Mets Relief Pitcher David Robertson a Much-Needed Bright Spot

Last Updated on May 20, 2023 by Lil Ginge

An AI image of a Mets pitcher in the style of David Robertson

I did not see 38-year-old Mets relief pitcher David Robertson being the Mets’ best pitcher through nearly one-third of the season in 2023. Not with twin aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on the squad. Not with a closer like Edwin Diaz on the team.

But here we are. And to me, David Robertson is the unquestioned shining veteran star of a disappointingly average (so far) 2023 New York Mets.

How David Robertson Became the Best Mets Reliever

2022 Mets closer Edwin Diaz is most likely out for the entire season after tearing his patellar tendon during the World Baseball Classic. At the time, this seemed like a vicious blow to the championship hopes of the 2023 Mets. And combined with the team’s failure to sign Carlos Correa, seemed like a harbinger of bad things to come this year.

But Dave Robertson had other things in mind when he negotiated his own contract for 1-year and $10 million dollars to join the New York Mets in 2023. Why did he sign with the Mets?

“I would love nothing more than to get another ring,” Robertson told Dan Martin of The New York Post. 

“I feel like getting to 1,000 [strikeouts] as a reliever is a big deal.”

– David Robertson

Where the Mets Stand Now

After the Mets went 101-61 on their way to a Wildcard berth in 2022, you could excuse Robertson for thinking that the Mets would be a likely vehicle to a championship ring in 2023. 

But so far, it isn’t looking that way.

This, despite Mets owner Steve Cohen committing around $350 million to the Mets’ payroll. And subjecting himself to lavish luxury taxes to try and nail down a so far elusive World Series win.

As of May 20th, the Mets are a middling 23-23, which is 6 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves in the loss column. The team’s run differential of -16—that means they’ve allowed 16 more runs than they’ve scored to date—is indicative that this record reflects how they’ve actually performed. So, unless things change, there’s no reason to necessarily expect an improved record going forward.

David Robertson’s 2023 Success with the Mets

Nevertheless, it has been a pleasure to watch Robertson pitch in the Mets’ highest-leverage innings this season. Much of his success so far can be attributed to the fact that he’s kept the ball in the yard. He’s allowed exactly zero home runs to date. Meanwhile, he’s struck out 25 while limiting walks to 7, for a strikeout-to-walk rate of 24.7%.

To compare, the league average k/bb rate is only 14%.

Only three pitchers in the league—Yennier Cano, Alexis Dias, and David Bedhar—have a better fWAR to date. And while Robertson’s FIP of 1.93 may indicate a bit of future regression from his sparkling 0.95 ERA in the games to follow, I’ll take a 2.00 ERA from my best reliever any day.

Robertson also has 8 saves on the season so far, lagging behind league leaders like Emmanual Clase (15) and several others. But saves is not the prestige stat that it once was. The game has adapted to the model of pitching your best reliever in the most important (highest leverage) game situations rather than always saving them for the last three outs of the game.

Robertson’s Historical Achievement: 1,000 Strikeouts

Robertson hit a major milestone recently, notching his 1,000th strikeout. On that matter, he said, “It’s a big number I’ve been chasing for a while. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get to it or not. I look at it like it’s a number of the accomplishments that Scherzer and Verlander got. When they get to 3,000, I feel like getting to 1,000 as a reliever is a big deal.”

Fourteen major league pitchers have earned 1,000 strikeouts as a relief pitcher in MLB history. This includes legends like Goose Gossage (1,358), Lee Smith (1,225), and Mariano Rivera (1,135). It will be fun to see how high the 38-year-old climbs on this list during the last few years of his career.

Meanwhile, the Mets continue to struggle. The trio of Canha-Marte-Eduardo, once so promising, has been a major letdown this season. Verlander and Scherzer have been virtually useless to date. And the team’s chances of winning the division—or 100 games—in 2023 seem to be slipping every single day.

Nevertheless, David Robertson continues to be one of the reasons it’s still worth tuning into the 2023 New York Mets on any given night. So for that, Mets fans should feel much gratitude towards him. I know I certainly do.

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