As I noted in last night's recap, Mariano Rivera converted his 32nd consecutive save opportunity last night dating back to April 29th, a set a new career high. This streak includes 43 appearances, during which he had a ERA of 1.85 and a K/BB ratio of 46/8. However, this span also included two losses (both to the Rays) one in which he gave up two homers and the other where he allowed 4 runs (3 earned).
As we all know, the save is an arbitrary and flawed statistic, so I was curious find out how this stretch stacked up with others in his career and what his finest streak really was. Using Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index Streak Finder (you can subscribe to the PI for $5/month or $30/year), I started running some queries.In the months of May, June and July over the past 5 years he's blown ONE SAVE, on June 17th, 2006 against the Nationals. Chew on that for a second. 15 months of baseball, one blown save. 133 save chances, 132 saves. It's sort of cherry picking months of the season, and he's had some difficulties in non-save situations over that span, but he has been incomparable at locking down wins once he hits his stride in the season. And he was 35 years old in 2005.
It turns out that Mo has had eerily similar runs starting sometime in April and running to various points throughout August in four out of the last 5 years.
Every year, he has some rough patches in April, when he's still finding his grove which cause people to get panicky. And he hits a couple of bumps in the road in August when the 40 something appearances he's accrued start to catch up with his arm, which cause others to wonder if there's something wrong with him, but there never is. You could set your watch to the guy. He's a man-chine.
If you look at those streaks, it's clear that the one in 2005, which he just "surpassed" in terms of saves, was the best. He had a 0.71 ERA, allowed just 31 hits and 8 walks in 50 2/3 IP (0.769 WHIP) and struck out 56. The 2008 version was also slightly better since he pitched more innings to a lower ERA.
It all depends on how you want to slice it. He had a streak of 88 games from April of '97 to July of '98 where he didn't give up more than more earned run in any appearance and had a 1.40 ERA. He did blow 9 saves and take 3 losses, but never both in the same game. During 71 outings from June 2003 to May 2004, he also didn't give up more than one ER at a time over that stretch and had only 5 blown saves and two losses.
There was one other streak without a blown save which spanned two seasons, which didn't fit in with the April/August iterations above, and it actually turns out to be the best of them all.
During this one, he went 44 appearances and 52 1/3 IP without a blown save or a loss, including the 12 1/3 IP in the postseason. As part of that run, from July 22nd, 1999 through the sweep of the Braves in the World Series, over 36 games and 43 IP, he didn't allow a single run. It's also worth noting that the current streak only includes 32 saves while this one has 33.
I believe that's the winner, folks. I'm guessing there has never been another streak like it, which included a scoreless postseason and World Series victory, but you're more than welcome to pony up the $5 to B-R, pull up the Streak Finder and try to prove me wrong.