Start spreadin' the news, David Robertson happy to be a Phillie


Start spreadin' the news, David Robertson happy to be a Phillie

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In an offseason where the Phillies have added a former National League hits leader, a former NL Most Valuable player, the guy widely considered the best catcher in baseball and maybe still Bryce Harper and his generational talent, it's easy to overlook the addition of David Robertson.

Big mistake.

The veteran reliever has had a tremendous career in the American League. Over the last eight seasons with the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox, he has averaged 65 appearances, a 2.59 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings.

Overlook him at your own risk. Hitters certainly don't.

The Phillies went into the offseason looking for improved offense and defense at shortstop, left field and catcher and they got that with the additions of Jean Segura (the NL hits leader in 2016), Andrew McCutchen (the 2013 NL MVP) and Realmuto, the game's top catcher.

One of the Phillies' other offseason goals was to find a bullpen weapon to combat left-handed hitters. They picked up lefty relievers James Pazos and Jose Alvarez in trades, but the big acquisition in this area was Robertson. For a right-hander, he has had almost freakish success against lefty hitters, holding them to a .188 batting average and a .546 OPS in his career. Robertson has also been pretty darn good against righty hitters, holding them to a .222 batting average and a .667 OPS in his career.

"I don't have anything I can put my finger on," Robertson said when asked about his success against left-handed hitters. "For me, I think it's more of I don't really care who's hitting. If it's a left-hander or a right-hander, I'm just trying to get outs."

Robertson's main weapons against lefty hitters are his cutter, which he can get in on the hands, and a sharp-breaking curveball that is simply fun to watch.

Even as a kid, Robertson, who will turn 34 in April, had natural cutting movement on his fastball. He refined the pitch on his way to the majors then added some polish during his time with the master of the cutter — Yankees Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.

"Watching Mariano, talking to him and playing catch with him definitely helped," Robertson said. "I never had the control of the pitch that he had. He could live and die with it where I had a breaking ball in my back pocket.

"Mariano was pretty amazing to watch. He had that aura. When he was pitching, you knew you were finished. I feel honored to be able to have played with him and be on those teams. A piece of me will always be there because that's where I pitched for the better part of a decade."

Robertson pitched against the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. The Yankees won that one in six games.

Robertson actually succeeded Rivera as Yankees closer in 2014. He saved 39 games that season, one of three times he's recorded 34 or more saves. The Phillies have not tabbed a set closer for the start of the season and there's a good chance they won't. Robertson will join Hector Neris and Seranthony Dominguez in getting high-leverage work late in games and that's all Robertson seems to care about.

"As long as I get opportunities to pitch at the back end — sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth — I'm happy," he said in January, on the day he signed a two-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies.

Robertson served as his own agent this winter. He says he did talk to the Yankees about returning, but in January admitted, "It was just time to go somewhere else and play." The Yanks ended up signing free-agent reliever Adam Ottavino.

Robertson's relationship with the Yankees may have suffered late last season when he chaired a players-only meeting that resulted in some members of the Yankees baseball support staff being shorted or denied postseason bonuses. The matter hit the papers in November and Robertson wore the backlash and criticism.

"I didn't understand why that was written about me when it was a vote that reflected the numbers," he said Friday. "I put them down and turned them in. Everyone signed off on the sheet to turn it in. We did our best to be fair.

"I don't really have much more to say about it. I just feel like it was unfortunate."

Robertson was asked whether he believed the issue factored into the Yankees' decision to not bring him back.

"I would hope not," he said.

And now, all his attention is focused on getting outs for the Phillies.

"I'm excited to be here," Robertson said. "There's a great vibe here."

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

AP Images

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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