Tag Archive | "Mariano Rivera"

Enter Sandman: The Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour

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Enter Sandman: The Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour

Posted on 12 March 2013 by Will Emerson

All good things must come to an end. This is certainly true right now for the New York Yankees. Mariano Rivera recently announced that the 2013 season would be his last. Now while Major League hitters not on the Yankees will breathe a big old sigh of relief, for the Yankees and their fans it is a sad, sad thing. Rivera is the best closer of all time. I am not even going to say “arguably” on this one, it is pretty much fact. Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time.

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Now sure, he is the all-time saves leader with 608 of those bad boys and only Trevor Hoffman is even close to that number. This is quite a feat, if just for the fact that he has had the longevity to get to that total. Of course, he will be adding to this total this season, distancing him further from the retired Hoffman and it makes you wonder when someone will even be close to that number. There is not as much of a cache with saves numbers. Hall of Fame voters have never really mentioned a saves total that is a lock for the Hall, like 300 wins, or 3000 hits, but I would say 600 is above and beyond whatever number they would throw out there. Now, it should be noted that I see saves as one of those tremendously flawed baseball statistics, but I don’t think there is even a debate that 600 is quite something. 600! Think about that.

Among active relievers, none have more than 300. Let’s take Jonathan Papelbon for instance. He is at 257 career saves right now. Without even adding whatever Rivera gets this season, Paps is 341 saves behind Mariano. 351? Yikes! So, let’s say Paps continues to be a strong Major League closer and averages 40 saves a season. At that rate, which is a very good season I might add, he would have to go nine more seasons to pass Rivera’s current number of 608. That would be impressive. Rivera’s mark is not unbeatable at all, but it will be quite some time before anyone even approaches Mo’s final number. But Rivera is so much more then that gaudy, eye-popping number.

Rivera has not only closed games for a long time, but he has dominated hitters for a long time. Rivera’s career ERA is 2.12 and his FIP is 2.75 which, I shouldn’t need to tell you, is quite good. Only twice has he had an ERA over three in his career and one of those times was his rookie season. Rivera has posted a sub-two ERA eleven, count ‘em, eleven times! The Yankees have had the luxury of not having to worry about the ninth inning (with the exception of last season) since basically 1997. Just think about it, in the last 17 seasons, has there been another closer that made you groan as an opposing fan? Maybe Trevor Hoffman, who I think as we evaluate his career will seem like he was somehow underrated or overshadowed? The point is you would be very hard pressed to find anyone who can hold a candle to Mariano Rivera’s career. Is there anyone now who is even in Rivera’s category?

Sure Craig Kimbrel comes to mind as the most dominant closer, but speaking as someone who has had Big K on his fantasy roster, he can get wild at times. I am not saying Kimbrel is iffy, because he is most likely the best closer out there, but I am saying I don’t think he has that aura that surrounds Rivera. Sure, Kimbrel has a long road ahead of him and even Mariano had to build his aura over time. Aside from Kimbrel, there is really not one active closer I can think of that is that close to being a guy that makes me think the game is definitely over once he trots in from the ‘pen. Can you? That sort of dominance may not be seen for quite some time and I am sure we will here plenty about it as the season progresses, that is for darned sure.

The big thing you have to wonder is who will be the Yankees closer in 2014? It seems so far away at this point, but I am sure the Yanks are actively putting a plan into place, something they really haven’t had to deal with on over a decade and a half, a luxury any other major league teams would love to have. Some teams had more than one closer last season, let alone over the past ten or fifteen seasons. At such a fickle position with more turnover than any other in baseball, Mariano Rivera has thrived more than any other and that will be quite hard for the Yankees to replace. Well, you could argue he is irreplaceable, but you know what I am getting at here. Someone is going to have some pretty big cleats to fill for the Yankees in 2014, that we know for certain. So, while there is still a season left for Mariano, I am going to go ahead and tip my cap to his career thus far, despite my utter hatred and loathing for the Yankees. So here’s to you Mariano, and if you could finish your career without another World Series ring, that’d be great, thanks!

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Dear Yankees … So What Happens Now?

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Dear Yankees … So What Happens Now?

Posted on 21 October 2012 by Trish Vignola

The Yankees flameout witnessed yesterday was a long time coming. Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old. He cannot hit righties. Now that I think about it, he can’t hit lefties either.

The Yankees, just three short postseasons ago, reaped a championship with their obscene investment. It was a championship in which A-Rod was viable. He contributed. Now, we have to ask. Has Alex Rodriguez’s performance-enhanced past caught up with him?

Epic slumps are not unprecedented. Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers went 0 for 21 in the 1952 postseason. However, Hodges was 28. Rodriguez is not. Manager Chuck Dressen still started him in all seven games. Rodriguez was not.

That was obviously a different age. Hodges was a Brooklyn icon. Again, A-Rod is not. Fans sent religious objects to him. A-Rod gets phone numbers. Hodges also did not have a huge salary across his shoulders. A-Rod? Well, you get the point.

Besides, there was no wildcard, division or championship rounds in those days. There was hardly time for a pattern to develop. Good pitching and solid role players came to the forefront in the postseason. With all due respect, Joe Girardi’s mass benching of key players would have looked like sheer panic in those days.

Maybe, all dynasties fade. Players do fall apart. Derek Jeter’s ankle snapped making a play he has made time after time. Mariano Rivera fell apart jogging for a fly before a game.

This A-Rod inevitability has been a long time coming. However, he has a contract for five more years. He is owed $114 million. The Yankees ignored the warning signs.

It could be argued that the golden age of the entire Yankees franchise was from 1995 through 2000. They won four World Series and just missed twice. The New York Yankees were home-built and fundamentally as sound as this organization has ever been.

Hard to imagine, I know.

The five cornerstones were Rivera, Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. They were homegrown. The only reason they stayed together was because George Steinbrenner was suspended. It allowed Gene Michael to hold on to the prizes the organization had wisely cultivated.

Once the Yankees pursued A-Rod for the 2004 season, they became the flawed suitor in some old nursery tale. The Yankees have won exactly one World Series in nine seasons with A-Rod. They are not a dynasty anymore.

Can dynasties even exist anymore? Since Luis Sojo dribbled a hit up the middle in the fifth and final game of the 2000, there have been nine different champions in the past 11 Series. Don’t get me wrong. Democracy is good for baseball. It also seems to be a trend.

As Tyler Kepner of the New York Times pointed out recently, sound management counts. He particularly points out the “know-thyself” regime of the DeWitt family and the smart folks hired to run the Cardinals.

The Yankees in all truthfulness were disgraceful this postseason. With their payroll of $197 million, they flopped around like 42-year-old Willie Mays in the 1973 World Series. Nonetheless, the Yankees made their deal with the Fates. They sold their soul and now they’ll have to pay $114 million to get it back. If they don’t, postseasons like this will become far more common.

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Dear Yankee Fans … I might have spoken too soon.

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Dear Yankee Fans … I might have spoken too soon.

Posted on 16 October 2012 by Trish Vignola

Remember, when I said “Dear Yankee Fans…. Chill Out”? Maybe, I spoke too quickly.

The 12th inning cast a very different pallor on a relatively young ALCS last night. As the Yankees’ future Hall of Fame shortstop, Derek Jeter, was helped off the field, even the Tigers dugout was hushed.

Most of those players had grown up watching Jeter and the New York Yankees.

“We’re all big Derek Jeter fans since we were younger,” outfielder Delmon Young said. “Watching the World Series and everything from the 1996 one until the recent once. But, you know, we all grew up playing backyard baseball wanting to win the World Series either with the Yankees or having to get through the Yankees to get to the World Series. Especially with Derek Jeter as their catalyst.

“We’d love to see him out playing with us and playing against him, because it is really fun playing the Yankees, especially with Derek Jeter healthy,” Young continued. Doug Fister, last night’s start for Detroit, talked about watching Jeter as he grew up. “To see a fellow ballplayer to go down it definitely is a hit for our game,” Fister said. “Our hearts go out to him.”

Ok. This is not a career ending injury. However, Jeter is out for the rest of the 2012 playoffs. This will be the first October the Yankees have experienced in sixteen years that will be without Derek Jeter.

Grant it. When Mariano Rivera got hurt, the Yankees were left for dead. Jeter’s injury doesn’t preclude an early Yankees exit from the playoffs. The Yankees have come back from far worse.

Except…

Derek Jeter was, at the time of his injury, the strongest Yankee this playoff.

Written off as an aging star after slumping in 2010, Jeter struggled to adapt to a no-stride swing in `11. He wound up on the disabled list for only the fifth time in his seventeen full seasons in the big leagues with a calf injury. He returned revitalized, go his 3,000th hit and finishing strong.

This year Jeter surged. It’s hard to believe, but 38-year-old Jeter posted a remarkable season. He batted .316 with an American League-leading 216 hits. He carried that over to the postseason, hitting .364 against the Orioles.

Earlier Saturday, Jeter became the first player in baseball history to reach 200 hits in the postseason with a single in the second off Doug Fister. He was left stranded, though, a problem for the Yankees these playoffs. If the New York Yankees were a train, they would be pulling into the station missing a couple of wheels and part of the breaks. Sure, they’re showing up on time (i.e. winning), but how long can this keep going? Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are in playoff funks. Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest players in baseball history, is in worse shape. He’s been benched now on more than one occasion in this young playoff season. The Yankees also seem to have a problem lacing more than one win together. Jeter was one of the few constants, along with statistical anomaly and late-game guru, Raul Ibanez, in the Yankees’ lineup.

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How Do You Spell Relief, Jim Johnson?

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How Do You Spell Relief, Jim Johnson?

Posted on 07 October 2012 by Will Emerson

Jim Johnson eclipsed the 50 save mark this season and, as the only reliever in the majors to do so in 2012, also led the majors in saves. Now, 50 saves in a season is impressive to some degree, no? No. Well, yes, to some degree I suppose. It is really not quite as black and white as that. I mean, sure, JJ is only the eleventh reliever to do this in the span of baseball history, which should account for something, maybe? Now, of course adding the “in the span of baseball history” is what someone could use to make JJ’s feat all the more impressive, however, the specialist that is a baseball team’s closer did not really exist for the entire span of baseball history, and the stat itself was not even counted until 1969. As for the ten other relievers to do that, well they have all come in the last 22 years and, actually, six of those have been in the last decade, so it is getting slightly less exclusive.

Now JJ does join some good company on the 50 save season list. Mariano Rivera, Eric Gagne, Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman and John Smoltz to name a few. Of course Rod Beck, Randy Myers and Bobby Thigpen also adorn this list. Now the fact that, in theory, there are let’s say 15 closers who remain in the closer role for a full season every year, makes people think that the exclusivity of this club, means it is quite an accomplishment and should be spoken of as such. Basically it does not happen often and no reliever has been able to do it twice in their careers, therefore it is considered a great season and you could form an argument that way for all of these guys’ and now, for Jim Johnson’s season.

All year, and really still, no one really seems to know how the Orioles have been winning like they have. They outplayed their Pythagorean record (projected record based on runs scored and given up) by eleven games. Eleven! The next highest number of games of above their Pythagorean win-loss total were the Reds and Giants, both by six. When you look at the Orioles roster, their numbers, or really anything, it defies the odds. Not only did they play above their heads this season, but are headed to the ALDS and almost won the AL East, for crying out loud! Baseball pundits and afficianados scoured box scores and articles on the Os to see if they could find something, one thing, that could explain how in the heck they were getting the job done and all of sudden, BOOM! Sorry if I scared you there with the caps lock, but I was trying to be dramatic. So, BOOM! The Orioles are very good in one-run games, so it had to be the bullpen, of which Jim Johnson is the king!

With a 29-9 record in one-run games, no team in the majors was better than the Orioles in that department. So this is when everyone started jumping on the Jim Johnson praise committee. Now, I am not looking to trash JJ by any means, he had a very good season, but the way people are talking it is as if he has pitched one of the greatest relief seasons ever. I have even seen some writers and bloggers go as far as to say Johnson is deserving of a Cy Young vote, which I find to be a bit ludicrous. Just because he had 51 saves? Of the ten other 50 save seasons, only two won the Cy Young award. Now I understand that saying JJ deserves a vote, is not the same as saying he should win the award, but I still think even a Cy Young vote is a stretch. Closers in general, at least in my opinion, need to do a lot to garner Cy Young consideration.

Yes a closer does tend to come in a lot of high leverage, big time pressure, situations, which is why their role is considered so important for a team. The fact is many are just basing their praise of Jim Johnson primarily on that one counting stat, the save. Sure, that is really the stat for closers, and you cannot fault JJ for that, but is that really the best indicator of a closer? Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking, “How could saves, the main closer statistic, not be the biggest factor tied to a closer evaluation?” Well, I’ll tell ya, the stat itself is majorly flawed and, really, can you sit there and tell me Jim Johnson is actually a top five closer, just because he had more saves than anyone?

Yes Johnson had 51 saves, we have established this. This is an accomplishment, sure. But how great is it, really? First off, for a closer to get saves, they need opportunities. The Orioles used their bullpen a lot for a team that made the playoffs. In fact no other AL team used their bullpen more than the Os this season and of the other AL Playoff teams only the Yankees used more relievers than the league average and as a team, only the Reds and Brewers had more save opportunities than the Orioles. But we are looking at Jim Johnson, right? Right! So back to the 51 saves. How any other relievers, in the majors this season, even had 50 save opportunites? One. Fernando Rodney and he had 50 exactly. So no other team even gave a closer a chance to get 51 saves. Is that an accomplishment? That the Orioles rarely blew opponents out and Buck Showalter taxed their bullpen like nobody’s business? And hey, again, I am not trouncing on Jim Johnson, cause that is certainly not his fault and it is a testament to something that he did get all these opportunities, but should he get Cy Young vote for that? I think not. Then there is the other flaw in the saves statistic. The fact that there all different kinds of saves.

Protecting a 3-run lead or 1-run lead, still lands you a save. Obviously one is a bit more difficult than the other, but when all is said and done, they count the same. Now, actually this is where you could make the strongest case for JJ. He was 18-18 protecting 1-run leads, so, you know, pretty good. He was actually much worse when protecting larger leads. In 8 of those 36 other save opportunities he allowed at least one run to score, before shutting the door. Now, some will say, yeah, but he had the runs to spare and yeah, that is true, but does that make him an elite closer? Does that make his 2012 season great? Johnson’s season was just as unpredictable as that of his team’s and this is definitely why he is being so lauded as strong closer. But how strong is he really?

JJ does not strike out a ton of batters, which is very rare for a major league closer. His 5.37 K/9 is the worst amongst closers with ten or more save opportunities this season and he could quite possibly be the first closer in major league history to have 30 plus saves and have less strikeouts than saves. Now sure, that is not that big of thing if he is getting the job done and that number 51 shows that he has been. But generally in high leverage situations, you do not want the ball being put in play so much, especially when your team has the third worst UZR in the American League and the fifth worst UZR in the majors. But couple this with the fact the he walks almost two batters per nine innings and you have a K/BB rate that is not even amongst the top 60 for eligible relievers. To me, it seems like JJ cold be living on borrowed time with his success this season. Now you could say, “Oh yeah, but his ERA and WHIP were very good.” Okay, well let’s explore that.

His 2.49 ERA and 1.02 WHIP are darned good, that is for darned sure. These numbers were so good, that he was eleventh, amongst major league relievers who had ten or more save opportunities this season, in both categories. His ERA was also helped by a strong finish (.38 ERA since the end of July), but through the end of July his ERA was 3.63, which is not impressive for a guy you need to dominate and shut down the opposing team. So, even if you want to say he had good season numbers, it is safe to say that he was not that way all season. His ERA in July, by the way, was over 11. Ouch. His ERA also, of course, does not count the inhertited runners he would allow to score. JJ was not brought into the game much with men on base and probably with good reason. Of the eight runners Johnson inherited this season, he allowed six, yes SIX, to score! Now it’s a small sample size, that is definitely true, but by comparison, Fernando Rodney, who in my mind was far and away the best closer in the AL, allowed just two of his 18 inherited runners to cross the plate. And you have to think Buck Showalter may need Johnson to come in with guys on base in the playoffs and that could get dicey, certainly exposing the flaws in his closer.

So really, I have to say again, this is not to attack Jim Johnson in any way, shape or form. The point here was that everyone needs to slow their proverbial rolls, when discussing his body of work this season. What the Orioles have done is amazing, because it was completely unexpected and unexplainable, and the same can be said of Jim Johnson’s 51 saves if you want to look at it that way. Let us all just take a step back and put this in perspective though. Other than actual number of saves, for instance, Fernando Rodney has been vastly better than Jim Johnson, but without passing the 50 save mark or his team making the playoffs, Fernando will have to sit and watch all the praise being bestowed on JJ. Johnson deserves a kudos and a tip of the cap for sure, but let’s stop there and realize that his 2012 season is not quite as special or dominant as we’d all like to believe.

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chapman

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Who’s Hot, Who’s Not: Aroldis Chapman

Posted on 14 August 2012 by Chris Caylor

Welcome to this week’s edition of Who’s Hot, Who’s Not. This week we appropriately feature a flamethrower and a repeat performer from last week (in a different category) plus a few others. Away we go…

Hottest of the Hot

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds – Unhittable. That’s what Chapman has been virtually all season. Over the past two weeks, he has racked up 7 saves and 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings with no walks. So far this season, Chapman has punched out 106 batters in 57 innings versus a mere 14 walks. In 2012, he has decreased his BB/9 from 7.4 in 2011 to 2.2, while his K/BB ratio has improved from 1.73 in 2011 to an eye-popping 7.57. To give you a basis for comparison, Mariano Rivera pitched to a 7.50 K/BB ratio during his sterling 2011 campaign. That’s how good Chapman has been this year.

Who Else is Hot?

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants – Posey has picked up where he left off in 2010, when he won NL Rookie of the Year. In the past week, he clubbed 6 home runs, drove in 16, and put together a.465/.586/.930 batting line. The catcher position is no longer the shallow fantasy baseball wasteland it used to be (unless you’re in a two-catcher league), but Posey is a Top 5 catcher, and his first base eligibility is handy too.

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers – I think Kemp likes having Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez around him in the lineup. He has hit safely in 14 of his past 15 games, batting .443 in that stretch. Kemp sports a 1.067 OPS for the season and has approved proportionally in each category over last season. The Dodgers and fantasy owners are happy to have Kemp back and productive.

Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox – Look who’s finally heating up. After getting off to a miserable start, Gonzalez is punishing the ball the way we have become accustomed. In the past week, A-Gon has hit a pair of homers, driven in 14 runs and slugged .857. Although the home run numbers remain down, Gonzalez is on pace to drive in over 100 runs for a fourth season.

David Price, Tampa Bay Rays – Price’s stats this year are remarkable. Putting aside the 15 wins (on pace for 20), Price hasn’t lost a decision since June 13. Given how feeble the Rays lineup has been without Evan Longoria, I find that noteworthy. Price also is on pace for over 200 strikeouts, with a K/BB ratio of 3 to 1. Similar to Justin Verlander, Price is consistently able to throw in the mid to upper 90s late in ballgames. With the Rays’ exceptional pitching and the return of Longoria, the Rays will be a fascinating team to watch the rest of the season.

Who’s Not?

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels. Last week, Pujols was leading the Who’s Hot list. This week, not so much. The big slugger has gone 1 for 23 the past week, good for a batting line of .043/.120/.043. Last week, I mentioned that the Angels were a scary team because of all the big names on the roster and how good they could be if they put it all together. However, they are 3-7 in their past 10 games and have fallen to third place, behind the amazing Oakland Athletics. Pujols’ up-and-down weeks illustrate the Angels’ enigmatic season perfectly.

John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers – Last year, he was the Ax Man, a long-haired, flame-throwing closer who led the NL in saves. This year, he has become the Wax Man, because opposing lineups are mopping the floor with him. Although his K/9 ratio has gone up this year, it is completely offset by drop-offs in his H/9, HR/9 and SO/BB ratios. In 2011, Axford was worth 2.4 WAR; this season, it’s -1.5. Yikes.

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals – As sensational as 2011 was for the Big Puma, 2012 has been the polar opposite. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that Berkman suffered cartilage damage in his left knee, most likely due to overcompensating for his surgically-repaired right knee. He insists he will return in 2012, but you have to wonder how effective he would be. If he does return in 2013, Berkman may be better off doing so as a DH in the American League. I hope he is able to return. Baseball is a better game with guys like Berkman in uniform.

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