The Sandman Anomaly

May 11, 2009 – 1:24 pm

Much has been made about the rocky start that Mariano Rivera has gotten off to this year — he’s already given up 4 home runs, which matches the max he’s allowed in a season for the last 8 years.  However, 3 of those HRs came in non-save situations, and it’s been well documented over the years that Mariano, for whatever reasons, has never pitched as well in non-save situations as in save situations.  In fact, he’s really at his best in a simple one-inning save situation, where he starts the inning and has only to get three outs to save the game.  Here are his stats over the last 5 years:

Year ERA Non-Save Save One Inning Save
2008 1.40 2.63 0.62 0.64
2007 3.15 2.79 3.13 2.84
2006 1.80 2.04 1.55 1.00
2005 1.38 1.61 1.35 0.77
2004 1.94 1.47 1.88 1.29

Clearly he’s at his best in the 1-inning save situations. And the good news this year is that he’s been called on in that situation 6 times this year, and he’s been near perfect — 4 H, 8 K, 1 BB, 0.00 ERA. So it would appear that his overall “poor” numbers are simply an artifact of him being called on in non-save or multi-inning situations. Which are just not where he excels.

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