Monday, July 23, 2012


Mo flips coin for beginning of soccer match at Yankee Stadium

Update, Rivera flips coin for 8/8/12 soccer match at Yankee Stadium

Mo flips the coin before friendly match was played between Paris St Germain and Chelsea at Yankee Stadium," Sun., 7/22/12, getty

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Mariano Rivera greets soccer players on day before their game at Yankee Stadium


"Mariano Rivera, left, talks with Chelsea FC's Frank Lampard (8) after a training session in East Rutherford, N.J. , Saturday, July. 21, 2012. Chelsea will face Paris Saint-Germain in a friendly at Yankee Stadium on Sunday," 7/22/12, ap

Above, "Mariano Rivera...with Chelsea player Frank Lampard at Chelsea's practice in East Rutherford," 7/21/12, photo P.E. McCarthy, Newsday

"Mariano Rivera, left, greets Chelsea FC's Petr Cech (1) and David Luiz, right, after their soccer training session in East Rutherford, N.J. , Saturday, July. 21, 2012. Chelsea will face Paris Saint-Germain in a friendly soccer game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday," 7/22/12, ap


7/22/12, "Mariano Rivera now having second thoughts about returning to Yankees after tearing up right knee," NY Daily News, Stefan Bondy

"Rivera has nothing more to prove on the diamond, with a record 608 saves, five rings and the reputation as the most dominant, clutch closer in the history of the game."...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Mariano Rivera rings opening bell at NY Stock Exchange, July 18, 2012

7/18/12, "Rivera is opener, instead of closer, at NYSE,", E. Asofsky

7/18/12, "Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees Closer and MLB All-Time Saves Leader, Rings The Opening BellSM at the New York Stock Exchange," NYSE Euronext

Mariano Rivera at NYSE banging gavel with son Mariano Rivera, Jr., 7/18/12, ap

Rivera opens NYSE, 7/19/12, UPI photo



Mariano Rivera talks with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio NY, 98.7fm, Mon. 7/16/12

Mariano Rivera interview with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio NY, 98.7fm, Monday, July 16, 2012, runs 11:30. Mo says his goal is to come back this year but there's no way to know if it will happen. Toward the end of the conversation, Michael asks, are you throwing at all? Mo laughs and says, I can't answer that. Following from NY Magazine:

7/17/12, "Mariano Rivera Says His Goal Is a Return in 2012," NY Magazine, by Joe DeLessioMariano Rivera has suggested before that he believes there's a chance he'll pitch again in 2012: In early June, when the date for his surgery was set, he was asked if there was a chance he'd be back before the end of this season, and he said that he didn't want to think about it, but that "miracles happen." Fast forward to last week, when Rivera's rehab doctor told the Post, "Right now, he’s shut down until next year," but added that Rivera was ahead of schedule in his recovery and that "If I was putting money on it, I would put my money on Mo."

Anyway, yesterday Rivera said in a radio interview that he considers a return this season his goal. From Michael Kay's radio show, as transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews:

Is there a chance you can pitch before the end of the year based off the story by Joel Sherman in the New York Post?

That’s my goal. Definitely, that’s my goal. I am not thinking about it because if it doesn’t happen I’d be disappointed. So, I am taking it day by day. I am working hard, I don’t want to put something in my mind. I want to make sure I do my things first. Focused, optimism, confidence. Whatever the Lord allows it to happen it will happen.”

Are you ahead of schedule in your rehabilitation? I read somewhere that the doctors claim you are in a such good shape at your age that you are ahead of schedule?

“Yeah definitely. It’s going much quicker than what we were thinking. Everything, the surgery, the knee, the way the cut healed and everything. They can’t believe it’s going so quick like this.”

Are you doing any throwing? Are you allowed to keep your arm in shape?

“That’s one [question] I am gonna pass.”

Is there a chance you could pitch in September?

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I would say I don’t know. I want to be there now. If there is any chance? Only God knows.”

Having said that, this is still a long shot, and Rivera's optimism, even when paired with reports of his ahead-of-schedule recovery, only means so much. After all, around the same time Rivera's rehab doctor spoke with the Post, Brian Cashman told the paper that "in terms of 2012, he’s out.""

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Rivera's rehab doctor speaks encouragingly of his progress to Joel Sherman

"“For me there is biological age and chronological age,” Pyne said. “I don’t see Mariano Rivera’s biological age as 42. He is mechanically and physically not a 42-year-old. He has the genetics of a much, much younger guy. This is not his last season. I cannot make the determination [of the exact date he will return]. But physically he will be able to do whatever it takes to pitch again.”"

7/10/12, "Rehab doctor: Rivera could pitch for Yankees this season," NY Post, Joel Sherman

"Four days a week, Mariano Rivera makes the trip from his Westchester home to Manhattan. Four days a week, he puts in three hours of stretching, exercising and sweating designed to get him back from his torn ACL and on a major league mound. But when?

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday “in terms of 2012, he’s out.”

Rivera, though, has always been good at defying expectations. In the most informal of surveys, I went around the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park over the weekend and could not find a single person in a Yankees uniform who did not think that at some point out of nowhere soon we would hear, “Mo has begun running” or “Mo is down in Tampa doing some long tossing.” Such is the mystique and respect he engenders.

The clock is working against him returning this season. But so much is working for him and that comes from the person who is most involved in his rehab; in those four-day-a-week, three-hour sweat sessions.

Dr. Keith Pyne made it clear on several occasions in a phone conversation with The Post that the ultimate authorities on when Rivera will return are his surgeon, Dr. David Altchek, the Yankees and Rivera himself. And he said the working theory is, “Right now, he’s shut down until next year.”

But the key words in that reply were “right now.” For in our conversation yesterday, Pyne also said Rivera is “working his butt off,” is well ahead of schedule in rehab and “is itching to get back.”

He added, that Rivera “will be in the best position to accomplish that goal [pitching this year]. He’s got everything it takes to accomplish that. ... If I was putting money on it, I would put my money on Mo.”

Rivera, perhaps the most durable closer ever, tore the ACL in his right knee on May 3 in Kansas City while shagging balls in batting practice. Due to a blood clot, his surgery was delayed to June 12. But in listing reasons to believe in Rivera’s speedy recovery, Pyne cited the delay in surgery because it enabled Rivera to do extensive pre-hab with Pyne and rehab specialist Ben Velazquez.

“This is a very detailed guy and he did everything right [pre-surgery],” Pyne said. “He strengthened, he got range of motion. He was very functional before surgery. I don’t want to put a percentage on it, but he reduced recovery time by a lot.”

There were other factors Pyne believes are accelerating recovery. It turned out when Altchek went in that Rivera had a partial, not a full tear. Pyne believes the recovery time would need to be longer if it were Rivera’s landing left leg because of the impact and twist necessary at the end of a motion.

Mainly, though, Pyne attributed the rapidity of recovery to Rivera’s physical and mental makeup. Pyne had not known Rivera before this rehab, but he has learned what those who have followed Rivera’s career are intimate with: The right-hander has freakish flexibility, athleticism and determination.

Pyne has rehabbed more than 1,100 athletes in his 22 years and needed to keep his eye on the clock during our conversation because he had to go work with Travis Beckum, the Giants tight end who tore an ACL during the Super Bowl.

[Rivera] is special, in the top 10 percent of athletes I have worked with,” Pyne said. “One great advantage he has is his lifestyle is very conducive to longevity. He eats well, prepares well. He is very cognizant of how to treat his body. That has put years onto his career. He is a special athlete with a special nervous system. He has great flexibility and joint mechanics. ... But the most special thing about him is his cranium. He works and is focused on the task at hand. He attacks this like a professional.”

Pyne believes Rivera has progressed so far, so fast that the closer could do more intensive load-bearing maneuvers such as running and throwing right now. But the protocol calls for at least 45 days after surgery before advancing in that way, which would be late July, at the earliest.

You have to let the ACL scar down, it is just being cautious,” Pyne said. “So right now we are establishing all the neuro-connections in his knee, foot and back going to the brain so that when he starts to load there are no complications. It is Dr. Altchek’s call he will tell us when [Rivera] can begin weight bearing. In the meantime we are getting him ready to accept load. Once you do that, that is the hard part and he is already ready to go. When you do that, when you get to load bearing, recovery time speeds up immensely.”

But how fast? Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo tore his right ACL on May 1, 2008, returned Sept. 25 and started Game 1 of the Division Series. But he was 22. Rivera is 20 years older.

For me there is biological age and chronological age,” Pyne said. “I don’t see Mariano Rivera’s biological age as 42. He is mechanically and physically not a 42-year-old. He has the genetics of a much, much younger guy. This is not his last season. I cannot make the determination [of the exact date he will return]. But physically he will be able to do whatever it takes to pitch again.”"

Monday, July 09, 2012


The Scott Boras-Rafael Soriano situation progresses

7/7/12, "Yankees can count on closer Rafael Soriano," Bob Klapisch, Bergen Record

"It’s been a little more than two months since Mariano Rivera destroyed his knee, forcing the Yankees to glimpse a world without the game’s greatest closer. The Bombers had every reason to dread what was coming next - a leaderless bullpen, a gaping hole in the ninth inning, and with it, a series of blown saves that would alter the balance of power in the East.

It was a reasonable fear; replacing Rivera should’ve been impossible. But the Yankees have the biggest lead in the majors precisely because they’ve avoided that doomsday scenario. For that, they can thank Rafael Soriano, who’s almost made the Yankees forget Rivera.

Of course, October will deliver its own verdict on Soriano’s Yankee legacy, but for now it’s impossible to overstate his dominance. Soriano recorded his first four-out save of the season on Friday night, smothering the Red Sox [team stats] en route to the Bombers’ 10-8 win.

The crossroads moment occurred in the eighth inning, when with two out and runners on first and second, Soriano overpowered Adrian Gonzalez, getting a soft grounder to Mark Teixeira to end rally.

That was Soriano’s 20th save in 21 opportunities - not a bad ratio for someone taking the place of a legend. The key, Soriano says, is not to channel Mariano or conjure up images of that monster cutter. To the contrary: Soriano thrives because he doesn’t think of Rivera "at all."

"Mariano is not on my mind when I’m pitching," Soriano said earlier Friday. "I’ve (closed games) before. Mariano is a great pitcher, but I know what to do. Right now I’m very comfortable, trying to help the team win."

Soriano’s history is indeed an ally, having led the American League in saves in 2010 with the Rays. He came to the Yankees as a free agent, although under less than ideal circumstances. Not only was Soriano busted down a rank to eighth-inning set-up man, he was signed to a three-year, $35 million deal over Brian Cashman’s vehement objection.

The general manager was loathe to pay any reliever, no matter how talented, that much for the 22nd through 24th outs. But Cashman was overruled by Hal Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine, who were unnerved by the Red Sox’ off-season acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.

Cashman was content re-signing Rivera and Derek Jeter that winter, and insisted on drawing the line on Soriano. He was overruled, but now concedes Soriano has done a "fantastic job" in this unforeseen emergency.

Cashman’s sentiment is echoed throughout the organization: Soriano has averted a potential crisis, and is pitching with even greater authority in 2012 than he did in 2011. He hasn’t given up a home run this season, and seen spikes in his strikeout and ground ball ratios.

But the Yankees’ economic picture has changed since Soriano arrived. There’s persistent talk of trimming the payroll to $189 million in 2014 as a way to make room for free agents to-be Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson without incurring luxury tax penalties.

To come in under that threshold will mean shedding some of the high-priced veteran talent. Parts of the equation are easily to project. Hiroki Kuroda’s $10 million will be gone, just as Nick Swisher will (likely) be. The Yankees are assuming Rivera and his $15 million will be off the books in two more years, too, even if he makes a successful comeback in 2013.

Soriano? As much as the Bombers appreciate his contribution, they wouldn’t mind shedding the $14 million he’s due next year. Assuming Rivera does heal from knee surgery, he’ll reclaim his job and force Soriano back to the set-up role. And paying an eighth-inning asset $14 million is "just nuts," said one major league executive. "Only the Yankees would do something that crazy, and I’m not sure even they can afford it."

There’s an escape hatch for both sides, however: Soriano can opt out of his contract after this season and close elsewhere. The Yankees are hoping a successful showcase will make it easy for Soriano to attract interest - if not for that $14 million, then at least for a three-year contract that might yield, say, $40 million. And therein lies Soriano’s dilemma. Does he surrender next year’s Yankees paycheck in favor of becoming someone else’s ninth-inning guardian?

Soriano is characteristically guarded about his future.

"Right now I’m thinking only about this year," he said quietly. "My first goal is to win a championship. That’s why I came here, to win. After that, we will see."

Soriano is represented by Scott Boras, which means he’d driven by a hunger for the largest possible windfall. The super-agent has recently nudged the Yankees about a contract extension, pointing out they’ve been given a free preview of 2014 when Rivera could be retired and home with his family. If anything, Boras says, Soriano’s value should’ve increased in the last two months.

The Yankees’ politely declined, already projecting the younger and more affordable David Robertson as the next Rivera. In fact, when the team’s hierarchy talk about late-game weaponry, they make sure to mention all of their relievers, not just Soriano.

"We feel we have a number of guys who are capable of closing," said Cashman. "Everyone (in the bullpen) has performed well, especially after they’ve been asked to take on an enhanced role."

That’s a thinly-veiled pushback at Boras, which cuts to the heart of the Yankees’ relationship with Soriano. Call it love-hate. Love the saves, absolutely hate writing the checks."


Ed. note: Many years went by before more than a few people made a big deal about Rivera whose promise began in the 1995 ALDS and in 1996 regular season. In 1996 regular season:

"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 that ranks as the third highest of any reliever in the last 30 years.... showing he could handle a heavy workload and sustain a brilliant performance doing it."...(FanGraphs, scroll down)

That year Rivera had 35 games of 2 or more IP, 8 of which were 3IP, 8 wins and 5 saves. Per Joel Sherman, "Rivera went 8-3 with a 2.09 ERA, held opponents to a .193 batting average, and broke Goose Gossage's Yankee relief record of 122 strikeouts by fanning 130 in 107.2 innings.

From page 208, Joel Sherman's book, "Birth of a Dynasty," published in 2006 by Rodale.

Rivera's 1996 continued on to 3 levels of post season play including 3 days in a row in the 1996 World Series. Even by 2003, not much was said about Mo other than he was good. His picture was on the cover of a book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," about the 2001 Yankees. In 2003, Eric Gagne's face was seen nightly on ESPN, and Gagne was given the NL Cy Young Award based on his "regular season total save stat" record. Rivera has never come close to winning that award.

In 2005, Rivera was #1 on the MLB AL Cy Young Predictor. He was almost 19 points ahead of Colon:

But specially selected BBWAA voters judged Rivera a very distant second. 6 voters left his name entirely off their ballot. The "save" stat is very handy. One day persons will say it's a meaningless joke of a stat, the next day the same people can say a pitcher isn't good enough because he should have had more cookie saves. Or a variation of that. In 2005, one of the 6 assigned AL Cy Young voters who left Mariano Rivera completely off their ballot was Sheldon Ocker:

11/9/2005, "Baseball; Award Eludes Rivera; Colon Wins the Cy Young," NY Times, Tyler Kepner

"His dominance seems to have had a numbing effect on voters.

''For him to get anybody's attention

So Rivera's 7 wins in his 78.1IP in 2005 don't count. He can't have the award because saves are no good, then he can't have it because he didn't have enough cookie saves. In a season in which the Yankees and Red Sox

The Yankees didn't exactly have the luxury of waiting around to give Rivera easy saves. The AL Cy Young award is decided by BBWAA's Jack O'Connell when he selects which 26 voters will vote for the award. 2005 was only 2 years removed from 2003 when the award was given to Eric Gagne. Some people might have said there were big reasons Rivera deserved it as much if not more than Eric Gagne. To make absolutely sure this didn't happen, a lot of people would have had to leave Mo completely off their ballot, and that's what happened. 6 voters left his name off the ballot. Some said his being a Yankee helped keep him from the award. At least one insider says it was a pistol-whipping, anti-Yankee bias plus spite that withheld the award from Rivera. Even without incessant prompting from Bud Selig, writers are quite willing to punish deserving Yankee players at awards time "because they're on a team of rich guys getting it done." Besides, Selig's heart belongs to another.

On July 28, 2006, BBWAA member Dave Sheinin suggested the AL Cy Young and MVP could both

In the 2007 post season, Rivera seemed to take the Bugs in stride, ALDS game 2 in Cleveland, pitched 2 innings in a tie game, bottom of 9th and 10th, left with score still tied 1-1, but Yankees lost in bottom of the 11th.

In 2008, Krod, Frankie Rodriguez, was discussed for both AL Cy Young and AL MVP. He came in 3rd in Cy Young voting and 6th in MVP voting. In all his years,

After Rivera's 16 inning 2009 post season more people starting thinking of him as the best. During the 2009 ALCS, Howard Bryant wrote:

10/23/09, "Moves Making ALCS More Interesting," Howard Bryant,

The difference-maker, of course, is Rivera. And regardless of what the Yankees do for the remainder of the series,

Rivera's 2011 "regular season total save stat" record was correctly viewed as icing on the cake:

"Not that he needed it or that anyone cared about the number itself."...

Just for the record, I like to note his 2 saves in one day. As of 5/26/10, Rivera pitched 2 saves in one day 6 times in regular season, the 6th time being 5/26/10. The 5/25/10 game was shortened due to rain. It's final 3 innings were played on 5/26 along with the game scheduled for that day. Rivera pitched the ending of the 5/25 game as well as the 5/26/10 game, both were 1-run games. 2 saves in one day 5 x was noted in a 5/3/07 AP article by Elias. The link for that is likely inactive now. I mention this because his six 2 saves in one day doesn't usually show up on stat sheets assessing durability. Rivera's 5/26/10 two-game outing doesn't show up on any records anyway because the 5/25 game is listed as having been played entirely on that day.

Above 2009 ALCS game 1, 10/16/09, Angels in the Bronx, drizzle, 11:15pm, was 45 degrees at game start, likely below 40 by 11:15pm.


Rivera for many years has had shorter off seasons than other relievers. The year 2011 was the first time I'd seen the topic mentioned of stress on post season pitchers and its possible effect on their regular season. MLB's concern was about 2010 champ SF Giants pitchers breaking down. (Rivera wasn't mentioned in the article).

1/14/11,, "Giants' pitchers arming themselves against short offseason," by Chris Haft

MLB expressed concern that Giants' pitchers have had to work an extra month in the post season. However, teams have been in this situation since 1995 when 3 levels of post season play became standard:

"Adding a month to their 2010 season while winning the World Series also added

The 2010 strain on the Giants is referenced by the AP on 4/29/12:

4/29/12, AP, "Then there's the cumulative strain. Wilson set career highs in saves, games and innings pitched in 2010, when the bearded closer helped the Giants win the World Series. His elbow acted up in 2011, causing him to miss more than a month....

"A lot of times, people don't understand mentally and physically how you have to overextend when you go to the playoffs and World Series," Baker said. "You're still pitching while everybody else is home resting. That's a lot more. And you have less time to recover for next year. You have a shorter winter.

"Winning takes its toll, big time. There's nothing better than that, but it takes its toll.""...



Rivera was named MVP of the 2003 ALCS and the 1999 World Series which was nice. People would say, oh, yeah, Rivera's good in the post season, as if it were a separate sport, not to be dwelt on. Move along. He pitched the equivalent of 2 additional years of relief work, 141 innings, sandwiched alongside his regular season work, but it's not allowed to be mentioned.

Here's another citation about baseball awards voters and anti-Yankee bias:

9/22/2011, "New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi likely won't win American League Manager of the Year.

In fact, he'll be lucky to finish in the top three in the voting.

Sadly, most baseball writers/voters just can't look past the Yankees' $200 million payroll to actually see what he's done.

Plus, there's an anti-New York vote that swirls around Baseball America whether folks want to admit it or not."...

Saturday, July 07, 2012


'Ladies and gentlemen, I give you baseball’s best player: Mariano Rivera,' Hendrickson, Forbes

7/5/12, "Major League Baseball: Who's The Best Now, Who's The Best All Time?," Forbes, Mark Hendrickson, op-ed

"Greatest player today: This question is complicated by the fact that we are talking about players at different stages in their careers. Pujols, with 10 years under his belt, is a viable candidate, but in my book, there is one player today whose statistics elevate him so far above his peers that he deserves to be recognized as baseball’s best. Today’s greatest baseball player is a pitcher.

As baseball evolved, scoring increased. Thus, the list of pitchers with the lowest career ERAs is dominated by pre-World War II pitchers. In fact, of the 100 lowest career ERAs of all time, only six belong to players who have competed during my lifetime. Four of those are found near the bottom of the list: Whitey Ford, ranked 87th; Dan Quisenberry, 93rd; Sandy Koufax, 94th; and Ron Perranoski, 100th. Only two pitchers who have played during my lifetime managed to crack the top 50: the great knuckleballer, Hoyt Wilhelm, at #45,
For a pitcher today to have an ERA lower than any other pitcher of the past 60 years—even lower than Babe Ruth’s and right behind the Big Train, Walter Johnson—is magnificent. Today’s greatest player has the 13th-best ERA of all time: 2.21. No other active pitcher with more than 1,000 innings pitched has an ERA below 3.00. That’s huge—a quantum gap separating him from everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen,
Unfortunately, Rivera cannot compete in this year’s All-Star game due to a flukish knee injury eerily reminiscent of the one that torpedoed Fidrych’s career. Get well soon, Mariano.

Enjoy the All-Star game, all you baseball fans. And feel free to nominate your own baseball “bests” in the “Comment now” link."


Ed. note: The 2.21 ERA is of course regular season only. Rivera's 141 post season innings have a .70 ERA.


Hendrickson says Babe Ruth is the best player of all time.


"Mark Hendrickson, Contributor

I am Adjunct Professor of Economics at Grove City College and Fellow for Social and Economic Policy for the Center for Vision & Values, for whom I've written 200+ articles in the last five years. My interests are varied—graduate work in law at the University of Michigan, literature at Oxford, moral education at Harvard, and economics under the tutelage of Hans F. Sennholz, who earned his doctorate under Ludwig von Mises. My libertarian economics is fused with traditional American values. My most recent book is “Famous But Nameless: Lessons and Inspiration from the Bible’s Anonymous Characters (2011).

The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer."

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Evolution and increased popularity of the cutter in baseball-Rymer

7/4/12, "How the Evolution of the Cutter Has Changed the Game of Baseball," Z. D. Rymer, Bleacher Report

"They say that the best pitch in baseball is and always will be a well-located fastball. False.

The best pitch in baseball is, in fact, a well-located cut fastball. The scary part for hitters is that more and more pitchers are starting to come around to just how dangerous the cutter really is.

Everyone knows that the keeper of the best cutter in Major League Baseball history is none other than New York Yankees longtime closer Mariano Rivera. His cutter is among the most devastating pitches ever thrown, and he forged a Hall of Fame career for himself by using it to shatter bats and get weak ground balls.

For a while there, Rivera was one of a select few pitchers who featured cutters in their repertoires. Over the last 10 years or so, that group has grown considerably. Pitchers who were already good to begin with have taken to throwing a cutter, and some pitchers have turned to the cutter to help save their careers.

The rise of the cutter was chronicled by Albert Chen in a story for Sports Illustrated that was published last June, and not a whole lot has changed over the past year. The cutter is still catching on, and major league hitters are still trying to solve the mystery of how to hit it.

So how did all of this happen? How has the cutter gone from being Mariano Rivera's not-so-secret weapon to being the secret weapon of numerous pitchers around the league?

As is the case with baseball tales, it's kind of a long story.

Mariano Rivera may be the keeper of baseball's most lethal cutter, but he didn't invent the pitch itself. The cutter was around long before he broke into the major leagues back in the mid-1990s.

Chen's story for SI claims that it is still unknown who invented the cut fastball. And indeed, the term itself has only been part of the baseball lexicon for 15 years or so. We can thank Rivera for that.

However, Chen's story mentions a passage in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers that referenced a description of a certain kind of fastball penned by former major leaguer Ethan Allen way back in the 1950s.

Here's Allen's description of the pitch from his 1953 instructional book:

[A pitcher] threw a fastball that was unique because it slid or broke like a curve. It was somewhat like a fastball, but he threw over the side of the index finger to a greater extent. This off-center pressure caused the break.

The description is that of a traditional cutter grip, which you can see in this picture from

The terms "cutter" and "cut fastball" didn't show up until the 1990s, but it's probable that the cutter was pretty common in baseball in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. One expert thinks the pitch was probably just mistaken for a slider when it was thrown.

That's the theory proposed by former major leaguer Gil Patterson, who has since established himself as a major proponent of the cutter. Here's what he said to SI:

I'd love to see what Goose Gossage's velocity was on his slider. You look back at guys like Lee Smith, Bret Saberhagen, Steve Busby, Dave Stieb, and they threw their sliders pretty hard. Maybe today those are cutters.

There is a difference between a cutter and a slider, for the record. Sliders have more downward and horizontal break. Cutters are harder and they break very late in a single direction.

To the naked eye, though, they are similar pitches. Back when the term "cutter" didn't exist, it therefore would have been very easy to mistake pitches that were actually cutters for sliders.

Today, most savvy baseball fans know a cutter when they see one, and that's all thanks to one man.

(Above, Rivera in 1997, getty)

When Rivera first broke into the big leagues in 1995, he didn't throw a cutter. He simply threw very hard, and that was good enough.

The story, according to USA Today, goes that Rivera stumbled across the cut fastball by accident while he was playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza before a game in 1997.

He recounted his reaction to Bob Klapisch of The Record earlier this year:

All of a sudden the ball started moving, cutting, in a way I’d never seen before. I wasn’t doing anything different, yet it had a life of its own. So, tell me, how do you explain that? [Mendoza] kept asking me what I was doing to make the ball move like that, and I had no answer. To me, the pitch was a gift from God.

"A gift from God." In-freakin'-deed.

Rivera was already a good reliever before he discovered his cutter in 1997. He had posted a 2.09 ERA in 61 appearances in 1996, striking out 130 hitters in 107.2 innings and holding opponents to a .189 batting average. But once he added the cutter to his arsenal, he put himself on a path that eventually led him to Major League Baseball's all-time saves record.

Per, Rivera faced 4,121 hitters from the start of the 1997 season right up until his last appearance this season on April 30. He held opponents to a .208 batting average and a .285 slugging percentage.

His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over this span checks in at .261. In the pre-cutter days, his BABIP was .285.

The effectiveness of Mo's cutter is best demonstrated by his career numbers against left-handed hitters, who for the last 15 years have been faced with the nearly-impossible task of making solid contact against Rivera's signature pitch. It's a pitch that breaks right in on their hands, making it very hard for lefties to square the ball up.

Lefties have hit .207 with a .266 slugging percentage against Rivera. Righties have been slightly more successful, hitting .214 with a .315 slugging percentage, but many managers have taken to pinch-hitting right-handed batters against Rivera over the years because of his dominance against lefties.

Rivera's dominance can be attributed to his cutter, and so can his longevity. He stopped throwing in the mid-90s years ago, yet he was able to continue dominating hitters because he doesn't need mid-90s velocity for his cutter to be a nasty pitch. Movement and location make it nasty, not velocity.

It's been oft-noted that every hitter who has ever faced Rivera knew what was coming. He would toy with hitters by showing them four-seam fastballs and two-seam fastballs, but he rarely (if ever) went through an at-bat without busting out the cutter at least once. Hitters knew they were going to get it when they faced him.

...Yet they still couldn't hit Rivera's cutter. There's a scientific reason for this.

The Physics of the Cutter

There's no such thing as an unhittable pitch, but the cutter is the closest thing to an unhittable pitch that we're going to see.

Leave it to the Sport Science guys to explain why:

The video's breakdown of the cutter's lateral movement doesn't really do anything more than explain the science behind something baseball fans should already know. What's truly interesting here is the revelation that the majority of Rivera's cutter's movement comes in the last 10 feet before it crosses home plate. Hitters are already in mid-swing by the time the ball starts to break, and they don't have enough time to adjust to the ball's movement before it's right on top of them.

This is precisely why we've seen so many hitters take so many weak swings against Rivera, and it's precisely why he's broken a thousand trees' worth of bats over the years. He puts his cutter in a place where it's almost impossible to hit, but also almost impossible for hitters to take. He's forged a Hall of Fame career for himself by daring hitters to hit his pitch.

This is common knowledge now, but there's really no understating just how unique this dynamic makes the cutter. Sliders, curveballs, changeups, splitters and the like are meant to get hitters to swing and miss. Even fastballs are thrown in an attempt to get hitters to swing at air.

That's not what the cutter is for. Like the sinker, it's a pitch specifically designed to end up making contact with a hitter's bat. A pitcher merely needs to throw it in the right place. And since the cutter is just a modified fastball, it's a pitch that's very easy to control.

Virtually any pitcher who can throw a fastball can throw a cutter, and that means virtually any pitcher has it in him to embarrass hitters as well as Rivera.

Why more pitchers didn't realize this sooner is a complete mystery.

Rivera had been using the cutter for over five years by the time the 2003 season rolled around, but it was still very much a niche pitch at that point. It was Rivera's pitch, and only he could throw it effectively.

That is, until Esteban Loaiza proved otherwise.

Loaiza had the two worst years of his career for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001 and 2002. He posted ERAs over 5.00 and opposing batters hit better than .300 against him both seasons. When he signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox before the 2003 season, few people cared to notice.

While Loaiza was in Toronto, however, he started developing a cutter under the watchful eye of Gil Patterson, who was the Blue Jays' pitching coach at the time.

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper helped Loaiza perfect his cutter, and he proceeded to put it to good use in the 2003 season.

Loiaza went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA in 2003. Hitters went from hitting over .300 against him to batting .233, and he held lefties to a .260 average. The year before, lefties had hit .308 against him.

One lefty who was impressed was Tony Gwynn, who wrote an article about Loiaza for that year. He praised the way in which Loaiza was forcing hitters to hit his pitch, and he even went so far as to compare Loiaza's renaissance to Greg Maddux's in the early 1990s.

Loaiza started the All-Star Game for the American League that year, and he ended up finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting. Not bad for a guy who came into the year with a career record of 69-73 and a career ERA of 4.88. It was all thanks to the cutter.

Loaiza's career renaissance didn't last. He never won more than 12 games in a season after 2003, and he's been out of Major League Baseball ever since 2008.

However, the slow death of his career did not scare other starting pitchers away from turning to the cutter. Over the last eight years or so, the cutter has been steadily gaining popularity among Cy Young contenders and washed-up journeymen alike.

The one starting pitcher who has made better use of the cutter than anybody in recent years is Roy Halladay. Not surprisingly, he also took up throwing the pitch when he was under Patterson's gaze early in his career in Toronto.

After tweaking his mechanics and mastering the cutter in 2001, Halladay won 19 games with a 2.93 ERA in 2002, and won the Cy Young with 22 wins and a 3.25 ERA in 2003. Loaiza, of course, finished second.

According to FanGraphs, Halladay threw his cutter more than ever in 2011. Nearly 45 percent of his pitches were cutters, and he ended up finishing with a career-high 8.47 K/9 and a 2.35 ERA. He finished second in the Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw.

He wasn't the only one making good use of the cutter in 2011. Per FanGraphs, Dan Haren threw his cutter nearly 48 percent of the time and Brandon McCarthy threw his own cutter 36.4 percent of the time.

You probably won't be surprised to hear that neither of them stumbled on the cutter by accident. On the contrary, both of them turned to the cutter for the sake of saving their respective careers.

"A couple years ago I didn't even throw it, and now I have no idea where I'd be without it," Haren told SI last year. "Every pitcher who throws it falls in love with it."

FanGraphs stats indicate that Haren started using his cutter regularly in 2009 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. By then, his average fastball velocity was in decline, and he told SI that he was well aware of that.

Here's what Haren told Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia after he was traded to the Angels in 2010:

I said I was going to have to be a guy that relied on movement and keeping hitters off balance. In my Oakland days I was a fastball-split guy, but I don't throw hard anymore. I don't blow anyone away anymore. And no one wants to throw 89, 90 and try to spot that down and away. That's dangerous.

Hence the cutter, and it worked wonders for Haren in 2011. He threw more cutters than any pitcher in baseball and he wound up winning 16 games with a 3.17 ERA.

McCarthy's cutter story is similar, but also completely different in many respects. According to, McCarthy was convinced to transform himself into a completely different pitcher after taking a look at his sabermetric stats, all of which told him directly to his face that he was a below-average major league pitcher.

McCarthy decided to model himself after none other than Roy Halladay, and that meant working a cutter into his repertoire.

His hard work paid off in 2011. McCarthy used his cutter to post a career-best 3.32 ERA, and FanGraphs PITCHf/x stats show that McCarthy's cutter ranked among the most effective cutters in Major League Baseball last year.

In the end, the three men who threw more cutters than anybody last season—Haren, Halladay, and McCarthy —ended up finishing in the top 10 among major league pitchers in FIP, a stat that measures what a given pitcher's ERA should look like.

In other words, the three pitchers who threw more cutters than anybody in 2011 were three of the best pitchers in baseball.

Per FanGraphs, 14 different starting pitchers and 16 different relievers threw cutters more than 20 percent of the time in 2011.

In 2012, not much has changed. Once again, 14 different starting pitchers (minimum 70 innings pitched) are throwing the cutter more than 20 percent of the time, and 14 different relievers are throwing it more than 20 percent of the time. And that's not including Rivera, who is out for the season.

Among the starting pitchers who have started throwing the cutter more and more is Boston Red Sox righty Josh Beckett, who is throwing his cutter nearly 22 percent of the time this season, according to FanGraphs. He's been throwing it steadily since 2010. Like Haren, his increased use of his cutter has coincided with a loss of fastball velocity.

It's a trend that's gaining traction, and it's a trend that should continue to gain traction in the next couple of seasons. Pitchers who can no longer miss bats with their fastball may as well give up and start throwing a fastball designed to hit bats in places other than the sweet spot.

The cutter is not for everyone, of course. Jered Weaver has tried to develop a cutter after watching Haren have so much success with his, but he hasn't been able to make it work. Haren himself told SI that he warned Weaver not to take his experimentation too far:

It can mess up your other pitches—you can lose your feel for the pitch. You can lose your grip on your curveball. You can start to lose velocity on your fastball. Jered's stuff is already good enough. He doesn't need it. When he's old like me, he'll need it.

The lesson is simple. If you can throw it, throw it. If you can't, don't force it.

Judging from the increased number of cutter throwers around the major leagues, however, it's not exactly an impossible pitch to master.

This isn't good news for hitters, but it's not the end of the world either. Here's what St. Louis Cardinals veteran first baseman Lance Berkman told Sports Illustrated:

Now everybody throws a cutter, and the more they throw them, the better you can make adjustments. Your brain learns how to lay off the tough ones that are in on you. Some are still good and unhittable, but some are not so good.

Hitters didn't have to worry about adjusting to the cutter when Rivera was the only one throwing it. Now that everyone is throwing a cutter, hitters have no choice but to make the proper adjustments.

Therein lies the potential downfall of the cutter. The more they see it, the more used to the cutter hitters are going to get. Over time, the cutter will become less and less of an unhittable pitch as it becomes more and more common.

All the more reason for pitchers to start throwing a cutter now while the getting is good."

Sunday, July 01, 2012


Mariano at the Stadium for Yankee Old Timers Day, 7/1/12, not as an official old timer yet

Bernie Williams and Mariano at Yankee Old Timers Day, 7/1/12, ap

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