Archive for Mariano Rivera

The Yankees are going to have what figures to be a massive pre-game tribute to Mariano Rivera on September 22nd, celebrating his Hall of Fame career on the final Sunday home game of the season. As it turns out, Metallica will be in New York to play at The Apollo (!?) on September 21st with no scheduled appearances in the following days. A live performance of Enter Sandman sure sounds like something that could happen on Rivera’s tribute night day, but obviously nothing is confirmed. This is probably something the Yankees want to keep under wraps. Anyway, that’s out there now. (h/t NYDN)

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Mariano Rivera has accomplished an awful lot in his Hall of Fame career, but one thing he had never done prior to these last few days was blow three consecutive save opportunities. I guess that’s not really much of an accomplishment. Anyway, Rivera blew a one-run lead against the White Sox on Wednesday before squandering two-run leads against the Tigers on Friday and Sunday. The Yankees managed to come back to win the two games against Detroit.

“There’s always going to be a first time. I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” said Rivera to Chad Jennings when asked about the three straight blown saves. “It’s not surprising. You’re talking about professional hitters. At the same time, I’m not putting the ball where I want it.”

PitchFX confirms Rivera has not had a dip in velocity recently nor has his trademark cutter lost any bite — the pitch is still sitting in the low-90s with roughly 2-4 inches of horizontal break. Nothing out of the ordinary there. As Rivera indicated, it’s all about location. Here is the game-tying hit he surrendered to Adam Dunn on Wednesday:

Rivera vs. Dunn

(92.5 mph with 2.8 inches of break)

Notice where Austin Romine wanted the pitch — down and on the outside corner — compared to where it actually ended up. Thigh high and right down the middle, pretty much. That was an 0-2 pitch, and you probably remember the first two strikes were called on borderline outside cutters. Maybe even pitches that were off the plate. Romine and Rivera went back to that well a third time but Mo didn’t execute.

Dunn slapping a ball the other way for a single is a rarity. That just isn’t his game. Miguel Cabrera hitting homeruns is not; it’s just what he does. Over the weekend, the reigning AL MVP took Rivera deep not once, but twice in the blown saves. Here’s his two-run shot from Friday, which tied the game:

Rivera vs. Cabrera Friday

(93.9 mph and 4.8 inches of break)

That was a pretty epic at-bat, as you probably remember. Cabrera fouled two balls off his leg and was hobbling around badly between pitches — at one point he was using his bat like a cane — yet he managed to remain in the game. The game-tying homer came in a 2-2 count after Rivera busted him inside repeatedly, hence the two foul balls of the leg. Chris Stewart set up inside one more time but Rivera again missed his spot, this time knee-high and out over the plate. That’s a pitch great hitters like Miggy will crush, and in this instance it left the park.

The homerun Cabrera hit on Sunday did not tie the game, but it did turn a two-run lead into the one-run lead for the Yankees. Again, Rivera missed his spot in a bad way:

Rivera vs. Cabrera Sunday

(92.5 mph and 3.5 inches of break)

Stewart and Rivera mixed things up in this at-bat after getting beat on Friday, pitching to both sides of the plate rather than pounding Cabrera inside. The 2-2 pitch was supposed to be down and away — you can even argue Stewart was set up too far over the plate — and Mo simply missed up. The pitch was on the outer half as intended, but rather than come in at the knees it came in at the belt. Cabrera took advantage of the short porch and drove it out the other way.

The third homer of the weekend, the one that actually tied Sunday’s game and clinched that third blown save, was more good hitting than bad pitching. Unlike the last three pitches in this post, Rivera didn’t miss his spot by all that much:

Rivera vs. Martinez

(91.1 mph and 3.2 inches of break)

Stewart wanted the 0-1 pitch up towards the top of the zone and inside, and Rivera wound up coming up-and-in even more than desired. That’s not a bad thing, up-and-in pitches are a great way to induce weak contact. Mo has been breaking left-handed hitter’s bats with that pitch for nearly two decades now. Martinez just pulled his hands in and yanked the ball to right for the game-tying solo homer. Rivera missed his spot but not necessarily in a bad way. This pitch didn’t leak back out into the hitting zone like the others. Martinez is just a really smart hitter.

Missing location is not something we see Mo do all that often. We’re not just talking about a pitcher with great command here. We’re talking about a pitcher with historically great command. That Rivera is blowing these saves because he’s missing his spots rather than losing velocity or movement off his cutter is actually somewhat encouraging because you would expect him to work out the location problems. It’s hard to imagine Mo will struggle with his command for an extended period of time. It’s possible, sure, but tough to expect. If his stuff was disappearing, it would be a much bigger problem.

The weird thing about Rivera’s recent struggles is that they really don’t matter all that much. The Yankees’ odds of making the postseason are microscopic — 2.3% according to Baseball Prospectus, and they’re seven games back with four teams ahead of them — so a blown save here or there isn’t the end of the world regarding the club’s 2013 outlook. Rivera is also retiring after this year, so the long-term concern is nil. Still, no one wants to see him finish his career on a down note, so hopefully Mo will right the ship and soon. Since it’s just a command problem, I’m extremely confident he’ll get things sorted out very quickly.

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

I guess the only way to start this post is by saying there is no chance in hell the Yankees will trade Mariano Rivera. Absolutely zero. I’m more confident in that than anything I’ve ever written on this site. They’ve got a big retirement ceremony planned for September, they’re giving away a bobblehead … there’s no chance they’re going to let Rivera wear anything other than Yankees pinstripes in his career. So consider this post an intellectual exercise, or something.

* * *

As of this morning, the Yankees have a 1.5% chance to make the postseason according to Baseball Prospectus. They are six games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column with four teams ahead of them. Yes, it’s still mathematically possible for the Yankees to make the playoffs, but it’ll take a minor miracle. Losing five of six to the lowly Padres and even lowlier White Sox was a huge blow to their October chances. Those were supposed to be the easy wins.

Rivera’s final season — earlier this week he reiterated to Andrew Seligman that he is definitely retiring after the season — is going to waste in the sense that the greatest postseason weapon in history won’t get a chance to pitch in the playoffs one last time. As it stands, his final postseason appearance will be Game Five of the 2011 ALDS against the Tigers. I now retroactively consider myself lucky to have been at that game even though it ended the team’s season.

Trading Mo would be a Ray Bourque-esque “thanks for all the great years, sorry we couldn’t contend but we’ll trade you elsewhere so you have one last crack at a championship” move rather than something designed to kick start a rebuild. The Yankees would be doing Rivera a solid by sending him to a team that gives him a chance for a sixth World Series title in his final year. The market would be limited because it would have to be a legit contending team, not a fringe contender who is fighting for a spot. No one would be trading for him hoping he’ll get them into the postseason. They’re trading for him to turn playoff games into eight-inning affairs.

The team that acquires Rivera would have to be all but guaranteed to go to the postseason. I see eight teams that fit the bill (eight teams already? it’s August 8th!):

  1. Athletics
  2. Braves
  3. Cardinals
  4. Dodgers
  5. Pirates
  6. Rays
  7. Red Sox
  8. Tigers

We can rule the Rays and Red Sox right out. That ain’t happening. The Athletics have a strong bullpen and a very good closer already, so adding Mo doesn’t make a ton of sense. Same goes for the Braves. The Pirates are expected to get Jason Grilli back from his injury in the not-too-distant future, so adding a replacement closer isn’t a high priority at the moment. That could change if Grilli has a setback or something.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

We’re left with the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Tigers, all of whom have at least a five-game lead on a playoff berth. They also have a closer who was a setup man when the season started and a need for another arm in middle relief. Acquiring Rivera would push Edward Mujica, Kenley Jansen, or Joaquin Benoit, respectively, back into a seventh or eighth inning role. That’s much more realistic than say, pushing Craig Kimbrel into the eighth inning.

Obviously Rivera is one of a kind in that he’s still at the very top of his game (last night’s blown save notwithstanding) at age 43. I joked earlier this year that you don’t see many athletes walk away from the game in their prime like Mo, but there is some truth to that. He’s still as brutally effective as ever. There’s no good way to gauge his trade value though, it’s not like elite closers are traded two months prior to retirement/free agent all that often. I guess there’s 2009 Billy Wagner and 2007 Eric Gagne, right? That’s pretty much it, and neither was as good then as Rivera is now.

Wagner was fresh off Tommy John surgery at the time of the trade, as in just two appearances with the Mets before being traded fresh. He brought back absolutely nothing in return. The Mets should have kept him and taken the two draft picks after the season. What a terrible move. Gagne, on the other hand, brought back two big league ready and maybe useful pieces in David Murphy and Kason Gabbard as well as a low-level lottery ticket prospect (Engel Beltre). Gabbard flamed out and Beltre finally made it to the show this year, but Murphy turned into a pretty solid player. Pretty nice return for two months of a closer.

So would that be the framework for a Rivera trade? Two iffy but big league ready prospects and a low-level minor leaguer? Yeah I guess. Like I said, trading him would be more about getting him one last shot at the postseason than maximizing the return. It would be nice to get a useful piece in return however. Someone the Yankees could plug into the lineup or the pitching staff for the next five or six years. Doesn’t have to be a star, a Murphy-esque player would be just fine. Best of an unfortunate situation, you know?

I can’t imagine seeing Rivera in another uniform and thankfully I don’t have to worry about that ever happening. He’s not getting traded in the next few weeks. Like I said before, there’s zero chance of that happening. I know it, you know it, and he knows it. I just wanted to talk things out to see what kind of market and what kind of return the Yankees could expect if they did decide to move their closer to a contender as a personal favor in his final season. It’s a thought I never expected to entertain, that’s for sure.

Categories : Musings
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Baseball America published their annual best tools survey today (no subs. req’d), and four Yankees placed among the various AL categories. Mariano Rivera was voted best reliever, Brett Gardner the best bunter (!), Robinson Cano the second best defensive second baseman (behind Dustin Pedroia), and Andy Pettitte as having the best pickoff move.  I’m pretty sure Gardner isn’t even if the best bunter in the team’s outfield, let alone the entire AL. That gives you an idea of the validity of the survey, I suppose.

The minor league best tools surveys are here: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A. The Yankees did not place a single prospect in any category at any level. Completely shutout. That hasn’t happened as long as I’ve been following prospects. Josh Norris did the legwork and found the Yankees were the only team to be completely unrepresented at all four minor league levels. I’m … uh … sure they had a lot of guys who ranked fourth and fifth in the various categories. Yeah, that’s it.

Categories : Asides
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After all the bickering about whether he should have pitched the eighth or ninth, it’s time to take a second to appreciate the magic of Mariano Rivera‘s entrance into last night’s All-Star Game. The video is great but it doesn’t really do it justice. This is definitely one of those things I’m very happy to have experienced in person. I feel like that about Rivera’s entire career, really. It’s still so hard to believe he’s retiring in about three moments. No matter how badly the Yankees suck in the second half, Mo is more than enough of a reason to watch every single game.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The only baseball tonight is the Triple-A All-Star Game, which will air at 9pm ET on MLB Network. There are only two Yankees farmhands in the game and neither is an actual prospect (RHP Chris Bootcheck and OF Thomas Neal), so that’s not all that fun. Here are the rosters. Talk about that game or anything else here tonight. Go nuts.

Whoops: It’s Wednesday, I’m an idiot. I’ve had my days mixed up all week. Sorry if you got excited thinking tomorrow’s Friday.

Categories : Open Thread
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No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades this year, A through F. We start today with the A’s.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Let’s not kid ourselves here — not a whole lot has gone right for the Yankees this season. Not only have they dealt with a ton injuries, but they’ve also dealt with a ton of re-injuries as well. Mark Teixeira (wrist), Kevin Youkilis (back), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), and Derek Jeter (ankle, quad) all got hurt against almost immediately after coming off the DL. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Despite all that, the Bombers sit seven games over .500 and just three games back of a playoff spot. They’re probably further back than they would like, but they are definitely still in the hunt despite all those injuries and re-injuries. The performance of the guys in this post is a big reason why. Here are the Grade A’s.

Robinson Cano
All of the injuries mean Cano has to be The Man, and that is exactly what he has been overall. Robbie is hitting .302/.386/.531 (143 wRC+) with 21 homers while starting every single game this year (91 of 95 at second base). He’s played 807.1 of 849.1 possible defensive innings (95.1%), which is nuts. Dude is an iron man. That offensive performance is right in line with what he’s done the last three years, and in fact his OBP is a career-high because he’s started taking walks when pitched around. Cano went through a stretch where he was flailing at pitcher’s pitches for a while. Thankfully that has ended. Robbie has been an absolute rock for the Yankees this season and deserves to be in the MVP conversation at this point.

Hiroki Kuroda
Remember when there was concern about how Kuroda, an older pitcher coming from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, would transition to pinstripes? That seems silly now. Kuroda has pitched like a legitimate ace this year, posting a 2.65 ERA and 3.62 ERA FIP in 118.2 innings. Among qualified AL starters, he ranks second in ERA behind only Felix Hernandez (2.53). That’s pretty remarkable considering his home ballpark. Kuroda was a huge All-Star snub — seriously, they took Chris Tillman (!) before him — but I’m totally fine with him getting four days to recharge the batteries for the second half. The Yankees are going to need him. Kuroda has been brilliant since coming to New York and especially this year. What a stud.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Mariano Rivera
Forty-three years old? Missed almost all of last season with a knee injury? No big deal. Rivera has been as good as ever in 2013, going 30-for-32 in save chances with a 1.83 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 34.1 innings. He’s actually giving up more hits than usual, but it seems like most have been weakly hit bloopers that just find some outfield grass. Hopefully his .333 BABIP returns to his .264 career average in the second half. The Yankees have relied on their pitching staff heavily this year, and Rivera has been there to shut the door and preserve every lead time after time. I can’t believe he’s retiring after this season; it looks like he could pitch forever.

David Robertson
Rivera can’t do it all himself, of course. Robertson continues to be elite as his setup man, pitching to a 2.11 ERA and 2.51 FIP in 38.1 innings. The control-challenged right-hander cut down on his walks in the second half last season and that has carried over to this year — his 2.82 BB/9 (8.0 BB%) is far better than his 4.10 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) career average. Robertson and Rivera are arguably the best setup-closer combination in baseball, and the Yankees are lucky to have such an elite end-game duo. They’ve leaned on these guys a ton this year and they continue to get the job done.

Joe Girardi
Yes, every manager makes questionable pitching changes and calls for weird double-steals from time to time. It comes with the territory. But think about the job Girardi has done controlling what could have been a very chaotic situation. Players are getting hurt seemingly non-stop and the Yankees have played just about .500 ball since the calendar flipped to May, but things around the team remain relatively calm and orderly. This season could have very easily spiraled out of control, but Girardi has prevented that from happening. He deserves a lot of credit and should get Manager of the Year consideration in a few months.

Categories : Players
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Unsurprisingly, Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera were the only two Yankees elected to this year’s All-Star Game. Cano was voted the AL starter at second base by the fans and will also captain the AL Homerun Derby team. Manager Jim Leyland already confirmed Mo will be the AL’s closer. The full rosters are right here.

Cano, 30, is hitting .293/.372/.527 (137 wRC+) with 20 homers this year. This will be his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance — third as a starter — and fifth overall. The 43-year-old Rivera owns a 1.39 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 32.1 innings while going 29-for-30 in save chances. He missed last year’s All-Star game due to the knee injury, but he made the squad every year from 2008-2011. This is his 13th career All-Star appearance, the 21st most all-time and second most by a pitcher. Only Warren Spahn (14) went to more Midsummer Classics as a hurler.

David Robertson is one of five relievers included in the Final Vote. The team’s setup man has a 2.29 ERA (2.82 FIP) in 35.1 innings this year. Robertson, 28, was an All-Star in 2011, when he replaced David Price on the roster. You can vote for him right here. Polls close at 4pm ET this coming Thursday.

Categories : All Star Game, Asides
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Via George King & Dan Martin: Tigers manager Jim Leyland confirmed Mariano Rivera will serve as the AL’s closer for next month’s All-Star Game. “He took me off the hook from all that silly stuff that they wanted him to start the game … I hope I give him the ball in the ninth inning in New York,” he said. Leyland is managing because Detroit won the pennant last year.

Rivera, 43, has a 1.55 ERA (2.36 FIP) with 26 saves in 27 chances this year. There was a campaign to have Mo start the All-Star Game as a way to honor his career, but thankfully that was shot down. Rivera himself said he didn’t want to start. The game will be played in New York at CitiField, so hopefully the AL squad gives Mo a lead to protect in the ninth inning during his final All-Star Game. That would be pretty darn neat.

Categories : All Star Game, Asides
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Thursday Night Open Thread

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(Harlem Globetrotters via ESPN)

(Harlem Globetrotters via ESPN)

Every year for the last seven years, the Harlem Globetrotters conduct a “draft” to select honorary members to the team based on their work in the community, stuff like that. This year, the Globetrotters selected Mariano Rivera (and Brittney Griner). “We always have a place on our roster for winning athletes with that kind of mindset. His charitable work through the Mariano Rivera Foundation also embodies the spirit of the Globetrotters giving back to the community,” said the release. Mo can now play for the Globetrotters if he wants, and that would be a pretty cool post-baseball career if you ask me. Don’t see it happening though.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Rockies (Hefner vs. Chatwood) and MLB Network will air a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. Talk about any of that and more right here. You know what to do, so have at it.

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

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 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.

Categories : Pitching
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