500 saves: Mariano Rivera versus Trevor Hoffman

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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.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: