The Mo Effect May 10th, 2012 I have come to respect the baseball analytical community over the past few years. In the beginning I was like a lot of ignorant baseball players, I thought you all were a bunch of geeks in your mom’s basement. You’ve proven otherwise and I see the value in what you do. But every once in a while you’ll write something that makes me think, “What? No, that’s way off.” Such was the case this morning when I read a popular writer’s blog. The gist of the post was that losing Mariano Rivera will cost the New York Yankees less than 2 wins over the remaining 5 months of the season. I couldn’t disagree more and so I went to Twitter to poke a little fun at the notion: “Read a nerd blog that said over the next 5 months losing Mariano will really only cost Yankees two wins. One down. #WARisDumb The timing was right to make fun of the blog. David Robertson blew his first save last night. The previous night he got his first save but barely. (I’m still not sure Carlos Pena saw one strike with the bases loaded despite having three strikes called on him to end the game. What do you think? Are those graphs reliable?) Let’s stop for a minute and make something very clear. I think David Robertson is a dominant relief pitcher, I think he is a suitable replacement for Mariano Rivera. I would agree when you say he could be considered better than Mo right now. Not only he is a great pitcher, he’s a character guy as well, which for me matters (not so much for analytical types), and I hope he sets the league on fire for the next 10 years. Even writers who have never played the game can accurately explain how the 9th is not the 7th or the 8th and how closing a game is just different. You don’t need me to do that here. There have been countless good relief pitchers who couldn’t close, I don’t think Robertson will fall into that category but there will an adjustment period.  Personally I’d have all the confidence in the world with him as my closer. Back to the tweet. “Nerd” was not meant to be offensive, so if you were offended by that I apologize. It was just the shortest way to describe what I was going for in a format where character space is at a premium. I‘ve had people contact me over the years refer to themselves as “baseball nerds” and “fantasy geeks”, I figured it was OK. I carried the nerd moniker early in my career because I carried a laptop around as early as 1995, no one was really doing that back then.  So ignorant ballplayers thought I was a nerd too.  Don’t get ahead of yourself, I’m not saying I’m one of you. Here is what I think was so badly missed. The trickledown effect on the loss of Mariano Rivera is unquantifiable. I know you in the community hate that word, just like you hate “team chemistry”, “gutsy player” and “intangibles.” The reality is that you cannot say with any certainty how many games this injury will cost the Yankees, but I can say it will be more than 2. That does not mean David Robertson himself will cost the Yankees 2 more wins than Mariano would have.  It means you’ve lost a Hall of Fame arm in your bullpen. Robertson moves up, Soriano moves up, Boone Logan moves up, Corey Wade moves up, etc. Your middle relief is now weaker, your setup corps has changed, or can’t pitch as much in middle relief because someone has to take on Robertson’s and Soriano’s innings, which were so valuable.  Robertson has pitched in 14 games this year, the Yankees won 12 of them, he pitches on the winning side of the ball.  Soriano has pitched in 12 games this year, the Yankees are 6-6 in those games, he pitches on both sides of the ball. It’s fair to say when he slides up to Robertson’s role that now there is a vacancy in close games that the Yankees were losing.  Soriano could have usually been counted on to give the offense a chance to come back and win. Even if Soriano were moved to the closer position and Robertson was back in the setup role Soriano’s old innings are still sorely missed. The effect on the loss of Rivera, sorry, here it comes again, it unquantifiable.  I can say with confidence that it is definitely not less than 2 wins.  It’s not a save for save with Rivera vs. Robertson thing, it’s you’ve lost a great arm and your bullpen is depleted thing. I agree it’s inaccurate to point at each Robertson blown save and loss and think if Mariano wasn’t hurt the Yankees would have won that game. It’s doesn’t work that way. But if you want to see the true effect watch the middle of the game, keep an eye on the score, would Soriano have thrown in the 7th or 8th down by 2 and given the Yankees a better chance to win? Or did the less experienced guy come in allow an inherited runner to score and give up one of his own and the Yankees eventually lost by 1 or 2? Watch tonight. Robertson has thrown 2 days in a row, in high intensity situations, and probably should get the night off, the same could be said for Soriano. If the Yankees are up 7-5 in the 7th and Sabathia is not quite himself and needs to come out after 6 2/3 IP with 2 runners on what happens?  Who pitches the 8th and then the 9th? It would be hugely helpful if C.C. could give his team 8 innings again but you have to be prepared for the possibility he can’t. This is just one example of how it works, there are a million other scenarios. Robertson vs. Rivera, sure there is some loss but maybe not as much as the casual fan thinks. Losing Rivera is a bigger blow to the bullpen as a whole, both mentally (sorry, it’s true) and physically. Feel free to drop me a tweet or email on this. But if you plan on using the phrase “replacement player” then forget it. I can’t sit around all day dispelling ridiculous theories.