Thursday, June 5, 2014


A 26-year-old relief pitcher on the brink of stardom mows down opposing batters, leaving them with a sense of helplessness at the plate and a state of bewilderment as the walk, head shaking, back to the dugout.
Said reliever has a limited selection of pitches, yet in spite of that knowledge, hitters more often than not find themselves swatting at air.

Yes, that was the case with the greatest reliever the game has ever known – Mariano Rivera – back in 1996, when he was being used as a bridge to closer John Wetteland.

Is history repeating itself? 

Fast forward 28 years and re-read the first two sentences of this article.  They apply to a pitcher being used in the 6th and 7th innings (or whenever Joe Girardi needs a strikeout) as a bridge to the last two frames of a game.

His name is Dellin Betances.

I realize that comparing anyone to Rivera is sacrilege in our Yankee Universe, and wouldn’t be surprised to find a “posse” carrying torches and pitchforks outside my door for even suggesting that another pitcher resembles Mo in any way.

Take comfort in the fact that I know the future is full of twists and turns, and tomorrow Betances could go out and yield five runs in two-thirds of an inning (sorry DRob, I’m still pissed about that game in the Twins series), but in comparing Mo’s 1996 season with Betances’ 2014 the similarities are uncanny.

Through June 1, 1996, a 26-year-old Mariano Rivera had appeared in 19 games (39 2/3 innings) and held a microscopic 0.98 ERA and 0.73 WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched).  He was credited with six holds to that point, and had struck out 38 (with 13 walks).  His pitch selection was composed of an explosive fastball (mid to high 90’s) and above-average slider (his trademark cutter had yet to make its appearance).

This season, 26-year-old Dellin Betances has appeared in 24 games (34 innings) and holds an impressive 1.59 ERA with a 0.765 WHIP (similar to Mo's).  He’s been credited with six holds and has struck out 58 (yes, FIFTY-EIGHT) while walking just 10.   Betances pitch selection has been pared down since transitioning from a starter’s role in the minor leagues (just as Mo did) and he now uses an explosive (yes, that adjective again) fastball (averaging 95.6 mph) and above-average slider.  Is there a cutter in his future?

One more weird coincidence: John Wetteland (the closer in ’96) was 29 years old – the same age as this year’s closer, David Robertson.

In their Sunday broadcast on the YES network, Michael Kaye and Kenny Singleton couldn’t help but bring up comparisons to a young Rivera as Betances struck out five of the six batters he faced.

It’s being noticed.

In appearance, the two pitchers are polar opposites.  Betances stands 6’8” and has a weight listed at 260.  Rivera is 6’2” and weighs 195 soaking wet.

Their situations are somewhat different as well.  Rivera was brought in during the eighth or ninth innings 13 of his 19 appearances while Betances has seen those innings in just nine of his 23 trips to the mound.  Basically, Rivera’s role as the future closer was a little more certain, and his next step was a little more obvious.

In spite of his dominance this season, Betances has Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren (as well as DRob, of course) representing pot-holes in his road to taking over as closer-and he still has a little more to prove.

It is way too soon to bestow the title of “The Next Rivera” upon Dellin Betances, but he sure is laying the groundwork for more frequent use of that phrase.

As a Yankees fan, I’d love nothing more than to see one of our Baby Bombers become successful at the major league level.  After years toiling in the minor league system as a starter who never seemed to live up to his potential, Dellin Betances has seemed to find the formula that will keep him in the Bronx.

As his experience and confidence grows, Betances’ ceiling has risen.  Whether he’ll ever be a hall of fame candidate, or even a closer for that matter, is in his hands. 

Regardless, he’s given us reason to hope that history has decided to stop in the Bronx yet again.


--Steve Skinner, BYB Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

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