Many baseball enthusiasts would say that Hispanic baseball players have the game on lock, boasting All-star talent at every position on the field and representing nearly 30 percent of total MLB rosters.
Latino baseball players have been interwoven in the fabric of Major League Baseball for years. The 1960s was when the first big wave of Hispanic players hit the big leagues and over the years produced dominant hurlers such as Juan Marichal, Mariano Rivera, and Pedro Martinez, who we are celebrating during Hispanic Heritage month as the Top 3 Latino Pitchers in MLB History.
Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera is the greatest MLB closer of all-time and its not even close. He was probably the most dominant pitcher ever on an inning-by-inning basis. Raised in the modest Panamanian fishing village of Puerto Caimito, Rivera was an amateur player until signed by the Yankees organization in 1990. By 1997 he became the closer, the impenetrable anchor to a Yankees Dynasty that won four World Series in five seasons.
This is amazing. Mariano Rivera went from making a glove out of cardboard to the greatest closer in baseball history pic.twitter.com/0KBiIyPR0o
— Kent (@RealKentMurphy) August 1, 2017
Rivera was at his best with the money on the line, in the playoffs, when legends separate themselves from the mortals. He owned the ninth inning of baseball games and when you heard his theme song, Enter Sandman, and Rivera trotted in from the Yankees Stadium outfield bullpen, the opposition knew it was a wrap.
Mariano Rivera became the All-Time saves leader on this date in 2011. I offered him congratulations, but he offered it to me instead. Details in this story. Gracias Mariano. https://t.co/k493NnQV9v
Rivera carries an incomparable 0.70 ERA in 141.0 playoff innings, with five World Series rings. He was the Yankees closer for 19 years, retiring in 2013 with an all-time record 652 saves. The 13-time All-Star consistently placed in the MVP and Cy Young award and exceeded his competition for GOAT in ERA+ which is a players ERA, adjusted for the parks in which he pitches and the ERAs of the rest of the pitchers in the league. It is measured as a percentage of the league average, so an ERA of 90 is 10 percent worse than average and 110 is 10 percent better than average.
“He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal,” former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly once said of Rivera back in 1996.
Rivera has a career ERA+ of 205, far and away the best of all time, with a minimum 1,000 career innings pitched.
His competitors for GOAT closer status have also conceded to Mariano’s clear cut omnipotence.
Dennis Eckersley called him “the best ever, no doubt”.
Trevor Hoffman, who is second on the all-time saves list, said Rivera “will go down as the best reliever in the game in history”.
There are few, if any, baseball people who disagree.
There's only one greatest closer of all time, and that man is Mariano Rivera.https://t.co/72ag52Cnwg
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 14, 2016
In addition to being a great humanitarian, Rivera is credited with making the cut fastball a lethal, dominant and go-to pitch in today’s current MLB game. He’s considered the Tiger Woods or Wayne Gretzky of his position as far as impact and unquestioned superiority. Not only was Rivera 105 percent better than the average pitcher, but he was also 33 percent better than the next best.
2. Pedro Martinez
Former Boston Red Sox Dominican ace Pedro Martinez has the second-best career ERA+ at 154. Pedro posted some mind-boggling numbers as a pitcher during the height of the Steroids Era, when offensive statistics had ballooned to video game proportions and his 2000 season is a perfect example of his dominance.
1999 MLB ERA 4.71 Pedro Martinez 2.07 diff 2.64
2000 MLB ERA 4.77 Pedro Martinez 1.74 diff 3.03 https://t.co/vUNiIHeP6U
— Seth Mnookin (@sethmnookin) September 22, 2018
Many consider it the best single-season for a starting pitcher in MLB history.
Pedro had a 1.74 ERA and ran away with the Cy Young Award. To put Martinez’s production into perspective, only five pitchers in the entire AL had an ERA better than 4.00. He led the league in shutouts and strikeouts and just about every other category. Martinez was charismatic and aggressive and really made his mark battling the juggernaut Yankees and helping Boston win its first World Series in 86 years in 2004.
He’s known for having great hair, tossing 80-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer by the head to the ground in one of those classic Yankees-Red Sox fisticuffs and as of 2015, he’s known as a Hall of Famer and probably the greatest Latino starting pitcher in the history of the game. He’s also pretty good at his job as a baseball analyst.
3. Juan “The Dominican Dandy” Marichal
There would be no Pedro Martinez if not for the legendary pitching exploits of Juan Marichal, who mastered the art during a decade that featured a slew of mythical hurlers such as Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, and Jim Kaat. Marichal was a trailblazer in his day and among the first wave of Dominican baseball stars who played for the San Francisco Giants in the 1960s.
Marichal was a Latino pitcher excelling in American baseball at a time when Latin American players were routinely discriminated against, underpaid, and presented with a litany of hurdles on their journey to the big leagues. He endured and helped set the stage for MLBs current rush on Latino talent. In 2017, there were a record 259 players born outside of the United States and the Dominican Republic led the Major Leagues with 93 players. The numbers continue to rise.
That can be attributed to barrier-breakers like Marichal, whose 1.10 WHIP still remains the 13th best in MLB history for a starting pitcher. No pitcher won more games than Marichal in the ’60s. He posted over 20 wins during six of the last seven seasons of the 1960s and finished his career with over 240 wins.
Marichal’s legacy runs deeper than his statistical output. His funky pitching delivery in which he executed an exaggerated, high leg kick is still imitated by kids from New York to San Francisco to Santo Domingo, and the image of Marichal’s patented delivery is immortalized in a bronze statue outside of the Giants current ballpark.
In addition, Marichal was the first Dominican-born player to play in an All-Star Game and the first elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Now 82, The Dominican Dandy’s journey from growing up on a farm in DR to fighting homelessness as a minor leaguer in Indiana to being threatened with a gun to throw games in Mexico to GOAT candidate is worthy of a Shadow League mention during Hispanic Heritage Month.