Robertson Will Be a Fine Closer

On Monday, David Robertson converted his first save for the New York Yankees this season.

Mariano Rivera was unavailable, so Robertson came in after Boone Logan gave up a leadoff single to open the ninth inning. He walked Mike Trout, and then proceeded to give up a bloop RBI double to Josh Hamilton to put runners on second and third with one out.

After intentionally walking Eric Aybar, Robertson struck out Mark Trumbo on just three pitches. Then, he struck out Yankee castoff Chris Nelson on a 3-2 fastball up near his face, and the Yankees hung on to win 2-1.

Robertson has been one of the best relievers in MLB over the course of his five year career. This year has been par for the course for Robertson, as he has a 1.81 ERA and has struck out 10.9 K/9. That strikeout rate is slightly down from his 11.8 K/9 career rate, but he has compensated for that with a career high 47.4% GB rate. Despite all of this there is a sentiment among Yankee fans that Robertson would struggle as a closer. I just don’t get it.

This started last year when Robertson struggled to replace Mariano Rivera after his injury and got replaced by Rafael Soriano. He blew three saves in five chances last year, but that is way too small of a sample size to be conclusive of anything.

The main argument against Robertson is that he throws too many pitches and puts too many batters on base to be a successful closer.While that was true earlier in his career, it is no longer the case anymore. Robertson has a .99 WHIP and has averaged 15.88 pitches per inning this year. He has cut down on his walks dramatically from earlier in his career. From 2009-2011, Robertson averaged 4.76 BB/9 and in the almost two years since he has averaged 2.77 BB/9.

So, Robertson has greatly cut down on his walks and is much more economical than he used to be. He generates more ground balls than ever with his cutter, while maintaining a very high strikeout rate. His cutter and curve are both devastating pitches. What’s not to like?

Robertson has all the physical tools to be the next closer and the mental toughness. He has retired an unfathomable 25 straight batters with the bases loaded, earning him his “Houdini” nickname. Since 2011, Robertson has stranded 87.2% of base runners . He has shown that he will not get flustered in any situation. The ninth inning as opposed to the eighth inning should not change that.

Nobody will ever be what Mariano Rivera is for the Yankees, so if that is what the expectations for Robertson are then he will fail. However, if you’re expectations are that Robertson will be a very good closer, I think he will be just that. There have been no signs that say otherwise, despite what many seem to think.

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About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on August 14, 2013, in No Category. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I couldn’t disagree with you more. Just because you produce in the 8th doesn’t mean you have the mental makeup to close. This kid tries to throw the perfect pitch all the time, hence his high pitch total. I think you are putting a square peg in a rd hole with him

    • I agree Lefftee. I feel that just because Robertson does well in the 8th, it doesn’t mean that he’ll do well in the 9th. You have to have a special mentality as you said. Some pitchers never learn that mentality and being the one to close the door on the game is stressful and could cause nerves. Robertson’s few closing appearances, he’s gotten out of it but he causes stress by walking batters and then has to find a way to get other hitters out. I’d like to think D-Rob can find that mentality and be lights out in the 9th, but right now I don’t think so.

    • 15 pitches an inning this year is not high and it has been dropping every year of his career

  2. There are 3 main attributes that a pitcher must have to be a successful closer:

    1) The Stuff. You need to have tremendous stuff that gives you the capability to strikeout any batter at any time and to work out of jams. Robertson clearly has the stuff.

    2) The Durability. You need to be able to pitch effectively on consecutive days and to hold up over the course of a long season. This aspect is really no different than his current role and he’s held up well over the years without many injuries.

    3) The Mentality. I don’t question DRob’s ability to handle pressure as he actually seems to thrive under it. He clearly gets tougher when the situation gets harder as evidenced by his domination in bases loaded situations and his ability to pitch out of jams and strand runners. I don’t question his toughness one iota. The only question is how will he handle failure. A closer needs to be able to keep his composure and forget previous blown saves to be effective. This is something that has ended the closing careers of many pitchers with incredible stuff. Blowing a big game can be tough to get over and until Robertson proves he can rebound from a tough game and close the door the next night we won’t know for sure. Add in the inevitable comparisons and pressure of replacing a legend and it will be a tough gig.

    I think Robertson can definitely do it and be a fine closer. However, it may behoove the Yanks to look for a veteran closer in FA since even if Robbie closes there will be a big hole to fill in the 8th. Closers like Balfour, Rodney, Mujica, etc will be available and I think the Yanks will need to add a veteran to mix with all of their young pen arms. Mo is an invaluable leader and asking Robertson to replace him as closer and leader of the pen may be too much. Maybe an old vet like Kevin Gregg or Benoit to use in the 8th but be can also close or someone on a comeback deal like Madson, Marmol or Hanrahan.

  3. fishjam, Robertson has a fastball in the low 90′s , this is not a closer fastball. The inability of hitters to pick up his pitches is his best attribute. I agree, there will be no way he compares to Mo. I like Balfour the best of the closers that you would add, I also like Benoit.

    • Doug, an overpowering FB is not a prerequisite to be a good closer. Robertson throws just as hard as Mo and there are several successful closers that throw in the low 90′s….Soriano, Nathan, Mariano and Mujica all average 92 or less and are in top 10 in Saves. A good closer has to have swing and miss stuff and Robertson clearly has that able to get strikeouts with his Curveball or his Fastball. He only averages 92 but with his extension, movement and ability to hide the ball, his FB plays much harder.

  4. Pumpernickel Bread

    Why don’t we give Patrick a shout out for being the only pundit on this site to praise the move to get Soriano!

  5. Pumpernickel Bread

    Wake up Leftee and Doug…..:fish is correct …..Robertson had the important skill for a closer – swing and miss K ability. You come in with runners on base in the 9th…you don’t want batters hitting the ball in play.

  6. Pumpernickel Bread

    Delia – like the bangs and glasses look.

  7. Pumpernickel Bread

    What happened to the Talking Toupee? Still in the Witness Protection Program?

  8. Pumpernickel Bread

    Watching game this afternoon , noticed our Alfred E. Newman 3rd base coach holding up players that could have easily scored. When is someone in Yankee mgt going to learn what a dunce this guy is.

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