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Entries in Mariano Rivera (19)


Mo troubles for Rivera

After giving up a home run to Bobby Abreu of the Angels, the greatest reliever of all time, the Yankees' Mariano Rivera, said to Kevin Kernan of the NY Post

“The pitch didn’t get there enough. It was middle in, not in enough. He put good wood on the ball. You have to make sure you get it there. It didn’t get there.”

"Not getting there" is also what happened in his previous appearance Sunday night when Mo gave up a double that went high off the Green Monster to Boston's Marco Scutaro.

But what does "not getting there" really mean? Mariano is referring to his cutter that for so many years broke so sharply that he sawed off bats like they were dry kingling. Kernan write that when Yankee manager Joe Girardi was asked how often the cutter does not cut, he answered,

“Very, very seldom. You don’t see it very often, and he happened to throw one tonight.”

Girardi is an honorable man, but the liklihood is that he is protecting his superstar by not adding, "But it's happening more frequently these days."

Let me show you what I mean.

Mariano's cutter in 2009

Batters hit .170 against Mo in 2009Look at the consistency in the pitches. The more he hit a spot, the more red appears. Mariano was cruel against lefties. He held them to a .174 avg. because they coudn't get around on the pitch. Righties couldn't reach the ball, they hit .165 against him.

Mariano's cutter in 2010

Batters hit .185 against Mo's cutter in 2010Look at the green and yellow start to grow. Those were the first signs of the cutter not cutting as much. It's by no means significant here but serves more as an indicator. As that ball drifted toward the middle, it was lefties that saw the first benefits. They hit hit .218 against him last year. Mo still owned righties however holding them to a .139 avg.

Mariano's cutter in the first half of 2011

Batters hit .214 against the cutter leading up to the breakLook how much of the plate Mariano took in the first half with the cutter. The red area now covers a good portion of the middle of the plate. Lefties were up to .224 against him as they put more balls into play with the good part of the bat. Righties were up to .204. Now I know .204 is nothing, but when you compare it to .139, it's something.

Mariano's cutter since the 2011 All-Star break

Batters are hitting the cutter at a .303 rate since the breakOverall, batters are hitting .263 in games in the second half of this season. His ERA is 3.48. As for the cutter, you can see it's "not getting there." Lefties are hitting .350 against it, righties .231. But there's more as Mark Simon of points out in his comprehensive look at Mariano,

"Rivera is not putting hitters away with two strikes as well as he usually does.....He's given up 16 hits in favorable two-strike counts (0-2, 1-2, 2-2) this season, nearly twice as many as he did in 2010 (9)." 

Does this mean that Rivera is done? By no means.

His ERA this season is 2.23 and his career ERA is 2.23. His WHIP is still a sparkling 0.992.

But it does mean is that like the continental drift, Mariano's cutter is clearly moving, slowly but surely into the territory of mere mortals. And that is not the way we are accustomed to describing Mariano Rivera.


The dulling of Mariano's cutter

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are finally seeing the aging of Mariano Rivera. The great Yankee closer earned his 23rd save on Saturday, but it took a lot of work. While he struck out two, he brought the tying run to the plate (twice) by giving up two hits. Most significantly, he threw 28 pitches. This is the seventh time in 37 (18.9%) appearances he's thrown 20+ pitches in part, because batters are now able to work Mariano more effectively.

2009 Mariano vs. 2011 Mariano

As broadcasters repeat ad nauseum, Rivera is (primarily) a one pitch pitcher; he throws the cutter.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2009

Look at the consistent placement of Mo's 483 cuttersThrough July 14 of 2009, Mariano faced 119 batters, walked one and struck out 38. Batters hit .178, slugged .280, and had a .465 OPS. He had a 31.9% strikeout rate.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2011

This season, his 406 cutters are drifting more toward the center of the plate and upward, two dangerous places

In the first half of 2011, Mariano faced 106 batters, walked three and struck out 25. Batters hit .214, slugged .252, and had a .488 OPS. He had a 23.6% strikeout rate.

Beyond the slight drift upward of the pitch and the slight drift upward of the stats, there is a slight drift upward in the swing rate (49.5% to 53%), and a slight decrease in the miss rate (17.2% to 15.3%). Beyond that, there is an increase in the play rate 33.5% to 36.3%

2009 Mariano vs. 2011 Mariano against lefties

The difference is even greater versus lefties, take a look.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2009 against lefties

In 2009, lefties hit .167You can see that Mariano primarily worked inside, but he still worked enough on the outside to throw batters off.

Here is the Mariano cutter in the first-half of 2011 against lefties

In 2011, lefties are hitting.224The difference isn't vastly significant, but enough so that you can see why lefties are having more success this season. The pitches that Mariano used to throw on the outside are now being thrown more frequently inside and high.

Mariano will undoubtedly get the 20 saves he now needs to be the all-time saves leader, but he is going to have to work harder and his decreasing save percentage rate (98%, 96%, 87% to 85% this season), will most likely continue.


Million Dollar Cutters

With Mariano Rivera expected to re-sign with the Yankees rather easily - unlike a certain Yankee teammate - the man with the most devastating cut fastball in baseball history will soon be back to making a whole lot of money.

Rivera, as expected, finished with the best cutter among relievers in terms of pitch runs above average, according to Fangraphs. Let's take a graphical look at Rivera's cutter, as well as the cutters of the three next-best relievers from 2010 (minimum 50 IP): Mike Adams, D.J. Carrasco and Craig Breslow.


Slash Stats: .188/.228/.257


Slash Stats: .148/.194/.170


Slash Stats: .188/.266/.319


Slash Stats: .186/.213/.322


Click the thumbnail to see a comparison quilt of all four pitchers.