Mariano Rivera Injured: David Robertson Ready to Be New York Yankees Closer

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIMay 4, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29:  David Robertson #30 of the New York Yankees is congratulated by teammate Chris Stewart #19 after defeating the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on April 29, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees defeated the Tigers 6-2.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Mariano Rivera is immortal. The longtime closer of the New York Yankees has flustered opposing hitters since 1996, and recently, the 42 year old has shown no signs of aging.

Mariano Rivera is immortal, and that's what Yankee fans across the country are saying right now, hoping that No. 42 will return to his closing role in no time. But reality is probably a lot darker than that wishful thinking after Mo tore the ACL in his right knee during batting practice before tonight's game at Kansas City.

We all knew the end of his days in pinstripes lurked in the near future after Mo implied in Spring Training that 2012 would be his final season in the Bronx. But we didn't anticipate this, an injury that will prematurely end his season and, possibly, his career.

Not even the most vehement Yankee-hater could wish this on the greatest closer of all-time.

For all we know, Mo will try to make a comeback. Hopefully he's healthy enough to do so.

But whether he's sidelined for the season or for good, the Yankees will need to move on.

And to do that, they need David Robertson to fill Mo's shoes, just like we all knew he eventually would.

Robertson has started 2012 dominating opponents like he did in 2011. In 11 innings pitched as Rivera's setup man, Robertson hasn't allowed a run while fanning 18 batters.


The 2011 All Star has held down the eighth inning role since usurping it from Rafael Soriano in the beginning of last season. However, there's much more pressure inherent in the closing role.

Especially in New York.

One reason to believe in Robertson—other than his dominating statistics—is his ability to extricate himself from jams. Robertson frequently makes things difficult for himself, allowing baserunners on a relatively regular basis to the tune of a 1.12 WHIP, but baserunners rarely translate into opponents' runs.

While that WHIP seems low, consider what fellow relievers with similar ERAs posted last year. Mike Adams (0.79 WHIP), Sergio Romo (0.71), Greg Holland (0.93) and Tyler Clippard (0.84) all generally allow fewer baserunners than Robertson.

So it might seem counter-intuitive to praise him for his higher WHIP, but Robertson almost always got out of the jam. That's why his 2011 ERA of 1.08 was lower than that of Adams, Romo, Holland and Clippard.

Also, this doesn't appear under Robertson's stats, but Joe Girardi frequently called upon his setup man to come in when other pitchers created messes. Robertson freed the Yankees from bases loaded jams countless times last season.

His K/9 rate—last year's was 13.5, this year's is 14.7—helps limit damage with runners on base. But he also had a decent pop-up percentage of 14 percent, according to fangraphs. When you average about 1.5 strikeouts per inning and can induce pop-ups, you can be successful in any relief role.

And, let's be honest, closers deal with more pressure than other relievers, but so much pressure is placed on every at-bat in New York that Robertson is already accustomed to it as a setup man.

It's official: the Yankees are about to get a glimpse of life post-Mo.

Whether this is life for good or not remains to be seen, but Robertson is certainly ready.