In a tight game against the first place Baltimore Orioles, manager Joe Girardi called upon his eighth inning specialist to pave the way for Hall of Fame shoo-in Mariano Rivera. Painting the corners with the brilliance that Michelangelo used to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, David Robertson promptly struck out the side and left little doubt as to the game’s outcome.
For the year, Robertson now holds a 0.00 ERA over 11 innings pitched. In the 11 games that he has appeared, he has struck out 18 and has an unbelievable WHIP of 0.909 – showing that last night wasn’t his only masterful performance this season. In fact, it is merely a continuation from his All-Star campaign of 2011 when David Robertson struck out 100 in 70 innings and carried a 1.08 ERA.
During last night’s YES network telecast, Kenny Singleton discussed Robertson’s performance for the Yankees and a conversation he had with John Smoltz on the topic earlier that day. He recalled Smoltz saying that David Robertson’s “stuff” is so good that he is capable of breaking Orel Hershiser’s scoreless inning record. That is high praise coming from a potential Hall of Fame pitcher.
In spite of the fact that he is an eighth inning set up man, David Robertson is garnering more and more attention because of his stellar performances on the mound. In particular, many have focused on the reliever’s fastball and how it seems to have extra “hop” and late movement. Last year, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote an article that, in part, discusses why Robertson’s fastball appears faster to batters than the speed gun says it is. Without giving all the details, a lot of it has to do with the length of his stride and reach. Regardless, the bottom line is that the reliever is dominating batters, and it is getting noticed.
As I watched David Robertson’s performance last night I couldn’t help but to reflect on a set up man who, in 1996, displayed the same type of domination that eventually led to the role as New York Yankees closer. Back then, the Yankees had John Wetteland sealing the ninth inning for saves (he led the league with 43), but it was a 26-year-old with a devastating fastball and cutter that seemed to be drawing the attention of the fans and media. His name was Mariano Rivera.
Now, Yankee fans are fortunate enough to perhaps be witnessing another changing of the guard. While it will surely be a sad day when we have to say good-bye to the greatest relief pitcher in history, we can at least take solace in knowing “Mo” is leaving the kingdom in good hands with David Robertson.