Sandy Koufax had his curveball. Pedro Martinez had his changeup. Nolan Ryan had his fastball. And Mariano Rivera has his cut fastball.
Each of these pitchers have a signature pitch. But what sets Rivera apart from the other greats listed here is that he has nothing else.
It’s not like Rivera’s other pitches are junk, because he has no other pitches. Okay, once every blue moon he throws a four-seam fastball, but he will likely go to Cooperstown having thrown one kind of pitch throughout much of his Major League career.
The brilliance of Mariano Rivera: you know what’s coming EVERY TIME, and you still can’t hit it.
I always thought Rivera should ditch “Enter Sandman” for Monty Python’s lumberjack song. Why? His cutter has broken so many bats that he could run his own firewood company.
But if Rivera is the greatest closer of all time, what if he had more variety on his pitches? And starter’s stamina? Would he be the greatest pitcher of all time period? Unlikely, considering names like Cy Young, Walter Johnson, et al. But in today’s game, he would be a beast as a starter.
Most good starters today have three to four, maybe five (or in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s case, over 9,000) pitches that they can throw effectively. With his cutter – which I will go on record as dubbing the greatest individual pitch in Major League history – plus a four-seamer and something off-speed, Rivera could easily be the best starter in the game today.
Let’s also not forget the fact that Rivera is 40 years old and still growing that cutter in the low-to-mid 90s. Most pitchers, starter or reliever, lose that zip substantially well by that age. But when you’re repeating your motion – and your pitch – as well as Rivera has over his decade-and-a-half career, it’s hard to lose a beat.
So why do I mention the possibility of Mariano Rivera the starter? Let’s face it – we remember the starters more than the closers. Only two closers have made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage.
But all this speculation likely will not matter. Mo’s resume speaks for itself – most postseason saves, soon to be most regular season saves, and, of course, that buzzsaw cutter. Enough for Cooperstown? I think so.