Archive for David Robertson
11:42pm: Robertson will in fact go for tests tomorrow. Good, let’s see exactly what’s going on and deal with it.
11:12pm: Following tonight’s game, Joe Girardi confirmed that David Robertson was unavailable due to a sore ribcage and said he may be sent for tests tomorrow. Robertson first felt it after Friday’s game and it’s lingered, so there is some concern. Hopefully it’s not an oblique issue (though that seems inevitable), that could take some time to heal. What a terrible night on the injury front.
Nothing in baseball is more deflating than grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, the dreaded blown save/loss combination in the ninth inning. The Yankees flirted with disaster on Tuesday before getting the 27th out but were not as fortunate last night. David Robertson‘s reign as the team’s closer is off the very shaky start, as in seven baserunners in 1.2 innings shaky. Blown saves are bad enough, but blown saves this early in a player’s closing career raise serious questions.
No one asked me, but I think Robertson is very capable of closing not just in the big leagues, but for a big-time contender like the Yankees. The stuff is obviously there and based on the last three years, the competitiveness appears to be there as well. That said, I think David’s getting a little too caught up in the moment and is trying to be too fine right now. He’s trying to be Mariano rather than just being himself, so to speak. As Boone Logan said after the game, Robertson might be “overthinking a little bit instead of just letting it go.”
Bad things usually happen whenever an athlete thinks, and I think Robertson’s just trying to be perfect rather than himself. He’s not Cory Wade (no offense, Cory), he doesn’t need to paint the black and fool hitters to be successful. That 31.8% career strikeout rate isn’t an accident; Robertson can make mistakes over the plate and get away with them because his fastball is lively and his curveball cracks like a whip. Yeah, there is less margin for error in the ninth inning, but one of the absolute biggest mistakes Robertson can make is getting away from what got him in the closer job in the first place.
Tonight sucked, but if there is one thing Mo has shown me it’s how important it is to turn the page.
— David Robertson (@DRob30) May 10, 2012
For what it’s worth, David stood at his locker and answered every question following last night’s game. It doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things but accountability is always appreciated, especially when the alternative is ducking reporters and making it appear as though he doesn’t care. I don’t think not caring has ever been an issue here.
“Just a sad way to end the game,” said Robertson last night. “It’s going to happen. You’re going to lose games. It’s the worst feeling in the world. Mo does it, he comes back the next day and he’s the same guy. He goes right back out there and does his thing. I’m going to have to do that tomorrow.”
Of course, Robertson almost certainly will not get a chance to redeem himself today. He’s pitched in very stressful situations in each of the last two days and Joe Girardi doesn’t like to run his relievers out there three days in a row, especially this early in the season. I do think it’s important for Robertson to get back out there relatively soon though, even in a non-save situation just so he doesn’t dwell on last night’s disaster. Turning the page is a lot easier to do when you’re not sitting around waiting for your next appearance. Blowing saves is part of life, so Robertson just needs to work through this and be ready to go next time he’s called upon.
I can’t believe this post actually exists, at least at this point in time, but it does. The Yankees lost Mariano Rivera for the season last night, when he tore his ACL shagging fly balls for the umpteenth time in his career. It’s a brutal and devastating injury both on and off the field, but baseball is an unforgiving game. The other 29 teams aren’t going to feel bad for the Yankees and guess what? They still have to play tonight, tomorrow, and the next day. That’s baseball.
There is no replacing Rivera. No one can match his brutal effectiveness or that security blanket feeling, but the Yankees will have to run someone out there in the ninth inning. Fortunately, they have two ready-made replacement closers already on the roster and won’t have to go outside the organization for bullpen help (at least not yet). David Robertson has established himself as one of, if not the best setup reliever in the game over the last year while Rafael Soriano was brought aboard because of his All-Star season as the Rays’ closer in 2010.
Following last night’s game, Joe Girardi said he has yet to decide on a permanent replacement for Rivera but would have used Robertson in a save situation had one arose. While Roberson deserves the job on merit, there are valid reasons to let Soriano assume closing duties. For one, the toughest outs aren’t always recorded in the ninth inning. In fact, they often aren’t. There’s a case to be made that Robertson’s dominance would be best used squashing potential rallies in the seventh and eighth innings while Soriano gets the clean slate to start the ninth inning. There are arguments to made for each side of the coin.
Whoever takes over for Rivera is going to have the toughest job in baseball. The scrutiny will be intense and the standards will be impossible to meet given what we’ve enjoyed for the last 17 years. Someone has to do it however, and although the Yankees have been struggling of late, the team is certainly strong enough to have World Series aspirations. Having a strong closer to shut things down in the ninth is part of that championship formula.
Five questions and four answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, especially mailbag questions.
John asks: Hey guys, I wanted to ask if you are worried about CC Sabathia? I watched his start [on Wednesday] and am worried about his fastball (his change and slider looked fab), his velocity is down to 90 – 91. It seemed to me that he was throwing a cut fastball – is this something he is trying to do or a flaw?
I wouldn’t worry about the velocity, Sabathia always starts the year a little slow before cranking it up once it gets a little warmer out. Here are the PitchFX start-by-start plots. Plus, I suspect he was taking a little something off the other night in an attempt to improve his command, which has been awful. I didn’t see much of a cut fastball, though Sabathia has been saying he throws one for a few years now. The manually classified PitchFX data disagrees, but if the guy says he throws it, he probably throws it.
Like you said, the changeup and especially the slider have been sharp so far, CC just can’t seem to get his heat under control. I do wonder if it’s a weight thing, because he had the same issue early last season before everything clicked during that ridiculous mid-summer run. Perhaps losing 30-something points during the winter is the best thing for him physically but a bad thing for his command. Maybe it speeds up his delivery just enough to throw him off. Who knows, just a cracked theory. I wouldn’t worry about Sabathia until we get a few weeks into the season and we start seeing more upper-80s than low-90s.
Suchin asks: Could you add Brandon Phillips to the Kinsler:Cano graph? With both those deals manageable for Cano, would be instructive, so long as the Yankees don’t overpay.
Here you go…
You can also see the data plotted cumulatively and by season.
I don’t love WAR — FanGraphs or otherwise — because I don’t have enough faith in the defensive component, but it is useful for comparing players like this. Cano is the best of the three, both in terms of overall production and medical history. That last part is very important, because these guys won’t give you anything if they’re on the DL. Stuff like RBI totals and finishes in the MVP voting will factor into Cano’s next contract as well, and he blows Kinsler and Phillips away in both categories.
As I’ve said before, I fully expect the Yankees to re-sign Cano to something outrageous after next season. I just hope the Kinsler (five years, $75M) and Phillips (six years, $77.5M) extensions have established the market and help keep it in the six-year, $100M range.
Brian asks: Are there any prospective 2B that the Yankees could target if they decide to let Robinson Cano walk because of money, contract length, and doubts about decline years? Similar to how they gave up a young prospect (Jesus Montero) from a position with depth for a young prospect (Michael Pineda) from a position of need. Obviously, not necessarily of that magnitude.
Legit second base prospects are very rare only because most big league second basemen are failed shortstops. Off the top of my head, the only big leaguers that came up through the minors as second basemen are Dan Uggla, Orlando Hudson, and Howie Kendrick. That would be the place to start, looking at shortstops who could slide over.
There’s actually a shortage of quality middle infield prospects in baseball around the moment, especially beyond the big two of Manny Machado and Jurickson Profar. Someone like Nick Franklin of the Mariners could fit the bill with Dustin Ackley ahead of him, though his ability to remain at the middle of the diamond is in question. Jean Segura of the Angels is another possibility, but they might need him with Erick Aybar due to become a free agent soon.
Remember, the Montero-Pineda trade was a big time anomaly. You just don’t see trades like that — a true baseball trade filling needs involving young players going each way — made every day, so I wouldn’t expect anything like that again should the Yankees let Cano walk and need a replace second baseman. Even on a smaller scale, prospect for prospect trades are rare because everyone loves their kids more than everyone else.
Paul asks: What’s the deal with Robertson’s pitch selection? Is PitchFX classifying differently or is he making his best case for ‘heir to Mariano’ by throwing exclusively cutters?
Tucker asks: Here’s a question for all Yankee fans: would you be comfortable with David Robertson as the closer next year?
Might as well lump these two together. Yes, Robertson has been throwing a cutter since the start of last season. He threw it about a quarter of the time last year but nearly 80% of the time this year so far, though that’s probably just a sample size thing. We’ll see more curveballs in due time, remember he’s a little behind other pitchers because he missed three weeks in Spring Training with that foot injury. Robertson definitely throws a cutter though, and it’s a really good pitch for him.
As for being comfortable with him as the next closer … sure. Don’t get me wrong, he makes things very interesting, but he’s better than the vast majority of the relievers out there. Trust me, it’s going to be a total shock to the system when Mo is gone, we’ll all have a newfound appreciation for just how easy he makes it look. I do think you’d rather be the guy who replaces the guy who replaces Rivera though; whoever takes over as closer will be asked to live up to impossible standards. Let Rafael Soriano do that so Robertson could have the clean slate the next year. Anyway, this is begging for a poll…
In 24 hours, the Yankees will take the field for the first time in the 2012 season. It’s a moment we’ve been waiting for since that painful evening last October when the Yanks dropped Game 5 of the ALDS to the Tigers. Finally, we can put the off-season fully behind us. We can forget about who did what in spring training. Everyone gets a fresh slate.
On paper the Yankees have one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the league. But as we see every year, from every team, teams face difficulties and obstacles throughout the season. Some players don’t perform to expectations. Others exceed them. What is the best team on paper can turn into the third or fourth best in the standings.
While there are no sure things in baseball, the Yankees have a few players that are as close as it gets. CC Sabathia will be a highly effective workhorse. Robinson Cano will put his sweet swing on display and hit for average and power. Mariano Rivera will continue being the greatest of all time. Sure, things might go wrong there, but there’s enough history that we needn’t worry about them from the start.
There are, however, a few things that the Yankees need to break in their favor if they’re going to overcome a powerhouse AL East — and a loaded American League in general.
Offense: Keeping Alex Rodriguez healthy
True, the Yankees scored the second most runs in the AL last year while essentially missing Rodriguez for half the season. But it’s not as simple as that. The Yankees did get a half season of quality, if not elite, production from Rodriguez. It’s easy to see, especially when examining him against his replacements, that the Yankees would have scored many, many more runs had he remained in the lineup.
Part of the reason the Yankees scored so many runs last year was Curtis Granderson‘s behemoth production. Chances are he won’t reach those heights again this season. That’s not to say he’ll be bad. But we’ve so often seen players surge for a career year and then revert to their career averages the next year. Adding Rodriguez’s offense throughout the season can help balance out Granderson’s regression.
If that’s not enough, remember that an injured Rodriguez means a Nunez and Chavez platoon at third base. While there are worse replacement units, they’ll hit nowhere near Rodriguez’s capabilities. The Yankees need him to stay healthy this year, perhaps more so than in the past few seasons.
Rotation: Hiroki Kuroda‘s transition to the AL East
Heading into camp, the Yankees claimed that just two starters had set-in-stone jobs: Sabathia and Kuroda. Both made sense. Sabathia has been the Yankees’ ace for the last three seasons, and Kuroda signed as a solid No. 2 or No. 3 option. Yet despite Kuroda’s job security, he faces heavy questions in his transition from the NL West and its specious parks to the AL East and its world-class offenses.
The good news is that Kuroda has peripherals that suggest he can make the switch. Maybe he strikes out fewer hitters without having the pitcher in the ninth spot — he did strike out 29 of 80 9th-spot hitters he faced (though he also struck out 24 of 97 3rd-spot hitters, so there is that). Maybe he walks a few more batters, but he’s been so far below the league average that he has room to maneuver. And maybe he allows a few more homers.
The question is if this turns him into a league-average pitcher, or if he can still produce better than most AL pitchers despite the handicaps. If he continues inducing ground balls at a high rate, maybe he can continue outperforming his peripherals. But it’s not a guarantee at this point. All eyes will be on Kuroda to start the season.
Bullpen: David Robertson‘s dominance
Only two relievers in all of baseball struck out hitters at a better clip than Robertson last year. Despite his high walk rate, he boasted the fourth-lowest FIP among all relievers. That bodes well for his 2012 campaign. Yet at the same time, he managed to get through the entire season allowing just one home run. He also boasted the second-highest strand rate of any reliever. Those things, as we’ve seen from countless other pitchers, aren’t necessarily sustainable.
Every pitcher has his own tendencies, though, so perhaps Robertson has discovered something that he exploits in hitters and keeps his home run rate low. Maybe he does have an extra gear that he can use to get that one important batter in that one important spot, leaving runners stranded. That is to say, 2012 will tell us a lot about Robertson as a pitcher. Was he a good reliever who had a fluke 2011? Or is he really just about this good?
* * *
Every team has questions heading into every season. Really, everyone on the roster is a question mark. Players get hurt all the time, even players with clean injury histories. Every year we see good players perform below expectations. Yet there are specific things that the Yankees need to go right this year if they’re going to claim the AL East crown again. While Cano, Sabathia, and Rivera are plenty important, it’s the question marks surrounding Rodriguez, Kuroda, and Robertson that could make or break the season. Thankfully, we’ll start getting our answers in under 24 hours.
The Yankees seem to be losing the Spring Training injury war at the moment, but thankfully they haven’t run into anything too serious yet. Here’s the latest news on the walking wounded…
- Derek Jeter has a “tender” right calf and will be shut down until Tuesday. This is not the same calf that caused him to miss a month last season. [Mark Feinsand]
- David Robertson still feels “a little” soreness in his bone bruised right foot. He’s been running on a treadmill but has yet to get outside and really test it out. Robertson did play catch yesterday though, and that’s good news. [Jack Curry & George King]
- Russell Martin has some tightness in his left groin, so he’s going to be held out of action for a few days. It’s unclear if it happened when he nearly collided with Chien-Ming Wang at first base yesterday. [Bryan Hoch]
- Nick Swisher‘s sore groin is feeling better, but the team is giving him an extra day off just as a precaution. [Feinsand]
- Eduardo Nunez is going to swing a bat tomorrow after doing nothing the last three days. He hasn’t played since getting hit by a pitch in the right hand last Monday, and was scratched from a game earlier this week after testing it out in batting practice. [Curry]
- Russell Branyan is getting an epidural for his sore back. He hasn’t played at all this spring and was barely able to take batting practice before it flared up. There’s a pretty good chance he’ll get released before he ever gets into a game. [Chad Jennings]
- Manny Delcarmen (remember him?) has started throwing off a half mound as he works his way back from a lat strain. [Jennings]
Just as a quick recap, here’s a list of the walking wounded: Jeter (calf), Robertson (foot), Martin (groin), Swisher (groin), Nunez (hand), Branyan (back), Delcarmen (lat), Joba Chamberlain (elbow), George Kontos (oblique), Ramiro Pena (ankle), Freddy Garcia (hand), Austin Romine (back), and Dan Burawa (oblique). Given all the injured shortstops, we’re going to be seeing a lot of Doug Bernier over the next few days.
A pitcher can do nothing better than record strike three. Strikeouts take the defense right out of the equation, meaning hits, errors, weird bounces, and everything else is impossible. It’s not an accident that pitchers with high strikeout rates traditionally have lower ERAs since keeping the ball out of play means nothing bad can happen.
The Yankees had the American League’s best strikeout staff in 2011, leading the circuit with 7.54 K/9 and 19.7 K%. At 8.46 K/9 and 22.2 K%, the bullpen missed more bats than any other unit in the league, which is a great way to protect leads in the late innings. At least part of that high strikeout rate had to do with the arrival of pitching coaching Larry Rothschild, who has a history of improving strikeout rates. The Yankees figure to again have a dominant strikeout staff in 2012, one that could be even better than last year given a new arrival and good health.
After posting a mid-7.0 K/9 in each of his first two years in pinstripes, Sabathia had the second best strikeout season of his career in 2011. His 8.72 K/9 and 23.4 K% were the sixth and fifth best marks in the AL, respectively. During one stretch from late-June to late-July, CC struck out 72 batters in 54.2 IP across seven starts, good for an 11.85 K/9 and 35.5 K%. He tied his career-high by striking out 13 Brewers on June 30th, and just about a month later he set a new career-best by fanning 14 Mariners.
The strikeout boost appears to have come from an increased usage of his slider, as Sabathia broke out his top offspeed offering 26.6% of time in 2011 after using it no more than 18.5% from 2008-2010. Batters did not make contact on 40.9% of the swings they took against the pitch (54.6% vs. LHB), which is just ridiculous. His changeup drew a swing and miss 33.2% of the time as well. That’s just silly, the guy’s offspeed stuff was just unhittable last year. With any luck, that’s something Rothschild has instilled in Sabathia and it’ll carry over into this year.
Few pitchers were better at getting strike three last season than Pineda. The young right-hander struck out 9.11 batters per nine with a 24.9 K%, the seventh and sixth best rates in all of baseball. Right-handed batters had a three-in-ten chance of being struck out by Pineda, which isn’t terribly surprising given his lethal fastball-slider combo. Even his 20.7 K% against left-handers is pretty strong, impressive for a guy that doesn’t really have a changeup. Batters missed 39.3% of the time they swung at his slidepiece.
Pineda is working on that changeup now, but maintaining a strikeout-per-inning rate is a very tough to do regardless of ballpark or division. His strikeout rate might take a step back in 2012 just because it’s hard to ring up that many guys each time out, but Pineda has more than enough stuff to miss bats regularly. An 8.0 K/9 and 22.0 K% going forward is more than doable. If he improves that changeup to the point where it’s a usable third pitch, the sky is the limit for team’s new hurler.
This might be a bit surprising, but Logan has missed a ton of bats during his two years as a Yankee. Last year he posted a 9.94 K/9 and 24.9 K%, the former of which was a top ten mark among AL relievers (min. 40 IP). His strikeout rates against left-handed batters — 11.20 K/9 and 28.8 K% — were among the very best by southpaw relievers. Over the last two years, Logan owns a 9.26 K/9 and 23.7 K%. Boone can be maddening at times, but he uses his fastball-slider stuff to regularly prevent hitters from putting the ball in play. There’s not much more you can ask from your lefty specialist.
The world’s most expensive setup man battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness during his inaugural season in New York, but at least Soriano missed bats regularly. His 8.24 K/9 and 22.0 K% were essentially identical to his strikeout rates with the Rays in 2011 (8.23 K/9 and 24.1 K%) thanks to his fastball-cutter-slider repertoire. Right-handed batters swing and missed with 30.5% and 34.5% of the swings they took against his four-seamer and slider, respectively. That’ll work. With career marks of 9.49 K/9 and 26.4 K%, there is absolutely no reason to think a healthy Soriano will do anything but generate whiffs in the late innings this summer.
The king of the strikeout heavy staff, Robertson’s dominant 2011 season was built on his career-best strikeout rates: 13.50 K/9 and 36.8 K%. Both rates were top five among all big league relievers and the second best among AL relievers behind only Al Alburquerque (min 40 IP). Batters came up empty on 35.0% of the swings they took against his curveball, which is just ridiculous.
Robertson’s strikeout ways are nothing new. He’s never whiffed fewer than 10.40 batters per nine or 26.0% of the batters he’s faced in a single big league season, and he doesn’t discriminate either. Robertson’s strikeout rates against right-handers (11.19 K/9 and 28.9 K%) and left-handers (12.98 K/9 and 33.7 K%) are both through the roof. He’s already had a minor injury scare this spring, but assuming Robertson comes out of this bone bruise fine, he’ll again be counted on to lead the setup staff in 2012. The strikeouts will come pouring in.
The greatest reliever of all-time saw his strikeout rate take a huge dip in 2010 (just 6.75 K/9 and 19.6 K%), but Rivera rebounded in a big way last season: 8.80 K/9 and 25.8 K%. Mo’s strikeout rate has actually improved with age, and his K/BB ratio has been quite literally off the charts for years now…
Rivera’s famed cutter has generated a swing and miss just 20.8% of the time during the PitchFX era (19.8% in 2011), which is relatively low compared to the primary pitch of most high strikeout relievers. Of course Mo has historically great command and generates an ungodly amount of called strikes; ~20% of the pitches he’s thrown during the PitchFX era have been called strikes, well above the ~16% league average. A little less than 11% of all the plate appearances against Rivera have ended with a called strike three during that time, again well above the league average (~4.5%). Strikeouts are great, but they’re even better when the hitter doesn’t bother to take the bat off his shoulders.
- Eduardo Nunez will take three full days off as he tries to come back from a right hand contusion courtesy of a hit-by-pitch last Monday. He was originally supposed to start at shortstop last night, but he felt some pain in the hand during batting practice and was scratched as a precaution. The longer he’s out, the more important Bill Hall and Jayson Nix become.
- David Robertson spend some time on a elliptical machine yesterday and could run on a treadmill today. He hasn’t felt any pain in his right foot since shedding his walking boot on Monday. If all goes well these next few days, Robertson could be back on a mound as soon as this weekend after missing a few days with a bone bruise.
- George Kontos came through yesterday’s live batting practice session a-okay. It was his first time facing hitters since tweaking his oblique earlier in camp. He’ll officially re-enter the competition for the final bullpen spot when he makes his exhibition game debut on Friday.
- Dan Burawa‘s torn oblique is going to shelve him for quite some time, as you probably expect. “It could be a while,” said Girardi last night. “I’m not sure … I haven’t gotten a timetable.” Burawa wasn’t a candidate for that last bullpen spot, but he was slated for Double-A Trenton and this injury sounds like it’s going to extend into the regular season.
Jack Curry reports that David Robertson has been diagnosed with a bone bruise in his injured left foot. This is a hugh sigh of relief for the Yankees. Robertson will remain in his walking boot until Monday, and then will work his way back. Additionally Joe Girardi believe Robertson could be ready for the season opener.
Update by Mike (4:09pm): Via Barbarisi & Boland, Girardi said Robertson’s MRI showed “cause for concern.” He’s being sent for more tests — including a CT scan and a weight-bearing MRI — and the skipper is worried. Whatever it is, the Yankees have to make sure it’s completely healed before he’s back on a mound. It’s his push-off foot, and they don’t want Robertson changing his mechanics or doing anything else that can result in an arm injury.
Update by Mike (12:12pm): Via Jack Curry, Robertson’s MRI results have been sent to Dr. Ahmad in New York and they should know the diagnosis soon enough. Joe Girardi said his ace setup man could miss up to two weeks before Opening Day becomes a question mark, though he was just speculating. “Just clumsy,” said Robertson to Dan Barbarisi and Erik Boland. “Mo already wore me out about it … I don’t feel it’s something that will set me back for a long time.”
9:30am: We got a bit of a surprise this morning when Bryan Hoch reported that David Robertson fell down stairs last night and hurt his right foot. He showed up this morning in a walking boot, and has been sent for an MRI. The x-rays, thankfully, are negative; the Yankees are currently calling this a right midfoot sprain. They’ll know a bit more once the MRI results come back this afternoon.