Lefty, righty, it doesn’t matter for Dave Robertson
Do the Yankees need another left-hander in their bullpen? With Damaso Marte on board, they already have one southpaw to turn to for situational matchups, however, Joe Girardi is known to favor having two left-handers at his disposal throughout the regular season, making the question a legitimate one. With that said, though, perhaps the Yankees already have another weapon at their employ for left-handed hitters in the form of righty, David Robertson.
Last season, against lefties, Robertson was outstanding, posting a 2.74 FIP over 19 2/3 innings, while striking out 30. His peripherals, a K/9 of 13.73 and BB/9 of 4.12, were actually better against left-handed opponents than they were against right-handers. And, though a 19 2/3 inning sample is problematic, size-wise, there is reason to believe that Robertson’s dazzling numbers against lefties are legitimate. In his minor-league career, over 57 2/3 innings, K-Rob owns a 2.13 FIP against opposite-handed batters, maintaing a healthy K/9 of 11.71 and a BB/9 of 3.43 (not a great walk rate, but the mark is still a bit better than his 3.65 BB/9 against righties). Most importantly, Robertson’s ground ball percentage when facing lefties is 66.9%. He keeps the ball out of the air, and that is always a good thing.
Based on the numbers available, I think it is fair to say that Robertson is an effective arm against left-handed hitters. Though his strikeout numbers dip slightly when facing them (the rate is still very good), his walk rate goes down and his ground ball rate goes up. These items, when viewed together, seem to portend success at the Major League level. Joe Girardi seems to know this as well, telling reporters, just recently, that he is comfortable using K-Rob against lefties this season. “We had one [lefty] all year last year, for the most part,” he noted. “David Robertson has had success against left-handers… There are different guys you can use in that role if you don’t have a second lefty.”
When asked about his ability to take on left-handers, Robertson attributes his effectiveness to pitching inside when he needs to. “I don’t know if it’s because I throw a lot of fastballs down and away to right-handers and it’s just easier for me to come in on lefties,” he notes. “It shouldn’t be any different. The plate’s still the same and the catcher’s there, but it is, I guess.” Robertson’s curveball should also receive some praise. To left-handers last season, he threw the looper 20.7% of the time, and, with its movement and his deceptive delivery, the pitch posted a 15.9% whiff rate.
This year, the Yankees will likely begin the regular season without a second left-hander in the bullpen. In the past, that might have been an issue for Joe Girardi, as he seems to like having at least two lefty options. But, with a reliever like Dave Robertson on the team, one who is good against lefties and righties, it’s not really a problem. I’m glad he’s around, too. Now we don’t have to waste a bullpen slot on an inferior player just because he’s left-handed.
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