Archive for Mariano Rivera

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.

Categories : Open Thread
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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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I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.

Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:

Derek Jeter Scouting Reports

You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.

Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:

  • a good face
  • a hi butt
  • an impact both offensively and defensively
  • makeup 2b a star
  • some hot dog in him

Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.

After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior:

Read More→

Categories : Days of Yore
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Rapid fire mailbag this week, so ten questions and ten answers. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

Max asks: At what point should we worry about Robinson Cano‘s bad lefty splits going forward? He’s hitting .254/.299/.476 against lefties this year and had a .239/.309/.337 line last year. Sure, he still mashes righties but I’m really not comfortable with the idea of giving a potential platoon player a megadeal. Thanks.

Oh it’s definitely a red flag right. Cano hit lefties nearly as well as he hit righties until last season, when his performance fell off a cliff. I looked at the data as part of our season review and didn’t find any significant red flags. This year though, both his ground ball (56.3%) and strikeout (22.4%) rates are way up against southpaws. That could change in a hurry since it’s so early in the season. If that continues into the summer, I’d be very worried. Giving a super-long contract to a middle infielder is risky enough, and it would be even worse if he’s morphed into a platoon bat. Not worried yet, but I will be watching this.

Steve asks: Single-season saves record is Francisco Rodriguez at 62. Mariano Rivera is on pace for 66. What are the odds he does it?

This isn’t really a Mo thing, right? The other 24 players on the team have to create those save opportunities for him. They’d have to give him like, 67 save chances over the full season to get to 62 saves, which means another 51 save chances in the final 121 games of the year. It’s doable, the Yankees play a ton of close games because their pitching is good and their offense mostly stinks (94 wRC+!), but only twice has someone saved more than 55 games in one year. I think the odds are very small, maybe 5% on the high-end.

Vinny asks: Assuming Travis Hafner gets and stays healthy (big assumption), what will the Yankees do with Lyle Overbay whenever Mark Teixeira comes back? His performance against righties has been excellent.

His performance against righties has been excellent (160 wRC+), but so has Hafner’s (151 wRC+). Pronk also does a much better job of holding his own against southpaws (98 wRC+, where Overbay has been basically useless (-21 wRC+). Their overall hitting numbers aren’t particularly close either (106 vs. 139 wRC+). The Yankees will have to decide if Overbay’s advantages on defense and durability make up the difference in offensive production. Considering he’s a first baseman and first baseman only, I think the answer is clearly no.

The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)

The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)

Brad asks: Do you see the Yankees shopping for another LOOGY? Or do you believe Brian Cashman will wait to see what Clay Rapada and/or Cesar Cabral can contribute?

I definitely think they will see what they have internally first. That means Vidal Nuno and maybe even Josh Spence in addition to Rapada and Cabral. If those guys all manage to flop — or if Boone Logan gets hurt — in the coming weeks, yeah I could see them looking for lefty relief help at the deadline. It definitely isn’t a pressing need right now.

KG asks: Would the Yankees have the interest/package to trade for Nick Franklin? He may not end up a bonafide major league shortstop, but the Mariners have Dustin Ackley at second and Brad Miller just behind Franklin. Pipe dream?

I’m sure there would be some interest on New York’s part, but I don’t see why the Mariners would move him right now. He’s tearing up the Triple-A level (159 wRC+) and even though he’s unlikely to be a shortstop long-term, he’s much better than their big league shortstops. Ackley is awful but they won’t give up on him yet, but Miller is far from a sure thing. I think the Mariners will call Franklin up in the coming weeks and give him a chance. The only thing the Yankees have to offer are a bunch High-A and Double-A outfielders, none of whom is performing particularly well this year. I don’t really see a trade fit.

Anonymous asks: With Seattle having uber-catching prospect Mike Zunino just about ready for the show — any chance Seattle will take offers for Jesus Montero? What would the Yankees have to give to reacquire Jesus?

Teams usually aren’t quick to admit failure after a trade of that magnitude, so I don’t think Seattle would be open to moving Montero so soon without getting a big piece in return. They’re not going to sell-low and take two Grade-C prospects despite his dismal big league performance. The Yankees could stick him at DH, teach him first base, catch him on rare occasions … basically everything they could have done when he was with the organization. I don’t see this happening at all.

Anonymous asks: Do you believe the Yankees are planning to trade Joba Chamberlain for pieces around the deadline, considering the Yankees’ surplus of middle relief options? Joba could bring back a cost-controlled piece.

He’s an injury-prone middle reliever who will be a free agent after the season. You don’t get “pieces” in return for that, and the only cost-controlled piece he’ll bring back in a mid-level prospect. Joba’s value to the Yankees as a seventh inning reliever is much greater than anything they’ll realistically get in return. Teams aren’t giving up anything worthwhile for him, I know I wouldn’t.



Mike asks: Sort of a two-part David Aardsma question now that the Marlins released him. Firstly, why are teams not giving him a shot in the Majors, and secondly, would it make sense for the Yanks to go pick him up again?

I don’t know why he hasn’t been given a big league shot yet, but I don’t believe it’s because he’s been overlooked. Teams know Aardsma, and anytime a former standout closer becomes a free agent, he gets looked into. They must not like what they’ve seen, either in his stuff or command — he did walk eight in 14 innings before the release, which he requested — or whatever. If Aardsma wants to come back to the organization and pitch in Triple-A for a few weeks, great. I wouldn’t give him a big league job over Shawn Kelley or Preston Claiborne (or Joba) right now though.

Tuckers asks: I know it’s too soon to predict, but what do you think about the Yankees signing Tim Lincecum after the season? I think there’s a good argument to be made either way.

My answer at this exact moment is no. That is subject to change between now and the offseason, but his velocity continues to hover around 90 mph and his offspeed stuff isn’t as devastating as it was when he was 93-95. His walk (4.25 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (0.92 HR/FB and 15.6% HR/FB) rates are career-worsts, and that’s in a big park in the NL. The Yankees do a wonderful job of squeezing production from seemingly cooked veterans, but I don’t think Lincecum is coming on a cheap one-year deal. So yeah, right now my answer is no. If he adds some velocity this summer, my opinion will change.

Brad asks: So the Yankees seem to have a glut of serviceable, young starting pitchers. Is there a deal out there for them to turn some quantity of these into an impact bat?

I don’t think so. I don’t see any team giving up an impact back for guys like Ivan Nova and David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Two or three projected fifth starters doesn’t get you one really good bat. Maybe they could get a David Adams type, but that wouldn’t qualify as an impact bat in my opinion.

Categories : Mailbag
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Our season preview series wraps up this week with a look at the bullpen, the bench, and miscellaneous leftovers. Opening Day is one week from today.

(J. Meric/Getty)

(J. Meric/Getty)

At this time last year, we all had a sneaking suspicion Mariano Rivera was about the begin the final season of his Hall of Fame career. He played coy all through Spring Training and never did announce his true intentions before a fluke knee injury ended his season in early-May. It wasn’t until this winter we learned he likely would have retired had he gotten healthy in time for postseason, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago we learned he was definitely planning to retire following the 2012 campaign before the knee injury changed things.

We found that out 16 days ago, when Rivera held a press conference to officially announce his intention to retire after the upcoming 2013 season. “It’s official now. After this year I will be retired … I have to give everything and the tank is almost empty. The little gas that I have left is everything for this year. After this year I am empty,” said the closer, when he made it pretty clear he would not be changing his mind and returning for 2014. This is it, the Summer of Mo.

* * *

Last summer, the Yankees overcame the loss of Rivera thanks to Rafael Soriano, who stepped in and went 42-for-46 in save chances as the fill-in closer. His 2.26 ERA (3.31 FIP) with 57 strikeouts and 16 walks in 57 appearances and 55.2 innings weren’t just adequate, he was arguably the best closer in the league. That said, Soriano is no Rivera. Mo hasn’t posted a FIP that high since 1998 or a K/BB that low (3.56) since 2004. By bWAR (2.6) and fWAR (1.2), Soriano just had the 13th and 16th best seasons of Rivera’s career, respectively. He’s just on another level.

The safety net is gone this season, at least in theory. David Aardsma has closed in the past and David Robertson could probably do the job without a problem, but neither is as accomplished as Soriano. That makes the now 43-year-old Rivera that much more important, which is a little scary because he is coming off the major knee injury. It wasn’t until a week or two into camp that he first felt 100%, but any lingering effects from the knee haven’t shown up in his Grapefruit League performance: no runs with seven strikeouts and one walk in five innings.

As far as his expected performance … does anyone expect anything other than vintage Mo? The rational part of my brain says a 43-year-old coming off a major injury and what amounts to an 11-month layoff should see his performance suffer, or at least need a few weeks to shake off the rust. Every other part of me expects those same cutters on the corners. Seriously, look at Rivera’s called pitch strike zone over the last three years (courtesy of Texas Leaguers)…

Mariano Rivera heat map

That’s three years worth of called balls and strikes. Look at how many pitches are on the corners compared to how many are over the middle of the plate. It’s ridiculous. He’s not human. He’s a robot. A strike-throwing cutter machine.

I honestly don’t know what Rivera will do this summer. He’s earned every benefit of the doubt despite the knee injury — remember, this is a guy who had shoulder surgery in October 2008 and pitched to a 1.76 ERA (2.89 FIP) in 66.1 innings in 2009 — and if he struggles, then he struggles. They’ll deal with it when the time comes. I expect Mo to have his typical one bad week in April and one bad week in August, and otherwise dominate the league like few others.

* * *

The Summer of Mo won’t just be about on-field performance, though. Rivera is expected to enjoy a Chipper Jones-esque farewell tour, receiving gifts and recognition from other clubs as he plays his final series in other AL cities. Despite all the great players to come through the Bronx in recent years, the farewell tour will be like nothing we’ve seen before. As bittersweet as the impending retirement is, it will be fun to watch Rivera get celebrated time and time again this summer.

This is the beginning of the end of an era for the Yankees. We’re never going to see a player like Mariano again, someone who is so brutally effective on the field while carrying himself with such class and dignity off it. It’s lazy and cliche, but Rivera truly is someone we’ll all sit around and tell the grandkids about when the time comes. He’s an all-time great and an icon as a person, a player, and a Yankee. It’s been a privilege and on honor to watch him these last 18 years.

Categories : Players
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