Mo turns to two-seamer after recent struggles

Cashman confirms Teixeira still has discomfort in wrist
Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez declared a free agent

Not too long ago, Mariano Rivera went through a three-week stretch that was decidedly un-Mariano-like:

Date Opp IP H R ER BB SO ERA BF Pit Str aLI WPA
May 28 NYM 0.0 3 2 1 0 0 1.86 3 9 5 3.46 -0.826
May 31 BOS 1.0 2 0 0 0 1 1.77 5 13 11 1.11 0.033
Jun 3 CLE 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 1.69 4 15 12 .93 0.033
Jun 4 CLE 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 1.61 3 14 9 2.13 0.162
Jun 8 SEA 1.0 1 0 0 1 3 1.54 5 17 10 2.27 0.078
Jun 9 SEA 1.0 2 0 0 1 0 1.48 5 16 10 4.01 0.179
Jun 13 OAK 0.0 2 0 0 1 0 1.48 3 10 3 4.68 -0.371
Jun 16 LAA 0.2 3 1 1 1 1 1.80 6 25 17 3.63 0.039
Totals 5.2 14 3 2 4 8 3.18 34 119 65% 2.70 -0.673
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2013.

Those last three appearances during the West Coast trip had a Murphy’s Law element to them. Rivera was getting blooped to dead rather than hit hard — I remember at least three broken bat bloops, one in Oakland and two against the Angels — and during that eight-game stretch you see above he fell victim to a .636 (!) BABIP. Rivera also walked a batter in four consecutive appearances for the fourth time in his career and the first since early-2002. Like I said, un-Mo-like.

Since that rough eight-game stretch, Rivera has settled down and rattled off three near-perfect appearances, allowing just one base-runner (a single) in the three innings. Coincidentally — most likely not — he has started to use his two-seam fastball a little more often of late. Here’s a pitch he threw to Evan Longoria on Saturday, just for a visual:

Here’s the zoomed-in, slow-motion replay, if you’re interested.

That wasn’t just a show-me two-seamer to Longoria, something to back him off the plate and keep him off the cutter. It was a nasty two-seamer that PitchFX clocked at 93.8 mph (!) with just under ten inches of horizontal movement. Bartolo Colon, who had the nastiest two-seamer in recent Yankees memory, averaged 9.5 inches of horizontal movement with his two-seamer back in 2011, for comparison.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Rivera’s recent two-seamer usage is just how much he’s actually using it. He’s thrown more two-seamers than cutters in each of his last two appearances, and not by a small margin either — ten cutters and 17 two-seamers in those last two outings combined. Here is his cutter and two-seamer usage by appearance this season:

2013 Mariano Rivera Cutters and Two-Seamers

You can click the graph for a larger view.

That one little bump at appearance #21 was the blown save against the Mets, the start of the eight-game slump discussed above. These last five games, dating back to the final two games of the West Coast trip, are when Rivera really started to rely on the two-seamer. I don’t know if it took him some time to get a feel for a pitch or what, but the results have been better the last three outings rather than the first two. Then again, two games. Wouldn’t read much into that.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time Rivera has turned to the two-seamer following a slump. He did the same thing in late-May 2010, and we’ve seen him do it a few other times through the years as well. That two-seam fastball didn’t come out of nowhere, Mo has thrown it here and there over the years. I can’t ever remember him using it as much as he had these last few appearances, however. It was his primary pitches the last two times out.

Rivera has always gone back to using cutters almost exclusively after breaking out the two-seamer in the past, but who really knows what he’ll do this year. It is his final season, so perhaps he’ll just empty out the entire bag of tricks. I remember seeing him throw a changeup a few years ago (I think it was Spring Training, actually), so maybe that’s next. It would be kinda neat if Mo went back to his roots and broke out his starter’s repertoire from here on out, but as long as he gets outs, I don’t really care how he does it. Right now, he’s doing it with that wicked two-seam fastball.

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Cashman confirms Teixeira still has discomfort in wrist
Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez declared a free agent
  • Pseudoyanks

    Damn, that pitch (GIF) is just sick. I’ve missed a lot of the last week’s games. Can’t wait to see more Mo in the coming weeks.

  • Mickey

    Yeah man woo

  • MannyGeee

    Plot Twist: Mo discovers he can throw a knuckler, comes back in 2014 and wins 20 games.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      2020: Gyroball.
      2025: Eephus Pitch.
      2030: Shattered Atom Pitch.

    • Deathstroke Heathcott

      Mahriahno is a stahting pitcher!!!

  • Fin

    Clearly its time they put Mo back in the rotation. His talents have been wasted in the pen. He has 3 dominate pitches (2 seamer, split, change). Cashman fail.

  • Slu

    So now the GIF is showing up in the RSS feed, which is even more annoying than just having them on the page repeating over and over. You can’t even escape the GIF by leaving the page. Please stop the GIF madness.

    • BigDavey88

      I like the gifs.

      • Slu

        Not me. The fact that you cannot stop them makes them insufferable. And they always look like cartoons. I am glad Mike was able to figure out how to make a GIF, but I’d rather it get linked to or I’d rather just have a video posted that is the correct speed and has sound. I know the relatively “new” cool thing to do is GIFs, but all they do for me is make me think it is 1998.

        • The Doctor

          Click Esc as soon as the page loads, it should stop the GIF.

          • LK

            You just blew Slu’s mind.

          • Slu

            Thanks!

    • MickeyP

      What did GIF ever do to you besides show you how absolutely disgusting Mo is on RAB?

  • Kramerica Industries

    I’m still waiting for his 1-7 curveball to make an appearance one of these days…

  • JLC 776

    As long as he picks up his second career RBI, I’m fine with whatever he does.

  • Steve T

    I’d like to see the breakdown of batters faced over the same time. He exclusively throws the 2-seamer to righties. I wonder if his % pitches thrown to righties vs. lefties matches the graph of cutter v. 2-seamer. The 2-seamer looked great this weekend, but I’m not sure he’s doing anything different (except maybe throwing harder). Whatever it is, I hope he keeps it up. Of course, it would also be nice to score enough runs that we don’t need him everyday…

    • The Doctor

      I’ll look further into this, but on the 22nd he faced 3 consecutive righties and then one lefty. So far that seems to be a good hypothesis, I’ll keep looking.

    • The Doctor

      Okay, I looked back through his last 5 appearances, and this is what I’ve found.

      RHB out of total batters faced
      3 out of 4
      2 out of 3
      2 out of 3
      3 out of 6
      1 out of 2 (excluding an IBB to a LHB)

      So a total of 11 out of the last 18 batters Mo’s faced have batted right handed. It’s more prominent in the last 3 games, with 7 of 10 being RHB.

      In the game immediately preceding this stretch, Mo faced 5 straight left handed batters. In the game before that, 3 out of 5 were left handed. Prior to that 2 of 3 were left handed, the first real bump in the theory, but the game before that, 3 of 4 were lefty.

      It really does seem like its largely a byproduct of facing more righties. Some of it may be an attempt to break out of some struggles, which may explain why he’s using it so prominently, but his willingness to use it in the first place is due to the righties being faced.

      • The Doctor

        Sorry, the part where I mention in a bump in the theory should read 2 out of 3 were right handed. I should add that one of those 2 was Mark Reynolds, not exactly a guy you need to change plans to strike out. The obvious flaw in all of this data is the lack of information about how many pitches were thrown to each player, but as a general correlation, I think it stands.

  • The Doctor

    Mo always seems to have a few rough weeks every year. It’s good to see that this year the bad weeks only resulted in a single blown save. He’s looked great again the last few times out, so I’m ready to see him dominate his way through the last bit of his career.

  • trr

    Interesting article, and yes the gifs are great!
    Thanks

    • MickeyP

      +1

  • Wolfgang’s Fault

    He’s throwing harder, too. Definitely more than just an uptick in velocity as he gets deeper into the season. That two-seamer to Longoria was just flat out unhittable. Even though he’s been throwing it for years, I think he’s still learning how to throw & command this pitch. While not yet the flat-out devastating pitch his cutter has been over the years, it really makes a hitter have to decide quickly whether the pitch is breaking in, out, or even taking off as Mo’s four-seam fastball has to be factored in, as well. His further development of the two-seamer comes at an opportune time as his cutter hasn’t been as consistently sharp as we’ve all know accustomed to over the years, but that may have been due to what had been a reduced velocity earlier in the year. Along w/his four-seam fastball that he frequently takes hitters up the ladder with, Mo is just a master of putting the ball pretty much where he wants it to be most of the time. Even though Mo’s 43 years old, I think he could continue to be an elite closer for another two years after this season if he really wanted to push himself. What a treat Yankee fans have had to have this guy close out games for us for so long. We should really enjoy this next couple of months ’cause we ain’t ever going to see the likes of him again.

  • I’m One

    ’cause we ain’t ever going to see the likes of him again.

    Truer words have never been spoken.

    • I’m One

      Reply fail to Wolfgang (obviously)

    • LarryM Fl

      Glad I was around to see Mo pitch. Fortunate, that I got see many very good players in action for the Yanks from about ’56. My recommendation to the younger guys is try to imprint in your mind the play of some of your favorite ball players whether friend or foe. The truly good ones are a joy to watch. Just to name a few Mickey, Whitey, Yogi,Thurman,Ron G.,Craig N. Willie, Don, Derek, Jorge, Bernie, Mo, Lou P., Willie R., Reggie and Paul O’Neil. Some may ask about Craig Nettles. I can recall no tougher SOB against the Royals and Red Sox. Protected his team mates. He wanted to win even if it meant fighting or bowling over someone on a play at any bag.

  • LarryM Fl

    The intelligence of Mo’s pitching and adjustments made should not be lost by the fan. Mo is just light years a head of his counterparts. My hope is David Robertson and any other young guys in the bullpen are learning the trade from an artist. The Yankees should give Mo an open ticket to ST to assist the pitching staff with his knowledge.

    • The Doctor

      The Yankees leave that open to pretty much all their great players. Hell, not long ago Andy Pettitte was a Spring Training guest instructor.

  • Bo Knows

    I’m calling it, Mo will throw a slider that makes Yu Darvish’s look like phil hughes’ fastball

    • The Doctor

      I actually do wonder what a Mo slider would look like these days. He can get such an absurd amount of break on a 90+ MPH cut fastball, you have to wonder if a full slider grip would add even more to it.

  • pat

    Mariano Rivera is a sorcerer.

  • RetroRob

    I think there is a good chance that Rivera would have been a Cy Young Award winner if he had been a starter, assuming that he developed the cutter he did as a reliever. He became a much different pitcher after he arrived in the majors.

    Question is, would Yankee fans give up the greatest closer ever to have a fine starting pitcher? Normally I would say it’s a no-brainer to take the reliever and make him a starter, yet Mo’s impact was so signficant as a reliever, especially in the postseason, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  • Kevin

    He’s busting it in on righties. The cutter is still his primary pitch on lefties. He’s just a pro’s pro who getting the righties looking for it & just when they think they have it figured out he’ll pop the cutter on them again.

  • tommy cassella

    I would just love to see mo rivera win the cy young award.

  • EP

    Mo did indeed experiment with a change up (fork ball) one spring several years ago. I remember him striking a guy out with it and gesturing excitedly to Jeter with his index and middle fingers spread wide as if saying, “That was the fork ball, Jete!” I also remember thinking, man this isn’t going to be remotely fair for hitters. Then Mo abruptly discarded the pitch, saying it was causing him to lose feel for his cutter. Didn’t want to mess with the old bread-and-butter…

  • tommy cassella

    mariano has come a long way from the kid who used a crushed milk container for a baseball glove.