Key Stats: Mariano Rivera really struggled last year. On July 19 he gave up a home run to Aubrey Huff. He gave up 3 more home runs after that last year. Clearly hitters are starting to catch on Rivera, who only throws one pitch, and at this point in his career it’s a hittable pitch.
Ignore the fact that his 0.67 WHIP was 0.19 better than the next best closer and that his ERA was almost a full run better than the closer of the rival Red Sox. Rivera had a .165 batting average against. So more than 16% of the time he is giving up a hit. That’s way too often.
Skeptics Say: Ok, so somehow he managed to have his best year in what was already a Hall of Fame career. This Red Sox fan has admitted that Rivera was nasty. There are real concerns this year though (without the sarcasm this time). Rivera had shoulder surgery following the season and still has not thrown a pitch. The surgery wasn’t anything close to Tommy John, but remember he’ll be 40 in November.
Peer Comparison: Rivera is left off of the top 75 picks in the ADP of Mock Draft Central, which is alarming. What’s even more curious is that the ADP of Brad Lidge is 62.
Lidge had two more saves than Rivera last season. The Yankees are significantly improved, and besides save opportunities come randomly (think: Brian Wilson and the Giants). So throw that number out and assume the Yankees get the same amount of opportunities for saves as the defending champs.
Aside from save opportunities, Rivera has been the better pitcher. Since 2005 he has had a better ERA and WHIP than Lidge every season. While Lidge has given up 21 home runs the last 3 years, Rivera has yielded only 11. The only stat that goes in Lidge’s favor is strikeouts.
Is Rivera’s shoulder surgery really that serious?
Save Chance Outlook: If everything goes according to plan for the Yankees, Rivera will not be in too many games. They could be winning games by more than 3 runs a lot if C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are as good as they were in 2008. Still, the Rays are the defending AL East champs and haven’t gotten worse, and the Red Sox were the Wild Card representative and if John Smoltz pitches an inning, they upgraded from Curt Schilling.
Projection: This will not be the year that the hitters figure out the cutter.
37 saves 4 wins 2.30 ERA 1.00 WHIP 70K in 66 innings
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