After announcing the plans to retire after season’s end, Mariano Rivera will have one more year to show us why he is hands down the best closing pitcher in MLB history. That’s huge for fantasy baseball in 2013, but before I say why I’d like to pay due respect to number 42, as Rivera truly is the greatest closer to ever step on a pitching mound.
Heading into his final season, the New York Yankees Hall of Fame closer has more than 1,000 appearances under his belt, 1,051 to be exact, and in those 1,051 appearances he has managed 608 career saves, an ERA of 2.21 and a WHIP of .998.
And those numbers don’t even do him justice.
Rivera’s legacy will be defined not by what he did during the season, but by what he did in October. Whether it be starting or closing, there hasn’t been a better postseason pitcher in the game’s history than number 42, and to back that up I have a breathtaking stat for you, one that I feel truly defines just how great this Hall of Famer has been.
There have been 12 men to step foot on the moon.
Only 11 have scored on Rivera in the playoffs.
Let that sink in for a bit. It sounds impossible, but it’s true. In 141 playoff innings pitched Rivera has given up 11 earned runs, amounting to an ERA of .700. That’s why he’s such an amazing pitcher. That’s why he’s the best to ever step on a mound. And that is also why it pains so much to say this—but sadly, Rivera should be avoided in fantasy baseball this year.
I don’t doubt his arm, as Rivera put up 44 saves in 2011 with a 1.91 ERA, but I do doubt the things around him. At 43 years old, he’ll be coming off ACL surgery in 2013, the kind of injury that can hinder a young athlete for a couple of years. On top of that, the Yankees offense appears shakier heading into 2013 than it has in more than a decade. Mark Texeira will miss the beginning of the season, Derek Jeter is coming off a broken ankle and to make matters worse, rumors are buzzing that Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson might get slapped with 50-game suspensions for steroid use.
It sucks to say it, but that’s not a good mix for a closing pitcher in fantasy baseball. And the Yankees 4-11 record thus far in spring training doesn’t bode well either.
The opportunities that were there in 2011 may not be in 2013, and for the first time in a long time it’s hard to be sure what Rivera we’ll see this year. He’s going in the 10th round of fantasy drafts, 8th off the board among relief pitchers, which is right where he needs to go.
If you want him there, take him and enjoy.
He’ll head into this season as the best closer in history, and he will leave this season as the best closer in history. That is not going to change. It might never change, actually. But as far as 2013 is concerned, Rivera has a whole lot of downside in my eyes. He’s not worth reaching for this year. Don’t do it.