Wednesday, December 28, 2011


'Rivera is clearly more of a craftsman now'-Laurila, FanGraphs

12/28/11, "Mariano Rivera: Thinking Man's Cutter," Fan Graphs, David Laurila (quotes from 2011 season)

"There is no doubt that Rivera relies on his cutter to get hitters out. According to Pitch f/x, 87.3 percent of his 2011 offerings were cutters. In 2010, that number was 84.9, while in 2009 it was 92.9. In typical Mariano fashion, he posted a sub-2.00 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP each year.

Rivera’s 2007 and 2008 seasons present an interesting contrast. The former was statistically among the worst of his career, as he logged a 3.15 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. The latter was arguably his best ever, as he had a 1.40 ERA and a 0.665 WHIP.

What happened from one year to the next? Fortune was likely the biggest factor, as his BABiP dropped precipitously from a career-worst .322 to .218. A cursory look at Pitch f/x indicates that pitch selection might be another — it shows that Rivera threw a markedly lower percentage of cutters in his down year — but that is likely misleading. Pitch f/x data is considered relatively unreliable prior to 2008, and there is no other evidence that he had put his cutter in his back pocket.

There is, however, a second explanation: Mariano Rivera had become a savvier pitcher....

It didn’t all happen overnight, but Rivera is clearly more of a craftsman than he once was. While not specifically citing his 2007 season, Rivera alluded to it playing a major role in his evolution as a pitcher.

"Earlier in my career, I threw the ball and it moved inside to lefties and away from righties. That’s how I thought about it. I didn’t use it as effectively as I could have. Now I vary [the break] and throw it in different areas.”

“When Mariano comes in, you’re going to get the cutter,” added long-time Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. “You know that, but the location of his pitches has changed, and the way he’s pitching in the last couple of years has changed. I think the stuff is still the same, including the 91- and 92-mph cutters, but he makes it bigger and he makes it smaller. He varies the break of his cutter a little more now.

“A lot goes into what he does. He throws a two-seamer too, and we’ve used that for roughly the past 10 years, but what’s really made him better is what he’s been able to do recently.”...

(Rivera said,)“Scouting reports are there for a reason. They’re not there just to throw away. A lot of time and effort goes into those reports, so when you have them, you have to pay attention. How much do I use them? I use them enough for what I have to do.”"...

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