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Baseball Told the Right WayIn-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!
Well as most entries here will probably come from some drunk argument one of us had trying to convince someone else of the Right Way, I felt my first one should be no different. Last weekend the topic of closers came up, and without too much thought I had to throw out in the air the claim that Keith Foulke was the best reliever in baseball over the last 5 number of years. Not Mariano? Am I crazy?
That’s a pretty big statement to make, the popular media perception would tell us otherwise. I thought it was a pretty bold statement at the time too, but a quick look at the numbers confirmed this. And of course I couldn’t keep this to myself because Foulke was one of the key additions for the Red Sox championship run this year. So now I plan on going around dropping this bomb on Yankee fans everywhere:
Keith Foulke has been a better pitcher than Mariano Rivera over the last five years!
The hype is certainly in Mariano’s corner, but the hype means nothing when it comes to actual performance. The performance of these two pitchers over this time span has been pretty amazing. You be the judge and tell me what has been more effective: the change or the cutter.
KF: 2.48 ERA 9.0 K/9 in 439 IP
MR: 2.26 ERA 7.8 K/9 in 342 IP
So they’ve been pretty damn even, only Foulke has had more strikeouts and an extra 97 IP of value. The difference in ERA amounts to roughly 2 runs over a full season. Ill take the extra work and strikeouts any day. So Keith Foulke has been the better pitcher, not to mention cheaper.
Oh but everyone would say, White Sox fans especially: Mariano is lights out, "enter sandman", game over. Keith Foulke is nowhere as reliable at closing out games. Well at least that’s what that horrendously awful coach and GM said, so it must be true.
Since Keith Foulke took over as closer mid-season in 2000, Keith Foulke has saved 89% of his chances. Mariano: 87.5%. We’ll call that a wash. Mariano’s got 154 saves to Foulke’s 130. Without going into why saves are completely irrelevant in the game of baseball, I’ll just point out Foulke getting needlessly yanked around in ’02 by that dolt Jerry Manuel. When Rivera and Foulke have been full time closers (I’ll even include ’00 when Howry stole some saves), they have saved 44% and 43% of their teams wins, respectively. I’d be willing to bet most closers are in this tight range, Rivera’s teams have just won more games.
So the argument of “clutchness” doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, and based on their performances over the last five years, I would take Foulke first (He’s also 31 to Rivera’s 34). Its real damn close, but ill take the younger, cheaper option who has proven more durable.
Now before all two of the people who will read this get up in arms over this. I’m saying Foulke has been better during the regular season. This is important because what Mo has done in the postseason is absolutely sick. You can't penalize Foulke for only getting 7 1/3 postseason innings, but at the same time you have to reward Rivera for what he has done (7-1 0.75 ERA in 96 postseason IP!). Maybe, the Red Sox can do their part to even off those tallies by the time Foulke’s 4 yr deal is up, but we will have to see.
Foulke and Rivera have been pretty much unconscious for five years. Neither one has had an ERA over 3.00 since 1998! Wagner, Nen, Hoffman, Percival can’t claim that. Gagne looks like he might, Wagner could still do it if he stays healthy, Dotel’s got a shot. Foulke and Rivera are the class of the league, and I don’t think anyone is going to be complaining about either of these two studs in the near future. Now if I could only figure out what the hell Jerry Manuel and Kenny Williams were thinking.