There is little argument that Mariano Rivera is the best relief pitcher to ever play the game. But there is still a stigma that relievers are second-class citizens. Typically they are relievers because they failed as starters, and their workload suggests they are not as valuable as starters.
And for the most part, this is true. Well for almost every reliever, except Rivera.
If we look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR, how many wins a player has been worth) for all pitchers since Rivera’s rookie season (1995), we see that there have only been seven pitchers that have been more valuable. And all of those pitchers pitched more than twice as many innings in their careers.
Data via Baseball-Reference.com
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