Mariano Rivera

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.

Albert Pujols passes Mark McGwire with 584th career home run

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs out a double during the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Angels 14-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.

Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.

Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.

Zach Britton allowed an earned run for the first time since April 30

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 22:  Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches for his 38th save in the ninth inning during a baseball game against the the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 22, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Oriole won 4-3.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.

The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.

Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.