The remarkable resiliency of Rivera

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at Pinstriped Bible on May 4, 2012:

Like most Yankee fans, I spent a good deal of Thursday night traveling the Kübler-Ross five-stages-of-grief spectrum after hearing the news about Mariano Rivera, getting stuck somewhere in the rut between anger and single malt Scotch. Long ago, I joked to a friend that the Yankees could cope with season-ending injuries to many a star, even Derek Jeter, but if one happened to Rivera, that would be the season. “Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye,” was my break-glass-in-emergency advice.

That’s not particularly helpful at a time like this. Nor is it true, at least as far as the regular season goes. As Steve pointed out, the slice of innings which a closer pitches is a very narrow one, and any team should be able to replace a fallen one with another rather effective pitcher should the need arise. As remarkable as Rivera’s numbers were, his conversion rate on saves wasn’t a whole lot higher than the next guy’s.

It is worth noting that this comes with two important caveats. First, between Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, the Yankees were lucky enough to have a pair of managers overseeing Rivera who were willing to deviate from orthodoxy enough to differentiate themselves and their closer. In an age of one-inning closers who uniformly started the ninth inning with a clean slate, Torre and Girardi were unafraid to deploy Rivera in the eighth inning when the situation merited it. The number of times which he pitched more than one inning to net a save dwarfs that of any other closer during his tenure.

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Originally published: May 4, 2012. Last Updated: May 4, 2012.