Kirby Yates and David Robertson Defy Father Time for Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers have found themselves a pair of wily veterans that are locking down the backend of the bullpen.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - APRIL 15: Kirby Yates #39 of the Texas Rangers throws a pitch in the ninth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 15, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

If you have attended a youth coach pitch baseball game lately, it is possible that you would have seen guys that looked very similar to Texas Rangers relievers Kirby Yates and David Robertson. No, the two veteran relievers aren’t moonlighting on the side for the local 8U team, but they sure do look the part.

Robertson is 39 years young, and Yates is a youthful 37. Both measure in at under 6′ tall. In a day and age where there are so many budding, high velocity arms coming out of MLB bullpens across the league, it is refreshing to see the likes of Yates and Robertson anchoring the back end of the Rangers pen.

This is not their first rodeo, and they have both settled in nicely with the defending World Series champs. The Rangers bullpen was the only real issue last season and GM Chris Young went out and got a couple guys that can lock things down.

While the Rangers AL West rival, the Houston Astros, spent $19 million per year, for five seasons, on Josh Hader, Young was able to add both Yates and Robertson for $14.5 million total. Seems like a bargain.

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David Robertson Living Up to Houdini Nickname

David Robertson is also known as D-Rob and Houdini. Over the course of his career Robertson has amassed 175 saves with a season-high of 39 coming in 2014 while a member of the New York Yankees. He has gotten out of countless jams and is still doing so.

He was a contributing member of the 2009 Yankees World Series championship team. Closing out games and pitching in high-leverage situations in the Bronx will test anyone’s mettle.

In his 16th big league season, Robertson is not shying away from the spotlight. He came to the Rangers because there were openings at the backend of the pen, along with his desire to win another World Series ring.

Through 12.1 innings pitched, Robertson has a 1.46 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 1.054 WHIP, has 11 strikeouts and has only walked four.

Primarily a cutter and curveball guy, Robertson is unique for a late-inning reliver in that he does have a five-pitch arsenal. This season he has thrown the cutter 48.7% of the time, the curve 33.9%, slider 9%, sinker 4.8% and a changeup 3.7%.

The cutter sits at 93.4 mph and the curve comes in at 84.4 mph. He isn’t blowing people away with pure velo, but knows how to mix up his offerings, command the zone, and keep the batter off balance.

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In short, Robertson knows how to pitch. He isn’t a thrower; he is a pitcher. He has become someone that manager Bruce Bochy can rely on in tough situations.

Kirby Yates the New Texas Rangers Closer

Coming into the season, the Texas Rangers closer role was Jose Leclerc’s. After struggling early on last season due to injury, Leclerc got healthy and was dominate throughout the team’s historic playoff run.

With some rough outings to begin this season by Leclerc, Bochy was looking for a new closer. And did he ever find one. Yates has been the man for the last several opportunities and hasn’t faltered.

Only one other time was Yates a team’s primary closer. That came in 2019 with the San Diego Padres. In that season he was not only an All-Star, but he also recorded a league-high 41 saves.

Yates is a typical reliver in that he has a two-pitch mix. This season he has thrown his 4-seam fastball 52.4% and his splitter 46.9% (he has thrown one slider for the additional 0.7%).

Like Robertson, Yates has commanded the zone and limited free passes. In his nine games and 10 innings of work, he has a 0.00 ERA, 1.61 FIP, three saves, 11 strikeouts, and allowed only two walks. Dominant effort from the crafty veteran.

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With his 4-seamer averaging 93.1mph and his splitter coming in at 86.2 mph, Yates isn’t throwing it by anyone based solely on velocity. But what he is doing is making the hitters guess and hitting his spots.

He can throw the splitter for a strike or drop it out of the zone creating swing-and-miss. His chase% is in the 97th percentile and his whiff% is in the 92nd percentile. Yates feels comfortable with his game and knows how to execute.

Is it Sustainable?

Can Robertson and Yates continue to dominate the opposition? Absolutely they can. Now I seriously doubt that Yates ends the season with a 0.00 ERA or anything like that, but these two guys are legit.

There is a huge physical hurdle that most can’t jump in order to pitch in the major leagues, and then there is the mental one. That is the part where many gifted hurlers can’t excel.

Yates and Robertson have the physical part down and ace the mental side as well. They have faced and seen it all, and nothing scares them on the mound.

If there was a concern for the duos sustainability this year, it is with Bochy having to use them so much until others get healthy. Bochy will continue to use good judgement, but when guys are dealing it is hard not to turn to them in a pinch.

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In a season that has been marred by countless injuries to the Rangers, both David Robertson and Kirby Yates have been a much-needed bright spot. Texas isn’t playing their best baseball at the moment, but even with that being the case they find themselves in first place in the AL West.

With the second place Seattle Mariners currently in Arlington for a three-game set, it will be critical for the bullpen to take care of business. Yates and Robertson have done just that so far this season.