Joe and Mo
Mariano Rivera was the set-up man in the 8th inning for the American League in the All-Star Game. The closer was none other than Texas’ own Joe Nathan. Both recorded scoreless innings. Nathan allowed a double that flew painfully over Nelson Cruz’s head, while Rivera had a perfect 8th. In an All-Star Game that saw more new faces than ever, these seasoned veterans proved they still have it. Mo is considered the best in the game (or to have ever played the game) at what he does. While that may be absolutely true, is Joe Nathan that far behind him? Absolutely not.
Despite the fact that fans and sports media alike constantly try to predict the end of Joe Nathan’s career, he’s still here and still performing at a superior level. With every hit Nathan allows, fans scream and yell about getting him out of there, but he manages to close the game out anyway. Nathan has only blown one save so far this season, which is excellent considering Mariano Rivera has blown 2. They are even at 30 saves apiece, though. Both have also recorded ERAs under 2.00 so far this season; Joe’s being 1.36 and Mariano’s at 1.83. Joe Nathan’s K/9 is 9.53 which is a bit better than Rivera’s at 8.39. On the flip side, Rivera’s BB/9 is lower at 1.83 to Nathan’s 2.27.
In some ways Joe Nathan has been better this year like strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP (0.76), and in other ways Rivera has edged out Nathan like walk rate and xFIP (3.08). Nathan’s pitched five more innings this season than Rivera has and recorded a +.5 game difference in fWAR. However, looking at their career stats shows more similarities than differences, and pretty great pitchers from both sides.
The careers are very comparable. While Mo has been superior, Nathan isn’t too far behind. Both ERAs are outstanding, and the xFIP numbers are on the higher end of better than average. Joe Nathan generally throws a few more balls and gets a few more walks, but also strikes out more batters. That explains the almost even WHIP numbers. There isn’t much to complain about in either set of career numbers.
Mariano Rivera’s career has truly been one of awe and honor. He’ll be remembered as a legend in the baseball world, and it’s very much deserved. A Rivera cutter is a precious thing to see, and a difficult thing to hit. Joe Nathan has got a good one, too. Mo is the current active saves leader, with Nathan coming in a distant second. Nathan catching Mo’s all-time record is unlikely, but he’s still sitting pretty at number 13 all time, with the possibility of cracking the top 10 by the end of the season. Mo’s a legend, but Joe’s like Hercules—doesn’t have the status, but he’s close enough to talk about.