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