A Sigh of Relief For Mo

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Last night, the Red Sox traded incumbent starting shortstop Marco Scutaro to the Rockies, presumably to free up the $6 million dollars he was slated to earn. While Red Sox fans debated what the move meant for the likes of Roy Oswalt, Mike Aviles, Nick Punto, and The Gloved Wunderkind Who Hits Worse Than Ramiro Pena™, Yankees fans breathed a sigh of relief. You see, Marco Scutaro is the David to Mariano Rivera‘s Goliath. He is a middling hitter, more of a pest than anything, with a career OPS+ of 93. Against the Yankees overall, he has a thoroughly unimpressive .697 OPS. But when he digs in against the Great Rivera, the nondescript, unspectacular Scutaro, for no identifiable reason, turns into Edgar Martinez.

It all started in April of 2007. To that point, Scutaro had 6 career at-bats against Rivera, and was hitless with 2 walks. One of those walks came around to score a winning run, but the final score was 6-3 and the walk did not seem to be all that important. But on Sunday, April 15th, Andy Pettitte and Scott Proctor handed Rivera a 4-2 lead on a nice afternoon in Oakland. With 2 outs, Todd Walker singled and Jason Kendall walked, bringing the light-hitting Scutaro to the plate. On an 0-2 pitch, Scutaro turned on a cutter up in the zone and drove it off the foul pole in left, turning a certain Yankees win into a painful loss.

For a few seasons, it seemed as if Scutaro’s success against Mariano would prove to be a one-time event, a fluke that would make him the answer to a trivia question one day but nothing more. In 2008 and 2009, Scutaro faced Mo six times and reached base once, a single that was rendered meaningless by Rivera retiring the subsequent hitter. And then Scutaro signed with the Red Sox.

Marco faced Mo four times in 2010, but only twice in vitally important situations (Mo retired him in the two lower leverage spots). Scutaro reached base the first time he faced Mo in a Red Sox uniform, doubling to bring the tying run to the plate, but Mo retired the next two Sox in order to end the game. Later that season, after Joba Chamberlain blew a 5-1 lead by allowing 4 runs in the 8th, Rivera allowed 2 runs in the 9th, with a blooper off the bat of Scutaro that was ruled an error being the turning point of the inning. Marco was starting to reveal himself as a pesky hitter who could at least make contact off Rivera, but it was not until 2011 that he established himself as a true annoyance to the great Mo.

On August 7th, the Yankees played the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball, looking to win their first series from the Sox in 4 tries. Behind homers from Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner, as well as solid pitching from Freddy Garcia, Cory Wade, Rafael Soriano, and David Robertson, the Yankees carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th. Alas, Marco Scutaro was poised to strike, doubling off the Green Monster to start the inning and eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly. The Yankees lost the game one inning later.

When the teams met again on the first day of September, Scutaro and Rivera matched up in similar circumstances. The Yankees were once again trying to take their first series from the Red Sox, with the entire country watching the two clubs clash on ESPN. They took a lead late in the contest against Daniel Bard, and handed Rivera a 4-2 advantage. After Jed Lowrie walked to start the frame, Rivera retired the next two batters before walking Jacoby Ellsbury. In stepped Marco Scutaro, already feared as Rivera Kryptonite, with a chance to extend the game and bring up Adrian Gonzalez. Marco did just that, lining a hard single to RF and setting up the Yankees for more heartbreak. However, Rivera struck out Gonzalez looking, and the Yankees finally celebrated a series victory over their rivals from Beantown.

When the Yankees faced the Red Sox late in September, Joe Girardi decided not to take any chances with Scutaro. With the game tied at 4 with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, a runner at 3rd, and the struggling Jarrod Saltalamacchia on deck, Girardi finally gave in to the Myth of Marco and had Rivera intentionally walk Scutaro. Salty struck out to validate the decision, but the Yankees eventually lost the game.

Scutaro’s resume against Rivera is a bit thinner than I thought it would be, but it is important to remember that not many hitters get to Mo at all, and that notching multiple successes against him is notable. Of hitters with at least 20 PA’s against Rivera, Scutaro’s OPS of .988 (.294/.400/.588) is 5th highest, trailing just Edgar Martinez, Aubrey Huff, Rafael Palmeiro, and Vernon Wells. As William Juliano noted, Scutaro is one of 5 players to have a walk-off homer off Rivera, and one of 8 to have at least 3 extra-base hits against him. And his IBB against him last season makes him one of the 33 hitters (36 walks) to be given a free pass by Mo, and 17 of those walks came with runners on 2nd and 3rd to load the bases and create a force play. I’ll let the WSJ contextualize that:

Since 2001, the legendary Yankees closer has issued 20 intentional walks. Thirteen were to load the bases and set up a force at home, but the rest of the list consists of the greatest sluggers of this generation: Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Evan Longoria and Carlos Delgado (twice). Now add Scutaro, and his .387 lifetime slugging percentage, to that group.

Small sample or not, Scutaro was one of the few players who made me a bit uncomfortable when he dug in against Mariano Rivera. That unease may have been based on one swing from 2007, but I know many other Yankees fans shared it and are glad to see him head off to Colorado. If you asked him, Mariano might tell you that he feels the same way.

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Touring ballparks in 2012
Pineda speaks for first time since trade
  • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

    And Edgar had seven of his 20 regular season PAs against Mo the Starter in 1995 (5-6 with a walk, a double, and two homers, .833/.857/2.000), though he did just fine against Mo after that as well.

  • MannyGeee

    Scutaro was one of the only players on the Sox I did not dispise (Aceves aside), on account of him kinda not being a media whore and just sorta showing up to do his job. meanwhile I cant WAIT to hate Nick Punto in July!

    • Dan

      you’re gonna wait til July?? Jeez… I hate him now. He will likely be a thorn in the Yankees side all season. He will hit .200/.250/.270 all year but he will get 1 big hit against the Yanks.
      God I hate Punto…

      • Jon in CUO

        Punto is a former Twin. What, me worry?

        • Bobtaco

          So was Ortiz

          • Tom

            Punto presumably did not start taking steroids when he left the Twins though

      • Steve (different one)

        Punto made one of the worst baserunning blunders in game 3 of the 2009 ALDS. Killed his team’s chances. That’s not Yankee killer material.

  • Januz

    There is little doubt that the winner of the Scutaro trade (At least for now) is Colorado, but it may very well be the biggest of all are the Yankees. Unless, they are trading for Hanley Ramirez, Shortstop becomes (Along with Catcher & Right Field) a weak hitting position for the Red Sox. I wonder how the Fenway Faithful will like 4th Place?

    • nsalem

      Though it’s tempting and there are certainly signs that there best days are behind them for awhile, I wouldn’t bury the RedSox yet. They wee humiliated in the worst way last year and still have many quality players with much to prove. I wouldn’t dance on their graves just yet.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Agreed. I cringe when I hear Yankees fans writing off the Sux.

        They led MLB in runs scored last year, and while they may not do the same in 2012, their offense isn’t going to suddenly turn into the Astros.

        They have their problems, for sure, but those problems aren’t insurmountable.

        Thankfully, Cashman and the Yankees organization will treat them like the legitimate threat that they are.

        • RetroRob

          Right. Red Sox fans were writing the Yankees off last year, and then watched the Yanks go on to win 97 games and the division. They still led the league in scoring and have a rotation of Lester, Beckett and Buchholtz. They’ll be there all year.

  • nsalem

    Thoughts of Jim Selby c,7/14/2002 and Tommy Helms .270 career hitter batting .336 combined in about 150 PA’s vs Carlton Seaver and Koufax.

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

    There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this.

    Marco Scutaro must be the Devil.

    • nsalem

      The Real Devils are Sandy Alomar Jr, and Tony Womack.

      • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

        Dark Angels, all working for the same nefarious purpose. Its the never ending battle between good and evil, and unfortunately sometimes evil wins.

      • Kevin

        Womack was a bigger devil in 01 than Gonzo was..

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

    It does bum me out that this trade allows the Sawx to pick up Oswalt. I still think he’s going to give 15-20 very good to excellent starts to whomever signs him. The Sawx getting him still leaves them behind us and the Rays (barring a massive rebound from Crawfid and some others) but the gap narrows. Hopefully they whif on him. But I doubt it.

    • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

      What bums me out is that Oswalt will be on the DL by June, and I’ll have to watch the Mexican Gangsta Aceves pitch against my beloved Yankees.

      Why Brian, why?

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

        Yeah that one will always perplex. He was a cheap enough and valuable enough commodity (with proven success) that you’d think they would’ve taken the gamble to bring him back even if they feared his back was a problem. If it didn’t pan out, what’s a couple mil to the Yanks? (not my money) If it does, not only doesn’t he go to the Sawx, he provides value in the Bronx where he belongs.

        The only thing I can think of is that there’s more to the story…either about the cause of the accident, his rehab, his attitude, etc. that we don’t know, and likely never will. Maybe the talk of the Yanks getting more serious about character/make up stuff is all true. I read that there’s a conspiracy theory that that issue was (partially) behind the willingness to trade Montero.

        • nsalem

          As far as Aceves goes I think it may have been the accident. Maybe they didn’t believe that was how he injured his shoulder.

          • 28 this year

            I think it was also that the Yankees didn’t exactly approve of him riding a motorcycle during rehab. He was rehabbing for his back and broke his collarbone in a motorcycle accident. Logically, motorcycles aren’t exactly what you should ride when your back could give out at any moment, just seems like too big a risk. I wish Aceves was back but I am not going to lose sleep over it, it wasn’t a huge issue overall.

        • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

          Not even a couple mil, he signed for 650K last year.

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

            Yeesh. That makes it even worse. I’d forgotten that.

  • nsalem

    One of the many things that always amazes me about Mariano is that when he does blow a save (and it’s not a walk off loss) he seems to have a great ability to compose himself and still get the Yankees out of the inning still tied and giving them a chance to win. I could be wrong on this matter because it’s just a gut and eyeball observation, but I feel that one of his super powers includes his ability to refocus after one bad action.

    • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

      I’m paraphrasing here, but after what must have been the most gut wrenching blown save of his career in the 2001 WS, he was talking to a reporter (I think Buster Olney) on the field immediately after the game. The reporter asked him about how crushed he must be after coming so close to winning the WS. Mo looked at him and replied “It’s just a game”. I think that’s why he’s so good at what he does, because he gets it.

      • Gonzo

        Imagine if IPK or a player like that said that.

        • Soriano Is A Liar

          Imagine if A-rod said that! “300 MILLION DOLLAR MAN: IT’S JUST A GAME – DOES A-ROD REALLY CARE ABOUT WINNING???”

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Steve S.

    Mo, as a legal eagle I have a question for you. If someone signs a contract and uses a fake name, wouldn’t that automatically void the contract since the person who signed it was fictitious to begin with?

  • Steve (different one)

    Remember when the Yankees were “cheap”?

  • Soriano Is A Liar

    This phenomenon is why I’m convinced the Scutaro trade is a precursor to the Sox acquiring Robert Andino

  • MikeJ

    I was at the April 15, 2007 game at Oakland. It was 2 outs and 2 strikes. All the A’s fans were pouring out of the stadium. I’ll never forget this moment when I saw that ball heading for the left field foul pole. All I was saying was go foul go foul go foul. When I saw it hit off the pole and bounce onto the field, I stood mid clap frozen watching the A’s celebrate and Mariano walk off the field with his head down. It forever was burned into my soul.