MILWAUKEE — The White Sox brought in David Robertson on a four-year, $46 million deal in the offseason with the belief he’d be a long-term solution to the team’s ninth-inning woes.
But he’s been so good through his first month and a half with the club that, to a certain extent, he’s exceeded the already-high expectations that came with his blockbuster Winter Meetings signing.
Entering Wednesday’s series finale at Miller Park, Robertson has allowed one earned run in 14 innings (an 0.64 ERA) with a 25 to one strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opposing batters have nine hits in 53 at-bats against him and he’s saved six games in seven opportunities.
“He’s been sharp,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s been everything as advertised. We knew he was good, but he’s taking it to another level.”
The engine behind Robertson’s prodigious early-season success — he has a -0.20 FIP, too, a stat based on home runs, walks and strikeouts that’s scaled to ERA — has been a remarkable ability to throw strikes.
He’s throwing his fastball/cutter for strikes about 74 percent of the time, according to Texas Leaguers’ pitch f/x database, while spotting it well in the strike zone. And that’s perfectly set up his curveball, which has been nearly unhittable — 75 percent of them have been strikes and he’s generated swings and misses on 36 percent of them.
Robertson has thrown a first-pitch strike to 71.7 percent of the batters he’s faced this year, too. The major league average for first-pitch strikes is 60.6 percent.
“It’s a tough delivery to pick up the ball,” Ventura said. “Once you have that cutter in there and location-wise, he’s able to hit the outside corner, he can put it in and (he has) a better curveball than I think we realized.”
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In 2014, Robertson’s first year as a closer, his curveball generated a swing and a miss 23 percent of the time and he threw about 63 percent of his fastballs/cutters for strikes. He saved 39 games with a 3.08 ERA for the Yankees last season.
But if his early-season numbers are any indication, he’s on track to have his best season since 2011, in which his 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings setting up Mariano Rivera earned him an All-Star bid and even a Cy Young vote. Robertson, though, would rather not discuss his stats or read anything into how well he’s pitched so far.
“I don’t like people to bring up stats to me,” Robertson said. “I don’t like anything, I don’t like to talk about it. I just play baseball.”