Thursday, June 19, 2008

For Your Consideration

There's a pitcher on the 2008 New York Yankees that's having a Cy Young season, but you'll never hear his name mentioned in contention as a serious candidate.

You know him--he's been pitching on the team since 1995, he's kind of skinny, and he seems to rely on a cut fastball.

Oh, and he's also the last remaining active player, ever, to wear 42.

Mariano Rivera has long since been headed to Cooperstown. He's got four World Series rings; not to mention he's also an eight-time All Star. He pitched three shut out innings in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS and though it was Aaron Boone that officially sent the Yankees to the World Series, it was Rivera that did most of the work.

He's had a career most major leaguers could only dream of, and he's never had a season like this.

In 34 innings, Rivera has allowed three runs. That's it. Three. To put it in perspective, that's throwing three complete games and seven innings of a fourth while only allowing three runs. That's an ERA of 0.79. (while Joba's ERA last year was lower, he also threw considerably less innings).

It's not just that Rivera isn't allowing runs (okay, except in those Kansas City games), however.

Rivera has struck out 39--which is impressive on its own given his innings total--and walked three.

So it sinks in: Rivera has struck out 39, while walking 3. That's a K/BB ratio of 13.

One walk every thirteen strikeouts?

Even All Star pitchers don't have ratios like that.*

In thirty-four innings, Rivera has allowed just fifteen hits--for most pitchers, less than a hit an inning is good; but Rivera is allowing less than a hit every two innings.

Rivera's current WHIP (walk/hits for innings pitched)? It's 0.54. 0.54. To put this in perspective, even Rivera, MVP votes and All Star spots and all, has never had a WHIP over the course of a season lower than 0.86 (which he did in 2005).

Most importantly, however, he has converted twenty of twenty save opportunities. When the Yankees have needed him to keep a lead, he has--and as he recently pitched in four games out of five and now has pitched in three straight, he has become the Yankees' workhorse as well.

Not that he'd ever complain about it.

While the Yankees have issues with almost everyone else in the bullpen (with the possible exceptions of Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez, if it's a Good Edwar day), Rivera has not just been dependable, but has become something other than human.

The Yankees of 2008 don't have much in common with the Yankees of 1996--only four players from '96 remain on the roster. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada (who was not, of yet, a regular), and Mariano Rivera.

Ten years later, one of them is having the season of his life.

*Brandon Webb, 29, 82 K/25 BB= ratio of 3.28, Johan Santana, 29, 91 K/26 BB = ratio of 3.5, Roy Halladay, 32, 86 K/13 BB= ratio of 6.6

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and ESPN .

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