It's official: Mariano Rivera will retire following the 2013 season. The 43-year-old wants to go out hoisting his sixth World Series championship, not crumpling to the ground and tearing his ACL last while shagging fly balls in Kansas City. "The little gas I have left is for this year," Rivera told Jack Curry of YES Network. "After that, I have nothing left."
The story of how the undisputed cutter king discovered his deadly pitch has taken on mythological status. Rivera, playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza back in 1997, began putting bite on the ball that puzzled his fellow Panamanian. Since then, Mo has broken more timber than a Canadian lumberjack.
With Rivera set to check out after 2013, who among his late-inning brethren has the goods to be the next cutter king? Here are three such candidates.
- Kenley Jansen throws the cutter almost exclusively (89% of his pitches in 2012), and he makes every opponent who gets the pitch look like he's swinging with balsa wood. Jansen held hitters to a MLB-worst .137 batting average and a .244 slugging percentage against his cutter last year. Hitters swung and missed 32% of the time against Jansen's cutter, also tops among relievers and far above the 23% big league average. One notable difference between Jansen and Mo: Pitch location. Rivera masterfully paints the corners with his cutter. Jansen, by contrast, says, "Here it is -- try and hit it."
Rivera's cutter location, 2010-12
Jansen's cutter location, 2010-12
- Rivera's set-up man has a not-too-shabby cutter of his own. David Robertson tossed the pitch about 54% of the time last season. He doesn't get near as many swings and misses with the cutter as Jansen (17.4%), but he pounds the zone. Robertson threw the pitch for a strike 68% of the time, well above the 64% average for relievers.
- While Jason Motte isn't as much of a cutter connoisseur as Jansen and Robertson (he threw the pitch about 25% of the time last year), he's gradually relying more on the pitch to complement his upper-90s gas. He induced a swing and a miss 28% of the time with his cutter.