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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.