2010 Player Previews: Mariano Rivera

2009: The greatest closer of all time and, in my opinion, the greatest relief pitcher ever, Mariano Rivera was again reliably outstanding in helping the Yankees clinch their 27th World Series title. Sporting an ERA below 2 for the sixth time in the last seven years, and for the ninth time in his incredible career, Mariano dominated opponents despite throwing a cutter that topped out at just 90-92 for most of the season. Yet even for the great Mariano, whose career has been punctuated by stellar statistical, personal, and team achievements, 2009 was something to behold. Not only did Mariano again maintain a sub-2.00 ERA (1.76), he kept runners off the bases with a gaudy WHIP of 0.905–the eighth time in his 15 major-league seasons his WHIP has been 1.000 or under. This was primarily because Mariano walked a mere 12 batters in 66 1/3 IP, the seventh time in the last eight seasons in which Mariano has walked a dozen or fewer. With pinpoint control yet somewhat reduced velocity, Mariano nonetheless maintained a K/9 ratio of 9.8 for the second straight season.

Furthermore, in 2009 Mariano allowed runs in only 8 of his 66 appearances, punctuated by an amazing stretch when, for 21 straight appearances from June 16 to August 9, he didn’t allow a run in 21 1/3 IP, forfeiting just 10 hits and 4 walks. In that stretch, he also notched his 500th career save June 28 against the Mets–while recording his first career RBI by working a bases-loaded walk against crosstown nemesis K-Rod in a 4-2 victory. Just the second reliever to amass 500 or more saves, Mariano finished the regular season with 526 and capped his great season with more brilliant post-season pitching that has become his trademark–ending 9 games, saving 5, and allowing but a run in 16 playoff innings (0.56 ERA) to lower his all-time best post-season ERA to 0.74 as the Yankees won #27. Crucially and not surprisingly, he was the only closer among the eight playoff teams not to blow a game.  All this despite a strained rib cage in the World Series; all this at the age of 39.

There is Mariano, and there is everyone else. When it comes to shutting down games, he simply has no peer.

  • 2009 Statistics: 3-3 record, 1.76 ERA, 44 saves, 66 1/3 IP, 48 H, 13 ER, 12 BB, 72 K, 0.905 WHIP, 10th All-Star appearance, Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award winner.

2010: My good friend and big Yankees fan Frank the Sage says it best: “Only when I hear that he entered the manager’s office holding his right arm in his left hand and threw it down on the desk will I believe Mariano Rivera can’t get guys out.” Amen. Expect more greatness, even at the age of 40. I foresee Mariano having another terrific season, tallying another sub-2.00 ERA year in which he shows excellent control, and putting up excellent overall numbers. Many have awaited a drop-off from Mariano, and it simply hasn’t happened. Heck, his one down year as a closer, 2007 (3-4, 3.15 ERA, 39 saves, 9.3 K/9, 1.121 WHIP), was for most mortals awfully good. I need to see it before I believe Mariano drops off and, frankly, I don’t see it.

  • 2010 Prediction: 4-3 record, 1.81 ERA, 42 saves, 69 2/3 IP, 75 K, 51 H, 13 BB, 0.928 WHIP.
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11 Responses to 2010 Player Previews: Mariano Rivera

  1. smurfy says:

    Amen, amen, Halleluia, brother! With his efficiency, both of demeanor and pitches, he may ignore the presumptions of age. As long as he keeps svelte, and he has milluns of reasons to pass on that extra piece of pie, he'll be able to dive and roll. Did you see that?

  2. one does worry about him wearing down towards the end of the year as he has the last two…it hasn't shown in his performances, but it very well could next year -even mariano will show the effects of age. my hope is that girardi uses him a bit more judiciously during the regular season so he won't have to pitch through pain or worse in october.

  3. nord says:

    Let's not forget that like Warren Spahn, Mariano Rivera is a very smart pitcher. People forget that he has been working on a circle change for years now and hasn't had to use it yet. IF ever they start catching up to his cutter, then he has what is reportedly a very good slow pitch ready to go to give them that change of pace and make his cutter look faster

  4. I've wondered if he still works on his changeup occasionally. But we never get updates on that. If he hasn't worked on it in a year or two then he's not just going to be able to pick it up where he left off.

  5. May he continue to pass on the pie, smurfy. And Mariano's comportment sure is ideal. Now and then he shows some fire but, by and large, exhibits a poker face. The guy is a total pro, the best there has ever been.

    We're in agreement on his accuracy, Rob. It makes it tough to label Mariano–control pitcher with power, or power pitcher with control. At some point it's academic, because he has been so great. But his ability to hit spots is outstanding.

    You're certainly right about his wearing down a bit at the end, Mike. Hopefully Girardi continues to use Mariano judiciously. For the most part he does, and does with the bullpen overall far better than Torre did. But I can't help but think of all those close games right after the All-Star break, starting with the Tigers, when Mariano got overworked. They need to be extra-careful with him, because goodness knows he won't refuse to pitch. They also could to use whoever sets up–Hughes or Joba–for a couple innings at a time to spare Mariano too heavy a burden, and also keep whoever isn't in the rotation closer to being stretched out than shorter stints will.

    Good point, nord, and a good comparison with Spahn. Mariano doesn't get enough credit for his smarts, and he sets up batters by using both sides of the plate extremely well.

    On Mariano's tinkering with a change, I believe Pete Abraham, ex-LoHud writer/blogger, mentioned it last year and the year before. Imagine Mariano with a nasty change-up. That's unfair.

  6. I think it’s his pinpoint accuracy which let’s him pitch so well even at age 40. As long as he holds on to that he’s going to keep pitching.

  7. Mike S. says:

    Jason, you've known me for a couple of years now. You know of my intense love of, and knowledge of, Mariano's career. To me, he is Yankee #1 of the past 15 years (Jeter being 1A).

    I'd love to know, 20 years from now, who gets introduced last at Old Timer's Day. Marino? or Jeter. I'd guess Jeter, but it's kind of like the Mantle/DiMaggio debate. Of course, as we all know, Joe D. INSISTED on being introduced last. With all respect to Joe D., Mo and Jeter have a bit more humility.

  8. Mike S. says:

    **Mariano**? or Jeter.

  9. Rob Abruzzese says:

    For the rest of his life Mariano Rivera will always be introduced last. He was last during the ticker tape parade and that will follow during every single ol timers day. He'll even be the last to give a speech when he's inducted into the hall of fame.

  10. Mike S. says:

    It would be only natural to have the "Closer" introduced last, wouldn't it?

  11. I echo what Rob said, Mike. and it's a testament to Jeter's comportment and perspective because I believe he'd say the same thing, too. True about DiMaggio, usually humble but with a sizable ego of which he was very protective.