Roberts Adds a Workhorse Attitude to the Rotation
Danny Madden | On 01, Jul 2014
If there is one thing that a pitcher can do to make their manager happy, it’s giving them innings. When a starter can give their team a solid six or seven innings, then that gives the bullpen a break. That can lead to a more effective bullpen when they are able to get more consecutive nights of equal rest. When a starter goes only three or four innings that causes more work for the bullpen to pick up their starter and try to keep their team in the game. This is an aspect of the game that Will Roberts has excelled in for the RubberDucks this season.
Roberts has done a great job of giving his team and manager Dave Wallace plenty of innings of work in each of his outings. So far this season, the shortest outing that Roberts has had was 5.1 innings. This is something Roberts takes pride in.
“I just take it inning by inning. You can’t let what happened the inning before boil over,” Roberts said. “If you start thinking about how you’re ERA is going up, that’s where you get into trouble. You just have to take it three outs at a time, batter at a time. Really, the job of a starter is to go as long as they can. If I’m out there going two innings then that puts our bullpen in a bad spot.”
This is a quality that will be crucial towards his development through the minors. Roberts is only 23 years of age, and he’s already excelled at being a key member of this rotation and providing what is incredibly valuable as a starting pitcher.
“Part of my preparation is being able to be a workhorse for the team,” Roberts adds. “Even if things aren’t going my way I’m still gonna try and go as long as I can and save our bullpen for the rest of the series.”
This isn’t something that Roberts had developed on his own though, he credits his quick development in the minors due to the time that he spent pitching for the University of Virginia. His most notable feat while at the University of Virginia was pitching the school’s very first perfect game in 2011. Before attending UVA, Roberts was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2008. His mind was set on going to school before he had even been drafted by the Angels, however.
“I went to a really academic high school that prepared me really well to go to Virginia and get a good education there,” Roberts said. “It was nice of the Angels to see enough in me to draft me and give me a shot. I knew that I wasn’t ready for the life of pro ball and wanted to grow up in college rather than on the road here in the minor leagues.”
Roberts was then later drafted by the Indians in the fifth round of the First Year Player Draft in 2011.
“We like to go out and watch each other’s bullpens,” Roberts said. “Just to kind of see what everybody’s working on and if we can give any pointers of things that we see that they’re trying to figure out. Basically, we just kind of see how everybody’s attacking hitters.”
Cody Anderson has also been a key member of the rotation, but he has struggled this year in comparison to his previous seasons.
So far this season, Roberts is 7-8 with a 3.83 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. He’s not really a guy that walks a lot of batters, and he can tend to rack up the strike outs, but he also tends to put a lot of men on base via hits. In 89.1 innings pitched so far this season, Roberts is averaging 9.4 hits per nine innings. Even though Roberts is putting a lot of men on base, a lot of those men haven’t come around to score.
“If someone is in scoring position then you’re not going to lay a cookie in there and let them hit,” Roberts explained. “If you’re behind in the count with someone on base then you’re going to pitch a lot more careful then you would if you’re two out nobody on. You’ve just got to know the situation you’re in.”
By knowing how to attach each player, even when there’s a man on base, Roberts feels as if he knows how to control the game and not let it take off on him.
In the both April and May, Roberts had an ERA that hovered around 4.00. However, during June he had a set of consecutive starts where he gave up three or less runs. His best start coming on June 19 against the Reading Fighting Phils where he went eight innings, and gave up four hits, two runs, no walks and struck out 7. His next start following that though, broke his streak of quality starts when he faced the Erie SeaWolves. In that game he still went six innings and gave up eight hits, four runs, two walks and only struck out three.
“Really I just didn’t have my best stuff. I thought I kept the ball down pretty well. I made a couple of mistakes against their big hitters where they scored their runs,” Roberts said.
During a game where everything just doesn’t seem to work, Roberts is still intelligent enough on the mound to know how to adjust to the game.
“On those days where you don’t have your stuff you want to keep it down and try to get contact early because I knew I wouldn’t have my strike out stuff that I’ve had in a couple games earlier this year,” Roberts added.
He was still able to keep his team in the game though by going six innings. Thus giving them a chance to come back, but the RubberDucks went on to drop game by a score of 4-2.
Being a workhorse is what has made Roberts such a crucial member to this team. If Roberts can limit the amount of hits he gives up during a game, and continue to improve as the season progresses on then we should be seeing him keep moving up the minor league ladder. Innings are important for a starting pitcher, but being intelligent enough to know how to attack each batter to allow you to stay out there for all those innings is more important.
That is what Roberts can bringsto the mound in every start.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer