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The Strike Zone

GIF: Rivera still Mo-ing down hitters and breaking lots of bats

Last month, I highlighted an amazing GIF that composited Yu Darvish's five primary pitches, showing the variety of speeds and breaks the Rangers ace was capable of producing in a single game. That hypnotic animation was put together by Drew Sheppard, who has just put together another one, this time of Mariano Rivera:

The GIF highlights six pitches on which Rivera has broken bats this year — a skill for which he long ago became famous. As Sheppard noted in a story over at FanGraphs, while broken bats aren't an official statistic, the New York Times tallied 44 of them in his 80 2/3 innings back in 2001. These six have come in 17 1/3 innings, though Sheppard conceded, "with several more that sounded like breaks but I could not confirm."

As you gaze at the hypnotic animation — you're getting very sleeeepy — note the minimal horizontal distribution of his famous cutter. Despite the fact that multiple hitters of each hand are represented, all of the breaks appear to have occurred on the first base-side edge of home plate.

The 43-year-old closer, who back in the spring declared that this would be his final season, has shown no signs of trouble in coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament which ended his 2012 season on May 3. He has converted all 16 of his save opportunities while allowing just three runs in 17 1/3 innings. His 6.8 strikeouts per nine are toward the lower end of the fairly wide year-to-year fluctuation he has shown over his 19 seasons, but with just 1.0 walks per nine, his 6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio would rank as the third-best of his career after 2011 (7.5) and 2001 (6.9).

As both the data and the GIF demonstrate, the man can put the ball where he wants to with remarkable precision. That's why even while relying heavily on just one pitch, he's easily the greatest closer of all time.
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