Cubs: David Robertson is back to his old dominant ways early on
This early in the season, David Ross is still mixing and matching pieces in the Chicago Cubs bullpen to find who’s the best fit in each situation. After Monday’s game, Keegan Thompson rightfully is getting attention for absolutely strangling the Rays lineup and generally being a shutdown long reliever, but David Robertson deserves your respect as well.
The Cubs brought Robertson into the fold on a one-year deal in the wake of Codi Heuer’s injury as a low-risk, high-reward relief type with an All-Star pedigree. As a member of the Rays for a brief period last year, he looked decent enough coming off Tommy John surgery, but the Cubs showed confidence in him early on to get back in the closer role that once defined him. So far, it’s worked out perfectly with no runs given up on a hit and two walks in five innings. Nobody has even barreled a pitch from him yet.
Robertson’s main weapon is still his absurd cutter. If you need a demonstration of how nasty it can be, Pitching Ninja has a great video of the pitch, but the stats on it are pretty nice too. At 92.4 MPH, his cutter is still in form and a good bit faster than the average with a 20 percent whiff rate. The disgusting part, however, is the pitch’s vertical movement which measures a whopping 8 inches of break better than average! That ranks second in all of baseball by far to this point.
David Robertson needs to stay as the Cubs closer for now
It’s really impressive to see him keep that velocity and movement after a devastating injury and 14 years in the majors and it’s proof he can still hang with the best. His strikeout rate is a bit low at 22 percent, but with that cutter, it’s hardly his biggest worry. He also carries an above-average hard hit rate, but expected stats aren’t that worried yet with a .187 xBA and .349 xSLG.
Robertson has been one of the true shutdown relievers the Cubs have hit on so far. Yes, it’s very early and stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but that’s all the more reason to keep running him out there to see what he can do. If he really is back in the form that made him such a force to reckoned with on the Yankees and White Sox, he’ll be an excellent weapon for the team throughout the year or a perfect piece to flip at the deadline.
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Admittedly, Ross is unlikely to officially crown Robertson the closer. The Cubs (and all of baseball frankly) have been trending towards the Rays’ approach to bullpen construction where everyone jumps in when it’s most advantageous for them. Still, it’s hard to argue with the results so far. Robertson has really good stuff at 37 years old and I’m excited to see more from him.