Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 36 hours or so, you know that Mariano Rivera got his 602nd save yesterday. As a former and currently-sometime Yankees fan (they like to win and I like winning), and also having a six degrees of Kevin Bacon association with the Rivera family, this was really cool to follow.
This article from HardballTalk somewhat encapsulates how I feel about the “save” statistic. You can probably look up the MLB.com or wikipedia definition yourself, but basically a reliever has to conform to various arbitrary criteria in order to record a “save.” I often mock this statistic as I think it’s useless and prevents managers from leveraging their relievers properly because they’re either set in their philosophies that certain relievers must always be used in certain innings, or because their relievers want to rack up “saves” for more money. It was both amusing and sad to see the stupidity of the save statistic find its way into a great moment in baseball history as we see in the quote below:
“I couldn’t believe they were cheering me for hitting into a double play,” Swisher said. “I said: ‘Whoa, what’s this? And then I looked at the bullpen and saw Mo coming out and I said: ‘Now I get it!’ This was the greatest double play of my life.”
“Runners at first and second…it was unbelievable,” Rivera said. “I don’t ever want my teammates to do bad so I can pitch, but this time I was happy for the opportunity. I’m listening to the fans and I said: ‘Wow, these guys are into it!’”
I did make several jokes yesterday about this, when the Yankees were up big on the Twins and then threatening again late in the game. I bet if the Yanks had kept the big lead, we wouldn’t have even seen Rivera yesterday.
I love Mariano Rivera, and I think he’ll go into the Hall of Fame with no obstacles. But I really do hate the “save” statistic.