Will Girardi use Robertson in key situations?


Joe Girardi faced heavy criticism in the ALCS for his bullpen management. After a season of mostly good moves, he made a few inexplicable ones this past round. They ran the gamut of possible errors: taking a guy out too soon, leaving a guy in too long, and using the wrong pitcher. Game 3 featured two such moves. First came when Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain with one out in the seventh. The other came when he removed David Robertson in the 11th.

Robertson is the connecting theme here. Girardi shouldn’t have taken him out in the 11th after he recorded two quick outs, but before that he should have used him in the seventh. It’s pretty clear that the move to the bullpen hasn’t magically turned Joba back into his 2007 version, and it’s equally clear that Robertson is the superior choice at this point. Yet not only did Girardi remove Robertson for a poor reason in Game 3, he refused to use him in Games 4, 5, and 6, despite having plenty of opportunities to do so.

What made Girardi’s decision to not use Robertson even more frustrating is that he continued to use Joba. In Games 2, 3, and 5, Joba recorded three outs but put five men on base. In Game 3 one of those hits led to the go-ahead run scoring on a sac fly. In Game 5 it forced Girardi to bring Mariano into a game where the team was trailing. All the while Robertson sat in the bullpen, wondering what he had to do for Girardi to bring him into the game.

This made Girardi’s decision to use Chamberlain with one on and one out in the seventh inning of Game 6 even more troubling. Again, Joba had faced eight batters in his previous three appearances and let five of them reach base. He ultimately succeeded in Game 6, but a bad bet that works out doesn’t suddenly turn into a good bet. It was a poor move, and Girardi got lucky that Chamberlain didn’t pull the same stunt he had in his previous ALCS appearances.

In his World Series preview, Keith Law advocates a heavier dosage of Robertson.

David Robertson should be the first righty out of the pen over Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves; if Phil Hughes‘ struggles are more than just a fluke, I’d give Robertson important outs in the eighth. In fact, I’m not sure where I’d deploy Joba at this point; his command is poor, and his stuff isn’t blowing guys away.

In Robertson’s tiny playoff sample he’s allowed two hits in three innings. He does have two walks, which make the numbers look far worse, but both were intentional. When he’s actually pitching to hitters he gets them out — 10 of the 12 batters he’s pitched to in total so far. But that doesn’t tell the story of Robertson’s role on this Yankees team.

He went from erratic mop-up guy earlier in the year to a viable setup man by August. His 4.7 per nine innings walk rate doesn’t speak well of him, but most of that damage came in the first half. From the All-Star Break on, he walked just seven in 21 innings, a 3.00 per nine rate. He also posted excellent strikeout numbers throughout the season, 13 per nine, and that didn’t slow down much in the second half.

Robertson’s greatest asset against the Phillies is his ability to neutralize lefties with his curveball. Lefties faced him 83 times and hit just .189/.277/.324, vs. righties who hit .237/.343/.409. He also strikes out lefties more frequently, about one every 2.8 plate appearances, vs. one every 3.3 appearances against righties. This means that Robertson could pitch a full inning or more, regardless of who is due up. This is in contrast to Phil Coke and Damaso Marte, the lefties in the pen, who will likely face only Ryan Howard. The other lefties in the Phils lineup, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley, actually hit better against lefties than righties this season.

Phil Hughes might still have a lock on the eighth inning, but at any point before that, Robertson should be the go-to guy. Unfortunately, unless someone changed Girardi’s thinking, Joba will be the first righty out of the pen. That hurts the Yankees in many ways. Robertson is the better option at this point, and considering his strikeout rate and success against lefties, there’s no one better for the Yanks to deploy in the seventh inning.

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. Andrew says:

    joe joe giradi-o is too in love with 2007 joba. forget joba. robertson is currently the better pitcher. joba’s fb is what 91-93? his command is terrible. i guess theres more of a fear quotient when facing joba, at least i think thats what girardi is thinking. if joba was throwing 98-99 in the pen then i’d say give him the 7th inning but hes not, so relegate him to 6th inning/mop-up work.

    • jim p says:

      joba’s pitched a lot more than he ever has in a season. Gotta think he is just out of gas, and I bet next year we’ll see some velocity come back. But next season is after the World Series, so let’s rely on him then.

    • Free Mike Vick says:

      in fairness…Joba’s avg FB has been in the 95 range since going to the pen. And he actually hit 98 on the gun in game 5.

      • The Artist says:

        ..and has has 4 pitches, to Robertson’s 2 pitches. That means if something’s not working, or he’s in the middle of a tough AB, he has 3 other pitches to go to.

        • Doug says:

          but in the pen, he’s basically throwing 2 pitches: fastball, slider. at this point, not sure he has much confidence in either the curve or the change

    • Jamal G. says:

      joba’s fb is what 91-93?

      Joba Chamberlain’s fastball velocity throughout the ALCS:

      Game 6: Averaged 95 MPH; topped out at 96.
      Game 5: Averaged 96 MPH; topped out at 99.
      Game 3: Averaged 96 MPH; topped out at 97.
      Game 2: Averaged 95 MPH; topped out at 96.

      • Free Mike Vick says:

        and game…set…match.

      • jim p says:

        But the control wasn’t what it should be/has been, no? Heard pitchers say that lack of control can often be a tired pitcher.

      • Accent Shallow says:

        And he’s still shaky.

        Nice to see the gas is there, though.

        • The Artist says:

          His slider hasn’t been sliding for the first few batters. It seems to get batter after a batter or two, but by that time the damage is done. He might need to warm up a bit longer.

      • Chris C. says:

        “Joba Chamberlain’s fastball velocity throughout the ALCS:

        Game 6: Averaged 95 MPH; topped out at 96.
        Game 5: Averaged 96 MPH; topped out at 99.
        Game 3: Averaged 96 MPH; topped out at 97.
        Game 2: Averaged 95 MPH; topped out at 96.”

        Wow, that’s awesome! So he must have just been blowing people away, right?

  2. Free Mike Vick says:

    Why does Joe hate Robertson so much?

  3. acb says:

    i feel like we could see bruney before we see robertson.

  4. alittleblackegg says:

    I’d be very surprised if Robertson isn’t moving way up in the depth chart. Girardi does seem to make changes from series to series based on recent performance, and he’s clearly been the best recently.

    • The Artist says:

      I think he’s also been cautious with him because he’s coming off an elbow injury.

      But Joe said something interesting on WFAN yesterday. He said that in the World Series, you manange differently than you would any other series because there are no more games on the schedule. So if he was holding anything back, that’s over.

  5. pat says:

    He went from erratic mop-up guy earlier in the year to a viable setup man by August.

    Wait so guys who don’t have success immediately actually can be productive major leaguers?


  6. jim p says:

    So… health?

    Girardi knows the history as well as anyone else. Gotta be a reason. Couldn’t find the right statistical matchup, maybe?

  7. Evil Empire says:

    K-Rob should pitch the 7th, I agree, but I’m still confident about our chances with Joba if Joe keeps going in that direction.

    With Chamberlain and Hughes projecting to both be in the 2010 starting rotation, K-Rob could very well get first shake at being the all-important 8th inning guy.

    • yankees says:

      completely agree. i really have trusted robertson for a while now. he def could be the setup man in the near future. Def want to see him used more, and in more important situations. however, i still have faith in joba, for the most part, in the current role. and hughes as well. i feel the three can somewhat be used interchangeably.

  8. I wrote about this on my blog the other day.

    The way I see it, it’s one of two things: either Girardi’s trying to mask an injury—and as much as I’d like to dispel this notion, the Andrews visit in September has me cautious–or Girardi doesn’t know what he has.

    I saw Robertson in person in Game 2 ALDS.

    Girardi should be using him more than he is. You can’t get more high leverage than bases loaded 0 out in extra innings, so one can’t even argue that Robertson can’t handle the pressure.

    He can, he should be used.

  9. Also, the other thing–Joba’s postseason mehness–couldn’t it be attributed to him reaching an innings limit?

    Simplest explanation = best.

    • Accent Shallow says:

      Well, as big of a fan as I am of Occam’s Razor ordinarily, he’s a young pitcher, so we can probably toss that right out the window.

      Is it one of the more likely causes? Sure. Would I be willing to bet anything on that? Oh no.

    • ROBTEN says:

      Yes. It would also explain his struggles after reaching his previous innings high in August. While some don’t like to hear it, most young pitchers struggle when they face new situations.

      The risk is that if this is true, and Joba’s struggles with command/velocity are due in part to fatigue, then continuing to use him could lead to problems down the road. Suzyn Waldman, for example, likes to say everytime Joba comes out of the pen that “he doesn’t have to think, he just has to throw”…as if that’s a good thing. But what if, in trying to be “Joba 2007,” he’s now overthrowing on a tired arm?

      Of course, I expect that the Yankee brain trust has better information about Robertson’s and Joba’s health that they simply don’t share with the public. You just hope that there is serious thinking behind what has happened with Robertson and Joba and not that they just couldn’t bear to tell Mo that Joba is unavailable out of the pen.

  10. daneptizl says:

    I think the real question is when will Joe use Robertson out of the rotation… since he has other pitches… that i don’t know of(but they’re there)

    • pat says:

      I’m hoping this is a joke I’m not privy to.

        • pat says:

          Oh man, that is epic.

          • I’m thinking it was deliberately in there to piss people off.

            • pat says:

              We all use hyperbole a lot around here but that is honestly some of the worst journalism I have ever seen. How can that be printed? I just don’t understand. I’m not a good writer by any means but I could put something together better than that.


              • kunaldo says:

                What sane person in the NYY org would even contemplate that? Yeah, lets make the career reliever a starter and the career starter a reliever, when they have yet to prove they can’t cut it(actually theyve done quite well) at those respective roles

                ugh, i hate when these people make up shit w/o any real sources

            • The Artist says:

              You haven’t read much Bill Madden, have you?

              He means every word of it.

        • Accent Shallow says:


          I wonder what Robertson’s third pitch is. A change? A cutter?

        • Salty Buggah says:

          Wow. I’m flabbergasted. Just flabbergasted. Aren’t you flabbergasted. (Sterling’d but I’m serious)

        • count crapulent says BOO says:

          When to, how to, why to use Joba has been a “trending topic” (actually overly trended) the past 2 years. Joba came up early and seemingly out of nowhere (Torre didn’t know his name but that’s more on Torre). People were “wow’d.” He was dazzling but we had a pretty crappy bullpen at the time.

          I think D-Rob came up as a mop up man, quietly got people out, and he took a while to get attention and his fan club took a while to gain traction. I’m not sure if the Yankee organization is suggesting Joba’s use in every game or just focused on him whereas D-Rob does his job efficiently and quietly and gets no attention. The organization might be overly concerned with what to do with Joba, whereas D-Rob is not an issue. There might be some behind-the-scenes things going on. who knows?

          My only hope is that if we lose a World Series game it’s not because of bullpen mismanagement because Girardi has done a lot of good things this season. Sometimes I wonder if he’s not like Swisher at the plate, pressing too hard and not able to relax and overthinking.

          But sometimes coaches and managers just keep their “go to” people in even when they’re exhibiting less than “go to” form. Even if all the fans know that if John Starks goes cold in Game 7 of a Championship, you don’t keep going to him, doesn’t mean the coach/manager gets that. And we just stare in wonder while it’s happening, can’t believe it’s happening and then lick our wounds the next day.

          • Bo says:

            I’m almost shocked this group doesnt want to turn Robertson into a starter.

            • Tampa Yankee says:

              Here’s the thing… no one wants to turn DRob into a starter because he’s not a starting pitcher. He was the closer at Bama. Joba and Hughes have been starters in college and the minors and will continue to be treated as starters. The fact that they are pitching out of the pen right now does not change that.

            • In his recorded baseball career–college through now–David Robertson has started three games.

  11. e mills says:

    that was a refreshing read

    • e mills says:

      I just got through that slate.com article…while I don’t agree with all of Joe’s moves, I disagree with basically his entire article

      • Oh, the Marchman one? I didn’t mind it too much. It was kind of predictable, really.

        • pat says:

          Aren’t they all nowadays?

        • e mills says:

          when Marchman says “The curious thing about these inane moves is that they don’t—at all—match up with Girardi’s reputation as a forward thinker steeped in statistical nuance,” it makes me wonder if he’s watching the same game.

        • The Artist says:

          Marchman was pretty good when he wrote for the NY Sun and stuck to local teams/topics, at least compared to other sportswriters. Since that paper went under, I’ve probably read a dozen of his articles online and they fall into the same category as that one.

  12. Accent Shallow says:

    I’m assuming the lack of Robertson usage has to be a health-related issue, and they’re trying to keep him as fresh as possible for the WS. If they really prefer Joba, I’d be a little worried.

    • dab says:

      Yeah, D-Rob was on the DL right before the postseason started so it’s either an injury or we’re just all smarter than Girardi.

      Thinking it’s a little from column A and a little from column B.

      • Bo says:

        How would pulling him with 2 outs and no one in the 11th be health related?

        Especially if hes on the WS roster

        • Chris says:

          If Girardi/Eiland saw something in his stuff or mechanics that may indicate he was tiring. Also, Aceves was a better matchup in that situation.

            • Chris says:

              Perhaps tiring wasn’t the right word. Maybe they thought his elbow was bothering him because his mechanics changed.

              With all of the things that Girardi and the rest of the Yankees do right, I find it hard to believe that they only see Robertson as a back of the bullpen reliever suited for mop up work. Girardi has shown a great ability to get his best relievers into the highest leverage spots, so to suddenly abandon that now doesn’t make sense – particularly since there is a lot of focus now on why Robertson isn’t being used more. It’s not like he could have just forgotten that Robertson is there.

  13. ICEMAN says:

    D-Rob will be the ex-factor in the WS!

  14. Will says:

    Like it or not, it seems like Joba is being transitioned back into a full-time bullpenner. When Girardi used him in the crucial 7th inning spot on Saturday, it just felt like it was sign Joba would be back in the pen next season.

  15. Stultus Magnus says:

    I don’t trust Joba at all right now and I was extremely upset that Girardi used him in Game 6, I thought he’d do his usual BS, walk somebody, give up a big hit, and then maybe K somebody. But he did alright, I felt like he was more lucky than anything, it didn’t look like he was blowing anybody away.

    Girardi needs to use Robertson at this point. Joba should be in Mexico playing winter ball right now.

  16. Jake H says:

    D-Rob is good. I would like to see him lower his walks but his K’s are amazing. His FB just seems to jump on hitters.

  17. Will says:

    Robertson has had a very good post season, but we shouldn’t lose sight of his 4.7 BB/9IN rate this season. Ironically, in a situation like the bases loaded, Robertson wouldn’t always be the best choice. Thankfully, in the ALDS, when that situation arose, the Twinkies decided to swing early in the count (despite seeing Robertson’s wildness in such a situation back in July).

  18. Doug says:

    “It’s pretty clear that the move to the bullpen hasn’t magically turned Joba back into his 2007 version, and it’s equally clear that Robertson is the superior choice at this point.”

    unfortunately, to the one person who matters, girardi, it’s not clear.

  19. Doug says:

    “David Robertson should be the first righty out of the pen over Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves; if Phil Hughes‘ struggles are more than just a fluke, I’d give Robertson important outs in the eighth. In fact, I’m not sure where I’d deploy Joba at this point; his command is poor, and his stuff isn’t blowing guys away.”

    klaw is right on point with everything he said

    • MattG says:

      I think he overstates it a bit. His slider is not consistently explosive. They’re sitting on his fastball a bit. This is to say I think he’s really close.

  20. MattG says:

    “He ultimately succeeded in Game 6, but a bad bet that works out doesn’t suddenly turn into a good bet.”

    Thanks to small sample size, you could argue the exact opposite. He’s a good bet that hadn’t succeeded as he should’ve before game 6.

    This issue does appear to be his slider. A lack of a reliable breaking ball always makes command look suspect.

    The bigger issue–the guy we should be talking about–is Phil Hughes. With Howard in the middle of any rally, whether you use D-Rob or Chamberlain is mitigated somewhat to the fact that they are likely there for only a couple of outs. Hughes will need to get out Werth, and every batter after him, until Girardi feels comfortable it is Mo time. That might only be an out, but in those games started by non CC pitchers, it could easily be 4-6 outs.

    Which I guess turns it around and puts in back on Joba/D-Rob. If they get their outs, Hughes’ job becomes a fair piece easier.

    • larryf says:

      Hughes’ curveball has been improving and that’s a positive. He got beat on his fastball to Mathis/Vlad/Morales. His fault or Posada’s????

    • Doug says:

      i expect to see a lot of mixing and matching by girardi vs. utley and especially, howard.

      for example, up a run in the 7th with victorino, utley, and howard coming up, i’d expect girardi to use joba to get victorino and coke/marte to get utley and howard.

      and i don’t think i’d expect anything different in the 8th. i’m pretty sure if the yanks are up a run with utley and howard coming up, girardi will take out hughes and bring in the remaining lefty or maybe even mo.

      • MattG says:

        I think the plan going in is to use Joba/Hughes against Utley, because they are better than Coke/Marte, and Utley has no split.

        Further, I think the plan is to use Coke/Marte against Howard in the 6th & 7th, and Mo in the 8th or 9th. Don’t ask me what happens if Howard bats with no outs in the 8th. It’ll depend on the game (and series) situation.

        • Doug says:

          true that utley has little split, but hughes and marte/coke do. marte and coke have been much more effective getting lefties out than hughes, both in the regular season and in the postseason.

          i personally see girardi yanking joba (especially) and hughes and bringing in the lefty to face utley and howard, depending on the exact situation of course.

          • MattG says:

            I don’t know how significant the pitcher’s splits are. For some, they actually throw different pitches, so the splits are very significant. For others, I think it might be all the hitter’s ability (or lack thereof) to handle their pitches from their arm angle.

            I haven’t noticed Coke or Marte pitch any differently to right-handed batters, so I think they are just more hittable from the right side. I didn’t even know Hughes had a significant split. I wouldn’t have guessed it, either. His pitching style isn’t really something that would make you think of a ROOGY.

            • Klemy says:

              I’m half expecting that situation to be a play by ear type of thing. He’ll try one way or another the first time it happens late in a game, then adjust to the results. If Utley burns a LOOGY, he prob won’t see another in favor of a dependable full inning guy.

  21. China Joe says:

    More pressing than the Robertson – Joba debate is the terrifying possibility of Chad Gaudin starting a game. That could be even more damaging then anything Robertson or Joba do out of the pen. With his numbers against lefties and the Phillies lineup, that would be like spotting them a game.

    • MattG says:

      It is, but it is the best alternative. On the bright side, it allows Joe G to use Andy Pettitte in relieve in games 5, 6 & 7. That could be significant. How about closing out the game with Pettitte-Hughes-Mo?

      • No, starting two guys on three days’ rest ONCE is the best alternative. Starting Chad Gaudin against the lefty-heavy Phillies is basically to say “I don’t care about winning this game.”

        • MattG says:

          You shouldn’t be so dismissive. Starting Burnett and Pettitte on 3 days rest, followed by CC on 3 days rest for the second time in a row, is a statement about the whole series, just as starting Gaudin is a statement about a game.

          • Yes, it is a statement about the whole series. It’s, “Our fourth starter is such a steep drop from our third that we’d far rather start guys on short rest than completely handicap ourselves for a game.”

    • Doug says:

      expect girardi to only start gaudin in an elimination game, i.e., only if they’re up 3-0 or 3-1.

      if not, the big boys will all go on 3 days rest

  22. Beantownbosoxh8er says:

    This may not be the most pertinent to this thread , but this being the most recent post I thought I would share whatifsports.com’s WS prediction…..Yanks win 72.3% of the time


  23. Usty says:

    I know everyone is giving credit to Cha-lie Manuel for sticking with Lidge and “getting him back on track”. Anyone think that’s what Girardi was trying to do by throwing Joba out there in a big spot in game 6? Our bullpen with an on-track Joba is light years better than anyone else in the game.

    • Doug says:

      not sure joba’s getting “on-track” this year no matter how much he pitches. his stuff just isn’t what it was in 2007.

    • MattG says:

      Yes, I can see the parallel. Joba’s thrown a lot of good fastballs, and a handful of good sliders, but the slider has also let him down. Girardi probably feels he is about to find it.

    • Rob in CT says:

      I don’t give Manuel credit for that. I think he’s playing with fire. I hope he continues. Well, not really. He’s actually been reasonably smart in that he’s protected Lidge from lefties at times. I hope he stops that and goes back to the formulaic “closer pitches the 9th” thing.

      Actually, screw that, I don’t want the Phillies to have a lead for Lidge to blow.

  24. Rob in CT says:

    I totally agree with KLaw. Joba hasn’t looked right in months. I think he needs the offseason in a big way. He’s gassed. His slider has little bite, his fastball is good but not great and his command is so-so. He scares me every time. Right here, right now, Robertson is the better choice.

    Unless there is concern about D-Rob’s elbow, I don’t understand why he hasn’t been used more. He’s been excellent. More Robertson, Joe!

  25. Bo says:

    Maybe Girardi with the time off here will realize that Robertson is still on his roster and able to pitch.

  26. Opus says:

    I bet if Robertson had a cool first name (like “Joba”), he’d be used more.

    • larryf says:

      I agree. Let’s start calling him Justin Chamberlain and then we can objectively decide that he is an over-rated pitcher…

  27. Rose says:

    I was just talking about this the other day. At first using Joba and Hughes in critical situations was seemingly appropriate. But after a ton of inconsistencies and barely any accomplishment…they faltered and combined to be very disappointing.

    “The Admiral” David Robertson, on the other hand, has been one of the only rays of light in the bullpen (aside from The Hammer of God). He pitched those effective 11 pitches in LA, was shunned for his poor decision…and as a result…we really didn’t see The Admiral again after that. But we definitely saw a lot more of Joba and Hughes in critical situations…regardless of poor performance.

    Didn’t really make sense to me. Is he basing his judgments on reputation alone? Public appeal? David Robertson never really had the hype the other guys had so his near 14 k’s per 9 innings ratio never really got the credit it deserved…but I always thought the managers would know the insides and outs and not really care about anything else. Who knows.

    All I know is that these mistakes got by in the first two rounds…let’s just hope one of the bone head moves don’t come back to bite us, literally, in the end.

  28. Eric says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this article. Besides Mo, Robertson is the best pitcher we have out of the pen right now.

  29. mryankee says:

    Interesting to me how essentially Joba has been cast aside by fans and experts. Is the bust label to far behind?

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