We started living in a new world this year -- one where Mariano Rivera isn't the closer of the New York Yankees. For the first time in more than a decade, the Yankees were forced to name a new closer with Rivera heading into retirement after last season.
The man taking over was David Robertson, who many trusted after several excellent years as the setup man ahead of Mariano, while many doubted his ability to handle the 9th inning. There was talk over the offseason after Brian Cashman bringing in a free-agent closer, such as Fernando Rodney or Grant Balfour, to replace Rivera, but in the end, the job was given the most deserving candidate in Robertson.
We're half way through Robertson's first season as the closer, so I though it would be a good time asses how he's pitching.
Robertson recorded his 19th save of the season on Thursday night against the Minnesota Twins, striking out the side around just his 10th walk of the season. Rivera issued a quite a few walks early in his career, but never walked more than 12 batters in a season after 2005, including just nine free passes last season.
Robertson's three strikeouts last night put him at 51 in 28.2 innings this season. A lot of people have been focusing on Dellin Betances' incredibly high 14.33 strikeouts per nine innings rate this season, while the fact is that Robertson's is actually higher, at 16.01 strikeouts per nine innings. To be fair, though, Betances has pitched nearly 20 more innings than Robertson, so it wouldn't be surprising to see that number lower a little bit over the season.
Robertson's 19 saves this season are out of just 21 chances up to this point. Entering July 4 last season Rivera was 28-for-29 in save opportunities. Robertson obviously hasn't had as many chance to record a save, and that could probably be due to the two weeks he spent on the DL with a groin strain earlier in the season. During D-Rob's DL stint, Shawn Kelley was 4 of 5 in saves as the temporary closer.
So only two blown saves to this point, and none since June 1 against the Twins at Yankee Stadium. Many of the Robertson haters would have expected more by now.
Probably the biggest part of this season that he is having is the fact that he'll be a free-agent after the season. A pitcher with his abilities and experience, there will be a lot of teams out there that would love to have Robertson in their bullpen.
It's not often that the Yankees hand out contract extensions to players, which was what made the Brett Gardner extension during spring training such a surprise, given that he, too, was headed for free-agency after the season. The Yankees gave Gardner a new four-year, $54 million pact, and something very similar to that before the season would have been a great deal for the Yankees, but now that Robertson is very much succeeding as the closer, the price will go likely go up this winter.
Plenty of teams nowadays are having a tough time finding a closer that can stick in for several years in their bullpen, and the Yankees have a great one in Robertson following up the Hall of Famer Rivera.
We've been living in this new world for a few months now, and I have to say: I'm really liking it.