Posted September 09, 2013

Called on for six outs, Mariano Rivera blows his fifth save since beginning of August

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Marian Rivera

In Rivera’s swan-song season for the Yankees, he hasn’t been his usual lockdown self.

With the Yankees leading the Red Sox 3-2 in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon, David Robertson and Boone Logan out with injuries, Joba Chamberlain having given up a run in each of his last three appearances, and Shawn Kelley having already pitched, Yankees manager Joe Girardi asked Mariano Rivera to deliver a six-out save. It was something Rivera hasn’t done in the regular season since 2006. Girardi was trying to salvage a win against the Red Sox, who beat his Yankees on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Rivera, who hadn’t pitched since Thursday, had told Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild before the game that he could go two innings if needed.

Rivera pitched around a one-out single by Mike Carp in the eighth, but it took him twenty pitches to get through the inning, nine of them to Carp, who worked a full count by fouling off three of Rivera’s cutters before pulling a single into to rightfield. In the ninth, Will Middlebrooks led off by hitting a 1-1 pitch into the rightfield stands for a wind-blown, game-tying homer. Ichiro Suzuki, who initially broke in on Middlebrooks’ homer, staged a one-man rally in the bottom of the ninth to give the Yankees, and Rivera, a 4-3 win. First, Ichiro singled off Brandon Workman, then stole second, moved to third on a fly ball to right and scored on a wild pitch. Still, Rivera’s blown save was his fifth since Aug. 7, a span of just 31 days, and his seventh of the season, his most since 2001.

When Rivera announced his impending retirement in March, he said, “the tank is almost empty.” His performance for most of the season belied that. Through Aug. 3, Rivera had a 1.56 ERA and had blown just two saves in 37 chances, an outstanding 95 percent success rate. Since then, however, he has posted a 4.20 ERA and blown five of 11 save chances. He has also given up four home runs across 15 innings since Aug. 3 after allowing just two in 40 1/3 innings to that point in the season. That stretch started with Rivera blowing three straight save opportunities for the first time in his career. He then ran off eight straight scoreless outings, converting six saves, but has now blown his last two saves.

Most likely, this is just another What’s Wrong With Mo Week, but that makes two out of the last four, and Rivera’s season stats are starting to dip below his usual level. His 2.28 ERA is his highest since 2007 and second-highest since 2002.  His 1.12 WHIP is tied with 2007 for his highest since 1997. I already pointed out that his seven blown saves are his most since 2001, but they are also his second most ever (he had nine in 1997, his first season as closer), and his 85 percent conversion rate is his lowest since 1997. That does more to prove just how great Rivera has been and for how long than it does to convince anyone that the 43-year-old is finally experiencing a decline, but the erosion of his velocity over the last several seasons makes clear that his tank is indeed getting low.

CORCORAN: Derek Jeter out of lineup after experiencing more pain in left ankle

If Rivera really is running out of gas, it may make his retirement easier to accept, but it comes at an awful time for the Yankees, who, for all they have been through this season, enter Monday just two games out in the wild-card race. With Robertson and Logan likely out for at least a few more days, and the Yankees opening a road trip on Monday with four games against their wild-card rivals in Baltimore followed by another three games against the Red Sox in Boston, the Yankees, and Rivera, have no time for a pit stop.

9 comments
rpearlston
rpearlston

What is wrong with Rivera?  I'd ask the question of Mr Corcoran instead.

What is wrong with your memory, Mr Corcoran?  Have you forgotten that Rivera had planned to retire after the 2012 season?  That's what he was geared for.  But when he blew out his knee early in that season, he said that he would come back for 2013 to finish his career.

I suspect that Rivera had at least an inkling that his abilities were taking a hit from his birth certificate.  That would account for his planning on retiring after 6the 2012 season, before time decayed his skills too greatly.  By coming back (and no one blames him for that - he wanted to end his career on his terms, not because of an injury - the same was true of Kirby Puckett), he likely knew that this season would be rockier for him (and therefore for the Yankees) than any other season in his career.

What's wrong with Rivera is the same thing that happen to just about all of us - he's getting old, at least old in terms of baseball.

JimCatCabbage
JimCatCabbage

What is wrong with Rivera? What idiot writing headlines doesn't know Rivera is 43, old, worn out arm, lost 4-5 mph on the cutter, and is OVER THE HILL?

Next question

houndstoothunderwear
houndstoothunderwear

Hey Mo...I believe the LORD is saying " time to go...you had a nice run there"

I mean...for years game plans were shaped around  avoiding Mo...that is the impact.

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

Isn't Corcoran one of the writers who never misses a chance to scorn pitcher wins as a meaningless statistic? Surely wins are no more "meaningless" than saves.

chepner
chepner

He's writing about blown saves, an entirely different stat. You can accumulate a lot of saves given a lot of opportunities, even without pitching all that effectively (always giving up 2 runs on the way to saving what started as a 3-run lead results in a 6.00 ERA). Blow even 1 out of every 4 save opportunities, and you probably won't be a closer for long, even if you team regularly comes back to win those games.

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

@chepner Well, that's very ... informative. But my point was that the "save" statistic is no less "meaningless" than the "win" statistic, assuming that you think it is. Corcoran is one of those.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@John NoLastName @chepner I have to agree with your argument.  After all, even Stats Inc recognizes three different types of saves, and does so by the degree of difficulty.  Wasn't Mariano Rivera recently quoted as basically saying that most saves are easy?  If only the record book could ignore those saves that constitute one inning only in a game in which that pitcher's team is ahead by 3 runs.  Those are the ones categorized as being easy, and that's the reference in Rivera's comments.  Those are, after all, the type of saves that pad every closer's numbers.  Strip them away, and you'll see who is actually getting the job done and who isn't,