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.

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.