Everyday until spring training begins the "Respect Jeter's Gangster" blog will review one player from the Yankees roster. We will review a total of 27 players, the 25 we believe will be on the active roster after spring training, and 2 we believe should be on the active roster but won't be for one reason or another. Our reviews are all edited by Carl Pavano himself to insure they're up to the stringent "Pavano Tough" standards.
The way Mariano Rivera began the 2007 season was worrisome. I always knew he started off slow, but it seemed like he was slower than usual. I wondered if his age was getting to him, and his cutter just wasn't cutting. Rivera posted a 10.57 ERA in April, and his struggles were an exclamation point to the troublesome start the Yankees had last season. No game was more frustrating as a fan than the April 15 game against Oakland. Pettitte had pitched an amazing game, and was set for the win. Then Mariano came in, put two guys on, and then gave up a three-run homerun to Marco Scutaro. Marco Scutaro! Many blamed his struggles on sporadic, inconsistant use. I don't buy it. He's a closer, and he needs to close.
Lucky for Yankee fans however, April proved to be an aberration. His ERA's in the following months were 1.74 (May), 1.98 (June), 0.71 (July), 3.86 (August), and 2.77 (September). He recorded 29 saves in that time. He had two games, one in August and one in September, where he gave up 3 runs. Take those two outings away and those months were pretty good. He finished the season with a 3.15 ERA, 30 saves, 74 strikeouts and 12 walks in 71.1 innings.
He went on to have a pretty good post season as well, pitching 4.2 innings, striking out 6, walking 1, and plunking one batter without giving up a run. I don't remember who he plunked, but chances are the guy deserved it.
My Fearless Prediction:
Mariano will stumble out the gate, but don't expect it to be as severe as last year. He just needs some time to adjust. He will finish with 40 saves, an ERA in the mid 2 range, and about as many strikeouts as innings pitched. Expect him to regain the confidence we've had in him over the years, and expect an amazing pitching performance by Rivera in the 2008 world series.
Little Known Rivera Fact: Rivera once invented a pitch called "the slicer". After the deaths of 4 batters and one bullpen catcher, he decided to stop using it ........ for now.