Delving into D-Rob

For whatever reason, I’ve been a big fan of David Robertson since he came up to the Majors in 2008. If I had to nail it down, it’s probably the strikeouts that have drawn me to Robertson. There’s nothing I like more than to see a Yankee pitcher rack up the whiffs, and that’s what he does (oh who am I kidding; I just love the high socks like the rest of you). I’m also higher on D-Rob than many are; I think he’s got the right two pitch combo to be a closer when the time comes. His relative lack of control may hurt those chances, but he does back up the walk numbers with wonderfully strong strikeout numbers; his lowest K/9 was last year’s 10.42 mark. As for the walks, they’re trending downwards this year.

After slight increases in BB/9 over his first few years, Robertson is bringing the walks down this year. I don’t think he’ll ever have Mariano-like control, but I do think he can continue this trend. In fact, so far this year, Robertson has thrown a career high 55.8% of his first pitches for a strike. This tells us that Robertson’s been a bit more aggressive on the first pitch and that could be helping fuel his hot start.

Along with the increased first strikes have come increased swing and contact rates. Batters are offering at more pitches from Robertson, 47.6% to be exact (compared to 39.6% for his career). They’re swinging at more out of the zone, too (31.3% 2011; 21.3% career) so Robertson is getting potential hitters to chase a lot more which is a good sign.

Despite that chasing, though, batters are making more contact, 82.4% 2011, 77.3% career. But once they make contact, things aren’t going so well. His BABIP against is .360, but his tRA is super low at 2.12, good for a tRA+ of 152. This graph also shows us something nice about Robertson’s development:

Robertson’s groundball rate is trending upwards while his fly ball rate (and HR/9 rate) is trending downwards. If Robertson is able to keep that trend up, he will ascend to elite reliever status. We always want pitchers to get groundballs and strike batters out. Robertson already had the latter nailed down, and it looks like he’s getting the hang of the former.

About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

6 thoughts on “Delving into D-Rob

  1. It took me a while to find a pick of him with high socks. But I found one. And I have to agree that high socks are awesome. I grew up watching baseball in the mid 70s when they were the rule, rather than the exception.

    Heck, when I played little league in those years, we got the high socks and short pants to wear during games.

    My only question is When did high socks fall out of style? I want them to be back in fashion.

    • Dean,

      Anecdotally it seems like a fair number of players have gotten back into high socks. Off the top of my head, the Yankees alone boast Robertson, A-Rod (who’s been doing it since 2007), Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Mariano also started wearing high socks this season.

      Don’t some of your guys wear high socks as well? We know Kinsler certainly does.

    • Dean,

      High socks went out when longer baggy pants came in with steroid users in the late 80’s, as chronicled by Canseco in his first book and confirmed by many others since. The broad shoulders, hulking traps and skinny legs of users were a dead giveaway and very symptomatic of steroid usage. As more of the bigger stars used, their trademark long baggy pants became an iconic fashion statement emulated by younger players. The return to high stockings is an acknowledged and conscious return to an old school anti-drug mentality.

  2. I’m right next to you in the D-Rob fan boat, Matt. I’ve always liked him since he first came up too. I think it was based on him being a relatively unknown commodity during the time of the Joba-Hughes-Kennedy hoopla and then going out there and getting good results.

    The fact that he’s become a legitimate lockdown-type reliever over the last couple years is awesome. He’s got 2 swing-and-miss type pitches and that can get you far in the world of relief pitching. If he can keep trending the right way like you said, maybe there’s a spot for him in the “Mo’s Successor” discussion.

  3. Matt I think a lot of the stats you are pointing out are due to small sample size, since this was written his walks per 9 have gone up from last year, and his GB% has regressed back to last years mark. He also has a sky high LOB% which is obviously playing a huge role in his ERA to this point.

    I like Robertson but I simply have never seen him as a future closer.

    At the end of the day a walker is a walker and giving the other team free base runners in the 9th inning is a terrible recipe for success. Robertson’s BB/9 this year is up to 5.06, even if he is K’ing the park you still have much less room for error walking guys at that clip. I root for Robertson, and I would love for him to prove me wrong and become an elite reliever but I just don’t see it happening.

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