David Robertson: An Unsung Yankee Hero

Opening Day 2010 is 35 (long) days away and I’m chomping at the bit to get this bad boy rolling. The boys from the Bronx are down in Tampa rejuvenating themselves for a run at their 28th World Championship, with Joe Giradi’s uniform stating that message loud and clear.

As these 35 days drag on, I keep reflecting on the magical 2009 season and World Championship. The Yankees didn’t just sneak into the playoffs and surprise everyone, they jumped in feet first and dominated.  A-Rod finally delivered what Yankee fans have been expecting since 2004. The Captain did what he always does, and that’s win. The most underrated hit of this entire postseason was Jeter’s bomb in game one of the ALDS versus the Twins. The Yankees got behind early in that game and the energy in the stadium was nowhere to be found, until Jeter pulled one deep over the left field wall and woke up the fans and his teammates.

The offense didn’t disappoint and neither did the rotation.  Girardi knew the Yankees best chance of winning was to go with a three man rotation and left the world championship in the hands of CC, AJ, and Andy.  He took some undue criticism from fans and media alike following AJ’s second World Series start. In my opinion, there were no three better pitchers to start those games than the aforementioned men.

Nearly every time Girardi made a call to the bullpen, the relief was delivered.  Mariano Rivera did exactly what New York fans have come to expect from him, Damaso Marte pulled a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act, not impressing anyone for months but becoming a whole different pitcher when it truly mattered, and David Robertson, the unsung hero of these games, took the ball and shut down the best of the best.

David Robertson  quietly put together a fine 2009 regular season:

2-1, 3.30 ERA,  1 Save,  45 Games, 43.2 Innings pitched, 36 Hits, 16 ER, 4 HR, 23 BB and held opposing batter to .216 average.

Not too shabby for a guy who was relatively unknown to the baseball world prior to last season, a fact proven by the opposing teams.  

Robertson dazzled in the playoffs and went about his job like a ten year veteran with fingers full of rings.   

2009 Post Season Stats:  

Division Series: 1-0, 0.00 ERA,  1.0 IP,  1 H, 1 Game

Game 2 –“The Houdini Act”

Robertson entered the game with the bases load, no outs, and left all three runners stranded. Mark Teixeria later won the game with a walk-off bomb.  Game 2 sunk the Twins and made Yankees fans believe that the magic of late 1990’s playoff  games was back in the Bronx.

“Sometimes, I still can’t believe I got out of that jam and won that game. When Mark hit that home run, the momentum just seemed to push us and shove us right through that round,”  Robertson said.

American League Championship Series: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 2 Games

World Series: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 Games

Game 5–2 shut out innings

In his first World Series appearance at Citizens Bank park, Robertson entered the game following a shaky performance from AJ Burnett who gave up six runs early. He inherited runners on first and third with nobody out, but got Pedro Felix to pop out to Teixeria, and later struck out Jimmy Rollins looking.  In the bottom of the fourth he saw ground outs from Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, and then sent Ryan Howard back to the dugout without a run.

Am I over-hyping Robertson’s performance?  If you think so, let’s re-examine the performances of the rest of the Yankees pen over the course of these playoff games.  

Phil Hughes pitched to a 8.53 in post season play due to the fact that opposing batters were hitting .379 off of him. Girardi gave Hughes the opportunity to straighten himself out, reaching for the bullpen phone nine times during the post season for him with no success.

Joba Chamberlain pitched well. In ten games he recorded a 2.84 ERA, while batters hit .333 against him.  The World Series had a shift in balance when Pedro Felix deposited a Joba fastball into the seats at the Bank.

Alfredo Aceves  success in the regular season didn’t follow him into the playoffs. In four games, Aceves was 0-1, with a 4.15 ERA,  and opposing batters hitting  .313. Regardless, he was the Yankees workhorse all year going 10-1 out of the pen.

Mariano Rivera: 0.56 ERA,  12 Games, 5 Saves,  16 IP,  .175. Do I really need to make a case for Mo?  He is the foundation of all of the Yankees success since 1996. Once he retires, the closer position on the Yankees, and frankly all of baseball, will never be the same.  It scares me to think of a day when I won’t hear the first few notes of Enter Sandman and look up to see number forty-two trotting to the mound.

Damaso Marte makes a case to secure my anointed “Unsung Hero” tag.  In eight games he pitched to a  0.00 ERA in 4.0 innings and held opposing batters to .154. The reason I chose Robertson over Marte is largely because of the aforementioned ‘Houdini Act’ of  game two that sent the Yankees hurtling towards their 27th ring.   Marte flat out stunk during the regular season and on Opening Day 2009, as the Yankees christened their new digs, he was booed off the mound. Opening Day 2010 he will get a standing ovation.

Jay Ferraro is the Executive Producer of Baseball Digest LIVE and Gotham Baseball LIVE.  He is also a columnist for Baseball Digest ,Baseballdigest.com, and Gothambaseball.com. You can reach him at Jay_Ferraro@Juno.com , follow him on Twitter here and add him on Facebook here.