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Wednesday, August 10, 2011
What's wrong with Rivera? Maybe not much

By Jason McCallum

Mariano Rivera
Rivera
While he has certainly struggled in his last two appearances, it may be a bit premature to speculate that Mariano Rivera has begun a downward trend based solely on those results.

The location of a game is of course a variable that all MLB stats are subject to, so tracking these types of ballpark-specific notes can lead to an ‘isn't that obvious?’ line of thinking. But while the reaction to Rivera's recent struggles is at a fever pitch, it is important to note that he has also been very unlucky in terms of the venues he's had these struggles.

Flashback to Sunday when Rivera blew a save at Fenway Park. Rivera allowed one hit in that outing -- a classic Fenway Park "wall ball" double to Marco Scutaro leading off the inning. The ball traveled 352 feet and had a hang time of 5.28 seconds. It would not have hit a wall in any other park in the majors and only would have reached the warning track in 10 of them.

Would the ball have been an out in any other park?

It is tough to make that judgment with any kind of truly definitive statement. But given the fact that the ball hung in the air for more than five seconds and wouldn't have reached the wall anywhere else, one could deduce that the Scutaro double is probably an out in every other park in the majors. No other Red Sox batter reached base that inning vs Rivera.

Fast-forward to Tuesday night in the Bronx. Rivera gave up a 383-foot HR to Bobby Abreu that gave the Angels the lead in the 9th inning. Given that the new Yankee Stadium is one of the most generous launching pads in the majors, we looked to see if this home run would have been one in other parks. It would have been one in 16 of the 30 current MLB stadiums. While that’s a majority, it certainly wasn't a no-doubt-about-it homer in the grand scheme of things.

SAVE SITUATIONS vs NON-SAVE SITUATIONS
One of the most prominent baseball cliches when it comes to closers is that they don't pitch well in non-save situations. Given that he took the loss on Tuesday, it is easy to gloss over the fact that Rivera was pitching in a tie game and not with a lead.

Should that matter? A look at Rivera's career says that since he became the Yankees closer in 1997 he has an ERA of 2.45 in non-save situations and 1.84 in save situations. And since the Yankees opened the new homer-happy stadium in 2009, his home ERA in save situations is 1.59 while it is 1.95 in non-save situations.

So yes, it appears that even the great Rivera pitches better in save situations than in other spots.

This quick study isn't designed to provide evidence that it was acceptable for Rivera to struggle in these two outings. But it certainly provides evidence to combat the quick-trigger reaction to his recent issues as the beginning of his inevitable downfall.

-- Adam Grigely and Justin Ray contributed to this report.