Mariano Rivera is a sure fire Hall-of-Famer. He is the best post-season performer in the history of modern baseball with 5 World Series Rings, 42 post season saves, and miniscule 0.71 e.ra. Rivera may actually be the greatest living Yankee. Hell, he may have passed Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods as the best athlete we have seen in most of our lifetimes in any sport.
In 2011 Rivera still looks great and has been named to yet another All-Star Game for the 12th time in his brilliant career. He is 1-1 with a 1.91 ERA . He has 21 saves and has only blown four. However, there have been some chinks in his armor. He has been susceptible against right handed hitters this season and the opposing batters have noticed.
Take Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. The Yankees lead the Mets 2 to 1 in the bottom of the 9th inning. Rivera enters to retire switch hitter Carlos Beltran (who knew about Rivera’s struggles and batted righty) on a called third strike. ”Mo” gets lefty hitting David Murphy on a comebacker to the mound – making it 2 quick outs. Up steps righty power hitter Jason Bay who has had good success against Rivera in the past. Mariano issues just his 5th walk of the season. He then gave up a base hit to lefty Lucas Duda putting runners at the corners. Up steps righty Ronny Paulino who on an 0-2 pitch away dunks a base hit to right to tie the game.
Now to me, part of this issue with Rivera and righties stems from starting catcher Russell Martin not knowing the movement of his cutter and four-seamer - and to Francisco Cervelli for being a buffoon. It seems the Yankee catchers come in to righties when they should go away with Rivera on the mound and vice-versa.
Which brings me to my final point. For about 10 years, Mariano has come to spring training saying he was going to start throwing a change-up to keep hitters (particularly righties) off the cutter and four-seamer. Former Yankee Pitching Coach Mel Stottlemeyer used to talk about it during his daily briefings in Tampa with the beat writers – often stating the pitch in question was a legit, big league change-up.
Rivera has used this pitch in a game. I saw it with my own eyes when I covered a game in Detroit back in 2004. He quickly got ahead of Ivan Rodriguez (arguably the best hitting catcher off all-time) 0-2 and then unleashed a wicked 78 mph pitch(clearly a change up) that Rodriguez nearly spun himself into the ground swinging at for strike 3.
Look, I’m not saying this is Mariano’s baseball obit by any means. I mean if my life depended on getting 3 outs in a baseball game he is the guy I want out there pitching. He is still throwing 91 to 94 mph, which is unheard of for a skinny, 41 year old man. I just think it’s time he changes speeds a little to keep the opposition honest. He has the pitch, why not use it? If Rivera does add a new pitch, incorporating change of speeds into his already legendary arsenal of baffling pitches…he would at age 41 progress from simply dominant to unhittable once again.
About the Author
Written by Brendan Sennott
I was born in the heart of the AL East in the late 70's and am a huge Yankees fan. (Don't hate) I have moved around to a lot of solid baseball markets in my life(Boston, Chicago, Detroit) and was a part-time reporter, producer, blogger, and on air personality for WDFN Radio Sportsradio 1130 The Fan in Detroit. I still live in the "D" and am married with one beautiful 9 month old daughter. My girls are my life. In my media career I've interviewed players, managers and executives in the sport and would love to get back in the business full time. Baseball is my passion. I look forward to shooting straight about the Yanks and M.L.B in my new blog and getting your feedback.