David Robertson began the season as Girardi’s 4th option in a deep bullpen behind Mariano, Rafael Soriano & Joba Chamberlain. His role was as a 6th/7th inning pitcher who was often brought in with runners on base and asked to strand them with his strikeout stuff. As Joba and Soriano both got injured, Robertson continued to excel in every role and has been sensational since taking over as the 8th inning set-up man to Mo.
DRob & Mo have combined to form the top relief duo in the American League by almost any metrics…
- WAR? Robertson is 1st (1.6), & Mo is 2nd (1.5)
- ERA? Robertson is 3rd (1.58) & Mo is 7th (1.88)
There’s no need to give any further stats on Mo as we all know he’s the G.O.A.T.(Greatest Of All Time) and this article is about Robertson and what his role will be going forward.
Robertson has been a solid pitcher in the pen since 2009 but this year he has raised his game to an elite level. He credits an off-season workout regimen with getting him stronger this year and it shows in his stuff. His velocity is up over 1 MPH from 2009 (91.7 mph) & 2010 (91.9 mph) averaging 93.0 mph on his fastball this yr. His Curveball is crisper and more consistent and he’s also mixing in a Cutter and a bit of a Change Up at times also. All of this has added up to a dominating 14.2 K/9 ratio.
He’s not a big guy by any means but like Mo, the ball just seems to explode out of his hand and get on the hitters much quicker than they expect. It is why he & Mo continue to blow Fastballs by hitters even though the radar gun says only 92-94 MPH. His perfect mechanics and full extension give him that extra little late giddy-up. A pitcher like Joba, who doesn’t use his legs and gets by on pure arm speed may throw harder but hitters see the ball better and make more consistent/harder contact.
The one knock on Robertson is his walk rate is way to high at 5.7 BB/9. However it seems sometimes he is choosing to get to certain hitters with no fear of putting runners on. His .181 opposing batting AVG has led to a sick 88.2 LOB% as it appears he takes it to another level when runners are in scoring position. This is especially true with the bases loaded as he set a MLB-record by striking out 9 straight batters with the bases juiced.
The question upcoming is what happens when Rafael Soriano returns from the DL this week? Soriano got a 3yr $35M contract to be the 8th inning guy and heir apparent to Mo’s closer spot. IMO, the Robertson-Mo combo is the best 1-2 punch the Yanks have had since Mo-Wetteland in 1996 and shouldn’t be messed with yet.
Initially, Soriano will likely be eased back into the mix with some low leverage appearances. However, if Soriano eventually starts to flash the form he showed in TB last yr when he had a 1.73 ERA and saved 45 of 48 games, then he can be considered for the 8th inn role. Until then, its Robertson’s role. If Sori can flash his 2010 form the team may be better off with Robertson back in his 7th inning role and as a mid-inning fireman. Often, these are more important, high-leverage situations anyway and DRob’s strike out arsenal might be more effective.
The bigger question may be what happens in the coming years if Mo retires after 2012? Well, that is a long ways away but I think Robertson has shown the stuff, attitude, temperament & confidence to be a good closer. If he ever improves on his walk rate he will be even more dangerous. A lot can happen before 2013 and the way Mo is going, who’s to say he won’t still be throwing chainsaws up to the plate. But if I had to choose between Robertson or Soriano for my closer, I’d prefer Robertson. Soriano’s body language didn’t portray a confident pitcher in April. Hopefully he will be healthy, confident and effective upon his return, but can he do any better than Robertson has? And until a pitcher proves he can handle the stress of the Bronx, that is always a big question mark, especially if/when asked to replace the G.O.A.T.