Grading the Yankees: David Robertson


Grading relievers is a fickle beast. One season they’re seemingly unstoppable and the next year they suddenly forget how to pitch. Just ask Cory Wade. However, if there’s one reliever beside Mariano Rivera the Yankees have come to rely on, it’s David Robertson. Time and time again he’s wrestled out of many situations in which runners are in scoring position with less than two outs. He’s done it so much so he’s affectionately known as Houdini. With his season starting with an injury in spring training, he came back and pitched like his usual self. With that, let’s take a closer look into his 2012 season.

Robertson has turned into one of the more reliable relievers in all of baseball. (Image: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE)

**If you haven’t done so already, take a look at the other Grading the Yankees in the series**

After his masterful 2011 season in which he pitched to a 1.08 ERA (1.84 FIP), he followed it up with a 2.67 ERA (2.48 FIP) campaign in 2012. At the surface, it may look like he regressed a tad, but he’s showing positive signs of improvement as well. For instance, hitters recorded a .229/.290/.348 against him in 2012, and weirdly, lefties had a much more difficult time against him. They only hit a combined .208/.275/.300 in 131 plate appearances against him in 2012 compared to .252/.308/.402 in 117 plate appearances against righties. At this point in his career, it’s safe to assume that he has no preference and can/will be used in any situation.

One knock on Robertson is his propensity to giving a free pass, but this year he’s decreased his walk rate from 4.73, which he recorded in 2011, to 2.82 in 2012. That alone can help keep him out of bad situations on the mound, but also keep his arm fresh later in the season. Keeping with the positive trend, he’s very good in high leverage situations. Hitters amassed a .253/.305/.391 slash line against him in those particular situations even though they held a .345 BABIP. Here’s a chart illustrating his appearances in different situations. (Numbers in first column indicate which base runners are on)

on 1st, lt 2 out401112102110.316.325.5005.370
on 3rd, lt 2 out138300124.300.385.6001.333
on 3rd, 2 out135300102.231.231.4620.200

Let’s face it; it’s difficult not allowing any runners to score when they’re in scoring position with less than two outs. However, the “on 1st, less than two outs” row with its .316/.325/.500 slash line is surprising. Like stated above, Robertson gives up the free pass so we can plainly see he hurts himself the most in these situations.

There are a few red flags, and again relievers are volatile so it’s very difficult to judge from one season to the next. That being said, while his K/BB rates increased from 2.86 in 2011 to 4.26 in 2012, he’s striking out few batters (13.50 versus 12.02). Perhaps the most alarming number, which affected the entire Yankees staff in 2012, was his HR/FB rate (9.6%). That number alone increased 7 percent from 2011, but it’s not unheard of for Robertson, as he had numbers ranging from 8.8 percent to 9.1 percent throughout his short career, so his 2011 totals in his department might be the exception, not the rule.

Final Grade: B+


  • Uses time wisely
  • Has positive attitude toward work
  • Cooperative in work and play
  • Listens to and follows directions
  • Work is not neat at times


It was largely a successful season for Robertson. He continues his maturation into one of the best relievers in baseball. Manager Joe Girardi counts on him to hand the ball over to the closer whenever the Yankees have the lead in the eighth inning. While many argue Robertson’s usage as the eighth-inning guy, few can disagree with the results.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs