His injury is awful, but the Yankees will be OK without Mariano Rivera

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Losing Mariano Rivera for the year and possibly forever is horrible for Yankees fans and non-Yankees fans alike. He is easily the best relief pitcher of all time and, as I sit here right now, I am struggling to think of any player in the past 20 years who is as universally respected and admired as Rivera. Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and all of those other Yankees of their time annoyed everyone at least once, right?  But Rivera comes in and shuts your team down and all you could ever really do is tip your cap and wish like hell he played for your local nine.

But for as big a loss this is mentally, it is possible to overstate what his loss means in purely baseball terms.  Indeed, it is probable that as the day is filled with commentary about Rivera’s injury, that baseball impact will be overstated.  Why?  Because we always overstate how much value a closer brings to a team in empirical terms.

Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible tackled that this morning.  And, for as big a Yankees fan as he is, he is right to note that no matter how great Rivera has been, his contribution is nonetheless a smaller one, in purely baseball terms, than most other players on that team.  Why?  Because he only pitches about four percent of the Yankees’ total innings each year. And a quarter of those innings are not particularly high-leverage ones, given that he will often come in with a three-run lead.  Goldman:

That’s Rivera’s total contribution that actually mattered—roughly three percent of the team’s total innings … No matter how beloved Mariano Rivera is (not least by me), no matter how great he has been at what he does, if a team can’t find a way to reassign 39 innings out of 1450, it wasn’t going to win anyway.

Yes, you can talk about how the ninth inning is more important than the others (it’s not true, but you can talk about it).  You can talk about the psychological comfort having Rivera brings. You can talk about his intangibles and his leadership and all of that. And, obviously, you can be devastated that we may never again get to see the greatest reliever of all time ply his trade ever again.  Those things are all real and all contribute to the misery that is inherent in the loss of Mariano Rivera.

But when it comes to things that can actually be measured — innings pitched and tangible contributions to baseball victories — Rivera’s contribution is nowhere near that of other players, and the Yankees can and should be able to survive it.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.