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.