As we get closer and closer to pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, it looks like David Robertson will undoubtedly be the new closer for the New York Yankees. With Mariano Rivera retiring after this past season, Robertson has some big shoes to fill. There isn’t a reliever on the depth chart who is going to challenge Robertson for the ninth inning job, and it does not look like the Yankees will sign a free agent to come to New York to pitch in the ninth with most of the quality closers off the board to other teams. So, there is only one question, will Robertson be able to replace Rivera?
It goes without saying that there will be a ton of pressure on Robertson to replace Rivera and pitch effectively in the ninth inning, so the Yankees do not have a huge drop off in production from the closer role. Robertson has some huge shoes to fill. We all know the stats — Rivera finished his career with 652 saves, 952 games finished, and a 2.21 ERA. He is the best closer of all time. This is like, to compare it to football, when Aaron Rodgers came in to replace Brett Favre after Favre retired. Rodgers was replacing one of the all-time great quarterbacks in Favre, who put up a bunch of records. Rodgers was less proven than Robertson is, but it is a similar comparison. The Yankees can only hope it goes as well as it has gone for the Green Bay Packers replacing Rodgers with Favre.
Let’s get back to if Robertson can replace Rivera. It will be difficult, but he should be able to get the job done. Nobody can be as remarkably consistent as Rivera was during his spectacular career, but the Yankees can’t really ask for a much better replacement than Robertson. Obviously, if they could get a guy like Craig Kimbrel they would, but from all the realistic possibilities to replace Rivera, Robertson is one of the best relievers to get the job done.
During the last three seasons, Robertson has been one of the best eighth-inning relievers in all of baseball. During those three years, Robertson has pitched in 205 games, compiling a 1.91 ERA with 258 strikeouts in 193.2 innings while only giving up 143 hits. Now, Robertson has walked 3.3 batters per nine innings across those three seasons, which could present a problem pitching in the ninth inning, but his numbers are mostly good. Robertson will have to cut those walk numbers down, but the guy also strikes out 12 batters per nine innings, which means he can get himself out of a jam without help if needed. Those strikeout numbers are impressive, and exactly what you want from a guy pitching in high stress scenarios. If Robertson can be a little less wild, there is no reason why he couldn’t save 40 games for the Yankees.