, didn’t easily out close Rivera over his career?