Stats don't lie: Mariano leaves hitters in dust

Stats don't lie: Mariano leaves hitters in dust

NEW YORK -- When Mariano Rivera finally decides to hang up his cleats for the last time and end an illustrious career, he'll leave a trail of frustrated and disgruntled hitters in his wake.

Rivera has had his way with so many hitters, breaking bats with his notorious cut fastball or leaving some hitters -- as the legendary Ernie Harwell used to say -- standing there like a house by the side of the road as the ball zipped by in unprecedented fashion.

On that day when "Enter Sandman" no longer blares over the Yankees Stadium speakers in the ninth inning, teams around baseball surely will breathe a sigh of relief. But believe it or not, there will be a few opposing hitters who just might miss the future Hall of Famer.

Take David Ortiz, for example. The Boston slugger -- a face of the Yankees' arch-nemesis in the American League East -- has the fifth-most plate appearances against Rivera in the closer's career. Of those five hitters -- Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon and Ortiz, all of whom played at least a large chunk of their careers with the Red Sox -- Ortiz has the highest batting average (.333) among Red Sox players who've faced the 41-year-old. Ramirez, now retired, has the most RBIs against Rivera with nine.

It hasn't been all fun and games for the Red Sox, though, despite dealing Rivera stunning back-to-back blown saves en route to the American League pennant in 2004.

Rivera has 54 career saves against the Red Sox, while he has closed the door on the Orioles (70) the most. The other two AL East clubs -- Tampa Bay and Toronto -- occupy the second and fourth spots, respectively, on that list.

The only club Rivera doesn't have a save against? The Pirates, whom he has faced just twice in his career, totaling four complete innings. Why no save? In both games, he earned the win.

Hundreds of hitters have faced Rivera without racking up a hit -- none more often than Ray Durham, who faced Rivera 26 times without ever delivering a base knock.

Rivera, a 12-time All-Star, has made other All-Stars look downright foolish in their careers. For example, Dustin Pedroia (0-for-10), Jose Canseco (0-for-8, four strikeouts), Grady Sizemore (0-for-7, five strikeouts) and Frank Thomas (3-for-22) have all been baffled by the righty.

No one has more whiffs against Rivera than 12-time All-Star Ramirez (13), while Russ Davis (seven), Jorge Cantu (five) and Adam Dunn (four) lead the way for players with the distinction of striking out each time they stepped in against Rivera.

As mentioned earlier, it's not all been a walk in the park for Rivera, who has had a few players wield kryptonite when stepping into the batter's box.

No player has had the sustained success that longtime Mariners designated Edgar Martinez had: a .625 average (10-for-16) with two homers and six RBIs in 20 career plate appearances.

In fact, the only other two hitters against Rivera who have a batting average .500 or better with double-digit plate appearances are Jason Kubel (5-for-9, 10 plate appearances) and Magglio Ordonez (7-for-14).

Such an accomplished resume will all but guarantee Rivera -- who led the big leagues in saves in 1999, 2001 and '04 -- a trip to the Hall of Fame, where he would join fellow closers like Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers.

In fact, Rivera has been able to prove his mettle against other all-time greats, holding Hall of Famers to a .231 (15-for-65) batting average with 11 strikeouts and zero home runs (no surprise, of course, that two AL East vets, Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken Jr., lead the way with five and four hits, respectively, in 17 at-bats apiece.

It's been a record 15 consecutive seasons that Rivera has recorded more than 25 saves, and time will only tell before it's Exit Sandman. But when he does finally call it quits, most every player in baseball -- save for a select few -- just might be able to look upon their ninth-inning stats against Yankees with a sense of renewed optimism.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.