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Mariano Rivera is not worthy of the Cy Young

Sep 3, 2009, 9:50 AM EDT

John Harper disagrees:

The man they call Mo is deserving, to be sure. And even though a hot September from starters such as Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez or Josh Beckett could make any of them the front-runner for the award, none is having the kind of lights-out season that would all but eliminate talk of a reliever winning.

Look, I love me some Mariano Rivera. He is, bar none, my favorite Yankee of the Torre-Girardi era. But 60 or so innings of 1.78 ERA pitching is simply nowhere near as impressive nor valuable as 200+ innings of 2.32 ERA, and that’s before you even get into peripherals. That latter number is from Zack Grienke who, if he played for anyone other than the Royals, would be cruising to 20+ wins right now and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The Cy Young award is an individual award, and as things currently stand, the only reason to not give it to Zack Greinke is if you look past what he has done as an individual and give him demerits for the performance of his teammates.

Mariano Rivera is the best at what he does, and one day he will find himself in Cooperstown because of it.  But what he does is not as important as what a starter does, and that’s the case no matter how much we glorify Mariano Rivera specifically, or the role of the closer in general.

  1. another Joe - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:48 PM

    If Grienke moved to…oh, say the AL East, he’d have probably at least 4 or so starts against teams that actually have offense…..look at what Boston and NY do to each others pitching staffs, and that includes Rivera and Paplebon. One game against either of those not only kill his ERA, but probably make him wonder why he left KC. Hell, even Greg Maddux warned Peavey to stay away from the AL East for a reason…

  2. planktonDisciple - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    Relievers had a different role back then, but it is arguable that Rivera’s season than the season Sparky Lyle had in 1977 (26 saves 2.17 era)when he won the award.

  3. Adam - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    OK, moving the KC pitcher to another divsion say the East would change who they face. NY faces Boston, Tampa and other teams in their division 19 times each. Yet only about 10-12 times vs central. So, yes the comp. faced would be different. That being said KC is not good and their lack of output will cost the KC pitcher any chance at a CY.
    Players on bad teams still have a chance at post season individual awards but must blow away the rest of the comp. 120 RBI on a bad team isn’t as impressive as 120 RBI’s for a team going to the post season.
    Mo is the best closer of all time but if a starter gets 20 W’s case closed.

  4. planktonDisciple - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    excuse me? 120 rbi’s on a bad team is less impressive than on a good team? on a good team that scores alot you have better hitters before and after you AND you have more runners in scoring position when you bat.
    The competition is best pitcher, not games won. Clemens was probably juiced at the time, but with Houston he had a season where he lead the league in era and was close to the top in K’s per 9 innings.
    He far outpitched the winner.

  5. Jeff - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    Rivera’s closing immortality, but I read an article on FanGraphs or a website of that ilk a little while ago saying that an elite closer is worth 2.5x less than an above-average starting pitcher. In order for a reliever to win the Cy Young, it would have to take a combination of two things. Said reliever has to have a truly historically good season, and there can’t be a starter that stands out from the rest in the league. You could make an argument that Rivera is having the best season of his career this year, but it’s not up to par with the ridiculous numbers that Eric Gagne posted in 2003. In my opinion, neither of the two criteria I mentioned has been met this year, because Greinke has been just plain sick for a terrible team. It’s sort of the same thing as voting a DH MVP. It just shouldn’t happen too often due to the inherent disadvantages they are given, like a closer.

  6. Tim - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:00 PM

    All of you can bite the big one. The real Cy Young will go to Justin Verlander. If it was not for him the Tigers would be pitiful.

  7. Travis M. Nelson - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:01 PM

    Paul, I know that’s the conventional wisdom about closers, but it simply isn’t true. Not for Mo, anyway.
    I’m a big Yankee fan and Mo is my favorite player, but the man has faced fewer #3, 4, and 5 hitters than other positions in the lineup this year, and throughout his career as well.
    Here are his career Innings (and 2009 plate appearances) against each spot in the lineup:
    #5: 100 (19 Plate appearances)
    #4: 87 (21)
    #3: 81 (22)
    #6: 112 (23)
    #2: 87 (25)
    #9: 107 (25)
    #7: 111 (25)
    #8: 116 (27)
    #1: 101 (28)
    That’s in ascending order based on 2009 PA. He’s faced the 3-4-5 hitters the least this year, and the 2-3-4 hitters the least in his career, about 30% less than the 7-8-9 hitters.
    Grienke? His distribution is much more even, at least this season. He has between 19 and 22.1 IP against each position in the lineup this year. The lone exception is the #3 spot, the BEST hitter in the lineup, which he has somehow managed to face for 24.1 IP, 10% more than any other lineup position. And he’s held #3 hitters to a .165 opponent batting average.

  8. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:02 PM


  9. Jeff - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    Can we ban HOTROD from commenting here on the grounds of career stupidity?

  10. Smallmarketfan - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    I thought the Cy Young was supposed to signify the BEST pitcher in the league. How could that logic be applied with such literate people like “terry” spewing his imbecilic trash. Buying up all the talent and loading them onto one team somehow makes your pitcher the clear cut winner. But only if they make the playoffs. Retarded.
    Most people have only seen Greinke make three national league hitters look bad in the one inning he pitched in the all-Star game.
    Your bad luck. He has pitched in eight losing games in which the anemic Royals have scored two runs or less.
    Give it to Sabathia, or whoever. Then ask yourself, who you would rather have C.C., whoever, or Zack? With any even average run support, Greinke would probably be at or over twenty wins already.

  11. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:08 PM


  12. Bill Ellis - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:15 PM

    I can’t disagree with the fact that all the aforementioned starters are wothy of consideration for the Cy Young award butI disagree with the fact that Mariano is not as valuabe. To really put it in perspective, and assuming all pitchers were the same age, which one would a team pick if all were on the market. Lights out for 40-50 games has to equate with 20 wins. I’m not picking any one person at this time but Mariano surely should be on a level playing field with all these great pitchers.

  13. planktonDisciple - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    The Yankees won the division from 2001-2007. NO RINGS.
    Sabathia’s postseason play has consistently stunk, but Arod’s has stunk for a longer time. Texeira has one postseason series where he did hit 5 meaningless singles, but he had 1 extra base hit and 1 rbi. The only thing the Yankees have locked up is the division. Yankees fans love to look like fools. We’ll see.
    Had Clemen’s stats wrong. In 2005 he was 13-8 for Houston. He lead the league in era 1.87 AND hits per nine innings 6.4. He started 32 games and pitch 211 innings. I hate the guy, but he far outpitched the league. He was 3rd in Cy Young voting.
    Chris Carpenter was 21-5 with an era A RUN MORE at 2.83 yielding 7.6 hits per inning. He did pitch alot of innings, but if a guy can have an era a run better than the winner … w-l is simply over-valued. Clems WHIP was also better. Carpenter lead wins and winning percentage, all far more of team stats.

  14. bronx bomber fan - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    OK, I’ll weigh in. To the folks who are writing about ERAs and the caliber of team pitchers play on… the ERA stat reflects the pitcher’s ability against the batters they face. No matter what kind of team is behind them, the pitcher’s ERA doesn’t change with errors or low team batting averages. Win-loss stats change, but not ERA. To the folks who argue that 200+ quality innings pitched are more valuable than 60 or so quality innings pitched… the manager makes pitching decisions/changes on the starters, based on the quality of set up and closing pitchers behind them. How many starting pitchers would pitch much deeper into the game, if the manager knew he had shaky relievers in the bull pen? Even the starters mentality changes. If the starter knows he can go all out for 5 or 6 innings and turn it over to a competent bull pen, then his mindset is different than going out in the first inning and thinking “its all on me for a whole game”. Furthermore, how much stronger late in the season are the starting pitchers who are backed by a strong bull pen than those who are not? One to three extra innings pitched each game over the entire season can take a lot out of a starting pitcher’s arm by AUG/SEPT/OCT. Relievers can and do determiine the success of their teams, directly and indirectly, in a major way. MO for Cy Young!

  15. BIGBRUCE11047 - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:27 PM

    If I were a manager and had the services of Mariana Rivera as a closer, I certainly would feel good with a lead in the ninth. As for the Cy Young award I don’t feel he is pitching enough innings. They should have a minimum inning requirement as they do for the batting title. The leader needs to have a minimum amount of at-bats to qualify. The Cy Young award should go to the starter that has the best numbers.

  16. Begayo_Bangdasarian - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    I think you’re all way off. Dice K. is the lock for the Cy Young this year. Sure, he hasn’t pitched his best this year, but he’s got heart, and sometimes that’s enough!

  17. planktonDisciple - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:31 PM

    which numbers? the ones that best reflect individual excellence.
    there is no requirement for elegibility for CYA. “best pitcher”. the rest is subjective. I’d let the players vote.

  18. Matthew - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    I hate the Yankees, but I love Rivera.
    The article’s argument that a closer does not contribute as much to his team’s success as a starter is ridiculous.
    Even the best starter can only help his team every third game. Grienke and the Royals shows you that one ace pitcher can’t carry a team. The closer is ready to go every day and every night.
    Forget about the Cy Young award.
    MLB needs to establish the Mariano Rivera award.

  19. Rangers wax Yankee's - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    All you pathetic Yankee fan’s should tremble because you will be playing the mighty Rangers in the playoff’s and the truly most deserving pitcher for the Cy Young award, Scott Feldman, will shut down your overpriced, older than dirt, line up.

  20. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    the ERA stat reflects the pitcher’s ability against the batters they face. No matter what kind of team is behind them, the pitcher’s ERA doesn’t change with errors or low team batting averages. Win-loss stats change, but not ERA

  21. flash613 - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    Obviously more objective analysis is needed. Shockingly, some of you seem to have some team bias.
    1. Now, there could be a whole host of ways to compare pitchers objectively. The ESPN Player Rater has Greinke 1st AL pitcher, followed by Felix, Verlander, CC, Halladay and Rivera.
    2. Personally, I might suggest discounting Greinke’s season a bit (something like 4 starts with more than 4 innings, the remaining 23 at 3 and under), given that he faced a relatively easy schedule. Still very impressive.
    3. Now Verlander pitches for a potential playoff team and has held the mighty Yankees to two runs total in his two starts. Therefore he must be deserving of the Cy Young b/c he has done that.

  22. realsportsfan218 - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:42 PM

    I do agree with you that Rivera shouldn’t win the Cy Young, but this reasoning is absolutely ridiculous. You’re talking about a few at bats difference here.
    And congrats on getting an A in math class for today.

  23. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    WAR + $ Value for the top 10 pitchers, and then Rivera
    Name WAR Dollars
    Zack Greinke 7.6 $34.00
    Tim Lincecum 7.5 $33.60
    Justin Verlander6.2 $27.80
    Cliff Lee 5.9 $26.50
    Roy Halladay 5.9 $26.40
    Felix Hernandez 5.5 $24.90
    Jon Lester 5.5 $24.80
    Javier Vazquez 5.4 $24.20
    CC Sabathia 5.4 $24.10
    Mariano Rivera 1.8 $7.90
    Rivera’s value is 25% of what Greinke’s is.

  24. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    WAR + $ Value for the top 10 pitchers, and then Rivera
    Name WAR Dollars
    Zack Greinke 7.6 $34.00
    Tim Lincecum 7.5 $33.60
    Justin Verlander6.2 $27.80
    Cliff Lee 5.9 $26.50
    Roy Halladay 5.9 $26.40
    Felix Hernandez 5.5 $24.90
    Jon Lester 5.5 $24.80
    Javier Vazquez 5.4 $24.20
    CC Sabathia 5.4 $24.10
    Mariano Rivera 1.8 $7.90
    Rivera’s value is 25% of what Greinke’s is.

  25. Neftali Feliz destroy's all - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:47 PM

    Another reason Rangers will destroy the Yankee’s. A .46 ERA. Unbelievable. 26k to 1BB, insanely great. Mariano who? This guy has hit 104 and has a breaking pitch that looks like a whiffle ball. He is insanely great. Only run given up was a home run. Hey when you throw 100 mph and some one gets lucky it goes far. I know he won’t win the Cy Young, but he made your Yankee’s look like little girls. Don’t feel bad though, he does that to everyone.

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