Closer Report: Mo's WHIP; Bailey's woes 

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
11:54
AM ET
One should never root for rain at a parade or for a speaker to flub a speech, but the fact is these things do occasionally happen. Good stories take turns in the other direction, whether we want them to or not. And so it is that we must deal with a beloved player who seemingly has no enemies, no haters, the rarest of players, really. It’s possible to give New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera all the credit for working hard to come back from last season’s knee injury, pitching well at 43, handling himself with class, finishing his Hall of Fame career strong, but the fact is if someone else -- any other closer, really -- had allowed two or more hits in five of his past nine outings, 14 hits in his past 6 2/3 innings and was sporting a season WHIP that ranked 23rd out of the 26 pitchers with 10 or more saves, it would raise eyebrows and be worthy of discussion.
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Mariano Rivera
AP Photo/Kathy Willens Entering Friday's action, Mariano Rivera's WHIP was a lofty 1.31.

This isn’t to say that Rivera is struggling to such a level that his closer job is in any danger, because it’s not. He’s striking people out, his ERA is low and he has probably got more job security when healthy than anyone else in his role. This is just to be the voice of reason and point out that there’s a 43-year-old closer coming off a torn ACL and giving up a whole lot of baserunners lately. He also has walked a batter in four of his past five appearances! Remove the name value and check the numbers, and while I’m not rushing out there to grab setup man David Robertson, it’s not like he’s struggling. Rivera is tied for second in the majors in saves, but because of the hits allowed hurting his WHIP, and to some degree the fact he doesn’t have any wins, Rivera enters the weekend 10th among closers on the Player Rater. Add all of this up and you’ve got a sell-high player, beloved or not.

Let’s face it, Rivera is being handled carefully by the Yankees, and for good reason. With 25 saves in 29 appearances covering 26 innings, he’s certainly not being overworked in relation to other closers. His job is generally to pitch only the ninth inning with a lead, and he’s doing his job, even with recent hiccups. But putting men on base tends to lead to them scoring, and while Rivera has had stretches like this in recent seasons and overcome them, and a healthy portion of the hits he has been giving up lately have been well-placed bloopers and broken-bat ducks finding holes, it all counts. If this was Greg Holland, Grant Balfour or Huston Street giving up this rate of hits, you bet we’d be talking about it. We can’t ignore it because it’s the best closer of all time. Of the 49 pitchers with two or more saves this season, Rivera is one of only six to have permitted more hits than innings pitched, and you don’t want to be in the same class as Brandon League, Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan, Mitchell Boggs and the legendary Hector Ambriz. Rivera hasn’t finished a season with a WHIP higher than 1 since 2007.

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