You might have caught Bob Klapisch, normally one of my favorite MSM writers, discussing the Joba situation yesterday. Honestly, I have no problem with people arguing that Joba should be employed in the bullpen, so long as they provide ample logic to back up their position. However, Klapisch’s logic doesn’t pass muster.
A question Klapisch has early on: “But who else in the American League can boast a Joba-factor?” He goes on to say that Joba “demoralizes” lineups, “softening them up for Mariano Rivera in the ninth.” Well, what exactly demoralizes opposing hitters? The fact that they’re completely shut down in the eighth, I guess. And yeah, Joba completely shut down teams over his 24 innings last year, allowing just one run. However, I’m more than doubtful that the ratio would rise over the course of a full season.
Even if Joba managed a herculean 1.30 ERA in relief, he’d still have company. If B.J. Ryan does indeed come back, the Blue Jays have Jeremy Accardo, who is rather sickening in the bullpen. The Indians have Rafael Betancourt, who posted a 1.47 ERA last year (and don’t forget Rafael Perez, too). The Angels have Scot Shields, who is usually a shutdown guy, last season notwithstanding. So right in the AL, we have a few elite setup guys.
(Of course, Boston could add a Joba-esque 8th inning guy if they moved Josh Beckett into that role. Ditto Tampa Bay and Scott Kazmir, Detroit and Justin Verlander, and Seattle and Felix Hernandez.)
Klapisch goes on to say: “The Bombers haven’t been this reliable after the seventh inning in more than a decade.” The Yanks were 81-4 last year when they had a lead going into the 8th inning. In 2006 they were 84-5 in that situation; 77-2 in 2005; 82-5 in 2004. In 1998, a decade ago, they were 93-1. So yes, there is room for improvement. I just think that Klapisch overstates the point here.
In other words, the Yankees foresee Chamberlain as their ace – someday. But that grooming process could take a year or two, which is why the Bombers were wise to return Joba to the bullpen last week and would be even smarter to keep him there for the entire 2008 season. Put it this way: Is there anyone in the organization who can clone his eighth-inning brilliance? Anyone at all?
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems Klapisch is suggesting that since it will take “a year or two” to get Joba fully up to speed — at which time he’ll be 23 or 24 — they should eschew that option and just use him in the bullpen? I’m sorry, but that reeks of shortsightedness.
Furthermore, does it matter that no one can match his eighth-inning brilliance? The team ERA in that inning was 4.83 (5.16 without Chamberlain), but it wasn’t their wirst. The second and third innings were particularly terrible, at 5.56 and 5.33. The fifth inning was at 5.00, and the seventh was at 6.50. So it seems the team needs some brilliance all around. Of course, as a starter, Joba would be covering some, if not all of those innings in question.
Another disagreeing point: “Consider that Chamberlain is on a 140-inning limit this year. How many of those will be wasted as a starter when the Yankees are on one of their run-scoring binges?” Is that justification for starting Kei Igawa? Seriously, it’s a heap of faulty logic. You never know when you’re going to score runs. Joba will pitch in blowouts, and he’ll pitch in close games, just like every pitcher.
“When Chamberlain blew away three Blue Jays hitters the other day on 15 pitches, it was a reminder why he kept the American League to a .145 average last year…” Yeah. He blew away three Jays minor leaguers. Forgot to mention that, huh?
“In case anyone hadn’t noticed, Chamberlain’s ERA had swelled to 6.14 before returning to the bullpen this spring.” Repeat after me. Spring Training doesn’t count.
Klapisch finishes up by saying that “by all logic” Joba should be in the pen. Which is true if you count logic which has holes I can drive a Mack truck through.