Retired saves king Mariano Rivera ranks as 2nd-best all-time closer in Box-Toppers points

  One in a series

One in a series

Box-Toppers’ Stick-A-Fork-In-Them series looks at 14 players whose careers are done or may be done. Included is a look at how they have fared in Box-Toppers points over their careers, reflecting their impact on the game over time. This is the seventh of the series:

7. Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera, considered the greatest closing pitcher of all time, is only the second-best closer in career Box-Toppers points.

Mariano Rivera

Here are Mariano Rivera's Box-Toppers statistics. The third column shows his Box-Toppers points (BTP) per season. The final column shows his All-Star Selections, his Box-Toppers key season rankings and his standing in key postseason awards voting.

YearTeamBTP Notes
1995nyy al3.0 
1996nyy al8.4BTP-77, BTP-AL pi-11, CYA-3, MVP-12
1997nyy al5.0AS, MVP-25
1998nyy al4.0 
1999nyy al8.0AS, BTP-82, BTP-AL pi-13, CYA-3, MVP-14
2000nyy al4.0AS
2001nyy al12.0AS, BTP-30, BTP-AL pi-8, MVP-11
2002nyy al4.0AS
2003nyy al6.0MVP-27
2004nyy al5.0AS, BTP-189, BTP-AL pi-37, CYA-3, MVP-9
2005nyy al11.0AS, BTP-37, BTP-AL pi-9, CYA-2, MVP-9
2006nyy al4.0AS, MVP-26
2007nyy al12.0BTP-27, BTP-AL pi-11
2008nyy al14.0AS, BTP-17, BTP-AL pi-8, CYA-5
2009nyy al8.0AS, BTP-84, BTP-AL pi-18, MVP-14
2010nyy al7.0AS
2011nyy al6.0AS, CYA-8
2012nyy al0.0 
2013nyy al5.0AS
Total 126.4BTP-25, BTP-pi-16

AS All-star selection
BTP Finish among all players in Box-Toppers points
BTP-AL pi Finish among all AL pitchers in BTP
CYA Finish in league Cy Young Award voting
MVP Finish in league Most Valuable Player Award voting

Source: Information for player awards comes from Baseball-Reference.com

Rivera retired amid great fanfare at the end of the 2013 season at the age of 43. He recorded more saves than any other pitcher with 652. He helped the New York Yankees, the team with which he spent his entire 19-season career, win five World Series championships, earning World Series Most Valuable Player once (in 1999) and American League Championship Series MVP once (in 2003).

And yet, despite all this, Rivera trails one other closing pitcher in all-time Box-Toppers points. Rivera recorded 126.4 Box-Toppers points, ranking 25th among all players and 16th among all pitchers. But ahead of him, with 129.4 Box-Toppers points, ranking 21st among all players and 14th among all pitchers is Trevor Hoffman.

Hoffman, who pitched primarily for the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1993 to 2010, has 601 career saves—he was passed by Rivera in 2011. And even though Rivera was only 3.0 Box-Toppers points from tying him, Hoffman would likely have a higher point total since his career began before Box-Toppers record keeping began in 1995—Hoffman picked up 25 of his career saves in 1993 and 1994.

More about the comparison of Rivera and Hoffman ahead, but first a look back at the career of Rivera, who finished among the top 10 in AL pitchers in Box-Toppers points for a season three times during his career. Here are some career highlights:

• In 1996, he had 8.4 Box-Toppers points and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting. (Pat Hentgen of the Blue Jays won the award—he had 10.0 Box-Toppers points that season, fifth among AL pitchers.)

• In 1999, he had 9.0 Box-Toppers points and finished third in AL Cy Young voting. (Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox won the award—he had 31.4 Box-Toppers points, the most of any AL pitcher.)

• In 2001, he had 12.0 Box-Toppers points, ranking eighth among AL pitchers. (He received no Cy Young votes.)

• In 2004, he had 5.0 Box-Toppers points and finished third in AL Cy Young voting. (Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins won the award—he had 26.8 Box-Toppers points, the most of any player that season.)

• In 2005, he had 11.0 Box-Toppers points, ranking ninth among AL pitchers and finishing second in Cy Young voting, his highest finish ever. (Bartolo Colon of the Angels won the award—he had 9.4 Box-Toppers points that year, ranking 13th among AL pitchers.)

• In 2007, he had 12.0 Box-Toppers points, ranking 11th among AL pitchers. (He received no Cy Young votes.)

• In 2008, he had a career-high-for-a-season 14.0 Box-Toppers points, ranking eighth among AL pitchers and finishing fifth in Cy Young voting. (Cliff Lee of the Indians won the award —he had 15.0 Box-Toppers points, ranking sixth among AL pitchers.)

• In 2011, he had 6.0 Box-Toppers points and finished eighth in Cy Young voting. (Justin Verlander of the Tigers won the award—he had 24.4 Box-Toppers points, first among AL pitchers.)

Rivera had four seasons with 10.0 or more Box-Toppers points. He had 17 straight seasons in which he earned at least one Box-Toppers point. That streak was cut short in 2012, when he was injured for the season in May and earned no Box-Toppers points that year. He came back from that injury in 2013 to earn 5.0 Box-Toppers points in his final season.

Rivera vs. Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman

Here are Trevor Hoffman's Box-Toppers statistics. The third column shows his Box-Toppers points (BTP) per season. The final column shows his All-Star Selections, his Box-Toppers key season rankings and his standing in key postseason awards voting.

YearTeamBTP Notes
1993fla nl/sd nl* 
1994sd nl* 
1995sd nl9.0BTP-42, BTP-NL pi-8
1996sd nl14.7BTP-12, BTP-NL pi-5, CYA-5, MVP-22
1997sd nl14.0BTP-17, BTP-Nl pi-7
1998sd nl11.0AS, BTP-31, BTP-NL pi-12, CYA-2, MVP-7
1999sd nl7.0AS, BTP-111, BTP-NL pi-27, CYA-6, MVP-28
2000sd nl11.0AS, BTP-30, BTP-NL pi-8
2001sd nl12.0BTP-29, BTP-NL pi-13
2002sd nl8.0AS, BTP-88, BTP-NL pi-30
2003sd nl0.0 
2004sd nl8.7BTP-65, BTP-NL pi-22
2005sd nl7.0MVP-17
2006sd nl7.0AS, BTP-115, BTP-NL pi-33, CYA-2, MVP-10
2007sd nl3.0AS
2008sd nl9.0BTP-69, BTP-NL pi-27
2009mil nl7.0AS
2010mil nl1.0 
Total 129.4BTP-21, BTP-pi-14

* Box-Toppers record keeping began in 1995. Hoffman appeared in 67 games in 1993 and 47 games in 1994, recording 25 of his 601 career saves.

AS All-star selection
BTP Finish among all players in Box-Toppers points
BTP-NL pi Finish among all NL pitchers in BTP
CYA Finish in league Cy Young Award voting
MVP Finish in league Most Valuable Player Award voting

Source: Information for player awards comes from Baseball-Reference.com

So why does Rivera have fewer Box-Toppers points than Hoffman?

First: Box-Toppers measures which player most contributes to a team’s win. While Rivera was with the Yankees, there was a cavalcade of stars who made contributions who regularly edged out Rivera to earn Player of the Game honors (and thus, Box-Toppers points)—Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Jason Giambi … the names roll off the tongue and are among all-time career leaders in Box-Toppers points. But Hoffman did not have as many stars around him (his San Diego teammate Jake Peavy is the only one that comes to mind at present) and so the competition among team members to earn Box-Toppers points was less, allowing Hoffman to, perhaps, put up bigger numbers.

In addition, it’s simply harder for a closer to accumulate a lot of Box-Toppers points. When they pitch only one inning, it is hard for them to amass a large enough Box-Toppers game score in comparison with their teammates. For a closer to earn Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors, they almost have to dominate their inning, striking out the side and allowing no hits, while their teammates either completely fail or make only minor contributions to the win. The closer may only win Player of the Game honors because the starting pitcher got shelled and no batter had a decent hitting line.

Box-Toppers doesn’t give credence to the so-called “clutch” or late-inning situation in which most closers find themselves. In the view of the Box-Toppers statistic, the first inning is as important as the ninth and the first game is as important as the 162nd. So, a closer who pitches one inning and faces just three batters may do it well and may give his team an emotional boost, but it is hard for him to compete statistically with the pitcher who goes seven innings or the batter who makes four plate appearances and gets three hits.

Given all those obstacles, it is really remarkable that Rivera and Hoffman could accumulate so many points over their careers—for comparison here are the next highest-ranked closers on the all-time Box-Toppers points list:

• Billy Wagner (1996-2010), 108.7, ranked 44th overall.

• Troy Percival (1995-2009), 80.7, ranked 102nd overall.

• Rob Nen (1993-2004), 66.0, ranked 157th overall.

Given his status as “saves king” and his reputation for postseason dominance, it may be true to say Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. But it can also be fair to say that Hoffman is actually the closer who contributed most often to his teams’ wins.

Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. Players earn Box-Toppers points for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.

Coming next in the series: Roy Oswalt

Previously in the series: Alex Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, Manny Ramirez, Johan Santana, Jim Thome, Derek Jeter