Archive for David Robertson

The Yankees and David Robertson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $3.1M according to Jon Heyman. The team has since confirmed the agreement. The 27-year-old setup man filed for $3.55M before last Friday’s deadline while the club countered with $2.85M, so they settled just below the midpoint. Nothing surprising here. I wrote a little about a multi-year extension for Robertson a few days ago, but that wasn’t going to happen. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, so they’ll go through this again next winter.

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(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

When the arbitration dust settled late last week, the Yankees had reached agreements with all of their eligible players except for David Robertson. The two sides filed salary figures — Robertson filed for $3.55M while the team countered with $2.85M — before Friday’s deadline, and those numbers will be used during a potential hearing late next month. It’s important to point out that Robertson and the Yankees can agree to a new contract of any size between now and a hearing.

As we know, Hal Steinbrenner is not a fan of contract extensions. We also know the team is willing to bend the rules a bit to sign players long-term before they hit free agency. The Yankees did it with Robinson Cano prior to the 2008 season and they were willing to do it again with Russell Martin last winter. Robertson is not due to become a free agent until after the 2014 season, but he’s an exception candidate for the no-extensions rule given the impending departures of Mariano Rivera (retirement) and Joba Chamberlain (free agency) next winter.

Robertson, 27, has emerged as one of baseball’s most dominant relievers over the last two seasons. His 1.84 ERA and 2.15 FIP both rank sixth among all bullpeners since the start of 2011 (min. 50 IP) while his strikeout rates (12.79 K/9 and 34.8 K%) both rank fifth. Robertson’s also thrown a ton of important innings these last two years, as his 1.57 gmLI (leverage index when entering the game) is the 27th highest overall and the third highest among non-closing relievers (arbitrarily defined as guys with fewer than ten saves). Sure, the walk rates are high (3.82 BB/9 and 10.4 BB%), but they aren’t astronomical. Robertson makes up for it by missing bats and getting grounders (45.6%).

Unsurprisingly, the number of non-closing relievers who have signed extensions two years before free agency is very small. That has much more to do with the teams wanting to limit risk than the players not being open to it, obviously. The only guy from that group who is remotely comparable to Robertson is Glen Perkins, who inked a three-year, $10.3M extension with the Twins during Spring Training last year. The left-hander had just one year as an elite reliever under his belt (2.48 ERA and 2.41 FIP) at the time of his extension and it wasn’t even as good as Robertson has been the last two years. We’re running very short on comparables here.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

We know Robertson’s camp values his second year of arbitration-eligibility at $3.55M — a $1.95M raise from last season — thanks to their filing figure. MLBTR projected a $2.8M salary for next season, which is right in line with the team’s filing figure. Maybe that means the Yankees have a good chance to win a hearing, but I don’t think that’s a safe assumption. The club has been to just two arbitration hearings this century, beating both Rivera (2000) and Chien-Ming Wang (2008). That doesn’t mean much though, I’m sure they’re eager to work out an agreement with their setup man before having to step in front of a three-person panel next month. No one likes to go through a hearing, they tend to get ugly.

The Yankees would presumably look to sign Robertson for at least three years, which would buy out his final two seasons of arbitration-eligibility and one free agent year. Tacking on a club option or three at the end would be ideal for the team but not the player. I’m just going to spitball some numbers here: they could look at something like $3M in 2013 (a bit below the midpoint of the filing figures), $4.75M in 2014, and $6.5M in 2014 with a $250k signing bonus and a $500k buyout of a fourth year club option worth say … $9M. That’s a three-year, $15M guarantee that gives Robertson a $1.75M raise annually and the team a $5M luxury tax hit. He’d hit free agency at age-31 if the option was exercised.

Contract extensions are a two-way street since each side is giving something to get something else. The player trades maximum earning potential for financial security while the team trades the risk of performance decline for cost certainty. The unique twist here is Robertson’s role. If he were to assume the closer’s role at some point this year or next, his earning potential would skyrocket because saves pay. Given Rivera’s age and the likelihood of retirement after this coming season, you don’t have to try to real hard to envision a scenario in which Robertson becomes the closer within ten months or so. His agent is surely aware of that.

The other thing we have to remember is that Robertson is a reliever, and those guys have a tendency to fall apart without warning and for no apparent reason. Just using fWAR as a quick example, the three best relievers in baseball two seasons ago were Carlos Marmol, Brian Wilson, and Heath Bell. Four seasons ago Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, and Brad Lidge were in the top five. It’s a volatile position and no matter how much we like Robertson and believe he’ll be different than the rest, he’s just as risky as every other reliever, especially when you factor in his less than stellar command. Given the team’s newfound dedication to staying under the luxury tax threshold, having ~$5M in payroll tied up in a risky reliever might not be the wisest thing in the world, even if they envision him as Rivera’s heir.

I don’t expect the Yankees to explore a long-term agreement with Robertson even though the two sides were unable to find common ground prior to last week’s filing deadline. Brett Gardner and Boone Logan didn’t sign until after the filing deadline last year, and there were no extension talks there as far as we know. Getting cost certainty from a reliever — especially a non-closing reliever — isn’t a huge priority for any team, so working out a multi-year contract with Robertson probably isn’t worth the hassle even though the club is likely to lose both Rivera and Joba after the upcoming season.

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According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees and David Robertson filed salary arbitration figures today. Robertson submitted $3.55M while the team submitted $2.85M. Today was the deadline to file and the two sides can still negotiate (and agree to) a contract of any size at any time prior to an arbitration hearing next month. If they do go to a hearing, the three-person arbitration panel will pick one of those two numbers for Robertson’s salary next season based on the cases made by each team.

The Yankees haven’t been to a hearing since beating Chien-Ming Wang back in 2008. For what it’s worth, MLBTR projected a $2.8M salary for Robertson next season, which might suggest the team has a better chance of winning a potential hearing. Chances are they’ll settle somewhere around the midpoint ($3.2M). Robertson is the team’s only remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible player and he can’t become a free agent until after the 2014 season.

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Nov
12

What Went Right: David Robertson

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(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Last season was David Robertson‘s coming out party. The right-hander emerged as one of baseball’s most dominant setup men, usurping Rafael Soriano as the eighth inning guy while pitching to a 1.08 ERA (1.84 FIP) in a career-high 66.2 innings. His follow up in 2012 didn’t go as smoothly, but the end result was the same. Robertson was again one of baseball’s most dominant setup men.

The 27-year-old opened the season in pretty much the only way he knew how: with a Houdini act on Opening Day. Joe Girardi handed him the ball with a one-run lead in the eighth inning against the Rays, and Tampa had men on the corners with no outs in the span of eleven pitches thanks to a walk and a single. Robertson then struck out Stephen Vogt (four pitches), Jose Molina (five pitches), and Matt Joyce (five pitches) to escape the jam and end the inning. Pretty much par for the Houdini course.

Through his first dozen appearances, Robertson had allowed zero runs with 21 strikeouts against just three walks in 12 innings. In five appearances from April 20th through May 4th, he struck out 12 of 17 batters faced including eight in a row at one point. That’s when Mariano Rivera got hurt. The club’s long-time closer blew out his knee on the Kansas City warning track on May 5th, and Robertson was the obvious replacement in the ninth inning. He nailed down his first save three days later but blew the save next night, allowing a three-run homer to Joyce. Two days later he wiggled out of Boone Logan‘s ninth inning jam to preserve the four-run lead, and that was it. We wouldn’t see him for more than a month.

Robertson had strained his left oblique and needed to spend time on the DL. The injury cost him more than a month, as he didn’t return until June 15th after a handful of minor league rehab appearances. Soriano had seized the closer’s job during his absence, so Robertson came back as the setup man and was eased back into things. Girardi didn’t use him in back-to-back days at first and didn’t bring him into the game in the middle of an inning even though he had some chances. It raised some questions about whether Robertson was actually fully healthy, but he was pitching fine and striking a ton of guys out so it wasn’t a huge concern.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In 26 first half appearances, Robertson struck out 40 and allowed just seven earned runs in 24.2 innings. He walked a dozen, but that’s nothing unusual for him. The second half opened with seven straight scoreless appearances and just one run allowed in his first eleven outings. Robertson melted down in an early-August game against the Tigers (three runs in one inning), but the Yankees held on to win anyway so it didn’t hurt anything but his ERA. Another ten scoreless innings followed as he carried a 2.18 ERA into September.

Outside of the blow save against the Rays, Robertson’s most infamous blowup of the season came on September 6th against the Orioles, the first game of the important four-game series in Camden Yards. The Yankees had just scored five runs in the top of the eighth to tie the game at six, but Robertson surrendered a solo homer to Adam Jones to leadoff the bottom half, and then two batters later Mark Reynolds took him deep for a two-run shot. Three batters faced, three hits allowed, two homers, three runs. The Yankees went on to lose the game and Robertson’s ERA climbed by more than half-a-run.

Robertson allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning in a win against the Blue Jays later in the month but that was pretty much it. He followed up his strong but injury-shortened first half with a 2.75 ERA (2.49 FIP) in 36 second half innings. Girardi leaned on his setup man heavily down the stretch, as Robertson made four sets of back-to-back-to-back appearances in the team’s final 35 games of the season after Girardi never once asked him to work three consecutive days in the first four years of his career. He was also the team’s best reliever in the postseason, allowing just one run on three hits and no walks while striking out seven in 6.1 innings. Despite missing all that time with the oblique issue, Robertson still threw 60.2 innings across 65 appearances during the 2012 regular season.

At the end of the year, the right-hander owned a 2.67 ERA (2.48 FIP) with his usual sky-high strikeout rate (12.02 K/9 and 32.7 K%). He did allow a career-high-tying five homers one year after allowing just one, which was a bit of a problem. The good news is that he also posted a (by far) career-low walk rate, just 2.82 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%. He came into the season with a career 4.72 BB/9 and 12.2 BB%, and even last year it was 4.73 BB/9 and 12.9 BB%. The cool part is that nearly all of the walk improvement came in the second half …

In those 36 second half innings, Robertson walked just seven batters. From July 21st through the end of the season, a span of 36 appearances and 33 innings, he walked just five batters. From August 11th through September 24th, a span of 22 appearances and 82 batters faced, he walked zero batters. That seems impossible, but it’s true. He closed the season out with 81 strikeouts against just 19 walks, setting a new career-high (by far) with a 4.26 K/BB.

Robertson wasn’t as great as he was a year ago, but no pitcher, not even Mariano Rivera, sustains a near-1.00 ERA. He did have two really memorable meltdowns and at times he stopped throwing his curveball for no apparent reason, but it never really cost him effectiveness. Robertson hurt the Yankees the most when he wasn’t on the mound due to the oblique injury, but otherwise he was again a fantastic setup man and one of the five or six best non-closing relievers in the game.

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Over at MLBTR, Matt Swartz published his projected salaries for this winter’s arbitration-eligible players. His model was accurate to within 10% for players who did not sign multi-year deals last year — including just a 5% error for the Yankees — and after a summer of tweaks and refinements, he could be even closer this year.

The Yankees have seven arbitration-eligible players to deal with this offseason — Chris Dickerson and Frankie Cervelli fell just short of qualifying — though Casey McGehee is a prime non-tender candidate. The biggest expected raise belongs to Phil Hughes, who should see his salary jump from $3.2M to $5.7M. David Robertson and Boone Logan figure to get ~$1M raises while Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain are in line for negligible pay increases following their injury-shortened years. Jayson Nix still projects to get a six-figure salary and could be non-tendered as well. Without McGehee, the six-man arbitration class will cost the Yankees approximately $16.7M. Not too bad at all.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(Elsa/Getty)

As we discussed earlier today, the Yankees as a team basically hit like a pitcher in the postseason. They put together a collective .188/.254/.303 batting line in their nine postseason games and scored just two runs in the final three games of the ALCS. It was tough to watch and just flat out pathetic, there’s really no other way to describe it.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, was absolutely stellar up until ALCS Game Four. The starters churned out quality start after quality start, and the bullpen did all it could to preserve leads and keep deficits close. After posting a 3.86 ERA (3.98 FIP) during the regular season, the Yankees received a 2.76 ERA (~3.45 FIP) in 88 postseason innings from the pitching staff.

CC Sabathia
Unfortunately, Sabathia’s season will be remembered for ending on a sour note as the Tigers battered him for six runs on eleven hits (!) in just 3.2 innings in ALCS Game Four. It was an ugly start in a generally ugly postseason showing by the Yankees as whole, but it was also the exception rather than the rule for the pitching staff.

Sabathia, of course, helped get the Yankees to the ALCS with a pair of dominant outings against the Orioles in the ALDS. He allowed two runs in 8.2 innings in Game One against Baltimore, then followed it up by allowing just one run in the decisive Game Five win. All told, Sabathia struck out 19 batters and walked just five in 21.1 playoff innings including the ALCS disaster. He set a new ALDS record with 17.2 innings pitches, nearly two full innings more than the previous record.

Andy Pettitte
A year ago Pettitte was retired back home, but he got the itch to pitch and came back to the Yankees early in the season. He slotted in as their number two starter in the postseason due in large part to the schedule, as the club tried to optimize the amount of rest for each of their starters. Pettitte made two playoff starts, one in each round, and he tossed up a quality start in each. He held the Orioles to three runs in seven innings in ALDS Game Two and the Tigers to two runs in 6.2 innings in ALCS Game One. As per his norm, Andy did allow a lot of baserunners but continually pitched out of jams. For a guy who was out of baseball a year ago, allowing five runs in 13.2 postseason innings is a minor miracle.

(Elsa/Getty)

Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda was New York’s best starting pitcher from Opening Day through the end of the season, and he turned in a pair of gems in the postseason. Following Sabathia and Pettitte, the first-year Yankee held the Orioles to two runs in 8.1 innings in ALDS Game One before allowing three runs in 7.2 innings in ALCS Game Two. That second start came on three days’ rest, the first time he’d ever done that in his career. Kuroda struck out a season-high eleven in that game, and it would have been eight innings of one-run ball had second base ump Jeff Nelson not blown an obvious out call on Omar Infante at second base. The bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score (charged to Kuroda) after the error. Sixteen innings (really 16.1) of five-run (really three-run) ball from the number three starter? Sign me up for that every day of the week.

Phil Hughes
Like Sabathia, Hughes ended his season on a down note as a stiff back forced him out of ALCS Game Three after just three innings of work. That shouldn’t erase his ALDS effort however, as he held the Orioles to one run in 6.2 innings while striking out eight in Game Four. Hughes only allowed one run in the ALCS start before exiting with the injury as well, so all told his postseason performance featured just two runs in 9.2 inning of work. As far as number four starters go, you can’t do much better.

The Bullpen
Eight of the nine postseason games were very close into the late innings, and the bullpen stepped up in support of the starters in a big way. They allowed just eight runs (seven earned) in 27.1 total innings (2.30 ERA) while walking just four (!), including one intentionally. The late-inning duo of Rafael Soriano and David Robertson allowed just one run in 9.2 combined innings, striking out seven against zero walks and five hits. The lone run was a solo homer off Robertson in ALCS Game Five, when the game was already out of reach. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada combined to retire 11 of 12 left-handed batters faced, with the one exception being a walk by Prince Fielder. David Phelps, who allowed four runs (three earned) in 3.1 total innings, was the only clear negative on a pitching staff who was absolutely dynamite overall in the postseason.

Categories : Pitching, Playoffs
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Got five questions for you this week, and none of them are directly tied to the ALDS. Consider this a break from the playoffs for a few hours. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions.

(Al Bello/Getty)

Bill asks: If the Yanks were to buy out A-Rod‘s contract (not saying they should just if they did) would his salary still count towards the team salary for getting under the $189 million limit?

Yeah, it would. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, player salary that counts towards the luxury tax is “the value of the total compensation (cash or otherwise) paid to a Player pursuant to the terms of a Uniform Player’s Contract, including any guarantee by the Club of payments by third parties, for a particular championship season. Salary shall include, without limitation, the value of non-cash compensation such as the provision of personal translators, personal massage therapists, and airfare and tickets exceeding normal Club allotments.”

In English, that means anything a team plays a player will count towards the tax. The structure of the buyout would determine when and how much applies to the luxury tax calculations. There are five years and $114M left on A-Rod’s contract after this season and the Yankees are goimng to pay every penny. They’re not trading him, he’s not going to retire, and they’re not going to negotiate a buyout so they can cut him loose. It’s not happening. He’ll be around until 2017 whether you like it or not. Ownership made their bed and now they’ll have to sleep in it.

Nick asks: Do you think that Jayson Nix could wind up on the Yankees again next season?

I definitely think it’s possible. Nix, 30, will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and will probably still be in line for a six-figure salary next season. I have a hard time seeing a career up-and-down bench player with a .214/.285/.371 batting line pulling in more than a million bucks his first time through arbitration.

Nix is a useful role player capable of playing a ton of positions and providing some offense against left-handers, so it makes sense for the Yankees to hold onto him. He shouldn’t deter them from acquiring a better utility infielder if one comes along this offseason, the only problem is that he is out of minor league options and can’t be sent to the minors next season without clearing waivers. I wouldn’t call Nix a lock for the 2013 roster by any means, but there’s certainly a chance of it happening.

(Brian Bissell/Future Star Photos)

Austin asks: What do you make of recent Baseball America questions regarding Mason Williams‘ makeup/attitude? Isn’t this Gary Sanchez 2011 stuff?

Well, the Sanchez stuff last season was so bad that the team had to send him to Extended Spring Training for disciplinary reasons. He refused to pinch-hit in a game and catch a side session, which is a major no-no. The Williams stuff was reported as “a few headaches,” which frankly is the first I’ve heard of him having any kind of real makeup problem. Mason has been knocked for being too hard on himself and getting frustrated with bad at-bats or plays, but nothing that created a problem with other players or coaches. We’ll have to pay attention to this in the future, because this report did catch me a bit off guard.

JW asks: Here’s a mailbag question: assume Rafael Soriano opts out and the Yankees make a qualifying offer. Under the new FA compensation rules, does it project that the signing team would have to give up a draft pick? I know that the number of players whose signing warrants giving up a pick has been reduced by a lot.

Under the new system, a team would have to forfeit a draft pick to sign a top free agent (who has received a qualifying offer), but that pick does not go to the player’s former team. It just disappears. The former team receives one supplemental first round pick instead, which is pulled out of thin air like the old system. I assume the Yankees will make Soriano a qualifying offer if he opts out because he’d be walking away from more money ($14M) by opting out than he would get through the offer ($13.3-13.4M). I have no idea who would give up a draft pick to sign him but it doesn’t really matter — the Yankees will end up with the same compensation pick no matter where he ends up.

GB asks: If Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Mark Teixeira, David Robertson, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were all FA’s after this season, what kind of contracts would you see them getting?

Well this is a fun one. I have an amazing knack for underestimating free agent contracts, but I’ll give this my best shot anyway…

  • Granderson — 40+ homer power is rare, so that alone will get Curtis paid at age 31. Clubs will probably be gun-shy because of Jason Bay, but his four-year, $66M deal with the Mets seems like an appropriate benchmark.
  • Sabathia — Despite the elbow injury and sub-par second half, Sabathia would still wind up with $20M+ a year easy. Frankly I bet he could match the five-year, $122.5M deal he signed with the Yankees last winter if he went back out onto the open market this year. Pitchers of Sabathia’s caliber very rarely hit free agency.
  • Hughes — How does four years and $40M sound? Phil is only 27, so you’d theoretically be buying all of his peak years and expect some improvement going forward. Maybe $44-48M would be closer to reality as a free agent.
  • Teixeira — At this point, age 32, Teixeira is just a touch above the first base league average offensively (115 vs. 106 wRC+) while remaining a stud with the glove. First baseman make more money than anyone, so I think another Bay-like four-year, $66M deal would be in the cards.
  • Robertson — A stud reliever at age 27 is a prime candidate to get overpaid, especially if someone plans on making him a closer. Joaquin Benoit’s three-year, $16.5M deal with the Tigers seems like the floor here. Three or fours years at $6-7M annually wouldn’t surprise me at all.
  • A-Rod: Not much right now, probably like two years and $20M with most of that coming on reputation.
  • Jeter: The Cap’n is in a weird spot because I don’t think any other team would pursue him as a free agent. Not because he’s a bad player or anything, but because of the “Yankees or retirement” vibe. Could Jeter match the three-year, $51M contract he signed two years ago this offseason? Yeah, I think he might be able too.
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(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

This isn’t the easiest of times to be a Yankees fan, as the club seems to find new and more humiliating ways to lose on a daily basis. They’ve lost six of their last eight games and 13 of their last 18. Since the start of the four-game series in Oakland, when all this losing really started, the Yankees are just 20-25 with a +1 run differential. During that same 45-game span, the Orioles are 29-16 with a +38 run differential. Last night’s loss was the latest worst loss of the season.

1. During these seven games against the Orioles and Rays, the Yankees have scored runs in eleven different innings. Five times have they allowed the other team to score in the next half-inning, so in other words they’ve followed up those eleven innings with just six “shutdown innings.” In the last three games, they’ve scored in six different innings and have had only two shutdown innings. The Yankees just keep letting the other team stay close, it’s an epidemic.

2. This David Robertson cutter stuff has to stop. We saw Phil Hughes fall in love with the pitch before getting burned on it in the past, and now it appears Robertson is going through the same thing. The Yankees weren’t planning to sign Robertson as their 17th round pick in 2006, but they changed their mind when he went to the Cape Cod League and learned the curveball from his summer pitching coach. That pitch is his moneymaker and he needs to use it. A lot, not once or twice an appearance. His control isn’t good enough to get by on the cutter alone, and a poorly located cutter is just a batting practice fastball. Robertson would be well-served to put the cut-fastball in his back pocket and go back to the four-seamer/curveball approach that made him so effective in the past.

3. The Yankees have to skip David Phelps‘ next start. They’re in the middle of a playoff chase and can’t afford to send the kid out there again if there is a viable alternative, he just isn’t effective enough. These last two starts were classic examples of a rookie pitcher getting overwhelmed and trying to do too much in a big game, I thought. The club can use Monday’s off-day to push his next start back to September 15th, next Saturday’s game at home against the Rays. Hopefully by then Ivan Nova or even Andy Pettitte will be ready to take over that rotation spot. If they don’t skip him, Phelps would make his next start in Fenway Park in the middle of next week. Even with their trade and injury depleted lineup, the Red Sox could make that ugly in a hurry.

4. Considering that pretty much everyone in in the bullpen not named Rafael Soriano has struggled of late, I’m all for giving Cory Wade some high-leverage work. He’s appeared in just one game since being recalled from Triple-A over the weekend, retiring all five men he faced last Sunday. When the alternatives are Derek Lowe and Cody Eppley, there’s really no reason not to give Wade a shot going forward. We know he can be effective (very effective even) if his command is right, and it appears he’s moved beyond his batting practice pitcher phase given his work in Triple-A. I’m actually kinda surprised he hasn’t seen more action this week given the bullpen follies.

5. I’m going to finish up with a positive here. I’ve been encouraged by the three multi-run rallies the Yankees have put together in the last two games. They got the timely hits they needed but more importantly, they’ve had high-quality at-bats. They laid off pitcher’s pitches out of the zone and punished mistakes while also showing a willingness to take the walk if they didn’t get anything to hit. I think the return of Alex Rodriguez has helped in a big way, adding some length to the lineup and providing a sort of “here, these are the types of at-bats we need to take in these spots” example. The offensive struggles have been at the forefront of this recent downward spiral, but the Yankees have started to show some signs of life with the bats lately.

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Via Mark Feinsand, setup man David Robertson and his wife became the parents of a baby boy earlier today. Believe it or not, David will actually be in uniform for tonight’s game, which is kinda nuts. Take a day, man. You just became a dad. No idea if he’s actually available to pitch, but he’ll be with the team anyway. Congrats to the Robertsons.

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(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

While the middle relief has been a bit of an ongoing problem, the Yankees and their fans have to feel pretty confident when they head into the eighth inning with a lead. Rafael Soriano has been absolute money as the full-in closer, and David Robertson continues to be one of the game’s best setup relievers. He hasn’t been as outright dominant as he was a year ago, but that was to be expected to a certain extent. It’s very tough to repeat a season like that.

Robertson, 27, has pitched to a 2.45 ERA (2.55 FIP) with his usual sky-high strikeout rate (12.50 K/9 and 33.7 K%) in 40.1 innings this season while dealing with an oblique injury. His walk rate (3.79 BB/9 and 10.2 BB%) is a career-low, his ground ball rate (50.5%) a career-high, and his homer rate (0.67 HR/9 and 9.4% HR/FB) the second best of his career. Robertson’s been quiet excellent in the late innings this year, a worthy complement to Soriano.

All of that is why I think it’s pretty interesting that Robertson has basically stopped throwing his curveball in recent weeks. He’s thrown nothing but fastballs in each of his last three appearances, though one of those was a one-pitch appearance (the double play against the Blue Jays). Robertson threw three straight curveballs to start out an at-bat against Edwin Encarnacion on August 10th and he hasn’t thrown a breaking ball since, a span of 12 batters faced and 39 pitches.

According to PitchFX, David has thrown 33.2% four-seamers, 48.6% cutters, and 17.0% curves this year. Those are two career-lows sandwiched around a career-high. Last season it was 49.6% four-seamers, 26.5% cutters, and 20.4% curves. With some help from Texas Leaguers, here’s a quick little month-by-month breakdown of his pitch usage this year…

IP TBF FB% FC% CB%
April 11 42 30.8% 53.5% 14.4%
May 3.1 17 52.4% 28.6% 19.0%
June 6.2 27 57.8% 22.5% 19.6%
July 11.2 51 26.1% 54.3% 18.1%
August 7.2 29 17.7% 63.7% 16.8%

We’re dealing with a reliever here, so the sample sizes are going to be inherently small. Add in the oblique injury a few months ago, and the samples get even smaller. There isn’t much of a trend here, other than a slight increase in cutter usage and a slight decrease in four-seamer usage as the season has progressed, assuming we kinda gloss over the oblique problem in May and June. The curveball usage is down in August but not insanely so, though that 16.8% stems from heavy usage earlier in the month and not so much recently.

Robertson has only struck out just seven of the last 38 batters he’s faced (18.4%), a span of 9.2 innings dating back to late last month. That’s roughly a league average rate, which means below average for Robertson. It seems more coincidental than anything at this point, even though the curveball is a premium strikeout pitch. He did whiff two Texas Rangers in one inning last week using nothing but the fastball, after all. Outside of the infield single and ground ball single fest in Detroit two weeks ago, Robertson has been fantastic of late and lack of curveball usage isn’t much of a concern. If his performance starts to suffer or we find out that he’s covering an injury, that’s when it’ll be a red flag.

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