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500 saves: Mariano Rivera versus Trevor Hoffman

Jun 30, 2009, 2:49 PM EDT

Sunday night Mariano Rivera joined Trevor Hoffman as the only members
of the 500-save club, so I thought it would be interesting to compare
their Hall of Fame careers:

              G      IP     ERA     W     SV    SO9    BB9    HR9    OAVG
Hoffman 953 1011 2.76 57 572 9.6 2.5 0.8 .210
Rivera 881 1054 2.30 69 500 8.3 2.1 0.5 .213

Hoffman’s strikeout rate is 15 percent higher than Rivera’s and
ranks as the fourth-best of all time among pitchers with at least 1,000
innings, which is amazing for a guy whose average fastball has clocked
in at 85.5 miles per hour since that data started being recorded in
2002. His otherworldly changeup is the reason and likely ranks as one
of the most effective pitches in the history of baseball.

Of course, Rivera’s cutter should also be on that list of
most-effective pitches and probably tops Hoffman’s changeup given that
it’s basically all he’s thrown for 15 years. Rivera hasn’t missed as
many bats as Hoffman, but then again he hasn’t needed to. He’s handed
out 15 percent fewer walks and, most importantly, served up 40 percent
fewer homers.

To me the most interesting aspect of the 500-save club is how
incredibly different the two members are from each other. Hoffman is a
fastball-changeup artist who induces a ton of fly balls while serving
up quite a few homers despite playing in pitcher-friendly ballparks.
Rivera is a cutter machine who induces a ton of ground balls and has
the 10th-lowest homer rate of any pitcher from the last 50 years.

Two completely different approaches, yet similarly extraordinary
results. Since the mound was lowered in 1969, the two lowest ERAs in
all of baseball belong to Rivera at 2.30 and Hoffman at 2.76. And
they’re still thriving at the ages of 39 and 41, as both pitchers have
converted 18-of-19 save opportunities this season while posting
sub-3.00 ERAs.

Hoffman is on track for his 14th 30-save season, while Rivera is
looking for his 12th 30-save campaign. Rivera has two 50-save seasons
compared to just one from Hoffman, but Hoffman’s nine 40-save campaigns
beat Rivera’s six. And of course Rivera has 34 career postseason saves
(and a 0.77 ERA in 117 playoff innings) compared to just four from
Hoffman.

They each look capable of piling up saves well beyond this season,
but once they do decide to retire it’d be interesting if they both call
it quits at the same time. That way the Hall of Fame induction could
feature both “Enter Sandman” and “Hells Bells” as debates raged on
about who should get the call to close out the ceremony.

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