A big topic heading into the off-season was where the Yankees would go to "replace" Mariano Rivera as the team's closer. There was talk that New York could sign a "proven closer" like Grant Balfour or Joaquin Benoit, but after those two, along with the other closers on the free agent market, signed with other teams, it became apparent that the Yankees would go with their homegrown product in David Robertson.
Over the years, David Robertson has become a fan favorite, partly for his ability to pull the "Houdini act" by escaping out of jams, most of which were created on his own. Because he was involved in so many of those high-stressed jams to begin with, there were skeptics who came out and proclaimed he would have trouble being the team's closer once Rivera called it quits. A look at the data, however, shows that Robertson has been more efficient in recent years, so much so that he should flourish as the team's closer this season if he can keep it up.
|'08-pre '12 ASB||226.2||972||3923||17.3||4||12.3||4.7||1.33|
|post '12 ASB-'13||102.1||405||1586||15.5||3.9||10.3||2.2||1.06|
Since the second half of 2012 through the entire 2013 season, Robertson has done a very nice job of cutting his walk rate down. Doing so has also seen his pitches-per-inning drop; although the approximately two pitches per inning decrease doesn't appear to be that significant of a drop, every little bit helps. Mike Eder of It's About The Money provided GIFs of Rivera and Robertson, which showed the latter trying to emulate the former's mechanics, something that has dated back to the second-half of 2012. Robertson has also introduced a cutter in recent years, and it has been his primary pitch since 2012, throwing it 51% of the time; it is also a pitch that he can use to pound the strike zone early in counts.
Also illustrated in the above graph is Robertson's decreased strikeout rate. While a 12+ K/9 is a little flashier than a 10 K/9, the latter figure is still quite impressive. Even with the decreased K-rate, Robertson still had the 25th-best strikeout rate among 150 qualified relievers last year. For me, I'll sacrifice a couple of strikeouts for a decreased walk-rate, which means fewer base runners, and ultimately easier, stress-free innings this season for Robertson.