Yankees pitcher Rivera hugs Rangers pitcher Nathan after the American League defeated the National League in Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in New York

Mariano Rivera is amazing, but Joe Nathan is great too


In order to guarantee that Mariano Rivera could make an appearance in his final All-Star game manager Jim Leyland used him in the eighth inning, which led to Joe Nathan closing out the win for the American League in the ninth.

That wasn’t quite ideal, although it didn’t seem to take away from the spectacular moment involving Rivera’s entrance and, of course, Nathan is a damn good pitcher too. In fact, Rivera and Nathan have been extremely similar in their long-term dominance.

Nathan took over as a closer after being traded from the Giants to the Twins in 2004. From then until now, here’s how their numbers compare:

                    G     SV    SV%     IP     ERA    SO/9   BB/9    OAVG
Mariano Rivera    577    355    92%    604    1.89     8.5    1.6    .209
Joe Nathan        567    327    91%    567    2.17    10.8    2.5    .189

If not for Rivera’s presence as the greatest closer of all time Nathan’s perceived place in the pantheon of relievers would probably be a lot different. Nathan has saved 327 games with a 91 percent success rate and 2.17 ERA since 2004, compared to 355 saves with a 92 percent success rate and 1.89 ERA from Rivera during that time.

Of course, Rivera also racked up 283 saves with a 2.49 ERA in 650 innings before 2004 and has that ridiculously incredible postseason record too, which is why he’s the greatest closer of all time and Nathan is “only” someone who’s pitched like the greatest closer of all time for a decade. Still, with his save last night serving as merely an afterthought to Rivera’s appearance I thought Nathan deserved some attention for an exceptional closing career of his own.

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.