2010 Season Preview: Greatness in the 9th


Mariano Rivera pitches during Game 6 of the 2009 World Series. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

For the fifteenth consecutive season, the Yankees know that during home games when they have a lead in the ninth, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” will begin playing over the Yankee Stadium public address system. The Yankees know that Number 42, Mariano Rivera, Number 42 will come slowly walking off the bullpen mound. He will hit the edge of the outfield and start jogging, slowly and confidently, toward the infield. He will make his warm-up tosses, and he will go about his business as he has done 526 times in his career.

I don’t need to toast Mariano in this post. Regular RAB readers know how much we adore and worship at the Altar of Mo. We know we’re seeing something special every time Rivera comes into the game, and we know we have witnessed greatest unfold since Rivera made his mark in the 1995 ALDS. He is the Yankee Dynasty, an all-time great who will be enshrined in Monument Park and Cooperstown sometime before, say, 2020.

Last year, Mariano was just as good as ever, and it was, in a way, surprising. He threw the last pitch at old Yankee Stadium and a few weeks later, underwent a shoulder procedure to clear up some calcification in his pitching arm. The early going was rough; he allowed back-to-back jacks for the first time in his career. Yet, by year’s end, he sported a 1.76 ERA in 66.1 innings. He allowed 48 hits, walked 12 and struck out 71 while notching 44 saves. Father Time is impervious to Mariano.

Going forward, though, what can we expect from Rivera? He’ll be 40 and one of the top five oldest players in the Junior Circuit this year. Time, as Mick Jagger once did not sing, is not on his side, and Yankee fans will one day have to come to grips with the world without Mariano Rivera.

For now, though, we can ignore that scary future and check out his projections. As a 40-year-old closer, Rivera appears to be doing very, very well for himself. Take a peek (and click to enlarge):

Overall, Rivera’s numbers do show signs of decline; that is, after all, to be expected from a pitcher his age. Still, those numbers are very comforting. His 2.74 ERA would be his highest total since only 2007 when early-season woes resulted in an ERA over 3.00. The strike out numbers remain high; the walks remain low; and the long balls remain few and far between.

There is, of course, still the question of who will follow Mariano and just how much the Yankees will miss him. Mariano Rivera last year had a WAR of 2.0, and for closers, that’s high. But even the worst closers were around only 1.5 wins worse than Rivera. Sure, 1.5 wins could mean a lot in the AL East, but it isn’t life and death. I love Rivera more than any other Yankee I’ve seen in my life, and while his postseason presence is irreplaceable, his regular season results are not. It isn’t realistic to assume the Yankees can find another Mariano Rivera, but the team will have a closer once Mo retires.

This year, though, we don’t worry about that. We see Rivera, healthy and feeling good. We see Rivera throwing easily; we see projections that look rosy; and those familiar guitar strains will soon enough fill the air. Exit light. Enter night. Take my hand. We’re off to Never Never Land.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Klemy says:

    I think Bill James is as close as any of these projections will be. There is no stat that applies to Mo properly to project anything beyond awesomeness. You just can’t expect less than that.

    • andrew says:

      I think the Cairo .90 WHIP is actually more impressive than the Bill James ERA

    • Bo says:

      James has to do what any projectionist does. He has to be ahead of the curve and guess that this will be the yr that he fades.

      He’ll get no credit if Mo is successful like he always is.

      You have to look into motives. Same thing with PECOTA. Its better for them to take the fail view because it’ll get them noticed and maybe paid.

      • bexarama says:

        They don’t really have a motive so that they can brag about it as much as it is, you know, a mathematical formula that differs from projection system to projection system.

        Also, other than CAIRO, James pretty much predicted Mo would fade the least out of all of those.

      • Rick in Boston says:

        Since I know you didn’t read the article or look at the chart, I’ll ask you what you’re talking about. James’ projection is arguably the most dominant one on the chart.

        Seriously, start reading and comprehending before you post. I know that’s a lot to ask.

  2. Note to self:
    Go to Stop&Shop, buy Vigo rice, Gatorade, Pepsi


  3. Just a friendly reminder: If you want to alert us to typos, please email us. Sometimes, the pieces slip through our editing process, and the comments aren’t the proper place for corrections. Our email addresses are at right, and there’s a contact-us box as well.

  4. Overall, Rivera’s numbers do show signs of decline; that is, after all, to be expected from a pitcher his age. Still, those numbers are very comforting.

    A diminished Mariano Rivera >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> a normal human being relief pitcher

  5. Nady Nation says:

    That’s a sweet picture of Mo/Stadium crowd.

  6. bobbybaseball says:

    i appreciate your homage because indeed mariano is in rarified air, and we have been blessed to see it unfold. therefore, my wish for mo would be that when the day comes, that he has to hang em up becuase of an injury. it would be grusome to witness a performance declining phase out, which would be humiliating for him…

    • Meh, I’d rather he just pitch until he didn’t want to anymore and then retired. No need to hope for injury (which may happen midseason, and that helps nobody.)

      I’ve got a feeling Mo will hang them up the moment he feels like he can’t be dominant anymore. Just my hunch.

    • More “grusome” would be to see his career ended by an injury. That would be really sad.

      Mo will pitch til he’s done. He’ll know when he’s done, hang up the spikes, and head back to Panama. He’s not going to stick around and post a 5.00 ERA for two years.

    • Riddering says:

      If anyone can handle the decline and loss of elite stuff, it’s Mariano Rivera. Hell handle it with class and perspective and the fans aren’t going to forget everything he provided if he goes out poorly.

      But I don’t expect it to be that worst case scenario.

    • Mike HC says:

      Damn. A little selfish don’t you think? You would rather Mo have to go through a career ending injury than see him go through a couple of decline years?

      I prefer he plays until he wants to. I think Mo deserves to go out on his own terms.

    • Bo says:

      So you want him to get hurt instead of pitching at a mortal level?

      Thanks good to know some people have hearts out there

  7. Riddering says:

    If you really find them so upsetting it would be more helpful to make note of them and e-mail them to RAB rather than making a general complaint in a comment.

  8. Mike HC says:

    Last season went so ridiculously well for Mo. He was also lights out in the playoffs. Same goes for all of the old guard, Jeter, Jorge and Pettitte. I just hope they can all keep it up. Last season was like a gift from the baseball gods. Guys that were superstars during the Yanks 1996-2003 run, come back to take over in 2009. How long can it last? (I guess I am in a particularly ponderous mood today)

    • bexarama says:

      Weirdly enough, he was even better in 2008, which might have been his best year as a closer. He’s just crazy good and we are very lucky to have him.

  9. KayGee says:

    “He is the Yankee Dynasty, an all-time great who will be enshrined in Monument Park and Cooperstown sometime before, say, 2020.”

    Don’t you have to be retired to get enshrined in Cooperstown? By my calculations, Mariano Rivera will still be the Yankees closer in 2020.

    • t-bone rex says:

      If Mo is still the yankee closer by that time, I think we’re talking about renaming cooperstown mo’town

  10. Christos says:

    Metallica is my favorite band. Mo is my favorite player. They go hand in hand.

  11. Matt M. says:

    Question to ponder about Mo’s future:

    He has stated that he will hang it up once he can no longer compete at his level. While I agree with that and can easily see him walking away from the game gracefully, there is a difference between being good and Mariano Rivera good.

    Lets say he bows out after the 2012 season pitching to a (disappointing to him) 3.50 era (a rise from his current 2.25 career average). Midsummer 2013 we’re in the heat of a pennant race and our bullpen suffers from injury/ineffectiveness. We do our interchangeable thing and end up finding the Jose Verases and Edwar Ramirezes of 2013 are doing their very best dr jeckyll and mr hyde impersonations.

    Do you think the yankees would consider wooing Rivera back for a half season ala Roger Clemens? He might be the Hammer of god instead the Hammer of God, but wouldn’t that be better than league average relievers and playing guess who with the sox up 3.5 by mid july?

  12. lardin says:

    I wonder when is the last time Giradi caught Mo in the bullpen or in Spring Training? I would love to hear Girardi give a breakdown on the differnces between MO now and MO 15 years ago…

    • bexarama says:

      IIRC he was the bullpen catcher during the 2008 All-Star Game, so maybe then?

    • Mike HC says:

      I agree that it would be interesting in theory. But I can’t help but remember Girardi’s run as the color guy on YES, and come to the conclusion that it would probably be boring and obvious.

  13. Bo says:

    Just think. If blogs like this were around in ’96 you all would be flipping out that Mo wasnt a starter.

    Or wasnt in AAA getting innings or whatnot

  14. bexarama says:

    I see all the projections forgot the very important “# of times figured out by Jimmy Rollins” stat.

    /jokes from November’d

  15. MOboy says:

    Never love for MO who is irreplaceble.I bet if this was a Jeter post it would be nothing but good things said.

    Joba and Hughes are good buit they ain’t Verlander or Hernadez.Joba should be lucky if he can be the next MO.Because when MO retires the Yankees will get someone like Heath Bell.A guy in a big park and who blew 6 saves last year,

  16. CS Yankee says:

    The core four era could go down like this:
    2010 Yankees win #28…Pettitte retires, Joba wins 15
    2011 Yankees win #29…Posada retires, Jesus is ROY
    2012 Yankees win #30…Mo retires, Yanks search for next closer
    2015 Yankees win #31…Jeter retires, Yanks find stud closer

    • bexarama says:

      2012 Yankees win #30…Mo retires, Yanks search for next closer

      Oh, so that’s why the world is gonna end…

      • CS Yankee says:

        …and out of the ashes, baseball returns in 2015…
        …with Cap’t Jeets claiming his final ring (1 short of Yogi’s “one for the other thumb”)

  17. MikeD says:

    For the eighth time in the past nine seasons, all the projection systems will be wrong. Mariano, as he does with batters, will defeat them all, even James.

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