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Monday, June 27, 2011

Silva: Gossage: Rivera’s Job a “Piece of Cake”

3D Goose cake baking is fun!

Goose Gossage was on the air with Evan Roberts of WFAN yesterday from Six Flags Great Adventure. They talked about the greatness of Mariano Rivera, but you could tell that Goose had his doubts that Rivera could sustain his current length of dominance if he had to do multiple inning saves.

...“I wasn’t a closer, I was a relief pitcher,” Gossage said. He made a great point that he was not just the closer, but the seventh and eighth inning man. He pointed out that he came on with inherited runners in the seventh or eighth inning many times. Some of those situations required that he keep the ball out of play.

Gossage went on to say that “Mariano doesn’t come in with inherited runners. He gets to start out the ninth with nobody on… Easy? It is a piece of cake compared to what we use to do.”

While I do agree with Gossage that closing games during his era versus the modern game is different, I also think you can’t deny the length of dominance by him since no other one inning closer has lasted this long. Eckersley had a six year run; Lee Smith had an eight year run with Chicago and Boston; Hoffman was much more hittable after missing most of the 2003 season; Jeff Reardon had a 3 to 4 year run in Montreal; Billy Wagner was good until his retirement, but I don’t know if I can put him on the same level as an elite closer. He gave us his share of homers and blown saves. Rivera is entering his 16th season of ninth inning excellence.

I can see Gossage’s point about the roles being completely different. It just sounded like Goose wasn’t as impressed with the “Great Rivera” as the rest of us.

Repoz Posted: June 27, 2011 at 12:04 PM | 124 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, media, sabermetrics, yankees

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   1. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: June 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM (#3863213)
There have always been guys who are more dominating for a short stretch than Rivera is. But Rivera is always just a little bit behind those top guys, and he just keeps going and going, while they always burn out after a couple of years. It's amazing.
   2. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 12:21 PM (#3863217)
There is truth in what Gossage is saying. If he had started his career in the '90s, his ERA+ would have been much better and he would have had many more saves. Yet, he would still have been the same pitcher he was in reality.

Of course, the Goose could have said it a little bit more diplomatically (not his forte :-) and still acknowledge the fact that Rivera is a great one.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 12:23 PM (#3863218)
There have always been guys who are more dominating for a short stretch than Rivera is. But Rivera is always just a little bit behind those top guys, and he just keeps going and going, while they always burn out after a couple of years. It's amazing.


Could Wilhelm have had a Rivera-type career had both of them been contemporaries? Interesting to think about.
   4. hardrain Posted: June 27, 2011 at 12:27 PM (#3863219)
So Goose is taking over Bob Feller's role as Baseball's Cranky Old Man?
   5. TomH Posted: June 27, 2011 at 12:28 PM (#3863220)
Bob Gibson: Gossage's job a "piece of cake"
Lefty Grove: Gibson's job a "piece of cake"
Cy Young: Grove's job a "piece of cake"
Hoss Radbourn: Young's job a "piece of cake"
   6. Cooper Nielson Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:06 PM (#3863231)
Billy Wagner was good until his retirement, but I don’t know if I can put him on the same level as an elite closer. He gave us his share of homers and blown saves.

Not the main point here, but if Billy Wagner was not an "elite closer," how many elite closers have there been? Are there even 10 closers in history who have been better than Wagner?

He's 5th all-time in saves despite retiring "early" (he was 38, but coming off a 1.43 ERA season with 13.5 K/9IP, which suggested he had plenty of baseball in him). His career ERA+ is 188, and his career K/9IP is 11.9. He was far more elite than Lee Smith or Jeff Reardon ever were.

I'll give you Rivera, Eckersley, Hoffman, Gossage and....?
   7. spike Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:19 PM (#3863237)
Not the main point here, but if Billy Wagner was not an "elite closer," how many elite closers have there been?

As the saying goes, consider the source.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:22 PM (#3863240)
I'll give you Rivera, Eckersley, Hoffman, Gossage and....?


I mentioned his name before in #3.
   9. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:27 PM (#3863245)
The only reason Gossage can safely talk about cake is because the Yankees dumped Sparky Lyle.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:34 PM (#3863253)
Gossage is right, of course. The modern closer is a ridiculously coddled position.

Gossage's best seasons (133 IP/244 ERA+, 134.3 IP/181 ERA+) are much more impressive than Rivera at his best. He alsmost certainly would have had shinier numbers if he was coddled like modern closers (<80 IP p.a.).

That said, Rivera's long-term consistency and excellence is freakish. If Rivera was going to be in the HoF and Gossage wasn't, that would be an injustice. But since Gossage is in, there's no problem.

Edit: Interestingly, if you look at Gossage's career as a closer 1975, 1977-86, his career stats are an eerie match for Rivera. 1039.3 IP, 2.21 ERA for Goose, 1180.1 IP 2.22 ERA for Mo. If the Pirates hadn't used Gossage as an SP in 1976, and he put up a relief season in line with his adjacent years, ~130 IP, ERA <2.00, they'd be almost an exact match.
   11. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:38 PM (#3863259)
The only reason Gossage can safely talk about cake is because the Yankees dumped Sparky Lyle.

In Soviet Union, Sparky Lyle get cake dumped!
   12. Greg Pope Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:41 PM (#3863260)
I'll second #6 here. Obviously Rivera is the gold standard among the modern closers, but there's no reason to denigrate the others. I mean, the comment about Hoffman?

Hoffman was much more hittable after missing most of the 2003 season


Hoffman had 352 career saves by the end of 2002! What more dominance do you need? And of course got another 259 after that.
   13. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:52 PM (#3863273)
There is truth in what Gossage is saying. If he had started his career in the '90s, his ERA+ would have been much better and he would have had many more saves. Yet, he would still have been the same pitcher he was in reality.

Average IP, ages 26-40 (Rivera's first year as a reliever till last year):
Mariano Rivera: 72
Goose: 71

Yes, pitching multiple innings now and again, probably hurts Gossage, but it's not going to give him 80 points of ERA+, no matter how you slice it.

Inherited runners gon't get charged to that pitcher's ERA, so that point is irrelevant. OTOH though, coming in with outs in an inning should help your ERA, since e.g. baserunners allowed with no outs in the inning are much more likely to score than baserunners allowed with 2 outs.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:56 PM (#3863278)
Average IP, ages 26-40 (Rivera's first year as a reliever till last year):
Mariano Rivera: 72
Goose: 71


That's an unfair comparison, as I'm sure you know.

Gossage was only a full-time closer in 1975, and 1977-86. In those 11 years he totaled 1039.1 IP, or 94.5 IP p.a.
   15. JRVJ Posted: June 27, 2011 at 01:57 PM (#3863280)
1. This is not the first time that Gossage has sort-of-ragged on Mariano, and I'll bet that it won't be the last.

However, Gossage seems unwilling to go full out and say: "I'm ticked off that writers write about how great Mariano is and they don't for me", so he couches his criticism in elliptical terms.

2. I'm not entirely sure that Gossage would have been as successful as Mariano if he had been a modern-style closer, for two reasons: (a) Mariano pitched in the middle of the Steroids era (Gossage did not); (b) It's not automatic that Gossage would have been healthy in a different role (perhaps yes, perhaps no).

3. The Legend of Mariano Rivera is not just based on the regular season, but on his amazing post-season records (I never tire of pointing out that Mariano is in the top 10 of IP in the post-season, with the equivalent of a hair under two regular seasons worth of work (by Mariano, I mean)). Indeed, Mariano's post-season numbers are so much better than Mariano's regular season numbers, that if Mariano had pitched at that level during the regular season, he would seriously be in discussion as one of the best pitchers of all time.

Gossage's post season numbers are acceptable, but not in the same league (Mariano has pitched 108 extra post-season innings, with MUCH better results).
   16. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 02:03 PM (#3863292)
Its a piece of cake, but its very, very, very good cake.
   17. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 02:05 PM (#3863295)
Gossage's best seasons (133 IP/244 ERA+, 134.3 IP/181 ERA+) are much more impressive than Rivera at his best. He alsmost certainly would have had shinier numbers if he was coddled like modern closers (<80 IP p.a.).
Cherrypicking. Since he only came close to those two seasons once more.


Interestingly, if you look at Gossage's career as a closer 1975, 1977-86, his career stats are an eerie match for Rivera. 1039.3 IP, 2.21 ERA for Goose, 1180.1 IP 2.22 ERA for Mo. If the Pirates hadn't used Gossage as an SP in 1976, and he put up a relief season in line with his adjacent years, ~130 IP, ERA <2.00, they'd be almost an exact match.

!) Run Environments matter. 70/80s vs sillyball is a huge difference.
2) Expecting Goose to match what were by far his 2 best seasons is wishful thinking.
3) You're including Rivera's first crappy year, where he was mostly starter, and never a closer. Drop that and his ERA goes to 2.02. If you're only going to consider Goos's closer time, that only seems fair.
4) Overall ERA as RP: Rivera - 2.05; Goose - 2.77
   18. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 02:12 PM (#3863302)
Yes, pitching multiple innings now and again, probably hurts Gossage, but it's not going to give him 80 points of ERA+, no matter how you slice it.


Multiple innings unquestionably hurt his normalized stats compared to the modern closer.

Having said that, I don't recall posting that Gossage was better than Rivera.

Wilhelm is the guy to compare to Mo, tough.
   19. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 02:34 PM (#3863336)
Having said that, I don't recall posting that Gossage was better than Rivera.

No. But Goose pretty much did. And since you posted in defense of what Goose said, you are guilty by association.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 02:56 PM (#3863364)
!) Run Environments matter. 70/80s vs sillyball is a huge difference.

I don't think so in the case. The useage advantage for closers seems to overwhelm that.

I'm not sure what the source of it is, but even through the sillyball era, closers had no problem putting up very low ERAs.

I'd guess the main reason is that by only pitching the 9th, closers have the amount of runs they can allow capped in something around half of their appearances. Closers pitching in the 7th and 8th could more easily get bombed and give up crooked numbers.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:04 PM (#3863380)
Having said that, I don't recall posting that Gossage was better than Rivera.

No. But Goose pretty much did. And since you posted in defense of what Goose said, you are guilty by association.


I think Gossage was the better pitcher, but Rivera has had the better career.
   22. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:26 PM (#3863422)
quick--without cheating--name the 9 teams Gossage played for in his career
   23. John DiFool2 Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:30 PM (#3863428)
To be fair to the Bat and his managers, in the postseason he would indeed often come in during the 8th inning with people on and try to get 4-5 out saves. I see it as a tradeoff between gaining some higher-leverage outs during longer stints vs. keeping him fresh and (presumably) uninjured by avoiding overwork.
   24. CrosbyBird Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:31 PM (#3863432)
If we stopped both players' careers at age 33, Gossage has a leg to stand on. Then Rivera starts to absolutely dominate him, pitching more innings per season, with much better performance.

Gossage was all but done as a dominant player (although he was still good) after his age 33 season. A typical Rivera season is in an entirely different class than a typical Gossage season. It may well be possible that Rivera couldn't do what Gossage did in 1977 and 1978, but we know for sure than Gossage couldn't put up the sort of numbers Rivera has in shorter seasons.

Interestingly enough, if you measure from age 25 to through the age 41 season (comparing the players for the seasons they both were active MLB players), Gossage is actually behind on innings (and Rivera is still accumulating this season). In those years, Gossage put up a 148 ERA+ and a 1.145 WHIP. Rivera has put up a 205 ERA+ and a 1.003 WHIP. If what Rivera is doing is so much easier, why didn't Gossage see a massive spike in his performance when he was being used even more sparingly?
   25. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM (#3863439)
I'd guess the main reason is that by only pitching the 9th, closers have the amount of runs they can allow capped in something around half of their appearances. Closers pitching in the 7th and 8th could more easily get bombed and give up crooked numbers.

(a) how many times has that happened? he has 20 road losses as a reliever, not all of them in the 9th.
(b) if Gossage stayed in even if he was being smacked around, that's a dumb manager.
(c) Gossage's ERA+ from age 34 on is 105, Mariano's is 236. would he have defied the aging curve as well as Mo has?
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM (#3863440)
Pirates, White Sox, Yankees, Padres, Cubs, Mariners, Giants, Rockies, A's.

Last three are total guesses.

And Goose, like Rice, ought to thank his lucky stars his undeserving ass is in the HoF and clam up. Sorry, but three tremendous relief seasons + Mike Timlin' career does not a Hall of Famer make in my book (admittedly, that book is very hard on relief pitchers - Mo and Hoyt are the only ones I'd admit to Cooperstown).
   27. Ray (CTL) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:44 PM (#3863460)
Five Facts About Mariano Rivera:

1. He is a great short relief pitcher who never had a bad season.

2. He is a deserving Hall of Famer by the standards set out for relief pitchers.

3. He did not fare well in a very short stint as a starter in the majors.

4. He pitched a wildly low number of innings for a Hall of Famer. Only Sutter pitched fewer innings without outside circumstances intervening (as they did with, e.g., Paige).

5. He only had two managers, both who babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:45 PM (#3863465)
If what Rivera is doing is so much easier, why didn't Gossage see a massive spike in his performance when he was being used even more sparingly?

I would guess the 1300+ IP he had thrown up to that point might have something to do with it.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3863468)
5. He only had two managers, both who babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.

Concur with this.
   30. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:49 PM (#3863472)
No. But Goose pretty much did. And since you posted in defense of what Goose said, you are guilty by association.


Sez you!
   31. Ray (CTL) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:50 PM (#3863473)
I think Gossage was the better pitcher, but Rivera has had the better career.


What's happened here is that, against all odds, the pitcher with the 205 career ERA+ is overrated.

That's a pretty neat feat.
   32. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:53 PM (#3863480)
If what Rivera is doing is so much easier, why didn't Gossage see a massive spike in his performance when he was being used even more sparingly?

I would guess the 1300+ IP he had thrown up to that point might have something to do with it.


The inverse applies, too. Would Mo's arm have held up under Gossage-like usage to the same degree it has up to now?
   33. Ray (CTL) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:53 PM (#3863481)
Concur with this.


Had he not pitched for a team that easily made the playoffs almost every year, he would not have been babied to such a massive extent. His managers would not have had that luxury.

Everyone points to his postseason success, which is of course unreal on a per-innings basis. But his managers set up that success for him to the greatest extent imaginable, by handling him with such extreme care during the regular season(s). No other pitcher was handled like that, was babied like that. And so no other pitcher was put in such an advantageous position to succeed during the postseason.

By the time a normal pitcher gets to the postseason, he has probably been worked hard at one time or another during the year, or down the stretch, as his team was fighting for a postseason berth.

And so it always amazes me that people point to Rivera's great regular season and postseason ERA+s without acknowledging the circumstances that he posted them in. Yes, they are still outstanding. But less so when one considers the context, and compares that context to the circumstances every other pitcher operated under.
   34. JRVJ Posted: June 27, 2011 at 03:56 PM (#3863483)
5. He only had two managers, both who babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.


Question 1: During the closer era, could you please tell me of a tier-1 reliever for whom his managers did not set-up game situations in an easy way?

Question 2: During the closer era, could you please tell me of a tier-1 reliever whose workload across seasons and multiple innings were not limited?

Question 3: During the closer era, could you tell me of a tier-1 reliever whose circumstances were not consistently as favorable as Mariano Rivera's?

By definition, I would think that to compare apples and oranges, you'd have to refer to pitchers who threw multiple seasons (not one season or a half season).

I ask, because I think it's unfair to single out Mariano Rivera for changes which occurred across baseball during his active years (I think pretty much all participants in this thread are clear as to the difference between relievers during the "fireman" period which Gossage pitched in and during the "closer" period which Mariano pitched in).
   35. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:02 PM (#3863488)
What's happened here is that, against all odds, the pitcher with the 205 career ERA+ is overrated.

That's a pretty neat feat.


True. I think the usage is dominating. If you line up the prolific closers by the year they first started closing (>20 svs) and their ERA+, it's nearly a perfect match.

Fingers '71, Gossage '75, Sutter '77, Reardon/Smith '82, Franco '85, Hoffman '94, Percival '96, Wagner/Rivera '97

ERA+: 120, 126, 136, 122/132, 138, 141, 147, 188/205

Sutter is the one outlier, but the trend is every increasing ERA+ for great closers.
   36. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:08 PM (#3863494)
SoSH: change Rockies to Texas and you got them all
   37. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:27 PM (#3863504)
I think Gossage was the better pitcher, but Rivera has had the better career.



What's happened here is that, against all odds, the pitcher with the 205 career ERA+ is overrated.

That's a pretty neat feat.


I dare you to try and handwave away the 14.4 WAR lead Mariano has. If you consider anything other than raw IP, Mariano comes out way ahead. There simply isn't a case to be made for Goose having a better career.
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:31 PM (#3863510)
I dare you to try and handwave away the 14.4 WAR lead Mariano has. If you consider anything other than raw IP, Mariano comes out way ahead. There simply isn't a case to be made for Goose having a better career.

I said Mo had a better career.
   39. John DiFool2 Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3863511)
...and all this 'babying' has presumably given him tremendous longevity, and he's still highly effective into his 40's now. If I'm the Yankees' brass this is probably about as optimal an outcome if you are trying to maximize your closer's total value over his entire career.
   40. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:37 PM (#3863514)
I said Mo had a better career.

Response to Ray, not you.
   41. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:38 PM (#3863515)
hasn't Rivera been "babied" far less than most of his peers? Papelbon has never even pitched 70 innings in a season. Hoffman pitched far fewer innings per season. Wagner hasn't pitched as many 70 inning seasons either. In fact, it's only been in the last few years that Rivera has dipped below 70 innings per season. I don't buy that Rivera has been babied more than other relievers of his era, if anything, he has shown over his carrer an ability and a willingness to go more than one innings more frequently than a number of his peers.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:39 PM (#3863516)
...and all this 'babying' has presumably given him tremendous longevity, and he's still highly effective into his 40's now. If I'm the Yankees' brass this is probably about as optimal an outcome if you are trying to maximize your closer's total value over his entire career.

Probably not, given that they are paying him $15M p.a. now. With that level of expenditure, you can always have a good closer.

The team likely would have been better off economically, extracting more value from him earlier in his career. If he had averaged 100 IP and 5 WAR during his "peak" (e.g. 27-35), rather than 70 IP and 3.5 WAR, they wouldn't have had to pay him much more (he was always one of the highest paid closers).

It's always better to concentrate more WAR into fewer seasons from a value perspective.
   43. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:40 PM (#3863517)
Given that Hoffman, Eck, and Mo's own predecessor, Wetteland, all were handled as he was in the closer role, JRVJ is correct, there's nothing "unprecedented" [27] about Mariano's usage. Blame it on TLR.
   44. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:41 PM (#3863520)
Mariano Rivera has had 10 70+ inning seasons as a reliever. Has anyone since 1995 come close to that? I can't think of anyone off the top of my head. (EDIT: and 6 seasons of 75ip or more.)
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:41 PM (#3863522)
hasn't Rivera been "babied" far less than most of his peers? Papelbon has never even pitched 70 innings in a season. Hoffman pitched far fewer innings per season. Wagner hasn't pitched as many 70 inning seasons either. In fact, it's only been in the last few years that Rivera has dipped below 70 innings per season. I don't buy that Rivera has been babied more than other relievers of his era, if anything, he has shown over his carrer an ability and a willingness to go more than one innings more frequently than a number of his peers.

From age 27-38 Rivera averaged 71 IP per season (regular season). That's babied, by huistorical standards, even if other closers were more babied.
   46. JRVJ Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:45 PM (#3863526)
I ask, because I think it's unfair to single out Mariano Rivera for changes which occurred across baseball during his active years (I think pretty much all participants in this thread are clear as to the difference between relievers during the "fireman" period which Gossage pitched in and during the "closer" period which Mariano pitched in).


Snapper, please read the above quotation from my post 34.

Thank you.
   47. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#3863527)
Snapper,

My comment was in reaction this comment earlier:

5. He only had two managers, both who babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.

Which just strikes me as wrong given how his durability and usage relative to his peers.
   48. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#3863528)
right, and by historical standards all players today are babied. fewer day games in the heat, fewer doubleheaders, better accommodation, better medicine, better equipment, yadda, yadda

but, hey, I'm not on your damned lawn!
   49. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:47 PM (#3863531)
From age 27-38 Rivera averaged 71 IP per season (regular season). That's babied, by huistorical standards, even if other closers were more babied.

I'd also remove 2002 from that calculus, as he spent a good portion of it on the DL which doesn't speak to his actual "usage".
   50. Repoz Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3863533)
Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.

High atop Mound Dodger Stadium...Koufax waves hi.
   51. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3863534)
Last point, in addition to having usage patterns which were at least as high as his peers, Rivera was also routinely pitching an additional 10 innings or so in the post season while many of his peers were walking 18 holes.
   52. Ray (CTL) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:49 PM (#3863539)
I said Mo had a better career.

Response to Ray, not you.


I agree Mo had a better career.
   53. cardsfanboy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:54 PM (#3863543)
I dare you to try and handwave away the 14.4 WAR lead Mariano has. If you consider anything other than raw IP, Mariano comes out way ahead. There simply isn't a case to be made for Goose having a better career.


If your not a fan of war for relievers it's not that hard to handwave it away. Gossage is correct that he faced a lot more inherited runners 810/277(ir/is) vs Rivera (345/100). I would love to find a nice stat that isn't based upon something silly like WPA that does a good job of rating the value of those inherited runners and scoring percentage.

Mind you I think Rivera is the better, more valuable pitcher personally as I don't think it's realistically to imagine anyone ever performing at the level he has for as long as he has. It's not his fault that he's a product of his time, but he's performed so incredibly that it's hard to imagine that it's possible for anyone else to ever have performed at that level.
   54. Ray (CTL) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:54 PM (#3863544)
hasn't Rivera been "babied" far less than most of his peers? Papelbon has never even pitched 70 innings in a season. Hoffman pitched far fewer innings per season. Wagner hasn't pitched as many 70 inning seasons either. In fact, it's only been in the last few years that Rivera has dipped below 70 innings per season. I don't buy that Rivera has been babied more than other relievers of his era, if anything, he has shown over his carrer an ability and a willingness to go more than one innings more frequently than a number of his peers.


Your error is in measuring "babying" by IP. But Rivera's managers have so carefully regulated his usage w/r/t back to back games, or three games in a row, or multi-innings usage, etc.

Rivera has always been handled with the primary goal of keeping him fresh for the postseason. I didn't think this was in dispute. And it's not the way other pitchers are handled.
   55. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:55 PM (#3863547)
For what it's worth, since the beginning of 2006, Papelbon has pitched 361 innings in 346 appearances. That is, he basically never pitches more than one inning per appearance, and given it's been almost exactly 5.5 seasons, his average seasonal totals have been 63 appearances with 65 innings pitched. I think this comment would be better applied to papelbon:

...babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.
   56. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 04:59 PM (#3863551)
Your error is in measuring "babying" by IP. But Rivera's managers have so carefully regulated his usage w/r/t back to back games, or three games in a row, or multi-innings usage, etc.

I think your error is in not providing any evidence whatsoever to back this up as was asked before. If other pitchers/closers were asked to do more, I can't find any evidence of this.
   57. cardsfanboy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:00 PM (#3863553)
For what it's worth, since the beginning of 2006, Papelbon has pitched 361 innings in 346 appearances. That is, he basically never pitches more than one inning per appearance, and given it's been almost exactly 5.5 seasons, his average seasonal totals have been 63 appearances with 65 innings pitched. I think this comment would be better applied to papelbon:


And it's arguable that the Red Sox are following the lead that the Yankees established with Rivera.
   58. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:03 PM (#3863556)
Just looked at 2001, and Rivera pitched back-to-back games 17 times that season. In addition to that (and not included in that number) were 4 times he pitched three days in a row. That makes for 25 appearances that season when he had pitched the previous day. (17+4+4).
   59. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:03 PM (#3863557)
I ask, because I think it's unfair to single out Mariano Rivera for changes which occurred across baseball during his active years (I think pretty much all participants in this thread are clear as to the difference between relievers during the "fireman" period which Gossage pitched in and during the "closer" period which Mariano pitched in).


Snapper, please read the above quotation from my post 34.

Sure, he didn't create the trends. But he's the best closer of the "babied closers" era, so the change gets discussed in the context of his career.
   60. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3863559)
   61. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3863560)
And it's arguable that the Red Sox are following the lead that the Yankees established with Rivera.

Or rather, following that lead and expanding upon it.
   62. JRVJ Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:05 PM (#3863561)
Your error is in measuring "babying" by IP. But Rivera's managers have so carefully regulated his usage w/r/t back to back games, or three games in a row, or multi-innings usage, etc.

Rivera has always been handled with the primary goal of keeping him fresh for the postseason. I didn't think this was in dispute. And it's not the way other pitchers are handled.


The first statement needs to be backed by data, which you haven't. Until you do, that's your opinion.

Your second statement assumes that other competing teams do not try to keep their closers fresh for the post-season-. I strongly doubt this.

And you still haven't answered the below:

Question 1: During the closer era, could you please tell me of a tier-1 reliever for whom his managers did not set-up game situations in an easy way?

Question 2: During the closer era, could you please tell me of a tier-1 reliever whose workload across seasons and multiple innings were not limited?

Question 3: During the closer era, could you tell me of a tier-1 reliever whose circumstances were not consistently as favorable as Mariano Rivera's?

By definition, I would think that to compare apples and oranges, you'd have to refer to pitchers who threw multiple seasons (not one season or a half season).
   63. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:09 PM (#3863563)
Another fascinating thing about Rivera's career is how his extremely few post-season blown saves have occurred at the worst possible moment.

From Cleveland in '97, to the 2001 WS, to the '04 ALCS, he could not have hand-picked the situations for his blown saves to cause more heartache. Weird.
   64. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#3863564)
The first statement needs to be backed by data, which you haven't. Until you do, that's your opinion.

I'd tell you that's a little harsh, but it's the same line that you hear when you suggest steroids might improve performance.
   65. JRVJ Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:12 PM (#3863566)
Uhh, when I suggest steroids improve performance? I very strongly doubt that I have ever written anything along those lines, so I think you mean the plural you (but I could be wrong).
   66. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:16 PM (#3863571)
Your error is in measuring "babying" by IP. But Rivera's managers have so carefully regulated his usage w/r/t back to back games, or three games in a row, or multi-innings usage, etc.

I believe Rivera is generally credited with pitching more back-to-back games, and even three in a row, as well as more multi-inning games, than his contemporaries. I'd be willing to admit error if someone has numbers showing something different, but I think Ray is just making stuff up, or perhaps comparing Rivera to pitchers of a different era.
   67. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:23 PM (#3863580)
Uhh, when I suggest steroids improve performance? I very strongly doubt that I have ever written anything along those lines, so I think you mean the plural you (but I could be wrong).

Sorry if I wasn't clear JRVJ, I was referring to Ray not you.

And yes to Yankee Clapper. The "babying" for the postseason was really during the last 5 years as the team became more concerned with his age.
   68. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3863594)
How does Ray keep managing to outdo himself with ever dumber comments?
   69. Bob Evans Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3863605)
The ghost of Robin Roberts told me that Gossage's job was a piece of cake.

Edit: Coke to #5.
   70. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:48 PM (#3863611)
From Cleveland in '97, to the 2001 WS, to the '04 ALCS, he could not have hand-picked the situations for his blown saves to cause more heartache. Weird.

You're welcome to B.H. Kim as your closer!
   71. Ray (CTL) Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:48 PM (#3863612)
Uhh, when I suggest steroids improve performance? I very strongly doubt that I have ever written anything along those lines, so I think you mean the plural you (but I could be wrong).

Sorry if I wasn't clear JRVJ, I was referring to Ray not you.


Uhh, when have I suggested steroids improve performance? I very strongly doubt that I have ever written anything along those lines.
   72. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:50 PM (#3863614)
Uhh, when have I suggested steroids improve performance? I very strongly doubt that I have ever written anything along those lines.

I wasn't clear in my post. Obviously, you haven't suggested as much.
   73. SoSH U at work Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:51 PM (#3863616)
From Cleveland in '97, to the 2001 WS, to the '04 ALCS, he could not have hand-picked the situations for his blown saves to cause more heartache. Weird.


I'll give you '97 and '01, but if you're going to blow a save in the postseason, Game 4 in 2004 was probably the ideal time. Game 5 (with two games coming up at home) was still not terribly ill-timed.

One reason it looks like he picked the worst times is that by not blowing those other saves, he made series losses much less likely.
   74. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 27, 2011 at 05:56 PM (#3863623)
Your error is in measuring "babying" by IP. But Rivera's managers have so carefully regulated his usage w/r/t back to back games, or three games in a row, or multi-innings usage, etc.

This makes no sense. There's no way to pitch more often without pitching more innings, and Mo's innings pitched are, as you concede, not out of line with other closers' IP.
   75. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3863629)
Mariano Rivera is remarkable. I watched the Rockies game yesterday and it was vintage Rivera. I think he could go another three or four years if he chooses.
   76. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:06 PM (#3863630)
I said Mo had a better career.
Response to Ray, not you.

I agree Mo had a better career.


Well, then care to elaborate on your response here?:

I think Gossage was the better pitcher, but Rivera has had the better career.

What's happened here is that, against all odds, the pitcher with the 205 career ERA+ is overrated.

That's a pretty neat feat.


The first part - Goassage is a better pitcher than Mariano* - has no floor on Mariano's ability, so he can't be overrated there. He could literally be the worst pitcher in history, and that would be a true statement.
That leaves the second part - Rivera had a better career than Goose - as the only possible part of the statement that overrates him... but how can you agree with it, and still claim it overrates him?

*I disagree, but that's beside the point
   77. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:10 PM (#3863636)
Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.

High atop Mound Dodger Stadium...Koufax waves hi.


Ed Walsh waves "hi" even harder. :-)
   78. zack Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:12 PM (#3863638)
#27, Ray: 5. He only had two managers, both who babied him to the greatest extent that could reasonably have been imagined, who set up the game situations for him to be as easy for him as possible, and who limited his workload across seasons and across multiple innings to an unprecedented degree for a non-LOOGY. Rivera arguably pitched under the most favorable circumstances of any major league pitcher who came before him or after him.


I don't know why I bother, but I don't see how you can justify this.

Here's Rivera versus some other elite modern closers (Hoffman, Wagner, Gagne, Nathan, K-Rod, Papelbon).

Percentage of games that were 4+ outs as closers*: Rivera, 20%. Others, 12%.
Percentage of games that were 6+ outs as closers*: Rivera, 6%. Others, 5%.

IP per 162G as closers*: Rivera, 75IP. Others, 72IP.

*in this case careers after assuming the closer role. So 1997 on for Rivera, 2004 on for Nathan, etc.

Percentage of games that were 0 days rest as relievers (not just as closers): Rivera, 29%. Others, 26%.
Percentage of games that were 1 days rest as relievers (not just as closers): Rivera, 25%. Others, 25%.

Rivera was treated like every other modern closer. If anything, his workload was marginally tougher.

I'd post the figures individually, but tables are impossible to read on BBTF.
   79. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:19 PM (#3863642)
I generally agree with Ray.

Rivera pitched in the Outlier Era, in which it was much easier to best the averages by a wide margin than in previous eras -- for both hitters and pitchers.

Rivera pitched an inordinately small number of innings per season -- the equivalent of 8 or 9 starts.

He doesn't blow people away like guys like Wagner, Wohlers, Gagne and likely a whole bunch of post-1980 closers - his K/9 ratio for a closer is pedestrian.

In his only major league try at pitching as a starter, in a normal number of innings where things like endurance and pitch array come into play, he was a dismal failure.

He's very tough to rate. There's no doubt that he's a product of the Outlier Era and the Closer Era. Certainly he's the best closer of his time, and his postseason record is very good, but he's an accident of time and place. It's nearly impossible to make a reasoned estimate of how he would have stood up in other eras, and the tools by which that is customarily measured -- comparison to the average guy of one's era -- don't really work.
   80. Deacon Blues Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:25 PM (#3863650)
I generally agree with Ray.

...and then there were two.
   81. SoSH U at work Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:27 PM (#3863653)
In his only major league try at pitching as a starter, in a normal number of innings where things like endurance and pitch array come into play, he was a dismal failure.


He wasn't terribly good in a relief role that year either. It's possible he was going to struggle with MLB batters his first year regardless the role he was placed in.

You want to find an example of a guy who provided much stronger evidence he couldn't hack it as a starter, it's the loudmouth at the top.
   82. rconn23 Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:28 PM (#3863657)
"And it's not the way other pitchers are handled."

Um, no. Most relievers on teams with postseason aspirations are handled this way. Francona basically puts Papelbon in a glass case.
   83. zack Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:30 PM (#3863659)
#79: In his only major league try at pitching as a starter, in a normal number of innings where things like endurance and pitch array come into play, he was a dismal failure.


All of 10 starts as a 25 year old. More importantly, those ten starts all came before he began throwing the cutter.
   84. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:32 PM (#3863664)
Here's Rivera versus some other elite modern closers (Hoffman, Wagner, Gagne, Nathan, K-Rod, Papelbon).

Do those numbers include the postseason? Because Rivera's usage was stretched in the playoffs quite a bit - 120 innings in 83 games from '97 on. The other guys on the list:

Hoffman: 13 IP, 12 G
Wagner: 11.2 IP, 14 G
Gagne: 9.1 IP, 9 G
Nathan: 7.2 IP, 6 G (not including 2003)
K-Rod: 13 IP, 10 G (treating 2004 like a closer year, not including 2002)
Papelbon: 27 IP, 18 G

Paps is the only guy on that list who's been similarly extended.

Even if Rivera's usage was hypothetically limited in the regular season to prepare him for the playoffs (which I'm not exactly convinced of, given the evidence presented here), the fact of his exceptional playoff performance more than compensates for this limitation.
   85. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:34 PM (#3863668)
You want to find an example of a guy who provided much stronger evidence he couldn't hack it as a starter, it's the loudmouth at the top.


Based on what? Goose allowed fewer hits than IP on a crappy team, had 15 CG, and was an all-star at 24 as a starter.

In any event, he was a reliever for four years, was lights out in 1975, the Chisox decided to give him a whirl as a starter for a year, and he went back to being a reliever. It was a silly idea, but he wasn't a failed starter like Rivera.
   86. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:38 PM (#3863674)
He wasn't terribly good in a relief role that year either. It's possible he was going to struggle with MLB batters his first year regardless the role he was placed in.

This. It's not like it would be completely unprecedented for someone to struggle as a starter at first, then settle in to become good. (Not that Rivera would have turned into the guy in the link. But 10 major league starts are not a terribly conclusive sample either way.)
   87. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:52 PM (#3863694)
This. It's not like it would be completely unprecedented for someone to struggle as a starter at first, then settle in to become good. (Not that Rivera would have turned into the guy in the link. But 10 major league starts are not a terribly conclusive sample either way.)

I was going to point to Halladay, but he did have a pretty decent season before his sucktastic 2000. But boy, did he ever suck...
   88. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 27, 2011 at 06:52 PM (#3863696)
Mariano's first year looks like Koufax's 1956 84 ERA+ vs Sandy's 83, both over 1.5 WHIP (Mo's lower). Randy Johnson's first full year starting was equally bad.

Interesting to see the sort of pitchers SBB would have DFA'd. (No wonder he's a ChiSox fan)
   89. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:11 PM (#3863708)
Goose's general point -- that he pitched in higher-leverage situations than Rivera, and that his extra 30-40 innings made him as or more valuable -- is clearly true.

WPA, top four years:

Gossage: 7.0, 5.9, 5.0, 5.0
Rivera: 5.4 (as a setup man), 5.1, 4.6, 4.5.

Gossage led the league in WPA twice; Rivera's never led the league.

Goose is also correct that he came in with the tying runs on base more than Rivera -- who very, very rarely does -- and the difference must be orders of magnitude.

This isn't to pick on Rivera in particular, but more on the pampered and sissyish -- and overrated -- modern closer's role.
   90. SoSH U at work Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:12 PM (#3863710)
Based on what? Goose allowed fewer hits than IP on a crappy team, had 15 CG, and was an all-star at 24 as a starter.


If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were using a few selectively chosen numbers to make Goose's career as a starting pitcher appear better than it actually was.
   91. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:15 PM (#3863714)
If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were using a few selectively chosen numbers to make Goose's career as a starting pitcher appear better than it actually was.

You wrote that he couldn't hack it as a starter and that isn't true.
   92. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:16 PM (#3863715)
The one year in his prime that Gossage was able to pitch a Mariano-esque number of innings, always refreshed, was 1981. His ERA+ was 465 that year, and he gave up less than a hit every two innings.
   93. SoSH U at work Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:23 PM (#3863718)
You wrote that he couldn't hack it as a starter and that isn't true.


If Mariano Rivera, who started 10 games as a rookie when he didn't have much success at either starting or relieving, is a "failed starter," then there's no way in hell an already established elite reliever who put up a 91 ERA+ while registering 90 walks to his 130 strikeouts in 29 starts proving anything other than the fact as a starter, he's a failure.
   94. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:34 PM (#3863729)
If Mariano Rivera, who started 10 games as a rookie when he didn't have much success at either starting or relieving, is a "failed starter," then there's no way in hell an already established elite reliever who put up a 91 ERA+ while registering 90 walks to his 130 strikeouts in 29 starts proving anything other than the fact as a starter, he's a failure.

I'll leave it to others to do the Sporting News/SI searches, but my recollection is that Gossage (and, IIRC, Forster) were made starters more on a whim than anything else; it wasn't a situation where it was seen as the next, more lofty role in his career path. Thus, he wasn't a "failed starter," though he certainly wasn't as good a starter as he was a reliever -- which, I think we'd all agree, was a very high bar given his 1975 and 1977 performance. His 1977 was basically a double Mariano, only more dominant.
   95. SoSH U at work Posted: June 27, 2011 at 07:48 PM (#3863741)
I'll leave it to others to do the Sporting News/SI searches, but my recollection is that Gossage (and, IIRC, Forster) were made starters more on a whim than anything else; it wasn't a situation where it was seen as the next, more lofty role in his career path.


What does the motivation behind the move matter? He was tried in the role, he was mediocre (at best) at it over the course of a full season, and thus he was moved back to a place where his limited skill set could be better employed, like so many other relief pitchers since the dawn of man.
   96. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: June 27, 2011 at 08:02 PM (#3863757)
quick--without cheating--name the 9 teams Gossage played for in his career

I'm late to the party but...

White Sox
Pirates
Yankees
Padres
A's
Mariners
Giants
Cubs
Rangers
???

Off to BBref to see...

edit: ####### nailed it! I'm a bigger Goose Gossage fan than I thought!
   97. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 08:16 PM (#3863765)
What does the motivation behind the move matter? He was tried in the role, he was mediocre (at best) at it over the course of a full season, and thus he was moved back to a place where his limited skill set could be better employed, like so many other relief pitchers since the dawn of man.

The starter angle is a sideshow; I won't speak for Ray, but I only brought up because Rivera throws one pitch, making his projection to a more weighty role even more difficult than it already is. The fact that he failed as a starter only buttresses the point, but it's unnecessary.

Given his broader repertoire of pitches and the fact that he regularly pitched more than once through the order, I don't see the same reason to doubt Gossage's ability to jump from 130-140 innings to 200-220.(**) If you think his one year as an off-the-cuff starter for a silly organization is, fair enough.

(**) Gossage's 133 innings in 1977, at a 244 ERA+, were a mere 66 innings less than Pedro Martinez pitched in 2002, when his 202 ERA+ earned him a CYA-2. Gossage's 141 IP in 1975, at a 212 ERA+ were a mere 45 innings less than Pedro pitched in 2003, when his 211 ERA+ earned him a CYA-3. During those years, Pedro was seen as enhancing his stature as one of the elite pitchers in baseball history.

Given the closer innings proximity, the fact that Gossage frequently worked through the order more than once, and the fact that Gossage had a wider repertoire of pitches than Rivera, Gossage's seasons bear a much closer resemblance to Pedro's than Rivera's do to Gossage's and, thus, even though both were "relievers," Rivera's role was fundamentally different than Gossage's. (As noted above, Gossage's closest prime season to a "Mariano" season, 1981, was otherworldly.)
   98. Stormy JE Posted: June 27, 2011 at 08:34 PM (#3863778)
This makes no sense. There's no way to pitch more often without pitching more innings, and Mo's innings pitched are, as you concede, not out of line with other closers' IP.

Batters faced? Pitches thrown?
   99. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 27, 2011 at 08:42 PM (#3863788)
You have to make a hell of a lot of adjustments to get a pitcher with a career ERA+ of 126 up to the level of one with a career ERA+ of 205. Gossage is a deserving HOFer but he wasn't remotely in Rivera's league when it came to year-to-year consistency.

Other comparisons:

WHIP: Mo 1.003, Goose 1.232
K / 9: Mo 8.2, Goose 7.5
BB / 9: Mo 2.1, Goose 3.6

As Sparky Anderson once said when someone asked him to compare Thurman Munson to Johnny Bench, you shouldn't embarrass yourself by even trying to compare Goose Gossage to Mo.

One other minor tibit. Toughest multi-inning assignment in pennant-deciding games:

Mo in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 runs, kept the game tied until Boone won it.

Goose in the Bucky Dent game: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 2 runs, entered with 5-2 lead and wound up with the tying and winning runs on base.

And while Mo's remembered for his 3 most famous blown saves, let's not forget that Goose gave up a couple of memorable postseason home runs himself in key situations, as George Brett and Kirk Gibson might happily remind him.
   100. . Posted: June 27, 2011 at 08:58 PM (#3863808)
Including 1975 and 1977-1982, in roughly 2/3 the IP as Rivera's career, Gossage's ERA+ was around 200 (**) and his K/9 and H/9 were better than Rivera's, the latter significantly so. Adjusted for era, I'd argue that Gossage's K rates were materially better as well. His WPAs are also better, since he pitched more innings in tougher spots. As noted above, a season like Gossage's 1977 is like two Mariano seasons, only more dominant. His 1981 was, hands down, better than any Rivera season.

Granted, Gossage went on a lot longer than his prime years and was nowhere near as good as Mo was in his post-prime years (***). But, while he doesn't say it in quite these terms, this is what he's getting at in his rambles. Did he have a better career than Mo? No. Are his rambles Felleresque? Not yet.

(**) It's 196 for 1977-82, and 215 in 141 IP for 1975.

(***) Assuming they're even over.
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