What Went As Expected: Mariano Rivera

A-Rod's continued woes against left-handed pitching
Why the Yankees are unlikely to trade Montero
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

It’s only fitting that we conclude our season review series with the guy who has been finishing off Yankees games for than a decade. Mariano Rivera was again his superlative self in 2011, finishing the season with a 1.91 ERA to make it eight sub-2.00 ERAs in the last nine seasons. His 8.8 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9 (0.9 uIBB/9) resulted in a 7.50 K/BB ratio, the second best of his great career. Aside from his usual bad week in April and bad week in August, Rivera was as dominant as ever at age 41, his 17th season in the league.

Along the way, Mariano made some history. On September 13th in Seattle, Mo watched Russell Martin throw out Ichiro trying to steal second base to end the game, giving Rivera his 600th career save. Only two men in baseball history have recorded 500 career saves, nevermind 600. Four days later, on the road in Toronto, Mo retired the Blue Jays in order for career save number 601, tying Trevor Hoffman for the all-time career saves record. Two days after that, on his home turf in Yankee Stadium, Rivera took sole possession of the all-time career saves record by sitting the Twins down for save number 602.

Mariano finished the year with 603 career saves and 44 on the season, just the second time he’s had to save that many games in a single season since 2006. The six unintentional walks he issued tied his career low (set in 2008), and he managed to lower his career WHIP from 1.00348 to 0.99808. That’s the second lowest in baseball history (min. 1000 IP) and easily the lowest in the expansion era. Rivera retired all four men he faced in the ALDS, continuing his postseason dominance even though the Yankees’ season ended a bit prematurely.

Being the spoiled Yankees fans that we are, we’ve taken Mo for granted. The greatness that he showed in 2011 has become routine, and nothing makes that more obvious than watching other so-called “top closers” like Neftali Feliz and Jose Valverde struggle to get three outs before blowing a lead in postseason. That’s just business as usual for Mariano, we wouldn’t be able to tell if he was pitching in October or on a back field in March just by looking at him. Rivera is the greatest player to ever play his position, and he didn’t need some career saves record to prove it. Thanks for another stellar season, Mo.

A-Rod's continued woes against left-handed pitching
Why the Yankees are unlikely to trade Montero
  • http://twitter.com/jmhs Jake S

    Mo standing on the mound and not being sure how to respond to an extended standing ovation was my favorite moment of the season. So awesome.

  • Darren

    I thought the 600th came when Ichiro was thrown out trying to steal?

    Also, Mo rules.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      You’re right, Ackley was at the plate.

  • Rey22

    How incredible is it that a season line as amazing as the one he had this year falls under the “expected” category?

    Mo is beyond words at this point.

  • DB

    The funny thing is Mo could probably pitch for another three years and reach 700 saves if he wanted to.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      It will be such a sad day in Yankeeland when he finally decides to retire. Hope he continues “as expected” for a few years after the ’12 season.

      • Ted Nelson

        At the same time it would also be sad for him to drag it out to the point where he was no longer effective.

  • UncleArgyle

    Mo truely is Amazing with a capital A. The only thing more amazing to me is that there are so many pundits waiting to dance on Mo’s corpse any time he gives up a run in back to back games. My favorite was ESPN hack David Schoenfield tweeting about how Riveria hasn’t been an impact player since 1996, unless you count his blown saves in 1997, 2001, and 2004 post seasons, and then acting genuinely offended when everyone started questioning his sanity. Its great watching Mo make them all eat a great big Shit Burger year after year.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    his 17th season in the league

    Thought this was a mistake and Mike meant “his 17th season as a Yankee”. Then I checked the math. Can’t believe he’s been in the MLB that long and is still producing at an elite level, one that no one else has achieved for anywhere near as long. We are truely witnessing greatness every time he takes the field.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    It can be affirmed that Mariano Rivera has been the most valuable Yankee during the past 14-15 years and though someone will come along and do a good job, no one will ever compare to Mariano. I shudder to think what life after Mariano will be like. He is simply the best there ever was at his position.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    It can be affirmed that Mariano Rivera has been the most valuable Yankee during the past 14-15 years and though someone will come along and do a good job, no one will ever compare to Mariano. I shudder to think what life after Mariano will be like. He is simply the best there ever was at his position.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    #42 ftw :D

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Sorry for the duality. Hand error is at fault.

  • BaltimoreYankee

    The 500th save seems like yesterday. I remember Mo had his first career RBI (bases loaded walk) in that game. We are so fortunate to have seen him pitch all these years.

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    I vote he goes year to year starting in 2013 until he notches his 1000th save.


    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I hope you are correct. He does seem to lead a good family life and takes care of his body. We will see.

      • David N

        His body is not the problem – I would not be at all surprised if he kept pitching until he was breaking the bats of hitters who weren’t even born when he made his first MLB appearance. The question is whether he wants to keep going or not. There’s not much that he hasn’t done (All-Star MVP, maybe?).

        • Ted Nelson

          At any point his body absolutely might become the problem. Not yet, but that doesn’t mean it never will be.

          • the Other Steve S.

            Keep trying

  • vin

    We need a Mo appreciation thread every week, at least. We’ve been so unbelievably spoiled all these years, that I cringe at the thought of His retirement.

  • Tipsie


  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Mo is so damn good and so classy….i wish more were like him.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    Mo for President!

    Rivera ’12


  • Gonzo

    What are the odds he hangs up up after this season?

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

      This season? Meaning 2011? I’d say very doubtful, he has a year left on his deal.

      After the 2012 season, who knows. But if he keeps pitching like this you’ll be hard pressed to find a reason to why he’d retire. I say he’ll pull an Andy Pettitte after next year. See how he feels and play it year by year. And if he gets injured, or hits a wall, he may hang it up. But who knows.

      • Gonzo

        Doh! Meant 2012. Already moved on from 2011.

        • Ted Nelson

          Yeah, 2011 season is over. This season to me is 2012 as well.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I say 50/50.

  • Pants Lendelton

    10 pitches 10 Strikes

    That was his entire body of work for the 2011 mlb playoffs.

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

      But he didn’t get as many saves as Valverde in the regular season or the postseason. Valverde is better


  • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

    My hunch is that 2012 will be MO’s final year. I dream of him closing out the WS and being carried off the field and riding off into the sunset. What an appropriate ending for one of the most impressive careers anyone could have in professional sports.

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse


  • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

    Game 6 of the world series made me fully realize just how special he is and how lucky we are to have him.

  • Darren

    I think I asked before but it’s more appropos in this Mo thread.

    Do you think Mo would ever consider staying on the Yankees in a role other than as the only closer?

    Could you imagine a scenario where due to dimished durability (but NOT effectiveness), he becomes, foe example, the specialist against lefties in order to keep his innings way down? Maybe the substitute closer if the main closer (DRob? Joba? Hughes?) needs a night off?

    Most likely he will retire to spend more time with his family before he would ever need to make that decision, but just wondering…

    • the Other Steve S.

      Pretty unlikely. What would be the point? Just to hang around? He’s already going to be 42 when this contract is up. He surely has enough money and he’s no threat to Yogi’s ten rings.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    Too bad mo didn’t get more opportunities in the postseason this year. he absolutely dominated and threw about 8 pitches