Mo ranks among season's, history's best
Trolling the Internet for breaking news on Wednesday, I glanced at the SI Vault, which featured an
Since 1972, the Yankees turned Lyle into a New York legend, acquired future Hall-of-Famer Rich "Goose" Gossage (the unrivaled star of the early 1980s bullpen in the Bronx), yielded the closer reins to Dave "Rags" Righetti in 1984 when Gossage headed to the Padres, and launched the career of a young starter-turned setup man in 1996 when Mariano Rivera took over eighth inning duties.
Much has been written about Rivera (by me and many others) during the past few months, but I continue to hear nitwits on talk radio, in bars, and on blogs making ill-informed remarks that Mo has "lost a step." Nonsense. He may not throw the ball 95-96 anymore, but his 91-92 MPH cutter goes exactly where he wants it to, every time -- running down and in on lefties and briskly away from righties. Rivera's K/9 is 10.90, his K/BB is a preposterous 14.00, and even though his BABIP is 30 points above his career average, he's carrying a 2.60 ERA. Mo's Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is at a 2.75, a number that hasn't been over 3.00 since 2000 -- which was probably his worst statistical season on record in terms of getting clutch outs (73.6 strand rate) and control (2.32 K/BB).
About 500 saves later, the guy is still dealing, even if people suspect he isn't "the same." I'll admit, Mo has changed, but he's done so by establishing better control and pitching to contact when the situation calls for it (like a three-run lead versus a one-run edge). He's still the guy I want throwing in the bottom of the ninth with a small lead, the same as it's been since the end of the last decade. Now that is a fitting capstone on the rich tradition of Yankee relievers.
All statistics through June 7.
Brad Lidge surrendered the go-ahead run after entering a 3-3 ballgame on Tuesday, taking the loss. Just don't give up on him yet, Charlie Manuel. I'm with you, bro. Jose Valverde notched his first save since June 25 on Monday, allowing a leadoff hit to Jack Wilson in the ninth but then striking out the side (swinging, I might add). Valverde's K/9 is still an impressive 11.09 and his K/BB is at 4.60. IF someone's dealing him on the cheap, he'd make a nice acquisition. J.P. Howell didn't make the All-Star team despite the fact that his manager had a say. Way to inspire confidence in your young closer, Joe Maddon. Kerry Wood and Chad Qualls still have closing jobs, for now, but could always be moved before the trading deadline. They haven't been all that wonderful this season, although both have had different problems. Wood is walking too many batters and Qualls, despite a 7.50 K/BB rate, has four blown saves and has a terribly low strand rate for a closer -- 65.2%. Fernando Rodney still eludes the dreaded blown save, although he's been terrible in non-save situations this season. With Joel Zumaya touching 100 again, Rodney's days as Detroit's unchallenged closer may be numbered.
During the Marlins road trip, Lindstrom will be in Florida working out. He threw without discomfort on July 4 and is way ahead of schedule. If all goes well on the stretch run of his rehab, Lindstrom could return soon after the All-Star break.
Downs continues to throw bullpen sessions in an attempt to resume his spot in the bullpen before the break, but with Jason Frasor pitching well, there's no hurry to rush him back. Plan for a July 17 return.
Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez continue to put up excellent numbers out of the Atlanta bullpen, although Gonzalez hasn't had as many save chances as Soriano of late. It's about 2-1 at this point, so act accordingly. The Marlins are reportedly in the market for a real closer, looking at Heath Bell and Matt Capps to name a couple. It amazes me the Padres are even considering dealing Bell, but as the midget psychologist says in The Natural, "losing is a disease." In the meantime, they've added veteran righty Brendan Donnelly (does he still wear goggles?) to the bullpen for some depth. Mike MacDougal still hasn't blown a save, but it's only a matter of time, since his K/BB rate (0.56) is obviously on the wrong side of 1.00.