(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstriped Bible)
If you expected Mariano Rivera to be slowed by his recovery from off season knee surgery, shame on you. The 19-year veteran has shown now signs of letting up as he takes one final victory lap around the majors. In fact, it looks as if he may have saved his best for last.
With five months left in the season, there’s no use projecting how Rivera’s final season will stack up among the others from his glorious career. However, it’s interesting to note that the immortal closer’s peripherals, including K/9 and BB/9, are in line with his best individual season rates. In addition, Rivera’s opening month was one his most productive. With 10 saves in the early going, the future Hall of Famer set a personal high for April, putting him on pace to break his single season record of 53.
Rivera has a lot of work to do before establishing a new personal high for saves, but barring an injury, he seems like a lock to break Billy Wagner’s record for most close outs in a career finale (after the age of 35). If Rivera winds up leading the league in saves, he’d also become on the third pitcher to do so in his last season, joining Jim Turner and Iron Joe McGinnity, who recorded 10 and 5 saves, respectively, in 1945 and 1908.
Rivera will also be gunning for Billy Wagner’s final season ERA+ of 275, which the lefty set in 2010 with the Braves. That’s a high bar to clear, but Rivera figures to rank prominently on the list of best relative earned run rates among pitchers with at least 30 innings in their final season (after the age of 35).
Note: Based on minimum of 30 innings.
The hallmark of Mariano Rivera’s remarkable career has been its consistent excellence, so it’s only fitting that the greatest closer of all time go out on top. Rivera has always taken the high road, so, even though most Yankees wouldn’t mind if he traveled it a little further, it’s comforting to think his last steps will be as triumphant as his first. For 19 years, there has only been one Mariano Rivera, and that’s why there likely will never be another.