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Key Stats: The thought crossed my mind to just be lazy and copy and paste what I wrote last year about Mariano Rivera. Or the year before. There was no Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove the year before that, but if there was I probably would have said what I’m going to say now about Rivera. It’s not a stretch to call him the best and the most consistent closer of all-time. What this guy has done in three seasons after age 38 is astonishing. He has a 1.64 ERA in almost 200 innings and has saved an average of 39 games per season.

Skeptics Say: Rivera only throws one pitch, so it’s possible that hitters will begin to sit on his cut fastball and start raking against Rivera. Or not.

In all seriousness, Rivera did show a touch of aging last season. He had only 45 strikeouts and 60 innings pitched – both numbers were the second worst totals of his career.

Peer Comparison: Rivera is the top ranked closer by FBHS. That’s not saying he’ll be the top ranked closer. Someone such as Heath Bell, Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz, or Brian Wilson will be better, just like they were last season. At the same time, it is very likely that one or two of these players will flop too, and there’s no telling which guy it will be. That’s been the pattern at this position for forever.

Go back to 2007, Rivera was outdone at the position by the likes of Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jose Valverde. Papelbon was the highest guy on the board heading into 2008. When that season was all said and done though Rivera was better than all of them. Now Jenks is an overpaid set-up guy while Papelbon and Valverde have each gotten significantly worse the last two seasons.

Go back to the season that Rivera had in 2009. He was brilliant as usual, but Andrew Bailey and Jonathan Broxton were slightly better. Bailey fell out of the top 100 last year and will be a serious health risk this upcoming season. Broxton gave up way too many fat pitches and was not close to the power pitcher he was the season before. The best closer on the board going into the season actually lost his job.

Rivera won’t be the top guy at the position, but he will be the safest guy. Even at 41.

Team Outlook: Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Alfredo Aceves combined for four legitimate (as in they did not pitch 3 innings, in extra innings, or with a big lead after entering in the 8th) saves last season. With the signing of Rafael Soriano, Joe Girardi now has an excellent excuse to save Rivera’s arm from saving games on back to back nights. The Yankees pitched Rivera on back to back days just 13 times last season, and never pitched him on three consecutive days. They were clearly making every effort to ensure that he was healthy for the playoffs which is sort of nice for fantasy teams, but at the same time save opportunities only come up about one-fourth of the time in baseball games.

What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #2 Relief Pitcher & #68 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #4 Relief Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #79 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #118 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #62 Overall; RotoChamp: #44 Overall

Projection: Rivera allowed more fly balls last season than he did in 2009, but had one of his best seasons in terms of home runs allowed. Look for a little stat correction as far as that is concerned, but I don’t think age catches up to him.
40 saves 4 wins 2.15 ERA 0.92 WHIP 59 K in 62 innings

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