Joe Nathan Deserves Some Respect

July 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

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(REUTERS/Eric Miller)

When relievers are mentioned who do you think of? Mariano Rivera? Jonathan Papelbon? Brad Lidge? How about Joe Nathan? Yeah, he’s usually not very high on most people’s lists, and when he actually comes to mind there isn’t much prestige pointed in his direction. This is a shame! Joe Nathan is the best reliever since becoming a full-time “closer” 6 years ago.

Joe Nathan is not the best reliever of all-time, that title belongs to Rivera, but he is the best reliever since he moved to Minnesota six years ago. Here are his numbers in those six seasons (including this season):

  W-L ERA ERA+ IP H K BB K/BB K/9
2004 1-2 1.62 292 72.1 48 89 23 3.87 11.1
2005 7-4 2.70 165 70.0 46 94 22 4.27 12.09
2006 7-0 1.58 283 68.1 38 95 16 5.94 12.51
2007 4-2 1.88 230 71.2 54 77 19 4.05 9.67
2008 1-2 1.33 305 67.2 43 74 18 4.11 9.84
2009 1-1 1.44 283 31.1 18 39 6 6.50 11.20
6 Year Total 21-11 1.79 244 381.1 247 468 104 4.50 11.0

As you can see, Nathan’s stats look like a line from a video game. In 5 of those 6 seasons he posted an ERAs between 1.33 and 1.88. The only season he had an ERA higher was in 2005 when he posted a 2.70 (still great) and his peripherals suggest he should have had an ERA closer to those of his other 5 season’s. For a comparison, here are Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon’s stats in that same time frame:

Rivera’s Stats

  W-L ERA ERA+ IP H K BB K/BB K/9
6 Year Total 26-22 1.99 222 406.2 313 392 70 5.60 8.70

Papelbon Stats

  W-L ERA ERA+ IP H K BB K/BB K/9
5 Year Total 14-11 1.83 255 265.0 191 304 70 4.34 10.3

Nathan beats both superstar relievers in almost every category spanning the past 6 years (5 years for Paps). So, next time you have a discussion about the top relievers in the game and who you would want closing out your 1-0 game, please bring the name Joe Nathan up and quote his ridiculous stats he has consistently posted since becoming a full-time “closer”.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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