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David Robertson
David Robertson 2019 (cropped).jpg
Robertson with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019
Free agent
Relief pitcher
Born: April 9, 1985 (1985-04-09) (age 36)
Birmingham, Alabama
Bats: Right Throws: Right
debut
June 29, 2008, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
(through 2019 season)
Win–loss record 53–33
Earned run average 2.90
Strikeouts 880
Saves 137
Games 661
Teams
Career highlights and awards

David Alan Robertson (born April 9, 1985), nicknamed D-Rob, is an American professional baseball relief pitcher who is a free agent. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.

Robertson played college baseball for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 17th round of the 2006 MLB draft and made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2008. Robertson was a member of the Yankees team that won the 2009 World Series. He was named an MLB All-Star in 2011. After Mariano Rivera retired, Robertson served as the Yankees' closer in 2014. He signed with the White Sox as a free agent after the 2014 season and was traded back to the Yankees in July 2017. Robertson signed with the Phillies as a free agent after the 2018 season.

High school and college career

Robertson was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and played his first three years at Central-Tuscaloosa High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was a two-year starter for the Falcons at shortstop and pitcher. He helped lead his team to back-to-back area titles, as well as back-to-back 6A State Playoff appearances. After his junior year, Central High School was split into three smaller high schools, and Robertson attended Paul W. Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa, graduating in 2004. He led the Stampede to an area title and the Class 6A State Playoffs in the school's first year of existence.

Robertson enrolled at the University of Alabama and played college baseball for the Alabama Crimson Tide. As a freshman in 2005, Robertson appeared in a team-high 32 games with three games started. He compiled a 7–5 win-loss record with eight saves and a 2.92 earned run average (ERA), and set the single-season rookie record for most strikeouts (105). He led the Southeastern Conference (SEC) by limiting hitters to a .183 batting average. He was named Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-American by Baseball America, Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, and Collegiate Baseball Magazine Freshman All-American.

In his sophomore season, Robertson helped lead the Crimson Tide to their 25th SEC Championship. He appeared in 29 games, compiling a 4–4 record with a 3.02 ERA. He led the SEC with 10 saves. In 2006, he played collegiate summer baseball in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and was named the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs in Yarmouth-Dennis' championship season.

Minor leagues

Due to Robertson being 21 at the time of the 2006 MLB draft, he was a draft-eligible sophomore and the New York Yankees selected him in the 17th round. He signed with the Yankees for a $200,000 signing bonus.

In 2007, pitching for the Charleston RiverDogs of the Class A South Atlantic League, the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League, and the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League, he was a combined 8–3 with four saves and an 0.96 ERA in 84+13 innings, allowing 45 hits while striking out 114 batters, averaging 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Robertson was a 2007 mid-season South Atlantic League All Star. He was third among minor league relievers, with a .154 opponents batting average.

In 2008, pitching for Trenton and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees of the Triple-A International League, he was 4–0 with three saves and a 1.68 ERA in 53+23 innings, allowing 28 hits while striking out 77, averaging 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He was named the International League's "Best Reliever" of 2008 in Baseball America's Best Tools survey. Pitching for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2009, he was 0–3 with two saves and a 1.84 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 14+23 innings, averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings. In 2012 he pitched two scoreless innings for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Major leagues

New York Yankees

2008

AAAA5350 David Robertson (cropped)
Robertson in 2008

On June 28, 2008, the Yankees called Robertson up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. On August 28, the Yankees optioned him back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with an earned run average of 6.31. He was recalled back to the MLB on September 13. He appeared in 25 MLB games in 2008, going 4–0 with a save and a 5.34 ERA, and 51 strikeouts in 34 innings, averaging 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

2009

After starting the 2009 regular season in Triple-A, Robertson was recalled to the MLB on April 16, to replace Xavier Nady, who had been placed on the 15-day disabled list. The next day he was optioned back to Triple-A to open a roster spot for Juan Miranda. On May 25, he was again recalled to the MLB, to replace reliever Brian Bruney. Robertson finished the season 2–1 with a save and a 3.30 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 43+23 innings, averaging 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings (among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, the second-best ratio in the MLB behind Jonathan Broxton (13.50)).

In the 2009 playoffs, Robertson entered two games in high-pressure situations with multiple runners on base, once in the ALDS and once in the ALCS, and did not allow any runs to score. Robertson received the win in each of those games. The Yankees won the 2009 World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies.

2010

Robertson finished the 2010 season with a 4–5 record, one save, a 3.82 ERA, and 71 strikeouts in 61+13 innings, averaging 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

In Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS against the Texas Rangers, Robertson relieved Phil Hughes in the fifth inning and surrendered a two-run home run to Nelson Cruz which gave the Rangers a 5–1 lead; the Rangers would win the game 6–1 to take the AL pennant.

2011

David Robertson and Alex Rodriguez
Robertson in 2011

The Yankees entered the 2011 season with the additions of relief pitchers Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano. Robertson lost out to Joba Chamberlain to be the seventh inning specialist whom manager Joe Girardi wanted to bridge to Soriano and closer Mariano Rivera. Injuries to Feliciano, Soriano, and Chamberlain put Robertson in the eighth inning setup role, where he had 55 strikeouts halfway through the season. Robertson was named to the 2011 American League All-Star roster, replacing David Price.

Robertson finished his breakout 2011 season 4–0 with a save, 34 holds (tied for the AL lead), leading the league in ERA (1.08), along with a 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings ratio (second in the AL, and the highest ratio by a Yankee reliever in franchise history), and an MLB-leading adjusted ERA+ of 410, in 70 games pitched (fifth in the AL). He finished the season with 100 strikeouts (leading all AL relievers) in 66+23 innings, becoming the first Yankee reliever since Rivera (in 1996) to record 100 strikeouts in a single season. He struck out the 300th batter of his career in 219+23 career innings on June 24, making him the third-fastest pitcher in major league history to reach that mark after Billy Wagner (194+13) and Brad Lidge (210+23). He received one point in the voting for both the AL Cy Young Award (the only non-starter or non-closer to receive a vote) and AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award (the only reliever to receive a vote). Robertson also won the This Year in Baseball Setup Man of the Year Award.

2012

In January 2012, the Yankees and Robertson agreed on a one-year non-guaranteed contract to avoid arbitration.

When Rivera went down with a season-ending injury in May 2012, Girardi announced that Robertson and Soriano would share the duties of closing games for the remainder of the season. Robertson himself was placed on the 15-day disabled list however on May 15, after he strained a muscle in his rib cage, 12 days after Rivera's season-ending injury. He returned to action on June 15, but after several appearances became the setup man for Soriano. Robertson finished the 2012 season with a record of 2–7, a 2.67 ERA, two saves, and 30 holds (tied for third in the AL) in 65 games, with 81 strikeouts in 60+23 innings, averaging 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

2013

David Robertson at Baltimore 9-11-13
Robertson in 2013

In 2013, Robertson served as the eighth inning setup reliever behind Rivera. He appeared in 70 games, going 5–1 with three saves and 33 holds (second in the AL) and a 2.04 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 66+13 innings, averaging 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

2014

Rivera retired after the 2013 season. During spring training in 2014, Robertson was named the Yankees' closer. On April 7, Robertson was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a groin strain.

Robertson had a successful season in 2014 as he was 4–5 and compiled a 3.08 ERA, was successful on 39 (third in the AL) out of 44 save attempts, and struck out 96 batters in 64+13 innings, averaging 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings. In his lone season as Yankees' closer, Robertson garnered praise as a worthy successor to Rivera. He was paid $5.215 million in 2014. On November 10, Robertson declined the Yankees' $15.3-million qualifying offer for the 2015 season, making him a free agent.

Chicago White Sox

After the 2014 season, Robertson became a free agent. He subsequently agreed to a four-year, $46 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

2015

David Robertson 20150427-0120
Robertson during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox in 2015

Robertson served as the White Sox closer during his tenure in Chicago. In his first season with the White Sox, Robertson compiled a 6–5 record with 34 saves (sixth in the AL), a 3.41 ERA, and 86 strikeouts in 63+13 innings, averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He blew seven saves, but struck out 34.4% of batters and lowered his walk rate to a career-best 5.2%, averaging 1.8 walks per nine innings. He limited the first batters he faced to a .100 batting average, the lowest rate in both the AL and in White Sox history.

2016

In his second season as the White Sox closer, Robertson earned 37 saves (fourth in the AL), pitching to a 5–3 record and 3.47 ERA while striking out 75 batters in 62+13 innings, averaging 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Robertson suffered seven blown saves, with his walk rate rising (4.62 BB/9).

2017

Robertson pitched for the gold-medal-winning Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

With the White Sox in rebuilding mode, Robertson became enshrouded in trade rumors during the offseason and regular season. Robertson was nearly traded to the Washington Nationals for Jesus Luzardo and Drew Ward; however, the deal was not completed due to disagreements regarding finances. In 2017 for the White Sox Robertson had a 4–2 record with 13 saves and a 2.70 ERA, and 47 strikeouts in 33+13 innings,, averaging 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings, before getting traded to the Yankees.

Return to the New York Yankees

2017

David Robertson in 2017 (36924962082)
Robertson in 2017

On July 18, 2017, the White Sox traded Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees for Blake Rutherford, Tyler Clippard, Ian Clarkin, and Tito Polo. In his first appearance after the trade, Robertson struck out the side in the seventh inning to preserve a 5–1 lead against the Seattle Mariners. In the 2017 regular season for the Yankees, he was 5–0 with a save and a 1.03 ERA, and 51 strikeouts in 35 innings, averaging 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

In the 2017 American League Wild Card Game, Robertson set career post-season single-game highs in innings pitched, with 3+13, and pitches thrown, with 52. He allowed no runs and earned the win.

2018

In 2018, Robertson was 8–3 with five saves, 21 holds (tied for eighth in the AL), and a 3.23 ERA, and 91 strikeouts in a career-high 69+23 innings, averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. His WHIP ranked seventh among AL relievers who pitched at least 60 innings. Batters hit .183 against Robertson. Left-handed batters hit .176 with a .240 on-base percentage against him; both in the top eight among pitchers who faced 130 or more lefties. Pitching against the number 3 and 4 hitters in opposing lineups, he held them to a batting average of .074, as they were 4-for-54 with 22 strikeouts.

Through 2018, in his 11-year career Robertson had a lifetime 2.88 ERA with 137 saves in 654 games pitched (10th among active players). He had averaged 11.97 strikeouts per nine innings, the most of any active pitcher with at least 650 career innings pitched, and had never averaged a season strikeout rate of less than 10.4. He became the only pitcher in major league history to average at least 10 strikeouts/9 innings pitched in each of his first 11 seasons. In his career through 2018, lefties had a .188 batting average and a .546 on-base plus slugging (OPS) against him, and righties had a .222 batting average and a .667 OPS. He was one of 12 pitchers in American League history to appear in 60 games in nine consecutive seasons. He received the Thurman Munson Award in 2018.

Philadelphia Phillies

2019

As a free agent, Robertson self-negotiated and signed a two-year, $23 million contract, which includes a third-year $12 million club option and $2 million buyout, with the Philadelphia Phillies on January 3, 2019. He will donate one percent of his salary to the Phillies' charity fund.

He made his Phillies pitching debut on March 28, 2019, at Citizens Bank Park, against the visiting Atlanta Braves. In 2019, he did not appear in a game after April 14 due to a Grade 1 flexor strain in his pitching elbow; it was determined later that it required season-ending Tommy John surgery. In 2019, he was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA, pitching 6.2 innings in seven games. Robertson underwent surgery on August 17, 2019. As of the end of the 2019 season, his career 661 games pitched were eighth-most of all active major league pitchers.

2020

On August 28, 2020, Robertson suffered a setback during his recovery from Tommy John surgery and was immediately shut down from throwing, effectively ending his season without making an appearance. His option was bought out after the season, making him a free agent.

High Point Rockers

On July 12, 2021, Robertson signed with the High Point Rockers of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, to help prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympics (contested in 2021). He pitched with the team from July 13 to July 15, earning a win and not allowing a run in 2 appearances out of the bullpen.

International career

Robertson played for the champion United States national baseball team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, getting the final outs against Puerto Rico in the gold medal game. Robertson and Robinson Cano are the only Yankees to win both a World Series and a World Baseball classic.

In May 2021, Robertson was named to the roster of the national team for qualifying for baseball at the 2020 Summer Olympics. After the team qualified, he was named to the Olympics roster on July 2. The team went on to win silver, falling to Japan in the gold-medal game.

Pitching style

With an overhand delivery, Robertson throws a four-seam fastball typically at 92–93 mph. Robertson's main off-speed pitch is a curveball in the low 80s. Infrequently, he throws a circle changeup to left-handed hitters in the mid-high 80s. Although Robertson's fastball speed is not unusually high, his long stride toward home plate during his delivery appears to "add" 2 mph to his fastball by shortening the ball's time in flight. His fastball also has a "natural cut" to it, making it appear as if he is throwing a cut fastball.

Robertson has always had a high walk rate (about 1 every 2–3 innings over his career), but this is mitigated by an outstanding strikeout rate; Robertson has averaged at least one strikeout per inning in every year of his career so far. His high strikeout rate has proved useful in critical late-inning situations — in 2011, Robertson struck out 14 of the 19 hitters he faced with the bases loaded and allowed only one hit. His ability to get out of jams has earned him the nickname "Houdini."

Personal life

David Robertson and Terri Sewell in 2013
Robertson and Congressmember Terri Sewell at a Habitat for Humanity project in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 2013.

His brother, Connor, formerly played for the Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Robertson married Erin Cronin in 2009. They have two children, Luke Joseph, born in August 2012, and Violet Grace, born in July 2017.

Robertson and his wife started a charitable foundation called "High Socks for Hope" to help the victims of Robertson's hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, deal with the tornado strikes in 2011. Robertson agreed to donate $100 for every strikeout he recorded in the season. For his work, Robertson was nominated for the 2011 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. Following the death of his former White Sox teammate Daniel Webb, Robertson set up a fundraiser for Webb's family through High Socks for Hope.

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