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Mariano Rivera deprived of a save because David Robertson stunk

Sep 13, 2013, 9:35 AM EDT

rivera getty Getty Images

This pretty much tells you that both reliever wins and the save statistic are, to say the least, flawed: Mariano Rivera came into the ninth inning with a one-run lead, closed the game out and … didn’t get the save.  Why? Because in this case it was a judgment call by the official scorer pursuant to rule 10.17:

(c) The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.

David Robertson was the pitcher of record when the Yankees took the lead for the last time and, in most cases, would be credited with the win. But he also gave up three runs on four hits in one evening, and was therefore — to say the least — ineffective. Ergo, the official scorer declared Rivera the winner.

Query: could they give Robertson the blown save too? Even if he pitched before Rivera? Because that seems like the most accurate of the three possible pitcher dispositions here.

  1. proudlycanadian - Sep 13, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    The Yankees used a committee of relief pitchers in the game. The official scorer was correct. Rivera was the most effective relief pitcher and deserved the Win.

    • flamethrower101 - Sep 13, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      Exactly. This shouldn’t even be an issue, but it apparently is because this is Mariano Rivera. And to paraphrase MLB Network last night, “What if someone challenges his record and beats it by 1?” And my response was “Really? We’re having this conversation?”

    • ctony1216 - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      They should have given the W to Hughes or Huff (each pitched 3 effective innings) and a save to Rivera. They need to change the rule.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:08 AM

        Once Baltimore tied the game, Huff could not get the win. Hughes could not get a win even if Baltimore had not tied the game because he only pitched 3 innings as a starting pitcher has to go 5 innings to get a win.

      • ctony1216 - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:15 AM

        Understood. But it’s a dumb rule. Hughes or Huff were the most effective pitchers, and one of them deserved the win. But the official scorer couldn’t give either the win. Makes no sense.

        MLB needs to change the rules for awarding wins. They defy logic.

  2. lilprofsports - Sep 13, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Blown saves are not an official statistics, but Baseball Reference (at least) felt Robertson deserved one: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL201309120.shtml

    And, re: your tweet (“Robertson should’ve been the first person to blow a save to pitch before the guy he blew it for”), I’m sure Robertson isn’t the first person to enter in the 8th up a couple of runs, blow a potential save that he was never going to stick around to get anyway, and then have the closer come in and clean up.

    But you don’t see the “unworthy of the win” rule applied much so kudos to the official scorer.

    • Detroit Michael - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      Robertson’s blown save is because he entered the game with a 3-run lead (a save situation, although it was in the 8th inning) and relinquished the lead. There wasn’t anything subjective about the blown save. He would have received it even if the scorer had given the win to Robertson.

      • isdtyrant - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        Not a save situation. Tying run not on-deck at time of entry.

      • stex52 - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        Three run lead, one inning pitched, potential to be the final pitcher (because it was the eighth). That makes it a save opportunity. And he sure blew it.

      • isdtyrant - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        Gah. Yeah, my information was incorrect. Shame on me.

  3. bigyankeemike - Sep 13, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    For the conspiracy theorists, let’s not forget that this is a decision made by a hometown scorer.

    A Mariano save gives him the league lead over Jim Johnson.

    Petty but noteworthy nonetheless.

  4. raysfan1 - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Just as an aside–
    I am very aware that pitcher wins is a flawed stat, and have commented about it before, primarily because the pitcher really only influences the defensive half of the game. (Only allow 1 run in 9 innings, but your side gets shut out, and you lose, whereas pitch the exact same line but your team scores 2 or more runs and you win.) However, I am not one of those who feels the stat can be discarded either. For one thing, there is no perfect, tells-the-whole-story stat, all are flawed in some fashion. Saves, like pitcher wins, are dependent on the rest of the team’s performance. This post is one example that is often not considered. Another of course is that the team has to be able to get a lead in order to have anything to save.

    (Also, I feel a discussion of the history of MLB would be incomplete without being able to talk about Cy Young’s 511-316 record, or Walter Johnson’s 417 wins.)

    • lilprofsports - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      “For one thing, there is no perfect, tells-the-whole-story stat, all are flawed in some fashion.”

      Amen.

      Although I would argue that, for someone like Cy Young (815 GS, 749 CG) the win tells a different story than for someone like Rivera, and might tell more of the story.

      Tangent: I like team record in games started, because it at least gives you a sense of how well the starter kept his team in the game. And obviously it has a lot of the same problems as the win, but people talk about records for quarterbacks and hockey goalies, and even casual fans understand that (say) Tim Tebow alone isn’t the reason the Broncos made the playoffs in 2011.

      …okay, bad example.

  5. Carter Dotson - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Unorthodox, but absolutely the right decision. I like when official scorers don’t just go by “this reliever is the pitcher of record, thus he gets the win by default” when a later reliever may have been better. Of course, #KillTheWin and #KillTheSave and whatever Lord Brian Kenny demands.

  6. stex52 - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    Interesting, Craig. Rabbit and I were just talking about this off line. I have a vested interest because Robertson’ performance creamed my fantasy team last night.

    There is a commentary guidance to 10.17C.
    Rule 10.17(c) Comment: The official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score (even if such runs are charged to a previous pitcher). Rule 10.17(b) Comment provides guidance on choosing the winning pitcher from among several succeeding relief pitchers.

    So the fact that Robertson completed the inning should weight it toward giving him the vulture win. It says that he loses out if he stinks and also does not complete the inning. But it gives the scorer the latitude not to follow the guidance.

    Which the scorer clearly chose to do.

  7. The Rabbit - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Stex and I discussed this last night when it happened and earlier this morning.
    Are the comments part of the official rules? The comments for 10.17(c) specifically refer to relievers who pitch less than an inning. Robertson pitched (or whatever it was he was doing) a full inning.
    If this rule was commonly applied, vultured wins wouldn’t exist if there were more than one reliever in the game….and there sure are plenty of vultured wins.
    Before someone misunderstands, yes, I think pitchers’ wins and saves are flawed stats and no, I don’t think Robertson deserved the win. This is simply a matter of curiousity because I don’t remember the rule being applied in this situation.

    • RickyB - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      As an official scorer at many college games over the years (and a few minor league games), I have applied the rule a couple of times. When I saw the final box shortly after the game ended, I happily nodded when I saw the decision. Definitely the right call. Giving the save to Rivera would have been the easy way out. Conspiracy theorists can say the scorer was motivated by trying to help Johnson win the “saves title,” but it shouldn’t matter who the scorer was. This was the right call.

  8. Anoesis - Sep 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    As much as I love the game, having a guy sitting in a booth with a pencil, paper and a pair of binoculars deciding who gets a win just seems overtly authoritarian and not at all American. All that said, the scorer was right. It still seems weird, but since I don’t regard pitcher w/l stats as very relevant, it’s all okay. I guess.

    • stex52 - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      I don’t see it as very un-American. He has a set of rules to go by. He can be reversed by the league.

      And it’s not exactly like he is depriving anybody of their rights. He is just assigning a fairly useless statistic.

      • umrguy42 - Sep 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        “a fairly useless statistic” Well, in Mo’s case, maybe, but for some players, maybe not, if they have contractual bonuses based on those stats.

  9. tophermike - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    The scorer can award a hold and a win to one pitcher. Why not allow a win and a save? Seems like it makes sense to me…

    • stex52 - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Rule 10 is very specific about that. It says the same pitcher cannot get a win and a save.

      Amazing. Until last night I didn’t know crap about that rule. Now I’m an “expert.”

  10. NatsLady - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Reliever wins are a useless stat. Saves aren’t a great stat, but at least they tell you the reliever did his job–he game into the game with a lead to preserve, he preserved it, and the team won.

    Reliever wins tell you very little about the job the reliever did, and should be ignored with the exception of the reliever coming into a tie game and preserving the tie. (Starter wins at least mean the guy went five innings and left with a lead.) Rivera should have had the save, because that’s his job and that’s what he went out there and did.

    • NatsLady - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      correction, sorry. Even starter wins only mean the guy pitched five innings. He could leave with a tie or behind if his team scores before a reliever comes in.

  11. hbk72777 - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Robertson didn’t stink, he’s pitching hurt. If anything, he has balls

    • RickyB - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      His performance stunk, but yes, he should not have been out there for the second straight day when he just came back from being shelved for a few days with an arm ailment. Girardi is going to run Robertson and Mo into the ground for the last month of the season. Even Mo isn’t the same right now — his location is really suffering of late with all of the excessive work.

    • stex52 - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      You’re right, when he was originally hurt they predicted he wouldn’t pitch at all this week. So I agree there is a mitigating circumstance. But arguably if he wasn’t ready to pitch he shouldn’t have. It was awfully bad.

  12. bh192012 - Sep 13, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Pitcher Wins and Saves are useless personal “stats.” Nobody cares about Holds, so why do people care about Wins and Saves? Why don’t we have some coveted starting pitcher stat for not giving up the lead in the first inning?

  13. RickyB - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Granted, if Robertson’s performance didn’t stink and he didn’t give up a run, Mo wouldn’t have come into a save situation anyway — the Yanks would have been up by four.

  14. billneftleberg - Sep 13, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    the only reason the official scorer did as he did, is because he is biased towards Johnson, the suggested resolution once Robertson finished the inning was ignored by the official scorer. While he was under no obligation to follow the suggested outcome, he chose to benefit the home teams player at the expense of a rival.

    Rivera did indeed save the game after a teammate nearly lost it, the official scorer just used a quirk to aide and abet Johnson. Sometimes if it walks like a duck and in this case SMELLS like a duck. it is a Duck

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 13, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      Hopefully it’s Peking duck with those pancakes.

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