As I continue to marvel at Mariano Rivera's postseason career, my friend Mark Armour sent me this:
Rivera One way to look at Mo's post-season career is to prorate it to a singular regular season. The Yankees have played 140 postseason games during Mo's career, going 89-51 and winning 20 of 29 series. Prorating Rivera (and the Yankees) from 140 games to 162 games, the Yankees have had this guy sitting in their bullpen for 14 Octobers:
Mariano Rivera has never won a Cy Young Award; he's finished twice once, and third three times. He's never won an MVP award, with his best finishes a couple of ninths (in both 2004 and '5). I won't argue that he deserves to have done better. That's just the nature of 21st-century relief pitching: they don't pitch enough innings to rank among the very most valuable players.
But what if you had a relief pitcher who threw 154 innings with a sub-1.00 ERA? That would get your (and the award voters') attention, wouldn't it? I doubt if Rivera has been the Yankees' most valuable player over the last 14 years. That would almost certainly be Derek Jeter, with Bernie Williams being a part of the conversation as well.
I do suspect that Rivera has been the Yankees' most valuable postseason player, though, because you have to figure he's been roughly twice as valuable in the postseason as in the regular season.
It's probably worth mentioning that it's not only Rivera's value that grows in the postseason. The same is true of great starting pitchers, who typically will throw a significantly higher percentage of their teams' innings in the postseason than in the regular season. For example, in 2001, Curt Schilling threw 18 percent of the Diamondbacks' regular-season innings, but 31 percent of his team's postseason innings. With a 1.12 ERA. Try prorating that.
Of course, Rivera's been doing it for a long time and nearly all of his innings have come in high-leverage situations. Purely in terms of increasing his teams' chances of winning, he must be the most valuable pitcher in postseason history, and that might be true even if we adjust for the expanded postseason format. I'm still waiting for that analysis, though ...