Mariano Rivera Breaking Bats

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.

Rivera Cutter

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 Two-Seam

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.

Rivera_broken_mark

Enjoy him while you can.



Print This Post



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.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jeff Zimmerman
Member
Member
3 years 9 days ago

clap … clap … clap … clap

Andy
Guest
3 years 9 days ago

Awesome gifs.

Steve Yeager
Guest
Steve Yeager
3 years 9 days ago

YIKES!!!

Pinstripe Wizard
Member
3 years 9 days ago

That first GIF is what dreams are made of.

Joe F.
Guest
Joe F.
3 years 9 days ago

That’s a hypnotic image, and a great use of your innovative technique.

I don’t mean this in a snarky way, so apologies: if you were going to show what Mo does best, wouldn’t you have gotten 6 pitches that were all swinging strikes? Not one of the pitches in that last image seemed to be caught (either by the main catcher image or one of his ghosts). 6 baseballs went 6 different directions. Makes it seem like what he does best is saw off bats, get guys to foul off and/or hit homeruns…

Jess
Guest
Jess
3 years 9 days ago

the point was to show breaking bats

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 9 days ago

Having watched Rivera pitch since 1995, I can tell you that what he does best isn’t swinging strikes. He gets his fair share of strikeouts, sure, but after 1997 that wasn’t really his trademark. His trademark is generating weak, weak contact. What he does best is keep guys from hitting solid line drives. He induces ground ball after ground ball after ground ball, and they’re almost never hard-hit.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H
3 years 9 days ago

I wonder what it is about Mo. Does anyone else throw a pitch with even similar movement, but just lack Mo’s command? Or, aside from the absurd command, is the movement of that pitch completely unique in baseball?

As an atheist, the only thing I ever pray to god for is to get an at bat against Mariano Rivera. I just want to be able to see that pitch from the perspective of the hitter! What does it look like?!

Emmett
Guest
Emmett
3 years 9 days ago

Kenley Jansen on the Dodgers throws a natural cut fastball and you can see the results he’s gotten over the past couple of seasons. He doesn’t have the lockdown consistency that Mo has, but he is still young.

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
3 years 9 days ago

i think its the timing of the movement. watching him throw, it seems to break right before reaching the plate. to hitters who have been trained to read cuts and breaks on pitches out of the pitchers hand, its almost impossible to make the mental adjustment it requires to hit a pitch with that movement at that speed… on the corners of the plate no less

Joe F.
Guest
Joe F.
3 years 9 days ago

There was an article a few years back breaking down exactly how Mo does it. I want to say it was in the New York Times? He doesn’t even know for sure how he does and just attributes it to being a God-given gift. The theory is that there’s something unique to his grip and – this is awkwardly phrased – the shape of his hand / length of his fingers. He just naturally holds the ball in a way that is not really teachable to anyone else.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
3 years 9 days ago

I’m guessing this is the aforementioned article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/magazine/04Rivera-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Jason H.
Guest
Jason H.
3 years 9 days ago

Yeah, I’ve seen that article. Its a good one. …still not the same as experiencing the pitch first hand though!

He seems to hold his cutter like a four seem fastball, but with his fingers together (like a slider). Most hold a cutter like a two seamer I believe.

Roll Fizzlbeef
Guest
Roll Fizzlbeef
3 years 9 days ago

That release point consistency is NSFW as it’s practically porn for pitching coaches.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
3 years 9 days ago

Mariano Rivera always reminded me of Greg Maddux, that inside outside late breaking pitch. Great to watch.
I think baseball ought to assign the number 42 to one player after Rivera retires. Kind of a living tribute to Jackie Robinson.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
3 years 9 days ago

way too much pressure. you’d have to be a player who is out of this world awesome and who is pure class.

i think the number officially retiring with Mo is perfectly fitting.

CS Yankee
Guest
CS Yankee
3 years 9 days ago

Cool seeing the ghost of Mo leaving the mound stage left.

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
3 years 9 days ago

holy god. that cutter to rasmus just isnt fair.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
3 years 9 days ago

Rivera facing Rasmus just isn’t fair.

Dan Rozenson
Guest
3 years 9 days ago

I love you.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
3 years 9 days ago

Inevitable NotGraphs parody: Mariano Rivera Breaking Bad

“This…………is not a cutter.”

*baseball explodes*

William
Guest
William
3 years 9 days ago
Havok9120
Guest
Havok9120
3 years 9 days ago

God, that play was just silly.

Dale Cruse
Guest
Dale Cruse
3 years 9 days ago

I’d love to see that first gif but from the angle of the hitter! Very cool stuff!

Shivakumar Shankar
Guest
Shivakumar Shankar
3 years 9 days ago

Love this GIF to bits (pun intended :D)!! Thanks a ton. Your Yu’s GIF was majorly spectacular too! you gained a fan! all the way from India :)

Max Grady
Guest
Max Grady
3 years 9 days ago

Best article on Rivera I’ve read in many years…

Anon Too
Guest
Anon Too
3 years 9 days ago

Excellent well written and illustrated article.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy
2 years 10 months ago

Amazing! Enter Sandman

wpDiscuz