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Entries in Mariano Rivera (19)


Do the Yankees miss David Robertson more than Mo?

Where is the 2011 David Robertson?

The 2012 version is similar in name only.

Last night, the Baltimore Orioles hit like their Beltway buddy Washington Nationals slamming six homers off Yankee pitchers in a dominant 10-6 victory. I'll give you that Robin Ventura is the Rookie Manager of the Year, but there should be no doubt in any observer's mind that Buck Showalter is the Manager of the Year. As Red Sox owner John Henry told Tom Verducci in (another) brilliant piece for Sports Illustrated in describing his embarrassing Red Sox, “What appeared to be an outlier month in September 2011 turned out to be a harbinger instead.” The same thing could be said for Showalter's Orioles who went 15-13 last September including taking five-of-seven from the Dead Sox and playing the Yankees and the Rays even.

In the opener of a four-game set in sold out Baltimore last night, the Orioles had built a 6-1 lead against Yankee starter David Phelps (the fact that Phelps started last night for NY spoke volumes) but after Orioles starter Jason Hammel left the game (in his first start since coming off the DL, Hammel gave up just one run and six hits in five-plus innings) the Yankees scored five times in the 8th surrounding a few key hits around four walks.

So, with the score tied 6-6 entering the bottom of the 8th, the 2012 version of David Robertson entered the game.

The Yankees certainly can't complain that with Mariano Rivera lost for the season, Rafael Soriano has done an outstanding job as the team's closer replacement, leapfrogging Robertson from his 2011 7th inning role when the Yanks featured a last three-inning trio known as "So-Ro-Mo." And had Robertson performed in a fashion similar to his brilliant 2011 season, the Yankees would have been able to get away with surviving the loss of Mo. But Robertson has been a different pitcher.

2011 4 0 1.000 1.08 70 66.2 40 9 8 1 35 6 100 1.125
2012 1 6 .143 2.77 51 48.2 42 16 15 5 17 0 63 1.212
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table
Generated 9/7/2012.

I can't help but stare at the one homer that the 2011 Robertson surrendered in 66.2 innings and think about the two homers that the 2012 Robertson surrendered while facing three Orioles last night, retiring none of them as Baltimore scored four times to wrap up the 10-6 win. Last season in the 7th through 9th innings, batters hit .175 aginst Robertson, this season the number is 50 points higher and while a .225 average may sound good it's already resulted in five more runs surrendered in 15 fewer appearances.

Check out the cool blue of Robertson in 2011

Now look at the "hotter" 2012 Robertson

Here's what Robertson's two homers and a single looks like

The Yankees aren't tied with the Orioles just because of David Robertson, in fact how much complaining can you do about a guy who is one of the four relievers who has pitched at least 100 innings since the start of 2011 and has an ERA of under 2.00.

1 Eric O'Flaherty 1.41 121.1 132 4 4 .500 0 103 23 19 38 108
3 Craig Kimbrel 1.75 128.1 130 4 4 .500 80 69 26 25 45 221
4 David Robertson 1.79 115.1 121 5 6 .455 2 82 25 23 52 163
5 Mike Adams 1.94 120.2 130 9 7 .563 3 91 29 26 27 114
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/7/2012.

But it's September and there is no room for error for any contending team. The Yankees had battled back to tie the game and they looked for the 2011 David Robertson and he just wasn't there.

If the interlocking NY wants to see the postseason, they better send out search party for that guy because they need all the help they can get.



Mariano Rivera Versus Lefties

Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera notched his 602nd career save yesterday, making him the all time saves leader.  And he did it much like the 601 that came before.  Rivera has been as close to a constant that the game of baseball has seen in the last two decades.

This year, Mariano Rivera has mostly been his usual dominant self, although he's had a few rough outings scattered throughout.  Looking at his splits, it seems like lefties, against which he is usually deadly, have hit him a bit better.

First, let's compare his pitch location from this season to the previous three:

Mariano Rivera
(Click image to enlarge)

There isn't a tremendous difference, although you can see a bit more pitches out over the middle of the plate this season. 

Mariano Rivera Overall

The one thing that stands out is the jump in batting average on balls in play. It's always difficult to determine whether a BABIP jump is a result of decreased effectiveness or luck. For relievers, the sample size is fairly low for one season making it even more difficult to surmise.

However, we do know that it is mostly left-handed batters that account for the BABIP jump.

Mariano Rivera vs. LHB

Opposing left-handed batters have seen more than a 65 point jump in BABIP against Rivera this season. From 2008-2010, lefties had a 17.5% line drive rate. This season, it is up to 21.5%. This is hardly enough of a bump in such a small period of time to suggest Rivera is getting hit harder. So while it's possible more lefty batters have been squaring him up better, the increase in BABIP is probably more a product of luck than anything else. When coupled with the fact that his strikeout rate against LHB has been 21.7% this season, which is unchanged from his previous three year average, it is even more likely that we're not seeing an actual decline in effectiveness versus lefties.


Mo Chases For Mo

When the Yankees signed Mariano Rivera out of Panama back in 1990, George H.W. Bush was president, parachute pants were still kinda cool and no one had ever heard of an iPad. Yet, despite his 41 years, there's nothing dated about Mo. The cutter king has a 48-to-5 K-to-BB ratio in 51 innings, and his 2.5 Wins Above Replacement put him in the top 10 among MLB relievers yet again.

Rivera did leave Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a nasty bruise on his forearm last night, but he hasn't walked a hitter since July 3 and his 0.9 BB/9 is the second-lowest mark of his illustrious career. The Sandman has a sub-one walk rate because he's luring hitters to chase his cutter and occasional fastball off the plate at the highest rate of any reliever in the game.

Batters are chasing about 43 percent of Rivera's out-of-zone pitches this season, his highest clip dating back to 2008. Rivera loves to bust left-handers inside and pitches right-handers away with the cutter, often placing it out of the zone but just close enough to the plate that hitters feel compelled to swing:

 Frequency of Rivera's cutter location vs. lefties, 2011

 Frequency of Rivera's cutter location vs. righties, 2011

Batters on both sides are going after lots of those cutters just slightly out of the zone. Check out hitters' swing rate by location vs. Mo's cutter, compared to the league average:

Hitters' swing rate by location vs. Rivera's cutter, 2011League average swing rate by location vs. cutters, 2011 Rivera rarely throws a fastball to a lefty, but he uses the pitch about 18 percent of the time against righties. While his cutters sit mostly on the outside corner to same-handed batters, he ties them up inside with the fastball:

Frequency of Rivera's fastball location vs. righties, 2011

That, in turn, leads to lots of awkward swings on would-be balls:

Right-handed hitters' swing rate by location vs. Rivera's fastball, 2011League average swing rate by location for righty batters vs. righty fastballs, 2011Overall, Mo has thrown about 45 percent of his pitches within the strike zone this season. That may be well below the 49 percent average, but that's by design -- he's trying to locate just out of the zone, forcing batters to swing at pitches that they don't have much chance of hitting but may be called strikes if they don't pull the trigger. MC Hammer's 15 minutes of fame passed long ago, but the Hammer of God can still tell hitters, "can't touch this."