Should White Sox Consider Changing Closer

Jul 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USADavid Robertson hasn't lived up to his contract in a season and half with the White Sox.Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USADavid Robertson hasn't lived up to his contract in a season and half with the White Sox.Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Chris Sale pitched eight innings of one-hit, shutout baseball before being lifted against Seattle Monday night. David Robertson came in for the ninth inning to attempt to get the save. Robertson got two outs and gave up a run in the first four batters before Adam Lind’s three-run home run won the game.

This was Roberston’s third blown save of the season and third time this season the White Sox closer had given up three or more runs in an appearance. It was the seventh time he allowed runs in 36 appearances.

Robertson is ninth in the Major Leagues with 23 saves this season . His .885 save percentage ranks 17th. Robertson’s $11.5 million per year salary and $46 million contract rank second to Washington’s Jonathan Papelbon among closers in MLB. He is signed through 2019. Based on his contract he should be a premier closer. He clearly has not been one in his first two seasons with the White Sox.

The Mets Jeurys Familia is first in MLB with 32 saves. He has had eight appearances giving up at least one run and two appearances giving up multiple runs. He has 32 saves in 32 save opportunities and is considered the best active closer in baseball.

Robertson was dealing with a mild hip injury before the break. He last pitched on July 6. Last night was his first game after the break. That gave him 12 days off. It’s hard to know if he should have gone on the disabled list. He was only out for six games.  Three of those came in Anaheim when the White Sox never had the lead.  Robertson wasn’t needed in those games.

Last season Robertson’s 34 saves ranked 14th in the Major Leagues. His 82.9 save percentage was 26th in MLB and his seven blown saves among closers were the most. This season Robertson has blown three saves. That’s tied for the ninth most in MLB.

The White Sox signed Robertson away from the Yankees to be an elite closer. He is 0-2 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. He is clearly allowing too many men to get on base.

When the Yankees let someone who plays important position leave via free agency that should usually raise a red flag. The only prominent free agent to leave the Bronx is Robinson Cano. Cano has not been nearly as good with Seattle as he was in New York.

Robertson was a set-up man with the Yankees from 2008-13. He took over the closer role after Mariano Rivera retired. His stint as the Yankees closer lasted one season. He signed with the White Sox in the 2014-15 offseason.

The Yankees went with journeyman Andrew Miller to close last season. They acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds to close this season.  Miller was the Yankees closer during Chapman’s suspension for the first 30 games of this season.

The fluidity of the Yankees closer position speaks volumes about what they thought about Robertson.

Nate Jones came up in the 2012 season. He was a setup man for fellow rookie Addison Reed. He was behind Reed for two seasons. Jones missed most of the 2014 season with Tommy John surgery.

Jones made 19 appearances last season after pitching in his first game in over a year on August 7. Those 19 appearances came in the last 56 games. The White Sox clearly were not afraid to use him post surgery.

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Robertson had another high-profile disastrous game earlier this season in Kansas City. On May 28, Robertson blew a 7-1 ninth-inning lead before leaving with the game tied. This didn’t even count as a save opportunity.

The White Sox were fortunate enough to win the other two games he blew saves. Against Texas on April 23 and May 9. The May 9 game came a day before what began the White Sox slide from 23-10 to 33-36.

The White Sox blew leads in the eighth and ninth innings in that game before a Todd Frazier grand slam bailed out the bullpen. Jones gave up two runs in the eighth with a 3-1 lead. Jones pitched a clean ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Robertson got the loss in Cleveland on June 19. Rajai Davis led off the tenth with a double. Robertson got a second out after an Indian sacrifice and two intentional walks. Jose Ramirez singled through the right side of the infield to complete the Indians’ sweep.

Jones is 4-2 with three saves, 17 holds, a 2.45 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. He has three blown saves, one game that he blew the lead and the sox lost and four games overall this season that he came in and blew the lead.

His peripheral stats have been noticeably better than Robertson’s . His WHIP is nearly half of Robertson’s is. Robertson has a 2.1 walk to strikeout ratio, gives up 8.3 hits per nine innings (the third highest of his career) 4.0 walks per nine innings and averages 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings (tied for the second-lowest of his career).

Jones is at 5.25 K/W, 6.0 H/9, 1.8 W/9 and 9.4 K/9. The only stat Robertson is ahead is one K/9 and is a slight advantage. Neither Robertson nor Jones rank in the top 40 in K/9. There are both over a K/IP, which is effective for a closer.

The White Sox are dangerously close to falling out of the American League Wildcard race. There are six teams in front of them. That includes Toronto who holds the second wildcard. They have made multiple changes to the roster during and since the 10-26 stretch that began May 10 in Texas.

Next: White Sox Lose a Heartbreaker

The White Sox closed the first half of the season winning 12 of their last 19 games. All these changes are not going to matter if the White Sox don’t permanently turn their play around quickly.