Welcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. To say that Mariano Rivera's had a successful career would be, for the first time in Yankee history, an understatement. The long time closer was victimized by a walkoff homer on Friday night for only the 5th time in his career! The list of players to take him deep is hardly illustrious (it features two current Blue Jays!) but a sure-fire Hall of Famer added his name to the tally in Seattle.
The internet's favorite mancrush Ichiro hit the first pitch he saw from the great accumulator of saves deep into the right field bleachers. Did the great Mo Rivera leave a fat cutter up and over the plate? Never! Ichiro did what Ichiro does, he beat a good pitcher by hitting a pitcher's pitch.
Let's use our faithful strikezone plot to examine all the pitches thrown by Mariano Rivera in the fateful ninth inning. The first two batters struck out before Mike Sweeny doubled and our hero jacked the first pitch he saw. Please to enjoy, click to enlarge:
Yup, that is a Rivera special cutter 6 inches off the inside of the plate. Ichiro, who some believe "cheats" by hedging out of the box towards first base, found it right inside his wacky wheelhouse. It wasn't a "bad pitch" in as much as it was identical to every other pitch Rivera has thrown in his big league career: it was a cutter between 92 and 93 miles per hour with about 4 inches of break. Ho hum. Mariano Rivera's average break chart looks like a game of pin the tail on the donkey played unblindfolded by Ms. Rutledge's enriched geometery class. Boring.
This outing showcases Rivera's rare ability to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. Ichiro hit a pitch that most people can't, which is what makes Rivera successful and Ichiro a damn legend. Those in the know insist the Japanese dynamo has the power to knock 20 home runs a season were he so inclined. I think Mariano Rivera would tend to agree, especially on fastballs everyone in the stadium knows are coming.
Pitch F/X data via the good people at Brooks Baseball.