The Departure of D-Rob: How will the Yankees fill the void?

The Yankees’ recent decision to not re-sign David Robertson, aka D-Rob, aka Houdini, provoked a cross-section of reactions from both my Yankee fan friends, as well as members of Yankees Twitter. He should have stayed, it was right for him to go, D-Rob sucked, D-Rob is the best, and boo Brian Cashman were just a few of the opinions held by fans.

Photo credit: New York Times

But the facts of the matter are as follows: whether you were for or against the departure of D-Rob, he was an important part of the Yankees’ squad -- and from both a statistical and a clubhouse standpoint, he will leave behind multiple voids on the 2019 Yankees, including:

The knowledge of a clubhouse and team veteran
While D-Rob hasn’t spent the entirety of his MLB career in Pinstripes, his experience from across the league is respectable enough that he was chosen to fill the role of the Yankees’ Players’ Rep. According to the New York Post, D-Rob’s decision to not vote for members of the Yankees’ support staff in the postseason shares was a poor one, and excluded the “little guys” from not just the financial shares, but also from the postseason glory that they should be included in as part of the team. While that may be an opinion that I agree with, I also know I wouldn’t want to be in the position of Players’ Rep. If it wasn’t the postseason shares decision that the media didn’t like, it would be another decision. Regardless of the decisions made in this particular matter, D-Rob was elected as his team’s Players’ Rep -- and provided that such an election doesn’t mirror high school popularity contest elections, he was elected because he was respected by his teammates.

How the Yankees can fill this void: Seeing as the players elect their rep, it will be up to the rest of the Yankees to fill this void. Longevity doesn’t necessarily equal respect or votes; however, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me that D-Rob has played 11 seasons in MLB, nine of them with the Yanks. The 2019 Yankees, while filled with “Baby Bombers,” also bring back a few veterans who could fill a similar role with as much or more experience than D-Rob. Brett Gardner boasts 11 MLB seasons, all with the Yanks. Aroldis Chapman has logged nine MLB seasons so far -- and while only three of those nine seasons were spent in Pinstripes, he has become an essential member of the squad, and is a relief pitcher as D-Rob is.

Clutch innings, especially playoff innings
It’s no secret that D-Rob was often called upon in his middle relief role during the postseason, in particular. In the storied 2017 A.L. Wild Card game, Joe Girardi was forced to manage a bullpen game after the necessary departure of Luis Severino following just a third of an IP. D-Rob entered the game following Chad Green -- who essentially stopped the bleeding and kept the Minnesota Twins’ runs total to three  -- and delivered a strikeout immediately into his third inning arrival. He continued his work for the fourth and fifth innings, and was even (as though a starter) brought back out for the sixth. While he exited in the sixth after allowing a single and a two-out walk, his performance was above and beyond the normal call of duty for a middle reliever, even in an elimination playoff game.

How the Yankees can fill this void: The Yankees made the correct move in signing Zach Britton. While Britton had a shaky start in Pinstripes, his stats from seasons prior to 2018 indicate that he’ll bounce back. With Chapman firmly entrenched as the Yankees' closer,  Britton can potentially find more work in a middle relief role. If Britton isn’t available, Dellin Betances can get the job done as a setup man. Also, let’s not forget the continued (and hopeful) evolution of Jonathan Holder, and the possibility that Tommy Kahnle could return to his Bronx-form. After spending much of 2018 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Kanhle can hopefully find some much-needed reinforcement work in the offseason to reclaim his 2017 success.

With the exception of his rookie year in 2008, D-Rob threw up numbers of games played in the same neighborhood, year after year (70, 63, 60, 62, 61 and 69 from 2013 – 2018). He gives up a small number of home runs (no more than seven over one season). His ERA usually hovers in the 3.00 range, and he puts up strikeout numbers very often in the nineties. Not only are his numbers impressive, but his record, year after year, allows fans, teammates and coaches to know what to expect from D-Rob. Even if his numbers aren’t the flashiest, consistency can win a game over flash.

How the Yankees can fill this void: The good news here is that the Yankees bullpen is filled with a number of other consistent pitchers. Green had some work to do after his rookie year, but has improved tremendously over the past two seasons. He appeared in 12 games in 2016, 40 games in 2017 and 63 games in 2018 -- a clear indicator of growing manager confidence. He struck out 103 in 2017 and 94 in 2018, keeping his numbers in that category consistent. And while Betances didn’t start out consistent in 2018, he found his metaphorical stride later in the season. His ERA went from 3.08 in 2016, to 2.87 in 2017 to 2.70 in 2018 -- another sign of great improvement. And his strikeout totals have clocked in in the triple digits, consecutively since 2014.

Because I’m a firm believer in the school of thought that consistent (and dominating) pitching -- both from the starting rotation as well as the bullpen -- wins games over offense, I would have liked to see the Yankees keep D-Rob. However, in analyzing who is still a part of the squad, I’ve realized the loss is not as great as I first thought, the day that D-Rob’s departure was announced. D-Rob brought a great deal to the team… but he’s far from the only Yankee who has brought it every night.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson 


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