Friday, August 12, 2011
Pinstripe panic in the Bronx
By Tom McKean
Much has been made about New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera’s struggles of late, but is it a cause for concern? According to Elias, in each of his last three appearances he was charged with at least one run while not recording a single strikeout. It’s the first time that Mariano Rivera has done that in three consecutive games in his 17-year major-league career.
Even so, fans shouldn’t be too worried. August has never been Rivera’s strongest month; his 19 career blown saves and .226 opponent batting average are his most in any month, and his 2.39 ERA is second-highest behind only September.
In his last three outings, Rivera has thrown pitches for strikes nearly as consistently as he had in all previous 2011 appearances (45 percent in last three compared to about 46 percent in all others). The difference, however, is that hitters are chasing his pitches out of the zone far less often.
Before his last three games, batters were chasing out-of-the-zone pitches nearly 43 percent of the time. That number is under 30 percent since August 7. When hitters are making contact, they are putting the ball in play far more often as well. In those same splits hitters were putting the ball in play on just 35 percent of swings before August 7. Since then, that rate is nearly 67 percent.
Five seasons ago, the Minnesota Twins had the best bullpen in the majors. Joe Nathan led a staff that sported just a 2.91 ERA that season, nearly a half run better than any other squad in MLB. In 2011 that figure is 4.66, the worst in baseball. A primary weakness of the bullpen this season is a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just 1.71, third-worst in baseball. Lefty Jose Mijares has been a significant culprit; of relievers who have logged at least 30 innings this year, his ratio of 0.91 is third-worst in the majors.
Reliever of the Week
Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox was dominant this past week, collecting three saves in four appearances since Saturday. Santos did not allow a hit or walk in that span while striking out seven. In eight plate appearances that reached two strikes, hitters swung and missed on his slider and fastball a combined 75 percent of the time.