Comparing the 2014 Betances to the 1996 Rivera

We at IIATMS have written a lot about Dellin Betances thus far. And why not? Doing so is certainly more palatable than talking about the too many starts Vidal Nuno is getting and an offense that makes Hector Noesi look good. We’ve talked about Betances’ maturation, we’ve gushed at his strike zone charts, we’ve wondered if he was overworked and we have wondered what makes him so good. Me? I was thinking about a comparable for what Betances is doing this season. I instantly thought about Mariano Rivera and 1996.

Rivera, like Betances was deemed to be a better option in the bullpen than as a starter. And it was a Hall of Fame-making decision for Rivera. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Betances is heading for the Hall of Fame based on eighteen appearances, but he sure is bursting on the scene much as Rivera did in 1996.

One difference between the two seasons is that Joe Torre quickly saw what Rivera was doing in the early part of 1996 and quickly moved him into high leverage situations. Betances is still being asked to plug the leaks of weak starters to give the Yankees a chance to win the game. But their workloads by this time in the year were similar as Rivera ended up 1996 with 61 appearances and 107.2 innings of work. Betances is on pace to pitch 69 games with 99 total innings of work.

So their respective workloads have been similar. By this date in 1996, Mariano Rivera had pitched eighteen times for a total of 34.2 innings. Dellin Betances has pitched nineteen times for a total of 27.1 innings. It’s possible that Betances is being overworked, but he is in familiar territory here.

Let’s look at a comparison of their statistics through each’s first eighteen games:

  • Rivera (96): 4.2 hits per nine, 1.04 ERA, 9.09 K/9, 3.11 BB/9, 2.91 K/BB, 128 batters faced.
  • Betances: 4.8 hits per nine, 1.73 ERA (1.14 FIP), 15.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5 K/BB, 99 batters

More:

  • Rivera: .384 OPS against, 66% strikes, 13% strikes looking, 15% strikes swinging
  • Betances: .477 OPS against, 65% strikes, 21% strikes looking, 14% strikes swinging

More:

  • Rivera: 42% inherited runners scored, 3-0, 2 saves, 5 holds, 411 pitches
  • Betances: 29% inherited runners scored, 2-0, 0 saves, 4 holds, 421 pitches

Mariano Rivera was more stingy with runs scored and hits but Betances has the higher BABIP and his FIP puts him in similar territory. Betances has doubled the league strikeout rate while walking slightly less and thus has a higher K/BB ratio. Rivera was about 40% higher than the 1996 league strikeout rate. Rivera had double the WPA of Betances for more high leverage situations.

But I think the bottom line here is that what Dellin Betances is doing this season rivals the great season that Mariano Rivera put together in 1996 to this point in the season. Rivera would go on to have one of the great relief seasons ever that year with 5.0 of rWAR. It remains to be seen if Betances can finish what he has started to compare the two at the end.

As great as Mariano Rivera’s break out season was in 1996, Dellin Betances is right there thus far in this his breakout season.

 

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

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