Thursday, September 15, 2011

600 and 6 Starters

Mariano Rivera recorded his 600th save last night. Congratulations to him. It's just another great accomplishment in a career full of them. He's now one away from tying Trevor Hoffman's all-time saves record of 601, and if he can tie and break those it will be an even bigger accomplishment. These milestones and records are just another opportunity to reflect on what an incredible career Rivera has had. He's in his 17th season, has appeared in 1,037 games, and has pitched 1,207 innings. Over that time he has a 2.22 ERA, 1106 strikeouts (which seems like a ton for a reliever), and a flat 1.00 WHIP.

And that's excluding his postseason performance, which is even more impressive. Another 94 appearances, 139.2 innings, and 42 saves. The truly absurd numbers, though, are the 0.71 ERA and the 0.766 WHIP. Over the course of 15 separate postseasons, those 94 games, and 139.2 innings (which amounts to about two full extra seasons for Rivera innings wise) he has allowed 11 earned runs. Eleven. And now at the age of 41 he has a 2.05 ERA. I have never seen an athlete that is better at what they do than he is at what he does. Maybe as good, but never better. Amazing athlete, it's been a pleasure to watch his entire career. Congratulations again to Mo.

It seems like we've been talking about the Yankees cutting their rotation from 6 to 5 for about 6 weeks now. And that's because we probably have. I'm not sure this conversation even matters. The Yankees don't seem to think it matters that much either. I think there are two good reasons for keeping it at 6. First, it's a good thing both for the doubleheaders and getting certain pitchers extra rest. Outside of Sabathia and now perhaps Nova, you aren't overly concerned with getting guys starts on regular days rest, and that allows you to give them - specifically Colon and Garcia - an extra few days to stay fresh. It might not be a bad idea to do the same for Sabathia at some point as well if the schedule/standings allow. Somewhat unrelated, at least reduce his pitch count in some of these games a little bit

Second, there's really no rush to go from 6 to 5, because 6 to 5 isn't the big decision. If the Yankees make the playoffs, 6 to 4 is the big decision. With as up and down as certain guys in the rotation have been, why not get the longest look at them that you can to make that determination? As some of the analysts have been saying, once you remove one of them from the rotation and put them in the bullpen it becomes harder to build them back up to starting. Taking that one step further, once you put one of them in the bullpen you are no longer getting a chance to see how they look in a starting role to evaluate for potential playoff purposes. In a way going from 6 to 5 might limit you as opposed to helping you. This may very be exactly what the Yankees are thinking on this front.

Big break for Boston today with Tampa losing. It's still very possible for Tampa to make this interesting, but when you are trying to make a big push like they are, as incredibly as they have been playing, you typically have to avoid back-to-back losses to teams like Baltimore. Getting this thing back to three the day after it stretched back out to four, right before a four game set with Boston, would have been big. Now Tampa needs to go 3-1, in Boston, just to get it to 2. That's a tall order with good but not great returns. It could end up being meaningless, but this just feels like one of those swings in a race like this, and it definitely swung Boston's way.


Anonymous said...


Boston has sucked at a terrible time to suck. Had they played even .500 ball this month they'd be tied for the division lead. But they have been worse than bad and that's the price you pay. As you mentioned, the only good thing is that Tampa choked those two games in Baltimore. What you didn't mention is that if Tampa sweeps Boston this weekend they leave tied for the Wild Card. The Sox have lost five straight against Tampa. If the Sox win even one game of the four I'll be thrilled. A sweep by Tampa, while devastating, would not surprise me at all. This team is just that bad right now.

They NEED Josh Beckett. Not to come back and pitch. But to come back and pitch like he has all season. He can't pull a Jon Lester on us and disappear in the biggest moments. Speaking of which, Lester needs to man up and be the guy that half the country says he is--a top of the rotation stud.

Youkilis is playing in serious pain, Ortiz and Gonzalez are day to day. Daniel Bard has temporarily turned into a Heathcliff Slocumb/BK Kim combo. Somebody needs to grab this team by the balls and get them to man up. The most talented player not already mentioned is Ellsbury, but my guess is that if anyone is going to do it, it will be Pedroia, simply by force of personality. Here's hoping for change and immediate change at that.

Also--it would be wrong for me not acknowledge the purpose of your post--as difficult as it has been to watch Mariano Rivera close out games so quickly and easily over the years, I've never really hated him and have always respected his talent. He's a once in a generation player, with a unique skill set. And the way he handled himself at Fenway Park in 2005 should be remembered fondly by any Red Sox fan. Now, if only he would just retire...

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

The Rivera stuff is crazy. Although I'm not completely on board with the legitimacy of the save as a statistic and certainly not on board with managers playing to the statistic (which has happened for at least twenty years), the upcoming accomplishment is a pretty cool one. It's not like an unassisted triple play, hitting for the cycle, or even a no-hitter (or seven): It's something that comes from prolonged success in an area where - news flash - very few people have had prolonged success. Even previous recordholders in saves - Lee Smith, Jeff Reardon, and probably others - had (and lost) some bouts with mediocrity. John Franco and Billy Wagner are both on that list, too.

Considering he was a sixth starter who didn't record his first save until he was 26 years old, it's pretty amazing. Like Gagne, it would be interesting to know what would have happened if Rivera had tried to remain a starter, especially with his one pitch.

The Yankees, unlike the Red Sox, have had zero 2-10 or 3-10 stretches this season. Therefore, they will be able to coast into the playoffs, and doing so with a six-man rotation is not a terrible idea. Rest some arms, especially CCs? Why not?

Expanding on the sentiment from my last post, if you are given a free ticket into the playoffs by a choking Boston team, but then you blow two games against Baltimore, similarly, you don't deserve to get into the postseason.

A good point heard on the radio today: With a $180 million payroll, the Red Sox' starter in the most important game of the season is Kyle Weiland, who was 8-10 with a 3.58 ERA in the minors this year.