Friday, October 23, 2009

Where* art thou Robertson?

In his book Birth of a Dynasty, Joel Sherman opens with the 1995 postseason.

He makes mention that Buck Showalter had a young Mariano Rivera in the bullpen--ostensibly along for the ride--but did not use him correctly, to close out, in that fatal game five when it would have mattered most.

I won't bore you with the details of that game, we remember well enough what happened.

Now think about this:

As I have stated previously, the best reliever not named Mariano Rivera on the Yankee staff right now is David Robertson.

More than once this postseason, Robertson, who debuted last season, has been single-handedly responsible for keeping the Yankees' game hopes alive.

It's easiest for me to remember his game 2 ALDS performance since I saw it in person, and to be honest, the performance was nearly Mariano-like.

This really shouldn't surprise any of us.

Robertson's strikeout per nine this season is twelve. That's an astounding rate--Mariano, in his historical campaign last season was at nearly thirteen (for contrast, this year he's at a pedestrian six).

Yet, despite Roberson's success, Girardi seems, at times, to be reluctant to use him.

Sure, Robertson had a masterful performance in the ALDS, but at the time the only pitchers Girardi had to use were Robertson and Gaudin--so the choice was more or less made for him.

As far as Game 3 is concerned, most, if not all of us agree that Girardi should have left Robertson in to pitch to Kendrick in the 11th inning, and I needn't go into Girardi's explanation for removing the young right hander.

So, what gives? Why does Girardi seem so reluctant to use the one non-Mariano pitcher that has consitently come up big this postseason?

I can think of two possible explanations, neither one of which I particularly enjoy:

1) Girardi is attempting to mask some sort of injury. This sounds far fetched--and it's nothing more than a hunch on my part--but given Robertson's Andrews visit in September, I can't brush it off entirely.

2) Like Showalter and Rivera, Girardi doesn't know what he has in Robertson. While on the surface this seems to be the much more plausible explanation of the two, it actually makes less sense to me.

Robertson has been up with the Yankees for the majority of the season, and has progressed from low leverage situations to playoff situations where one bad pitch ends the game--and you don't get much more high leverage like that.

There is an argument to be made for experience, but the only other reliever with any significant postseason experience is Mariano himself.

I can understand not using Robertson in favor of the lefties when the situation warrants (although you can debate which lefty should be used), but I'm not so sure, at this point, that Chamberlain or Aceves should be used ahead of our very own D-Rob.

Bullpens are notoriously fickle things--at the start of 2009, let's not forget, it was Mariano Rivera and the Arson Squad of Doom.

That said, that's all the more reason that when one reliever is proving himself to be a hot hand, he should be the manager's first choice, not his last.

The Yankees have a bullpen advantage over Anaheim; Girardi has to make it work.

*wherefore, the common Shakespearean term, means not where, but why. Thus, 'wherefore' is not the appropriate title for the blog post. Head explode yet?