Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fantasy Funkhouser: Closing the Door but the Light is Still On

David Robertson is re-assured by people making way more money than him. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Here's the entire article in one sentence: David Robertson is the Yankees' closer for the rest of the season.

There you go. You can stop reading now and move on to other better and more interesting fantasy articles. You're welcome.

For those that want more than a passing reassurance that you didn't blow your FAAB budget on a guy whose biggest contribution rest of season will be a couple of royalty checks to Lynyrd Skynyrd let's continue. Normally, if a relief pitcher hasn't let up a run since last August would probably get more slack as a potential closer, but this isn't a normal year for closers.

The phrase "Don't Pay for Saves" has become more and more popular over the years. This is in regards to not investing heavily in the closer "position" (because let's remember closer isn't a position as much as it is a description) where the year to year turnover has become increasingly volatile and difficult to predict. There are advocates and detractors of the strategy, and as with most things there are positives and negatives. However, this year paying for saves certainly hasn't worked out.

If you look at ESPN's closer depth chart, 5 weeks into the season there are 14 closers looking for handshakes that weren't in that position at the end of Spring Training. This is due to injuries and general ineffectiveness of the closers this year. Yahoo! Sports current o-rank of the Top 25 RP's currently has 7 closers on the DL (this has been updated since the beginning of the year, so injured closers like Wilson, Soria, and Madson are buried in the 1,100s). The highest actual ranked closer in the Top 25 o-rank is Craig Kimbrel (o-rank: 57; actual: 105).

Rodney's hat. (AP)
It hasn't been pretty, and it has sent fantasy owners scrambling.

So when the indestructible Mariano Rivera, the safest of safe picks, was injured last week it was the official horn sounding of closers hitting the fan this year. Clearly, all bets were off, and friendships would be lost, if not already, in poaching Mo's rather obviously replacement, Robertson, off waivers.

Of course, it can't be that simple. In a year where the best closers in baseball are Fernando Rodney (perhaps no one since Frosty the Snowman has gotten more from a hat than Rodney) and Jim Johnson it's never that simple.

Robertson, took over the closers role with everyone watching and in his first save opportunity managed to get out of a bases loaded jam he put himself into to record the save, and the next night blew his first save by getting into more trouble, only to give up a sac fly and then a 3-run bomb to a suddenly gimpy Matt Joyce. Ring the alarm you say? Go grab Rafael Soriano? Nay.

Robertson has lethal stuff. He struck out 100 batters in 66.2 innings last year and as of a week ago he was easily the most reliable arm in the bullpen not named Mariano Rivera. So now he's a person thrust into the biggest stage a closer can enter. He's not replacing Javy Guerra or the completely imploded Carlos Marmol. David Robertson must step on to the same mound and live up to the same expectations as the greatest closer that ever lived, while playing for the most famous baseball team ever. It would be foolish of us not to expect some butterflies or extra adrenaline for Robertson going out there for the first...and second time.

He used to be in a position where he would had to kill someone to be a big story in a New York City newspaper. Now, he gives up a 1-0 lead and he's a headline. There has to be an adjustment period, and the question surrounding Robertson is if he's tough enough to do it.

There have been instances in the past, Matt Thornton last year comes to mind, where just being in that "position" is too much burden to carry. Remember, though, Robertson was whispered to be the eventual replacement for Mo even before this year. He knows this time was coming, maybe he just didn't expect it so soon.

Robertson did manage to blow three saves last year, and while I find that stat for a reliever to be rather nebulous it is worth noting. Also there have been mentions that Robertson tends to get himself into trouble, which I find curious as he had a 1.08 ERA/1.13 WHIP last year and a 0.00 ERA/0.70 WHIP before last night, but if New Yorkers are saying it there must be some truth.

Ultimately, the best thing Robertson has going for him is that he's good, Joe Girardi picked him to close, and he has Mariano Rivera to lean on and get pointers from. Mo plans on being around the team when he's not rehabbing, and if he hasn't already, there's a great chance he'll speak to Robertson and get him in the right mindset to succeed.

Robertson and Soriano are not available for tonight's game after working back-to-back outings, but for the next save op it should be Robertson heading to the mound.

The Funk-man says: "Can you believe Kenley Jansen wasn't the closer from the get go?"

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