Friday, May 11, 2012


Rivera is the only one who has or ever will do it for 18 years including 141 innings in post season and 4 All Star saves

5/10/12, "Jay Dunn: There will never be another Mariano Rivera," The Trentonian. — "Hall of Fame voter Jay Dunn is a sports copy editor at The Trentonian."

"Perhaps Yogi Berra said it the best. “Ninety percent of this game,” said Berra, “is half mental.”

Okay. Pythagoras he ain’t. But with one Yogi-ism he probably said more about baseball than a battery of computer jockeys who think they can explain every aspect of the game with a laptop and a keyboard.

Ninety percent of the game is half mental. Don’t try to do the math. Just grasp the concept. Baseball is more than hitting, running, catching and throwing. Successful baseball players are the ones who can hit, throw, catch and run at crucial times — at times when the pressure is the greatest. None more so than the pitcher — every team has one — called the closer. I don’t think there’s a more pressure-laden function anywhere in the world of sports. A good closer is much more than a talented pitcher.

He’s a mentally tough talented pitcher. The closer seldom enters a game before the ninth inning. He seldom enters a game unless his team is nursing a narrow lead. His job is to hold that lead while getting three batters out. When he makes his appearance his teammates have already struggled through eight innings to secure the lead. A starting pitcher has done his work and stands to pick up a victory.

Other relief pitchers, middle relievers and setup men, have brought the game to where it is now. None of this will matter if the closer falters. There’s nobody behind him. If he falters, he nullifies the day’s effort by an entire team.
Golfers and tennis players deal with heavy mental pressure but most of the time they’re playing for themselves, not an entire team A field goal kicker in the final minute of a football game is in a similar situation, but he does most of his kicking under somewhat less pressure. Most football games do not come down to last-minute kicks. A hockey goalie during an overtime game? Yes, if it happens to be the playoffs. Even then he’s normally the same goalie who played the first 60 minutes.

A baseball closer has only one job. He doesn’t work until the pressure has reached its zenith. It takes a rare person to face that game after game, year after year. The history books are filled with the names of relief pitchers who managed up to light up the league for one year, only to flop miserably the next.

Only a handful have been mentally tough enough to do it well for a sustained period to time. Only one has ever done it for 18 years and piled up 608 saves, not to mention 42 more in the postseason and four in All-Star Games.

Mariano Rivera has been unique in baseball history. He normally relies on a single pitch — cut fastball. The batters not only know what pitch is coming, but they know where it’s going to be. They still can’t hit it. If you suspended a tea cup in the strike zone Rivera could hit it consistently. Consistency is a good word to use when describing Rivera. In 18 years he has never gone into a prolonged slump. He’s never experienced arm trouble or had a lengthy stint on the disabled list.

He became the Yankees closer in 1997 and over the next 15 years he averaged nearly 40 saves a season. It’s much more than coincidence that his team reached the postseason in 14 of those years. For a decade and a half Rivera has been, in my opinion, the most valuable player on the Yankees
Obviously, not everyone agrees with me. The people who actually select the most valuable player never came close to giving him that honor for even one season. I find it stunning that he has never received a first-place MVP vote and never placed higher than ninth in the voting. He hasn’t even won a Cy Young Award, which goes only to pitchers. It might be difficult to argue that someone who plays for a winning team in the largest media market on earth is under-rated, but I believe that term applies to Mariano Rivera.

Sometime’s a player’s greatness isn’t appreciated until he isn’t around anymore, which is now the case for Rivera. In a bizarre twist of fate, the man who has been durable enough to appear in 1051 major league games was seriously injured last week while shagging flies during batting practice. The Yankees will have to get along without him for at least the rest of this season. David Robertson, who blossomed as a setup reliever last season has been anointed as the new closer. There’s no doubt he has the talent to fill the role, but it would be unfair to expect him to be Mariano Rivera.

Rivera's 1996 via FanGraphs:

1/30/12, "Reliever Usage Redux: A Follow-Up," FanGraphs, Dave Cameron

"The ideal usage pattern is not simply increasing the number of innings thrown by the best relievers by allowing them to stay on the mound after a game has been decided, but in using them for as many high leverage innings as possible throughout a season. Stanley should not be held up as the model –

At age 26, Rivera appeared in 61 games and faced 425 batters, 269 fewer than Stanley faced in 1982. Still, at 6.96 batters faced per appearance, he was staying on the mound about 60 percent longer than a traditional ninth inning reliever. For comparison, Rivera faced 4.56 batters per appearance in 1997, the year he replaced John Wetteland as the Yankees closer, despite being just one season removed from showing he could handle a heavy workload

Rivera’s gmLI in 1996 was only 1.36, lower than that of Stanley. But because they essentially let him regularly work the 7th and 8th innings of close games, his pLI was 1.56, meaning that the situations got more important when he was on the mound. While Stanley came into close games, kept them close, and then racked up innings while the outcome was no longer in as much danger, Rivera was used almost exclusively in situations where the game was on the line. And, because of his ability to get everyone out, he racked up 107.2 innings, putting up a +4.4 win season

Now, I know that’s easy to just dismiss everything Rivera does as a massive outlier and write off anything that he’s done as impossible for other mortals to repeat. However, 1996 Rivera posted a FIP- of 40, which 13 relievers have matched or done better than in a season with at least 50 innings pitched since 1982. Rob Dibble maintained a FIP- of 38 while facing 384 batters in 1990. Duane Ward faced 428 batters in 1991, and his FIP- was 43. Even more recently, Eric Gagne (2003), Francisco Rodriguez (2004), and Craig Kimbrel (2011) have faced 300+ batters in a season while performing as well or better than 1996 Rivera did on a rate basis.

While Rivera’s 1996 season might be the best example of how a non-closer relief ace can be deployed to maximum value, he’s not the sole example of a pitcher who was able to carry a significant workload while performing at an extremely high level in critical situations. While asking a pitcher to be that dominant while facing 600 to 700 batters in a season appears unrealistic, we have evidence that elite relievers can succeed while facing 300 to 400 batters in high leverage situations during a single season.

Last year, the 30 pitchers with 15 or more saves averaged 262 batters faced and 4.04 batters per appearance. These usage patterns aren’t just limited to the closer’s role either; the top four relievers in baseball by ERA- last year – David Robertson, Eric O’Flaherty, Scott Downs, and Mike Adams – each faced fewer than 3.89 batters per game, despite the fact that each showed they could get out batters from both sides of the plate and didn’t need to be used as specialists. Still, the evolution of set bullpen roles has led to not only limits on how many batters the closer

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?