When David Robertson suffered a bruised foot, Yankee fans everywhere held their breaths. Joe Girardi initially said that the MRI showed “cause for concern.” Robertson started using crutches. He was in a walking boot. The injury was later classified as a “bone bruise,” which is surely better than a broken bone, but there were doubts about Robertson being ready for Opening Day. However, after a few days of worrying, Yankee fans finally received good news. The team’s best reliever from last season seemed to be on track to make a full recovery by Opening Day.
That’s right. Last season, there wasn’t a relief pitcher on the team that had a better year than Robertson. Not even the great Mariano Rivera.
In fact, Robertson’s 66.2 innings pitched last season were arguably more valuable than any pitcher on the Yankees not named CC Sabathia.
CC Sabathia – 6.9
David Robertson – 3.9
Ivan Nova – 3.6
Mariano Rivera – 3.5
Freddy Garcia – 3.4
CC Sabathia – 7.1
Bartolo Colon – 2.9
David Robertson – 2.8
Ivan Nova – 2.7
Mariano Rivera – 2.4
Furthermore, Robertson led the majors in ERA+ with a remarkable 410 ERA+. The statistic is more favorable towards relievers who performed well rather than starters because of the fewer innings pitched, but nonetheless, the next best ERA+ was Eric O’Flahetry’s 389.
To give this more context, last season’s ERA+ leader amongst starters was Justin Verlander with a 170 ERA+. Roy Halladay was second with a 164 ERA+ and Clayton Kershaw was third with a 163 ERA+. So the difference between the best and second best starting pitcher in ERA+ was six points, while Robertson’s lead on O’Flaherty was 21 points.
It’s possible to provide more outstanding statistics from last season, but the point is already clear. Robertson is by all means irreplaceable for the Yankees. With Joba Chamberlain set to miss the season, Robertson’s quick recovery from his foot injury is even more welcome. And although it seems like the only two “sure things” in the bullpen are Robertson and Rivera, the ability to shorten games by two innings is extremely valuable. If the rest of the bullpen can be competent – at worst – then the Yankees’ entire pitching staff should once again be amongst the major league leaders in ERA+, bWAR, fWAR, amongst other categories.
Of course, that’s assuming the rotation also does its job.