Good morning Fackers. Entering play yesterday, the Yankees pitching was second in the AL at 3.56 R/G and third in ERA at 3.45. All that despite the well-documented problems with Javy Vazquez as well as some spotty relief work, particularly from David Robertson. In fact, as my friend and frequent commenter Gripp pointed out to me, Vazquez and DRob have combined to allow 38.9% of the Yankees earned runs while pitching just 12.5% of the innings.
There are any number of theories about Vazquez' troubles. Aside from speculation about his head and his guts, he's having noticeable mechanical issues. The numbers also suggest Vazquez has been a bit unlucky. Both his FIP (7.94) and xFIP (5.56) are ugly, but not nearly as ugly as his 9.78 ERA.
But Javy's bad luck has nothing on David Robertson. The New York Times' Bats Blog touched on it last week, and it's only gotten worse since then. Robertson has been knocked around in each of his last three appearances, allowing eight baserunners, two home runs, and six runs over just 1.2 IP. Opponents are hitting .545/.615/1.182 against him over that stretch. But it's not as bad as recent events would suggest.
On the season, Robertson sports a comical 14.21 ERA and 2.37 WHIP. His FIP is a still ugly 8.13, but his xFIP is a respectable 3.91. His peripherals are good. He's striking out 11.37 per 9, just a tick off from the 12.04 mark he posted through his first two seasons. He's walking 2.84 per 9, a major improvement on the 4.62 rate he had entering the year. His LD% is a career low 13.0%. So why have things gone so bad for DRob?
First, his HR/FB rate is currently at an unbelievable 33.3%, as three of the nine flyballs he's allowed have gone over the fence. When he's kept the ball in the yard he hasn't had much better luck, as his BABIP sits at a lofty .504. His strand rate is an absurdly low 50.9%. A third of his flyballs are leaving the park. Half of his balls in play are turning into hits. Half of the runners he allows to reach base come around to score. That's a recipe for disaster, and a disaster it has been. It's also a recipe for a big time regression to the mean, and with any luck that'll be coming very soon.
Compounding the problems for Robertson has been his sparing and sporadic use. Of his nine appearances this year, seven have lasted less than an inning, including his last four in a row. Three of them have been six pitches or fewer. Four of his appearances have come on three days rest. One came on a full week's rest. He hasn't been pitching often, and when he has, he hasn't stuck around for long. He's thrown just 2.1 innings in the last three weeks. Part of that is a function of his own ineffectiveness thus far, but much of it is due to the strong performance of the Yankee starters coupled with Joe Girardi's hair trigger tendencies with his middle relievers.
The good news is that Robertson's poor numbers have accumulated over just 6.1 IP. It's an extremely small sample size. His HR/FB rate, BABIP, and strand rate are beyond unsustainable. As they correct themselves and as Robertson accumulates more IP, the results will straighten themselves out. Further, his K rate remains amongst the best in baseball and he's made improvements in his walk rate and LD%. Of course these metrics are also subject to small sample size caveats, but whereas the bad numbers are so bad that they can't possibly last over time, the good numbers aren't so good as to be unbelievable.
Depending upon what the Yankees choose to do with the Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte injuries, the team could find themselves in need of a roster spot in the coming days. Robertson is one of the few players who both has options and isn't too indispensable to consider sending down. That, combined with Robertson's poor performance thus far, could land Robertson on a bus to Scranton. While he would certainly benefit from regular use and perhaps from the confidence that would come with getting back on track, I don't think there's anything wrong with David Robertson that can't be worked out on the Major League level. I wish Joe Girardi would stop using him as a sporadic ROOGY; his results are overdue for a nice turnaround.