Jul 28, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Zach Britton (53) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning during game two of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
When the Yankees allowed David Robertson to walk in free agency and brought back Zack Britton instead, it was met with a mixed reaction.
Robertson, a fan favorite, is a guy that fans believe has “earned his pinstripes.” He came up with the franchise and won a World Series ring in 2009. Furthermore, he’d been awesome in his second stint with the Yankees. Who can forget his gutsy 51 pitch performance in the 2017 wild card game?
Despite his awesome resume with the team, letting him walk and signing Britton is paying dividends.
Robertson has a ton of mileage on his arm. He’s been around for 12 seasons, and the Yankees certainly weren’t shy about using him. Robertson threw 68.1 innings in 2017 and 69.2 innings in 2018. He’s thrown at least 60 innings in 9 of his 11 full seasons.
At age 34, he’s logged 663.2 innings in the regular season, plus another 33.2 innings the playoffs. Britton hasn’t thrown 60 innings in a season since 2016, when he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. He’s three years younger than Robertson and has thrown over 100 less innings in his career. He throws harder, has better stuff, and is more efficient. It was exhausting watching Robertson consistently load the bases by bouncing curveball after curveball in the dirt. While he was effective at escaping jams, it takes a toll on everyone when runners are constantly on base.
One reason why some fans were skeptical of choosing Britton over Robertson was his so-so season last year.
It’s true that Britton wasn’t spectacular as a Yankee last year. He let up a couple big home runs in the playoffs and was generally underwhelming. What some fans failed to realize is that despite him being on the field, he wasn’t 100 percent recovered from his torn achilles that he suffered prior to the 2018 season. It takes a while to get comfortable on the mound again after an injury like this. Brian Cashman knew that Britton wasn’t completely back up to speed last year. He also knew that Robertson had a ton of mileage on his arm and was getting up there in age.
Already, the move looks like a slam dunk.
Robertson has been on the Injured list since mid-April with a flexor strain in his elbow. He’s not expected to see a mound for at least another month. Meanwhile, Britton is back to elite form. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last eight appearances, and his sinker is moving with more depth than it was last season. His ERA is down to 2.53, and he’s finally looking like the guy that got Cy Young consideration in 2016.
David Robertson was an awesome Yankee, and his gutsy post-season performances will never be forgotten. But Cashman is good at his job because he thinks with his head and not his heart. Letting Robertson walk and signing Britton was the right call, and it looks better and better every day.