Darren Oliver / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Oliver / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Oliver has re-signed with the Blue Jays for 2013 and he’ll be coming back for his 20th season in the majors. He’ll be 42 on Opening Day.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about Oliver’s career is that he isn’t simply hanging on into old age. His line for the last 5 years (2008-2012) reads like this: 304 games, 1 start, 314.1 IP, 271 H, 79 BB, 274 K, 2.52 ERA, 175 ERA+.

Take a look at that line again. Basically, he’s been an ace reliever.

Oliver’s last bad season was in 2004. He didn’t pitch in the majors in 2005, but since then has rattled off 7 straight years ranging from good to excellent. Over that period, he’s been worth 10 Wins Above Replacement as a middle reliever.

Just to give you an idea of how valuable Oliver has been, here are the leaders in WAR among non-closing relievers:

Rk Player WAR SV G From To
1 Octavio Dotel 15.4 109 752 1999 2012
2 LaTroy Hawkins 14.1 88 871 1995 2012
3 Rafael Betancourt 13.6 58 603 2003 2012
4 Matt Thornton 10.4 23 546 2004 2012
5 Scott Downs 9.9 26 496 2000 2012
6 Sean Marshall 9.4 16 365 2006 2012
7 Mike Adams 9.3 4 358 2004 2012
8 Joaquin Benoit 9.1 13 475 2001 2012
9 Jesse Crain 8.5 4 494 2004 2012
10 Jeremy Affeldt 8.4 28 621 2002 2012
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/17/2013.

Oliver himself didn’t qualify for this list since he was primarily a starter before his renaissance.

If we look at just 2006-2012, since Oliver has been reborn as a reliever, here are the top WAR totals among non-closing relievers:

Rk Player WAR SV G From To
1 Rafael Betancourt 11.1 52 448 2006 2012
2 Matt Thornton 10.1 23 472 2006 2012
3 Scott Downs 10.0 26 438 2006 2012
4 Darren Oliver 10.0 5 410 2006 2012
5 Sean Marshall 9.4 16 365 2006 2012
6 Mike Adams 8.0 3 299 2006 2012
7 Brad Ziegler 7.3 19 323 2008 2012
8 Grant Balfour 7.1 34 343 2007 2012
9 Darren O’Day 7.1 2 255 2008 2012
10 David Robertson 6.8 5 269 2008 2012
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/17/2013.

Any way you slice it, this guy is among the best middle relievers going into 2013.

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