11:03 am May. 16, 2012
When the Yankees lost Mariano Rivera for the year due to injury, the loss was undoubtedly psychological as well as physical. Not only had Rivera been the finest closer in baseball history, he'd been that for New York, year after year, since 1997.
But the Yankees were uniquely positioned to weather the loss of Rivera.
Consider that since the start of the 2010 season, Rivera had the second best E.R.A.+ of any reliever with at least 100 innings pitched (out of 128 of them), his gaudy 233 trailing only Mike Adams of the Texas Rangers. But with Rivera out, the Yankees promoted David Robertson to the closer position. Robertson, with an E.R.A.+ of 182, was tenth in the major leagues among all relievers in the category since 2010. The dropoff was real, but smaller than nearly any other team's would have been.
But now, with Robertson hitting the disabled list Tuesday due to an oblique injury, they should really be in trouble.
But they're not, really.
Rafael Soriano is the new closer in Robertson's absence. His E.R.A.+ since 2010 isn't quite as good as Robertson's. It is just 156, which is still quite good, and 20th in all of baseball during that same time.
So even down their two best relievers, Soriano should be insurance against repeated ninth-inning collapses while Robertson recovers. And the combination of righty Cory Wade (274 E.R.A.+ in 2012) and lefty Boone Logan (190 E.R.A.+ in 2012) means the lead-in to Soriano will be treacherous for Yankee opponents, not the Yankees. Their results are built on peripheral numbers of eight walks and 44 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings.
The reality is, the Yankees have been unluckier than most teams with their pitching injuries so far this season. To lose your eighth- and ninth-inning pitchers before the season is a quarter over is rough. But it isn't unprecedented, and pitchers are fragile enough that planning for the worst-case is usually a good idea.
The Yankees, who have more resources at their disposal than any other team as they form their contingency plans, have done exactly that. And the result is that even now, it's not time for them to panic.