Over the off-season Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner named David Robertson the Yankees’ closer and the heir to the thrown of Mariano Rivera. Robertson has been one of baseball’s premier setup men over the past few seasons and he’s ready to become the centerpiece of the Yankees’ bullpen. But some critics are doubting Robertson’s ability to pitch in the game’s high pressure situations and be a lock-down closer. Over the course of his career, Robertson has been able to improve and make adjustments and that’s allowed him to garner a reputation as one of baseball’s best relief pitchers. One of the most important adjustments for Robertson has been his improved efficiency in getting batters out. Simply put, he’s been able to get people out on less pitches. What that means is that Robertson has to throw less pitches per outing and can therefore (in theory) stay fresh, sharp, and avoid fatigue. In case you’re wondering, that could be very important for D-Rob as he makes the transition from setup man to closer.
In David Robertson’s first 4 years with the Yankees (2008-11) he averaged 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, but he coupled that with a 4.7 walks per nine. As a reliever, those strikeout numbers are awesome but he walked hitters quite a bit and in the process he racked up a high pitch count. That’s something that teams don’t want in a closer because they tend to break down a little easier when they’ve tacked on a lot of mileage. So, Robertson did some tinkering and from 2012 to 2013 he averaged 2.6 BB/9 and still put up an 11.2 K/9 average. He threw less pitches per outing and was just as effective at getting people out. At age 28, he’s moving in the right direction to be just as good as closer as he was as setup man.
Robertson’s legendary predecessor, Mariano Rivera, had a career 2.0 BB/9 and a 8.2 K/9 average and he was only the greatest closer ever to grace a baseball field. But of course, David Robertson couldn’t possibli compete with Mariano Rivera’s career, but then again no one is expecting him to. Robertson’s relatively new found efficiency may just be the key to his success as the Yankees’ closer. Robertson has one year left on his contract and, now that the Yankees have abandoned their no extension policy, he could be pitching for a closer-type deal. His durability and effectiveness is vital for the Yankees to succeed going forward without history’s greatest closer.