In 2009, his first full MLB season, David Robertson helped the New York Yankees win the World Series. His opponents, of course, were the Philadelphia Phillies.
Flash back nearly a decade later, and Robertson joined the team he helped defeat, signing a two-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies in January 2019. After just seven games, however, he went down with a flexing strain on his right elbow. One Tommy John operation later, and his time in Philadelphia was over almost as quickly as it began.
Robertson’s injury was particularly disappointing as his stamina was one of the main reasons then-GM Matt Klentak targeted him in the first place. From 2010 to 2018, Robertson played 60 or more games each season.
According to FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, only three relief pitchers were worth more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) during that time: Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman. This is an incredible society.
Unfortunately, from 2019-2021, Robertson pitched only 18.2 innings with a 4.82 ERA. He signed with the Chicago Cubs for $3.5 million that offseason, a far cry from the $23 million deal he signed in 2019.
It turned out that Robertson was an absolute steal at this low price.
In 2022, Robertson finally looks like the old man again after a long recovery phase. He looks exactly like the pitcher the Phillies were hoping for when they signed him in 2019.
His 1.59 ERA ranks ninth among NL reliefs with at least 20 innings played, and his ERA estimator stats are similarly impressive. He has posted a 1.93 xERA, 2.21 FIP, 2.57 SIERA, 2.60 xFIP. The only Phillies relief with similar numbers is Seranthony Domínguez. It would be nice to have another guy like him, wouldn’t it?
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At the age of 37, Robertson doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down. His fastball speed is the same as ever and he’s still racking up strikeouts. His 12.71 K/9 ranks sixth among the NL reliefs (min. 20 IP). He also generates more swings and errors than usual, which bodes well for future success.
Even when hitters managed to put the ball in play against Robertson, things didn’t go well for them. Opposing hitters have had a total of three extra base hits from him all season. His HardHit% is only 25% according to Statcast. That puts him in the top 2% of all pitchers and it’s the best rate of his career.
Robertson’s only flaw is his high walking rate, which admittedly is pretty bad. He walks nearly four batters per nine innings and his walk rate is in the bottom 20% of the league. That being said, missing many walks has always been a problem for Robertson throughout his career and it has never stopped him from being an elite auxiliary.
It’s far from certain that Robertson will be dealt this summer given how well he’s serving and how poorly his team is playing. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so the Cubs really have no reason not to trade him in.
The Phillies, on the other hand, will be buyers by deadline and will need all the help they can get to compete with the Mets and the Braves in NL East. The Philadelphia bullpen has been their biggest weakness so far, and it’s the part of the team that makes the most sense to upgrade through trades.
Robertson will be one of the best volunteers out there and the Phillies need volunteers. Robertson has postseason experience, and the Phillies are desperate to return to the postseason. It’s a perfect match.
In 2009, Robertson beat the Phillies. In 2019 he was a bust for her. Maybe this time it will be different. Like the Phillies, Robertson has not played in the World Series since 2009. This year they can return there together again.
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