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Mariano Rivera....what is wrong...?

Postby gmoney973 » Thu May 10, 2007 8:49 pm

I just found this article in my local newspaper, and prior to reading it i was looking to trade for Mariano, but after reading it i am not so sure, and i canceled any trade offers i had pending.

what is your opinion? projected #s? ... xml&coll=1

NEW YORK -- On Opening Day, nobody was wondering what was wrong with Mariano Rivera.

On Opening Day, Rivera was a laser light show. He struck out all three Devil Rays he faced with a sizzling assortment of 95-mph cut-fastballs. He worked hitters up in the strike zone and down, inside and outside. He made them try to outthink him, and he made them fail.

The Opening Day Rivera, coming off of a spring training of regular, every-other-day work, was The Great Rivera of old.

Since then, he has been ... something less.

There was the day in Oakland when he gave up the home run to Marco Scutaro. There was the night in Boston when Coco Crisp did him in with a triple. There was the home game against the Red Sox when he got hit so hard he couldn't finish the inning. But in nearly every outing, Rivera has struggled to command his cut-fastball, and it has made for a difficult season so far.

"That's always been his strength, that cutter in on lefties and away from righties," said YES broadcaster Al Leiter, the former Mets and Yankees pitcher who lived off his own cut-fastball late in his career. "From what I see, you don't see him working that part of the plate the way he used to, and that could be because he's having a hard time commanding it and throwing it where he wants to."

A Star-Ledger analysis of all 189 pitches Rivera has thrown this season, plus conversations with scouts and opposing team executives, support Leiter's premise. In general, Rivera is not spotting his cut-fastball well. Too often, he's missing the target his catcher is setting for him, and badly. Very often, when he misses, he misses high -- and for Rivera, higher pitches mean less movement. The diminished command means Rivera hasn't been able to pitch to the inside and outside corners the way he always has, and that means too many pitches in the middle of the plate -- and hittable.

"I don't feel like there's any problem," Rivera said. "I've made some mistakes, and the hitters have hit them. Hard. Maybe in a month or two, I'll make mistakes and they'll miss them."

Maybe, but right now, there are too many of those mistakes. Some are getting hit, and some aren't. It could be because he's 37 years old. It could be because his save chances haven't come regularly enough to get him into a rhythm. But whatever the reason, Rivera this year has been just a good closer -- maybe in the Francisco Rodriguez/Joe Nathan/Billy Wagner echelon, and maybe even a notch below. Still a good bet to nail down the save, but not the automatic, clean-out-the-dugout, head-for-the-exits force of years past. And while that tiny little drop-off might be acceptable, even understandable for a man his age, if it continues it could be the biggest problem the Yankees face this year.

"The velocity is still there -- he's throwing hard," catcher Jorge Posada said. "There have been a few times when he's been a little rusty and struggled with his command, but a lot of that was early. Lately, he's been throwing well."

Our analysis backs up Posada somewhat. Outside of Opening Day, Rivera's most consistent outing, command-wise, was the second game of last Thursday's doubleheader in Texas. That night, he did an outstanding job of getting the cutter in on the hands of lefty hitters Brad Wilkerson, Matt Kata and Kenny Lofton, and spotting the cutter away from right-handed-hitting Gerald Laird.

He gave up two singles to start that inning, but one was a broken-bat blooper and the other was a good job of opposite-field hitting by Kata against a good cutter. Rivera maintained his good command and struck out the next batter, Laird, before getting Lofton to ground into a game-ending double play.

That night, Rivera seemed to be in control of his pitches throughout the inning, even after he was in a jam.

But in too many of his other outings, Rivera's command has disappeared and reappeared from batter to batter, and sometimes from pitch to pitch. That gives rise to the theory that his advancing age might be a factor. As a ballplayer, the toughest thing to do as you age is to maintain your concentration enough to consistently repeat your performance.

"I can tell you that definitely, from experience," Leiter said. "And when that happens, you either start thinking your stuff isn't as good, or you start trying to do more. That's when you get into overthrowing, getting out of your mechanics and your delivery, and that leads to more mistakes."

Oddly, Monday's ninth inning against Seattle was one of Rivera's better innings overall. He struck out Richie Sexson easily (although all three pitches were inner-half or in). He stayed down and got Jose Guillen to ground out. And he worked Yuniesky Betancourt in and out and got him to fly out. But between Guillen and Betancourt, he threw one pitch to Adrian Beltre. Posada's glove was down and in. The pitch was up and out over the middle of the plate, a cutter at 94 mph that didn't cut, and Beltre hit it over the fence.

"That shows you, no matter how hard you throw, location is the thing that matters," Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry said. "You miss your spot, and a big-league hitter can do that."

But not only is Rivera missing spots, he's missing with pitches that aren't as nasty as the ones he used to throw.

"I don't see the crispness you used to see," said one American League scout, who requested anonymity because it violates baseball etiquette to publicly critique another team. "I don't see the big cut, the sharp cut he's always had, and that could be why he's a little more tentative with it."

Rivera's fastball velocity is still very good -- consistently in the 92-94 mph range, occasionally getting up to 95 and every once in a while dipping down to 90 or 91. And that consistency indicates that his problem is not health-related.

Mainly, the problem is throwing to his opposite-arm side of the plate -- that is, the outside corner against a right-handed hitter and the inside corner against a lefty hitter. He still can locate a pitch there, but it's not reliable, and that fact might make him more reluctant to try it. As a result, he seems to pick one way to try to get a hitter out (either in or out) and stick with it, rather than mix up his locations the way he did against the Rays on Opening Day.

The best example of this was the two-out walk to Jason Kendall that immediately preceded Scutaro's game-winning home run in Oakland on April 15. That was a nine-pitch at-bat, and at least three times during it, Posada was set up down and away and Rivera missed up and over the plate.

"If he's not able to nail that spot on the outside corner against the right-hander, that takes away a lot of what he's able to do," Leiter said. "Because now you have to come out over the plate, and that's where the hitter wants it."

Rivera's theory is that he wasn't getting regular work early in the year. The Yankees didn't present him with a save opportunity until that April 15 game in Oakland -- nearly two weeks into the season. Too many times, they've either blown out the other team, been blown out themselves or won in their last at-bat. Rivera hasn't been on the mound in save situations with any kind of regularity.

"I think that has a lot to do with it," Rivera said. "But even if that's the case, I still have to make the pitches. Just because you're out there every other day or every three days doesn't mean you're going to make the pitch. I still have to do better."

If he doesn't, the rest of this Yankees' year could be as ugly as April was.
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Postby bartjones » Thu May 10, 2007 11:46 pm

Interesting analysis. I got him on my team and needless to say, he's been a disappointment. I wish they'd have given him more work early in the season and agree that once the Yanks start winning (and they will soon) and he gets more opportunities, he'll improve. I'm hanging on to him for the long term.
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Re: Mariano Rivera....what is wrong...?

Postby gmoney973 » Fri May 11, 2007 12:08 am

gmoney973 wrote:But whatever the reason, Rivera this year has been just a good closer -- maybe in the Francisco Rodriguez/Joe Nathan/Billy Wagner echelon, and maybe even a notch below.

who wrote this?
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Postby talan37 » Fri May 11, 2007 10:07 am

Whoever wrote that little snippet is a fricken Moron. Atleast for krod, there career numbers are very very very similar(but Mo has been doing it for a lot longer), but this year krod is having normal career averages year... while Mo has been what... the 2nd worst closer in the league to date?(behind only jorge julio)? What an utterly biased statement. Thats like saying pujols is having a bad year, you know in the arod echelon of hitters....


Other than that I liked the article.
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Postby jtbarr » Fri May 11, 2007 10:18 am

It's mid-May. Rivera is still elite. Closers need to work regularly. If they don't, if they're thrown in once every 3-5 day, as Mo has been, they're continually rusty.

This is not a new concept.

If you want to trade away Mo, join my league and trade him to me.

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Postby CruiseJD » Fri May 11, 2007 11:40 am

Yep. I didn't understand that snippet either. Times have changed. Even ignoring this year, Mo was not at a different level than K-Rod, Nathan, etc.
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Postby jbauer2485 » Fri May 11, 2007 12:14 pm

People laughed at me when I drafted Putz before Rivera in an early mock draft, but I had a feeling this would happen. He ended the year with a mysterious arm injury and he isn't getting any younger. Combine that with not getting consistent work and that's why he sucks.
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