You are not a good pitcher if you are a relief pitcher, unless you are Mariano Rivera.

I once had a conversation with a fellow coworker when I was at Baseball Info Solutions last summer about closers. I won’t name any names, but I will say he is currently in the same fantasy baseball league I play in. He said, “If relief pitchers were any good they would be starters, unless your name is Mariano Rivera”.

I didn’t agree or disagree with him at the time, but my initial feeling towards his statement was that he was being a little harsh, and was somewhat off base with the comment.

Now, I have come to recoginze that he was pretty much on point. In today’s game, relief pitchers win and lose the closer role multiple times throughout a season anymore. Saves are overrated, and can really come from anyone at anytime. Except when you are facing the New York Yankees.

Last night, a little over a year since we had the conversation, Mariano Rivera recorded his 600th save. Trevor Hoffman was the first closer to hit the 600 save mark last year, but his skill was vastly diminished by the time he got to that point. Hoffman lost his closer role very early on last season to John Axford for those who don’t follow closely, and only was given his chance to hit the 600 save mark after the Brewers were not going to make the playoffs. Rivera on the other hand, seems to have the same dominating cutter that he had in 1997 when he took over the closer role from John Wetteland.

Rivera is 41 years old, and will be 42 in November, but it seems like he might actually have a shot at 700 saves. The least amount of saves he has had in any of the last five seasons is 30. So isn’t possible that in just a little over three seasons, (he still has a couple of weeks left in 2011) barring injury, we could see Mariano Rivera reach 700 saves at the age of 45??? Tim Wakefield won his 200th game last night and he is 45. I know it isn’t often you see players playing in their mid 40’s, but Rivera isn’t a typical player.

I don’t think the Yankees will tell Mariano to walk like they will with Jorge Posada at the end of this season. Rivera will be able to stay and play as long as he likes, I mean, dude is a first ballot Hall of Fame player. I wonder what the Vegas odds are on Mariano hitting 700 before he retires? If I had to take the over/under on 699 saves for Mariano Rivera, I would take the over baby!

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