The Wade Davis of 2014, 2015, and the future is better than Mariano Rivera ever was, and it’s not that close.
Davis was once viewed as a complimentary piece in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade, and Davis looked like a bust after a horrendous 2013 spent predominately in the starting rotation.
Then, after a full time shift to being the setup man to Greg Holland, Davis morphed into the cyborg he is today. He has turned in two consecutive seasons that are better than any single season Rivera ever had.
Now let’s start with this: Rivera is a future first ballot Hall of Famer, he is the career saves leader, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for his career.
That being said, Rivera’s lowest single season ERA was an impressive 1.38 in 2005. Davis’ ERA over the past two seasons is somehow even more miniscule. In 2014 Davis posted an ERA of 1.00 followed by a 0.94 ERA in 2015.
Rivera’s lowest single season FIP, a measure of fielding independent pitching, 1.88 way back in 1996. Davis posted a FIP of 1.19 in 2014 and 2.29 in 2015.
Rivera’s highest ever K/9 ratio was 10.87, again back in 1996. Davis once again topped Rivera at 13.63 K/9 in 2014. The 10.43 K/9 posted by Davis in 2015 was topped by Rivera in only his 1996 season.
Taking a simple look at these regular season numbers appears to favor Davis. However, it is impossible to mention Rivera without noting his astonishing post season accomplishments.
Rivera’s 0.70 ERA across 141 postseason innings is the most impressive accumulation of postseason relief pitching dominance in baseball history. This longevity of dominance is unmatchable by Davis. Davis has, however, made the most of his postseason opportunities over the past two seasons.
While helping the Royals to back-to-back AL pennants and the 2015 World Series Championship, Davis has allowed 1 earned run over 25 innings, good for a 0.36 ERA. He has also posted 38 SO’s throughout those 25 innings, good for a 13.68 K/9. Davis was also recently named the 2015 Postseason MVP by BBWAA.
While Rivera’s longevity is unmatchable, Davis has managed to match Rivera’s postseason productivity when given the opportunity these past 2 seasons.
Davis is probably not going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer like Mariano Rivera. Davis will never be the MLB career save king. Everyone will remember Rivera’s cutter and postseason dominance long after he is enshrined into the halls of Cooperstown. Davis might be forgotten by non-Royals fans after his career is over.
All of this does not change Davis’ 2014 and 2015 seasons were significantly better than anything Rivera ever did over a similar 2 year stretch.