David Robertson Must Avoid Deep Counts To Succeed As New York Yankees’ Closer
Foremost among the top story lines from the game was John Ryan Murphy’s big day at the plate. The soon to be 23-year-old catcher went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, including his first career home run, which proved to be the game winner.
Dellin Betances relieved Vidal Nuno in the fifth and threw two shutout innings to earn his first career win. Finally, David Robertson earned his first save since returning from the disabled list.
Rookies Murphy and Betances both played phenomenally and notched milestones in their young careers. It’s ironic then that Robertson – the established six year veteran – is the one who had the shaky performance.
With one out in the ninth, Mike Trout made things interesting by singling off Robertson and stealing second base. In doing so, the Angels had the tying run in scoring position with Albert Pujols at the plate. With a 3-2 count, the newest member of the 500 home run club flew out harmlessly to left field. Howie Kenrick then struck out to end the game, also with a 3-2 count.
Robertson got the job done, but if he wants to be an effective closer, he cannot continue to run full counts. That’s why Mariano Rivera was so great for two decades – he got ahead and put batters away quickly. He took away any hope for a comeback.
There’s no better way to blow a save than to start walking people. By going to three ball counts, Robertson is eliminating the possibility that the batter might swing at something out of the zone and putting much more pressure on himself to throw a strike lest he give the batter a free base. Against Pujols, the 3-2 pitch was supposed to be on the corner away, but it ended up down the middle. Robertson was lucky Pujols missed it.
Robertson is also going to tire himself out. If every batter works a full count, Robertson is going to throw 20 pitches every time he enters the game. If that’s the case, he could be unavailable for the next save situation.
You can’t criticize Robertson for allowing a single to Trout (he’s the best player in the game) and at the end of the day the Yankees got the W. Nevertheless, he needs to work quicker if he wants to be a premier closer. He needs to eliminate walks and keep his pitch count down. He needs to slam the door in the ninth.