New York Yankees: Why David Robertson Is the Best Setup Man in Baseball

Stephen SkinnerContributor IIApril 30, 2012

David Robertson has emerged as the best setup man in baseball
David Robertson has emerged as the best setup man in baseballMike Stobe/Getty Images

The setup man is the unheralded hero in baseball today. His is the role of keeping things status quo until the game can get to the closer. Ultimately, if he does his job well, he'll receive little recognition other than an "hld" next to his name in the following morning's box score.

The New York Yankees' David Robertson is the best of these unheralded heroes.

The 27-year-old hurler joined the big league club in 2008, but it wasn't until 2010 that he started getting serious time on the Yankee Stadium mound. He appeared in 64 games with a 3.82 ERA in 61 innings pitched. It was the failure of prized Yankee free-agent Rafael Soriano in the setup role that opened the door for Robertson to step up in 2011.

It was an opportunity that he made the most of.

Blessed with an electric fastball that appears to have an extra hop to it, Robertson was nearly untouchable last season. He finished with 34 holds in 70 appearances for the Yankees.

In 66-plus innings, the reliever had 100 strikeouts, a microscopic 1.08 ERA and nearly 90 percent of the runners he inherited were left on base. In fact, he became the first Yankee reliever to record at least 100 strikeouts since Mariano Rivera in 1996.

So dominating was Robertson's performance in 2011 that he was selected to the All-Star team and received votes in both the Cy Young and MVP balloting. Those are accomplishments rarely bestowed upon setup men.

His stinginess on the mound meant that the "Bronx Bombers" were almost always assured a win if they entered the eighth inning with a lead. As a result, the team won the American League East Division with 97 wins. 

In 2012, there is no doubt as to who the New York Yankees' setup man is. Robertson has picked up where he left off in 2011. To date, in nine innings pitched, he has yet to allow a run and has struck out 13 batters.

With Mariano Rivera hinting that this will be his last season, David Robertson is poised to be crowned the new closer in pinstripes. If he continues on his current pace, the job will be his to lose.

The only drawback will be that the New York Yankees will no longer have the best setup man in the game.