By Todd Farino, www.thecloserreport.com
What does the future hold for arguably the greatest closer of all time?
By the end of the the next season, Mariano Rivera will be the ripe old age of 42. For the first time in his career last season, Rivera started to show his age.
In 2010, Rivera battled both an oblique injury and inflammation in his right knee. While Rivera was able to pitch through the injuries, it eventually took it's toll on the Yankee closer.
He finished September with a 4.76 ERA and a WHIP of 1.24. Even in August he showed signs of breaking down with a WHIP of 1.22, but luckily his ERA was only 2.00 for that month. To put it all into context, Rivera's ERA going into August was 0.93.
In my mind and most likely many others, Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time. He has one of the most mechanically consistent deliveries, which is the secret to his success. However, when the body starts breaking down or is injured that will effect a pitchers mechanics. If Rivera loses that consistency, he will get hit more and blow more saves.
For that reason, the Yankees brought in Rafael Soriano. We heard Yankees GM Brian Cashman commenting that he didn't want to pay closer money for a setup man, but Soriano may just not be a setup man. In fact, Soriano is insurance for a pitcher who can fade at anytime without much warning. To understand Mariano Rivera's effectiveness throughout his career and to understand why there is so much concern you have to examine how he does it.
Mariano Rivera has one amazing pitch, the cutter.
He throws it with extreme precision because his mechanics are flawless and never change. Mechanics will flaw other pitchers and lead to big hits. If Rivera makes a mistake with his cutter, it will get crushed.
At 41, Rivera is beyond the normal years of an outstanding pitcher and now must rely on his veteran savvy and experience to continue to dominate hitters. If he is unable to do that, he will find himself on the DL watching Rafael Soriano closing out games for the Yankees.
I've projected that Rivera will get 30 saves this year, which is three less then last season. The reasons for the low number of saves are simple.
First off, the Yankees just don't produce that many save opportunities. In 2010, the Yankees were 18th among all MLB teams in save opportunities at 57. Even that number is skewed because that includes relievers blowing leads in the innings before the ninth.
In total team saves, the Yankees were also ranked 18th. So I expect a lack of save chances compared to teams with lesser offenses or weaker starting pitching. It's the impact of being a closer for a great team.
Secondly, I expect Rivera to get more rest. He will give up the ball to Soriano more often then he has in the past in order to keep him healthy. He also may have a stint on the DL. I project Soriano to pick up at least 11 saves, but that is on the assumption that Rivera is healthy most of the season.
If you draft Rivera, I strongly recommend you draft Soriano. It might seem crazy to think you have to back up Rivera, but it's just good common sense.