Mariano Rivera’s 2013 victory lap prior to his planned retirement has been fairly remarkable thus far, returning from injury at 43 showing little sign of wear. He leads baseball with 16 saves (none blown), ranks first among AL relievers in WPA at 1.86, and has generally shown why he is a no doubt Hall of Famer to be.
There is not all that much to analyze with Rivera, his reliance on one pitch has long been notorious. Mariano’s late breaking cut fastball has gradually lost some velocity over the years, declining from the mid-90s to its current 90.2 MPH average speed but retaining its effectiveness. I have provided a clip below comparing the movement of his cutter relative to a more typical fastball in a similar location.
While the value of his cutter is beyond reproach, Rivera has traditionally mixed in a four-seam fastball with some cut of its own and later in his career a two-seam fastball typically to right-handed batters where it provides a similar movement toward the hitter as his cutter does to lefties. Here is a look at another inside cut fastball to Colby Rasmus and its mirror two-seam to Torii Hunter.
Rivera works both sides of the plate with excellent command, and that ability to place the sharp movement of his pitches on either edge of the plate has granted Rivera another trademark – shattering the bat with alarming regularity. This is most often done with the previously mentioned inside cutter breaking into the hands of left handed hitters, the late action inducing contact far enough up the barrel of the bat to cause a break. While broken bats are not an officially kept statistic, the New York Times tallied 44 broken in the 80 2/3 innings of Rivera’s 2001 season. Five broken bats have been counted in a single outing, and four were seen as recently as a 2010 ALDS matchup with the Twins. I have reviewed Rivera’s 17 1/3 innings this year and come up with at least six, with several more that sounded like breaks but I could not confirm.
This tendency is what I primarily wanted to have some fun with today, thus I have created a composite clip of six pitches that show Rivera doing what he does best. These particular pitches range from his most recent outing through October 2011.
Enjoy him while you can.
Drew Sheppard is a writer for FanGraphs, graphic artist and GIF enthusiast. If you have a topic you would like Drew to take a look at in the future using overlay GIFs, please let him know in the comments here or on Twitter @DShep25.