CLEVELAND -- His save rate stands at 80.6 percent but David Robertson feels like he still has much to prove to his new team.
Though Robertson has converted 29 of 36 save attempts, his performance isn’t what he hoped to bring to the White Sox after signing a four-year, $46-million contract in December. So even though the team’s postseason chances have vanished (the White Sox tragic number for the wild card is nine and they can no longer win the American League Central after Friday’s loss) Robertson feels like he has something to play for over the final 16 games of the 2015 campaign. Robertson is 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings this season.
“I want these guys to leave this year having confidence in me knowing that when I come in the ninth inning I’m going to finish their game and hand them the ball with the win,” Robertson said. “I have to pitch better. They gave me a contract for a reason and I’ve got to perform to the best of my abilities to show people that I’m worth it.”
Robertson is his own harshest critic and the past week has been particularly difficult. He blew his seventh save on Thursday when he allowed a three-run homer to Billy Butler on the heels of Monday’s performance where he yielded four runs (two earned) and just about everything went wrong.
But given the choice between this year’s bullpen and the one he managed in 2014, Robin Ventura would take the current version 11 times out of 10. He understands the frustration but appreciates the stability Robertson has brought to the White Sox bullpen.
“There are more roles,” Ventura said. “Those were defined early. You bring Robbie in, a guy that’s been a closer for a while, it moves everybody else around.
“The closer role is such a fine line. It’s pass or fail every time he goes out. There are very few times he’s in a game when the game doesn’t hang in the balance. So when it doesn’t go well, it’s magnified, he feels terrible. Nobody feels worse than he does. He takes it hard, and he’s able to get over it the next day, but he still takes it hard.”
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Stability doesn’t mean as much to Robertson because he expected he would provide it when the White Sox signed him through 2018. He knows it’s not realistic to convert 100 percent of his save chances (the top closers convert close to 90 percent) but Robertson expects to do that.
Even though his walk rate (2.04 batters per nine innings) is the lowest of his career, Robertson believes 2015 is his worst season to date. His 66 percent strand rate is the lowest of his career, down from a career mark of 79.1 percent. When he converted 39 of 44 saves for the New York Yankees in 2014, Robertson left 77.7 percent of his runners on base.
Some can be attributed to bad luck but Robertson said the rest is on him.
“I’ve had some interesting things happen in some games this year that I’ve never had happen,” Robertson said. “But I haven’t made enough quality pitches in big outings when I’ve needed to.
“I’m not pleased at all with my performance this year. I’ve felt like I’ve thrown the ball worse than I’ve thrown it in the last six years. This has been a really bad year for me. I don’t want to be that guy who’s iffy, wishy-washy when it comes to the ninth. I want to be the guy who’s solid, who’s lock down and it has been tough for me because I’ve had a lot of bad games this year.”