Well, let’s take a close look at Rivera’s start and see just how similar it is to Betances’. In 1995, when Rivera was still viewed as a potential starter, his record was 5-3 with a 5.51 ERA. Not the type of numbers that give an indication of great things to come.
In 2013, Betances, in his longest major league service up to that point, was 0-0 with an ERA of 10.8. The long-term thinking by most was still that he would eventually be a starter. So Mo and Betances both struggled early, and both were once considered as headed for the rotation.
Now, 1996 was the turn around year for Rivera. He found his niche in the pen as John Wetteland‘s set up man. He went 8-3 with 130 strikeouts in 107 innings. His ERA dipped to 2.09. This season, Betances to date is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. He has 58 strike outs in 34 innings.
Both Rivera and Betances’ had a bread and butter pitch in their arsenal. Mo of course, had his cutter. It was a pitch that major league hitters were never able to figure out in his 20 years. Betances has his slurve, which decimates hitters. “To me it’s getting better,” Girardi said of Betances’ nasty fastball-slurve combo, according to NJ,COM. “We love what we see from him.”
So the comparisons are legitimate at this stage. But what did Rivera have in 1996 that Betances doesn’t? He had Wetteland. He learned from the Yankees closer how to prepare himself. He learned the mental preparation that is needed to succeed.
Betances doesn’t have that. He has a sometimes excellent and sometimes shaky David Robertson. While Robertson certainly learned the mental side form Rivera, he has yet to show that he can translate that into results on a consistent basis as a closer.
So Betances is going to have to learn that for himself, if he is to take over the closer role and eventually merit legitimate comparison to Rivera. And, of course, he is going to have to show that he can do this under the pressure of the playoffs and world series, and do it for 18 more years.
But he sure is off to a great start, isn’t he?