Heat mapping Mariano’s cutter

Game 116: Bartday
Yankees likely to cut rotation down to five by Monday

“The pitch didn’t get there enough,” said Mariano Rivera after giving up what proved to be the game-winning homerun to Bobby Abreu on Monday. “It was middle in, not in enough. He put good wood on the ball. You have to make sure you get it there. It didn’t get there.” Two poor outings in a row for the greatest closer of all-time always creates an uproar, so Bill Chuck broke out some heat maps.

They show that Rivera’s cutter has been slowly drifting more out over the plate against lefties, but I’m not sure I agree with Bill’s conclusion that it’s a result of the pitch not cutting as much as it once did. The PitchFX data shows that it’s still getting as much horizontal break as the last two years, if not more. Perhaps it’s just a location issue, maybe he’s having a harder time getting the pitch in on the hands of lefties? If so, is that something that could be fixed by moving a little closer to the first base side of the rubber? I have no idea, just kinda spit balling here. Either way, check out Bill’s post, very interesting stuff.

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Game 116: Bartday
Yankees likely to cut rotation down to five by Monday
  • 4th Gen Yanks Fan

    I’m not a pitching coach either, Mike. Your suggestion seems as plausible as any other. However, ‘fixing’ Rivera is not Girardi’s no. 1 concern. The starting rotation through the playoffs, keeping the lineup healthy, getting A-Rod back, and figuring out Boston are all higher priorities.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Mariano has to adjust to his abilities. As we saw today. The cutter inside to a lefty is not cutting as usual, Bryan HR. So he went outside which will cause lefties to watch and have to adjust. Tough pitch to hit on the outside corner. I think its about the loss in 3/4 MPH.

  • UncleArgyle

    Of course Mo’s postseason numbers are great. Yankees won most of the series in sweeps or 4-1 though. Wasn’t a difference-maker, except ’96.

    David Schoenfield, ESPN. 8/11/2011

    So whats the big if Mo’s cutter ins’t as sharp. Anyone can do what he does, I guess…

  • CMP

    He needs to make some sort of adjustment because if he pitches in the playoffs the way he pitched these last 3 games, the Yankees are in deep shit.

  • Matt

    It seems on the heat maps that Rivera is throwing the fewest pitches away to lefties of any of the last few seasons.

    I would have to think that part of the problem here is pitch selection. His stuff has been on the decline ever since the beginning of the 2009 season, but he’s adjusted by mixing his pitches more and hitting his spots. This season, his stuff has been almost identical to either of the last 2 seasons.

    This season, he’s no longer mixing his pitches, and it seems like lefties are sitting on cutters inside. Even weaker hitters like Lucas Duda, Alberto Callaspo, etc have been cheating on those pitches and getting the bat head out to flare it to the outfield. Then as you saw today, he was still able to get outs even without his best stuff because he made the adjustment and started mixing up the location more.

    Since part of the problem seems to be pitch selection, it’s up to Martin to start taking charge here and calling for other pitches since Rivera doesn’t like to shake off catchers. When Rivera is repeatedly hitting the glove and giving up hard hit balls, maybe it’s time to realize that pitch sequence is a significant part of the problem, especially when they know he doesn’t have his best stuff.

    • Matt

      In fact, if you go further back in the heat maps, it looks like Rivera’s cutter usage against lefties this season has been more like 2007 or 2008 than 2009-2010.

      However, now he can’t get away with it as much because he has less velocity and movement than in the past.

  • Peepee Hands

    Its pretty obvious its not cutting as much. Lefties could not get wood on it all and now they are crushing it. It might be the in difference of an inch or 2, which isn’t much but it is when compared to the barrel of a bat.

  • craig

    No need to move on the rubber. That would telegraph too much to the hitter. He just needs to start the pitch a drop further in and let it continue to move-in on the hands. Pitchers have to make these adjustments all the time. Showing some outside pitches to lefties can’t hurt as well, but ultimately, if the pitch is still showing horizontal movement and/or downward break he will be fine. He has got enough movement on the cutter to lose a bit (although the data shows he hasn’t lost any) and still be effective.

  • 42yankee

    Well you article on MO was OK, but after his 1st pitch in today’s game, all of us should be a little nervous!!!! BOOM, 3 run HR and game is now 6 to 5. Jon Lane on his blog, says no problem, well after 3 scares in a row from MO, the Yankees have to be getting nervous or wondering what the heck is going. I ain’t going for this not finishing the pitch or it didn,t quite get there. A BIG load of HOOEY. Maybe the core 4 is about done…. Hope Sorinao can pick it up.

    • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      Mo does this every year, dude. We think he is but he’s not perfect. Chill.

      • Jaremy

        ultimately it’s still only 3ER in 3 appearances. Rivera deserves the benefit of the doubt for a little while longer. We owe him that at least.

  • Ty

    I’m not sure moving on the rubber would help just b/c the deception of the pitch is that hitters pick it up as a strike and perceive to square the pitch up but the extra movement on it allows for hitters to essentially misinterpret where the balls is going to be…so moving over would just start the pitch off more inside (and off the plate) so hitters would view it as a bad pitch to begin with? Total guess work but just a thought.

  • Alibaba

    He was mostly at 90-91 in the beginning of the season and is now sitting mostly at 91-92, occasionally hitting 93. Could the extra effort to increase the velocity be causing him to lose control / movement just a bit?

    I, however, agree given his history and a tendency to struggle in August, we have to give him the benefit of doubt. I wish that he retires when we want him not too, like Andy did. It will be a shame if the fans have to clamor for his retirement, something almost will certainly happen during the final years of Jeter and A-Rod’s contracts.

  • Alibaba

    I hope Mo remains effective until his contract expires in 2012. But, even if does, we are probably watching an era end. There never was another like him. I doubt if we will see another like him, especially the number of years of dominance.

    He is giving up more fly balls, especially the last few starts.

  • paul zocco

    The best there ever was. He’s human. We are seeing the begining of the end.
    we are used to seeing him in a league of his own. Now he is simply among the best.