The Curious Case Of David Robertson

By Hunter Farman

It has been a strange year for New York Yankees reliever David Robertson. After a spectacular 2011 campaign which saw him go 4-0 with an ERA just a few ticks over 1, many Yankee fans expected Robertson to be just as dominant in 2012. Many fans also considered him to be the eventual heir to Mariano Rivera as the closer of the Yankees. Robertson was thrust into the closer role a lot earlier than any fan expected after Rivera was shut down for the season due to a tear of his ACL. When prematurely given the role of closer, Robertson struggled. In his first appearance, Robertson was able to get the save against the Tampa Bay Rays, although he was forced to escape trouble that he had caused. The very next night, with the Yankees leading 1-0, Robertson gave up four runs in the 9th inning en route to a 4-1 Rays win. That was the end of Robertson being the Yankees closer. The role was eventually given to Rafael Soriano, who has flourished as closer.

Robertson was the relegated to the 8th inning, a situation that he found himself in many times during the 2011 season when Soriano was shelved with an injury. With a return to the 8th inning, fans were hoping that Robertson would once again be the lights-out reliever that they had all come to love. While Robertson has had a lot of success in his current role this season, he has been far from “lights-out.” As of September 12th, Robertson is 1-7 with an ERA of 2.98. The fact that the Yankees are around 0-50 when losing games after 8 innings does not help much either.

However when you look at how Robertson’s “stuff” has been in most of his appearances this year, it’s strange that he has managed to blow so many ball games in the 8th or 9th innings. When you compare Robertson’s 2011 and 2012 campaigns, his BB/9, and his SO/9 in 2012 is actually over a point less than it was in his stellar 2011 season. Robertson has only had one wild pitch this season. He had five in all of 2011.  It is also interesting to note that Robertson is actually leaving less people on base this year than he did in 2011. This means that Robertson has been a victim of the long ball. Statistics show that to an extent,  he has. In 2011, he only gave up one homerun. Here in 2012, Robertson has given up five. In all of 2011, Robertson gave up 40 hits over 66.2 innings. In 2012, he has given up 45 hits over 50.2. When you look at Robertson’s other stats between 2011 and now, many of them are similar.

Yankees reliever Boone Logan encouraged Robertson to ditch his normal “high socks” after having a good outing against Baltimore and to sport the more modern “low sock” look. Since that switch, Robertson has been more effective over a one inning span, really regaining the form that he had back in 2011.

So is Robertson’s unexpected 2012 just a matter of ineffectiveness, or is it really how he wears his socks? Robertson swears that he is not superstitious, but the two games that he has pitched with a new look have been great for him. However, superstitions are really just mental, and the look of a player has no effect on their performance. So we can really just chalk up Robertson’s 2012 season to about 30% ineffectiveness, and 70% bad luck. Robertson has been making most of his pitches, but it is when he makes a mistake that he gets burned. Robertson is still young, so he has a lot of time to put what looks like a forgettable 2012 season behind him. Remember, Robertson was not originally going to be the 8th inning guy this year. He was supposed to be in the 7th inning role while Soriano and Rivera would pitch the 8th and 9th innings. With the Yankees really unable to lose any more tough games this year, one has to wonder if Joe Girardi will be more hesitant about using Robertson in extremely tight games, especially since reliever Joba Chamberlain has proven that he can once again take on a lot of stickier situations.

David Robertson has a very bright future with the Yankees, and we can all hope that his 2012 campaign is nothing more than a mere blemish on what looks to be a very promising future.

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