Innings math with Johnny Damon

Touché, Hank. Touché.
When corporate sponsorship goes to far

When controversy strikes the Yankee clubhouse, everyone has an opinion about it. Today’s Joba Chamberlain opinion comes to us from Johnny Damon via Tyler Kepner and the Bats blog:

Speaking of Chamberlain, here’s Johnny Damon’s take on his role. It seems to be the majority opinion of the veterans in the clubhouse: “Joba as a starter, he has a chance to help us out once every five days. Him coming in and bridging the gap to Mariano, he’s got a chance to do that three or four times during those five games.

Damon added: “Our objective is to win games. Down the road, if we can find someone else like him to throw that eighth inning, then so be it, he’ll be able to start. But he’s helping us win too many games so far this year.”

The emphasis, of course, is mine.

Johnny Damon’s math, in my opinion, is off a bit. Let’s say the Yankees play three games every five days in which they absolutely need Joba Chamberlain to pitch the 8th. I would consider that to be a one- or two-run save situation in the 8th inning or a situation, like last night, where the game could get out of hand in the 7th. Joba would then be throwing at most three innings every five days.

That math translates to about 100 innings pitched in a 162-game season, and only overworked folks like Scott Proctor see that sort of bullpen use and bause. Joba the starter could be throwing at least six innings every five days for something along the lines of 180-200 innings pitched a season. It’s a no-brainer in terms of numbers.

But what I find interesting about this short piece is how Kepner notes that Damon and the other Yankee veterans all see to prefer Joba in the 8th. To me, it seems as though the idea of Joba has become something of a crutch for the Yankees. Even if he pitches just once in five days because the Yanks lose two games and are winning the other two by lopsided margins, the idea that Joba is in the bullpen does more for the Yankees’ psyche than his presence does in the games.

That, however, is no way to win championships.

Touché, Hank. Touché.
When corporate sponsorship goes to far
  • Sciorsci

    Unless, of course, you’re concerned about his mechanics possibly leading to injury, in which case it would be a whole lot better to get 70-100 innings out of Joba for the next 10-15 years than it would be to get 180-200 innings out of him for the next 3-5.

    And as much as I certainly understand the math, I do wonder how Joba’s intensity would translate to a starting role. To me, that’s part of who he is, and I wonder if he would tone that down as a starter. I know it’s mathematically incorrect, but I personally feel like he’s a perfect fit where he is, and as the heir apparent to Rivera. He’s, in my opinion, the Yankees’ version of Papelbon.

    • Sciorsci

      Plus, with Horne, Marquz, Betances, Brackman, etc. all coming up behind him, isn’t the SP depth sufficient to at least consider the possibility of keeping him in the bullpen?

      I know – Hank would call me an idiot.

      • whozat

        “Plus, with Horne, Marquz, Betances, Brackman, etc. all coming up behind him, isn’t the SP depth sufficient to at least consider the possibility of keeping him in the bullpen?”

        The only guys that have even a semblance of Joba’s upside in the organization are Betances (who’s 18 and has no consistency with his mechanics yet) and Brackman, who has yet to throw an inning of professional baseball. These guys are years away yet. Joba could be a front-end guy inside of a year. HOW COULD YOU want to leave that kind of talent in the pen.

    • swo

      Comparing 4-pitch Joba to 2-pitch Papelbon will get you called an idiot by more than just Hank, lol

      But seriously, the Yankees want to at least see what they have in Joba the starter. If he fails, THEN make him a bullpen guy permanently. But if he’s an ace, then he belongs in the rotation.

      • Casper

        Perhaps a more diplomatic way to discuss the inevitable Joba/Papelbon comparison is to point out that (1) Joba is a better prospect than Papelbon was, (2) just because it worked one way for Papelbon does not mean it must work that way for Joba and (3) a true #1 starter is more valuable to a team than a shutdown closer.

        Regarding the Yanks’ pitching depth in the minors… Yes, it’s great that we have that depth and hopefully all or most of those guys will pan out and be good major league pitchers. But… IF ANY of them (including Joba) can be good starters, they should be starters, and you take the guys who can’t start for the team (either because they don’t pan out as starters or because, best-case scenario, they all pan out and you have a few guys who just aren’t as good as the others) and either let them continue developing, deal them, or use them in the bullpen and as spot-starters. You don’t stick Joba in the pen permanently because you have Alan Horne in SWB and Andrew Brackman recovering from TJS without ever having thrown a pitch as a professional.

        I honestly don’t intend for this to come off as antagonistic towards any Joba-in-bullpen proponents, but it seems like maybe some people are being short-sighted and think that just because Kyle Farnsworth hasn’t panned out, that it’s impossible to find an 8th inning guy (or closer for that matter). It’s MUCH more difficult to find (or develop, for that matter), a #1 starter. It’s just not even close in that regard. #1 starters are not guys you can just go out and get. Mike Stantons, Ramiro Mendozas, Mike Timlins (a few years ago), Hideki Okajimas, Keith Foulkes, Brad Lidges… are.

    • Ed

      Papelbon was a closer in college. He only became a starter after the Red Sox drafted him. He moved to the bullpen to fill a need, and would’ve gone back to the rotation but it became clear very quickly in spring training that he just didn’t have the stamina or stuff to be a starter in the majors.

      Joba was a starter in high school and college. He completely dominated the minors in that role. Joba has done absolutely nothing to indicate that he isn’t capable of being a starter in the majors.

  • nick blasioli

    we are talking about an unknown as joba has to prove stamina and consistancey in pitching..he doesnt look like a starter to me…hell lets try it and see…

    • Ben K.

      I would have bet so much money on your saying that. I guess his ridiculously successful Minor League starting track record does nothing for you?

      • mustang

        ” I guess his ridiculously successful Minor League starting track record does nothing for you?”

        It’s the MINOR LEAGUE.

        • Casper

          Totally. The Yanks should trade Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, Alan Horne, toss in Jesus Montero for good measure. They’re in the minors, they may as well be playing hockey.

          • mustang

            No we should just bring up Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, Alan Horne, and Jesus Montero tomorrow. Send everyone else home.

            • Casper

              That made sense.

              • Yankee1010

                What are these minor leagues these people are talking about? Those don’t matter at all, right? Why do the Yanks have a farm system? Let’s just go get Free Agent starters and pay them up the ass. That seems like a tremendously, fantastic idea.

                Hey, Joba, take your Fastball, Slider, Curve and Change and stay in the bullpen. What? You didn’t hear? You’re just like Mo and Papsmear. Mo has one dominating pitch. So what if he would get shelled after multiple times through the order. Papelbon has 2 pitches, and no real offspeed pitches. His shoulder has structural problems. Yep, you’re EXACTLY like them. Hurry up everyone. Listen to George A. King III. Listen to Mike and the Mad Dog. Listen to the Mediots. My God. I can’t believe that people still can’t see the light.

        • Travis G.

          stupid minor league. those players suck and will never be good enough to play in the major league.

          good thing the major league can produce it’s own players out of thin air or it might have to look to the minor league.

  • Casper

    Agree with Ben, was waiting for someone to say that while writing my too-wordy comment above. It’s more a surprise that Joba is so good as a reliever than it would be that he’s a good starter. The guy’s always been a starter, he was only put in the pen last season out of necessity (he approached his usage limit and the Yanks had a need at the MLB level). This is not taking a career-long reliever and trying him out in the rotation. This is taking a starter, giving him some innings in the pen, and then moving him back into his appropriate role when the time is right.

    • Casper

      My bad, I clearly haven’t mastered the art of replying to specific comments.

  • Geno

    When dealing with issues near and dear to our hearts, objectivity is sometimes difficult. It often pays to look at things from another perspective. Let’s use Bucholtz as an example. He’s young, and he’s got dynamite stuff. Now, as a Yankee fan, where would I rather Laptop be – in the Sox rotation, or as Boston’s 8th inning guy?

    There’s no question. I would be ecstatic if they relegated one of their best young starters to the pen. When we next faced Boston in the playoffs, Bucholtz would be out of the picture. No way I’m worrying about their 8th inning guy in the playoffs. Potentially dominating young starters? Those I worry about.

    8th inning guys are nice luxuries to have during the regular saeson, but come playoff time, it’s starters who dominate and win teams championships.

    • Casper

      That’s a GREAT example. (Although I think your last sentence, while I understand your intent, is a little off… It’s not a regular season vs. postseason thing. If Joba is an effective starter he should be in the rotation regardless of the time of year.)

      • Geno

        Right. I think though that positioning the debate in the framework of the playoffs helps to bring the issue into better focus. During the long regular season, it may seem as though 8th inning Joba is everywhere, pitching 2 or 3 times a week. This could make people inflate his value. Frame it in the context of the playoffs though, and I would expect even those inflating the value of regular season 8th inning Joba to see the superior value of playoff starter Joba. Remove the innings cap issue, and of course, have Joba throw his 200 innings throughout the year.

        • Casper

          But you’re switching between looking at it from the Yankees fan perspective and the perspective of a Yankees fan (or fan of another team) looking more objectively at other teams. You can make your same argument (“if you are thinking, more objectively, about a team other than the Yankees…”) in the context of the regular season… For example – Yanks are in Cleveland this weekend, I think Sabathia is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. I’d be f’ng ecstatic if the Indians said “Borowski’s out, Betancourt is the new closer, we need Sabathia in the 8th inning. Let someone else start, CC’s in the pen from here on out, he’ll OWN the 8th inning.” Regular season, postseason, it’s the same argument.

  • zack

    The whole notion of the Crutch” applies to the media and many fans too I think. There was a void, Joba comes in a fills it, and now lots of people can’t fathom life without him filling that role. In fact, they go so far as to imagine that before Joba, that void was unfillable, that only JOBA could pitch in the 8th successfully. Which of course is ludicrous. If the reverse had happened, if Joba had come up as a starter and been somewhat successful instead of say, Kennedy, then the argument might work the other way (or not happen at all of course).

    But now we are in a situation where what is comfortable and working in the short term, and perhaps is a ridiculous and egregious waste of resources in the process (think of, say, using a riding mower to cut a 100 ft patch of grass while you let your huge back yard go wild—sure its fun, quick, and easy to get used to and saves you the hard work behind you, but is it really the best use of your resources? Wouldn’t that mower be better doing the heavy, larger work that so needs attention, and wouldn’t you be best served not wasting money, gas, and , time on that one small spot and instead focus on the bigger picture?), overrides what is best for the team’s longterm health and success. That is an oh so common situation, is it not?

  • mustang

    I totally agree with Johnny Damon and I’m happy to hear the other veterans feel the same.
    “Our objective is to win games.” EXACTLY.
    Right now Joba fills a vital role on this team if his development as starter has to wait in order for the team to win then it should.

    Joba is here to fulfill the needs of the team not the other way around. That I think is something that sometimes gets lost when we talk about these 3 guys.

    • Yankee1010

      The objective is to win goddamn championships. What’s more important – a #1 starter or an 8th inning guy? I don’t have the exact numbers on me, but the Yanks last 16 postseason starts have given you 3 quality starts with an ERA over 6. However, why try to fix that when the mighty 8th inning beckons. OH. MY. GOD. Really, how do you not see this?

      • mustang

        First to address you’re other comments.
        I hate Mike and the Mad Dog and I’m have never been too crazy about George.
        One no here can say that Joba is going to be a #1 starter. Yes, you can look at his minor league numbers and project what he might do, but that’s just a projection.
        However, we have seen what he could do in the 8th and how he has helped this team. That’s what this teams needs right now is the 8th inning Joba.
        Again I never said don’t ever make him start just not now.
        To make myself more clear just not this season.

        • Yankee1010

          So you’re saying that the Yanks shouldn’t see if he’s a #1 starter?

          Exactly HOW do you plan on making him a starter if you’re going to keep him in the pen this year? Re-visit the situation next year? You’re going to change your mind then?

          • mustang

            I can’t speak for everyone, but I would not change my mind.
            Really what is the rush anyway?

  • mustang

    Furthermore if having Joba in the pen helps the Yankees’ psyche or he is being used as crutch, great.
    Anything to put WINS on the broad.

    • jt

      I thought only the idiot talk show hosts thought like this…

  • Jamal G.

    I can’t stand it when people use “IT’S THE MINOR LEAGUES” as a crutch in their Joba-to-the-bullpen argument when it comes to his success You say it like minor league success does not translate to Major League success. Check out Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett’s minor league stats. Go check em,

    Nobody is saying it’s a guarantee that his success as a starter will translate in a major league rotation, HOWEVER, to completely disregard it is foolish. 135Ks for a 13.79K/9 in 88.1 innings over three minor league levels is just plain DOMINANT. You can’t look at those numbers and say those mean dick. You just can’t, I understand it is the minor leagues but it is still a high level of competition.

    • Yankee1010

      Only the idiots and mediots are disregarding it. I agree though, it’s infuriating to listen to these people who think that the Minors are useless. Um, people realize the pretty much EVERY player played in the minors at some point, right? So if a player dominates the minors at every level, perhaps that could be indicative of future, major league success.

  • Joseph P.

    Why do people ignore the fact that Joba had been a *successful* starter his entire life until last July? You could convert a whole ton of top-tier minor leaguers into relievers. But there’s a reason why teams don’t do that.

    • Yankee1010

      I think the “Joba Must Stay in the Pen” Kool-Aid is the same stuff that David Koresh used to make.

  • Jamal G.

    Also, major league players no nothing about baseball management. They know nothing of developing a prospect or constructing a roster so when these *reporters use their feelings for Joba in the bullpen is just dumb. There’s a reason you see basically no former plays in the front offices of MLB and NFL franchises, just because you can play does in no way mean you can build a team.

    *I do not mean Tyler Kepner as he has publicy noted he thinks Joba should go to the rotation. I mean assholes like Joel Sherman (used to be a fan of this guy) who, in numerous articles, has predicted a veteran “revolt in the clubhouse” if Joba is switched to the rotation mid-season. Excuse me sir, but Fuck You. I also mean Bob Klapisch who used the same Johnny Damon quote as an argument for Joba to stay in the bullpen.

    • Count Zero

      Especially Damon…who is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed. I mean we’re taking managerial advice from a guy who will not be managing even a AA club when he retires. :-)

    • pete c.

      Jamal<I think Damon may know more about the game than we do. After all he’s been playing it his whole life at a high level. While I don’t disagree totaly with the sentiment that joba belongs in the rotation, I have heard an interview in ST when he sounded a lot happier coming out of the pen in a pressure situation than starting. Say what you want (and you will), his make-up will have something to do with his success. I’ve said before ,I believe he should stay in the pen this season, and get ready to go in the rotation next season. if he starts this year the team will have 3 rookies in the rotation. How much success do you think the team will have this season with that scenario?

  • mustang

    Jamal G
    I never said that minor league numbers don’t mean dick. You just have to put them in proper prospective that’s all.

    • Ben K.

      That’s exactly what you said.

      And can you please use the “reply to this comment” function? We’ve put that in so that threads can retain some semblance of logic and flow. If you’re replying to Jamal’s comment, do so using the proper form.

      • mustang

        No probelm.

      • mustang

        No, I did not.
        All I said “IT’S THE MINOR LEAGUES” and you guys ran with it. I think I have clarified my stand on minors in my comments above and below.

  • rbizzler

    I can’t believe anyone would give credence to anything that Damon has to say. Let’s just say that his intellectual abilities are not what make him a successful baseball player.

    And I am sure that the ‘majority of the clubhouse’ won’t mind when Joba is locking people down for 6+ innings a clip.

    • Casper

      Just wait until the first time Joba goes 6+ strong and a reliever blows the lead in the 8th. The reaction will be hilarious/terrifying.

      • rbizzler

        The reaction will only be negative from the M&MD fanboy crowd. Anyone who employs even the slightest bit of logic will know that a lesser starter would/might not have had the team in the same position headed into the 8th (read: Mike Mussina).

  • Rich

    Damon, like many, if not most, veterans, is only focused on what would help the team this season. Consequently, Damon’s opinion should be discounted accordingly.

    It’s the GM’s job (and ownership’s) to make decisions based on what is best for the team in the mid- to long-term. That’s what Cashman is doing, and it’s the reason he has said that the decision on Joba’s role will be made based on considerations beyond this season.

    To that end, a front of the rotation starter unequivocally has more value than any set up reliever. If Joba isn’t converted into a starter this season, it will restrict his innings cap for next season, and with it his development.

    • Yankee1010

      Ask them that the next time they see yet another starter completely shelled to start a playoff game.

  • Jamal G.

    You know, when it’s all said and done, I think on the most part we can agree that Johnny Damon needs to STFU.

    • Joseph P.

      It really illustrates why I never even tried to cover sports professionally. Who wants to talk to athletes? They rarely have anything interesting to say.

      • jt

        Talk show hosts are not much better. The only ones i can stand listening to are max kellerman and brandon tierney.

  • Mokers

    This 8th inning guy stuff is such a joke. If we removed the name Joba from the equation and told a person “We have a pitcher in our system with four major league quality pitches. He has the best arm on the team. Where should we use him?” Any baseball person is going to tell you that your best arm should be in the rotation. It doesn’t matter if its and old-timer or a sabrmetrics guy. They will tell you the same thing. If that guy doesn’t work out as a starter because his stuff wasn’t as good as previously thought, or an injury (Smoltz, Kerry Wood) then you can put them in the bullpen.

    There is a reason why Johnny Damon wrote a book called “Idiot”. These same sportswriters said that there would be a veteran revolt if Torre left and I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

    • swo

      Puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? Good post

  • Chris

    The problem with this ‘simple math’ is that he will surely have a lower ERA in the bullpen than in the rotation. The question is where will he save more runs for the team – in the rotation or in the bullpen. You can come up with reasonable scenarios that would have him saving more runs (relative to his replacement) in either scenario. It’s not a certainty that he would save more runs as a starter just because he pitches more innings, and if the number of runs saved over the course of the season is equal having him as a reliever allows you to leverage his innings more effectively.

    • Joseph P.

      You know, you’re really the only one making any sense for the pro-bullpen argument.

    • Ben K.

      If his starter’s ERA is 3.50 in ~180 IP, he’d have to throw about 80 innings of pitching at around a 1.50 in the bullpen to make it worthwhile. That’s a dirty calculation, but that’s the baseline standard. It’s possible, but not too likely, that he can keep his ERA that low all the time out of the bullpen.

      • Yankee1010

        The Joba-to-the-Pen contingent also has to consider that there would likely be an inferior pitcher pitching the innings that Joba could as a starter. It’s a lot easier for guys with only 1 or 2 pitches to excel as a setup man.

        Which would you rather have: Joba with a 3.50 ERA in 180 IP and pitcher X with a 3.00 ERA in 80 IP or Pitcher X with a 5.00+ ERA in 180 IP and Joba with a 1.50 ERA in 80 IP?

        • Chris

          If you look at the possible replacements (I’m talking long term, so free agents, trade possibilities, etc and not just whoever we can plug in now), you could reasonable expect about a 4.5 ERA for both the starter and reliever.

          This means that Joba would basically break even if he has a 1.5 ERA in the pen and a 3.5 ERA in the rotation. For comparison, Papelbon has a career 1.68 ERA, and we all know he’s not as good at Joba.

          • whozat

            “If you look at the possible replacements (I’m talking long term, so free agents, trade possibilities, etc and not just whoever we can plug in now), you could reasonable expect about a 4.5 ERA for both the starter and reliever.”

            So, out of Patterson, Ohlendorf, Melancon, Cox, Veras, Britton, and Sanchez, you don’t think we can find ONE guy capable of putting up an ERA better than 4.5 in relief? I do.

            Mo has a career ERA in the 2’s. His best seasons weren’t at a 1.5 ERA. You basically have to assume that Joba would perform better than almost any reliever ever–over the long-term–in order to out-perform his potential value as a front-end starter.

          • Yankee1010

            I disagree about the “reasonably expect about a 4.5 ERA” for the starter. In the AL last year, there were 29 guys who had ERAs under 4.5 The dropoff is also pretty steep (see, e.g. Daniel Cabrera at 36 with a 5.55 ERA). To think that the Yanks would just get a 4.5 ERA out of somebody who would give them 180-200 innings is a stretch.

            Moreover, I completely disagree about the 4.5 ERA for a reliever. Farnsworth’s career ERA is 4.47. The man is constantly ridiculed because he’s crap. You don’t think that the Yanks can do better than that? It is far easier to find a reliever who can put up an ERA better than 4.5 than it is to find a starter who can do that. Many guys can get by in the bullpen with 2 pitches.

            You speak about a long-term plan, but the Yanks have a TON of guys who profile well as late inning relievers, e.g. Melancon, Sanchez, Ohlendorf, Robertson, Cox, Whelan (if he’s healthy), McCutchen (who arguably might not stick as a starater), a slew of guys at AAA right now, Kontos, maybe Marquez and Horne (if the starting does not work out), etc. The point is, that it is far more difficult to develop an ace starter. They do not grow on trees. For the Yanks to pass up the opportunity to develop an ace is most certainly foolish.

            Also, can’t we all hope that the days of paying $10 million plus a year on crap free agent starters is over? The fact remains that the real aces (Sabathia aside) are not hitting free agency any more because MLB is printing money.

            One also has to think about the playoffs. What is the real goal here? Hopefully, everyone thinks it’s to win a World Series.

            • Chris

              There were 56 starters in the AL last year who threw more than 100 innings as a starter. Of those, 37 (almost exactly two thirds) had an ERA under 4.5.

              There were 78 relievers that threw more than 40 innings in relief. Of those, 52 (exactly two thirds) had an ERA under 4.5.

              I think a 4.5 ERA is a reasonable estimate for both cases.

              As for needing an ace in the playoffs, who was the Ace for the 2006 Cardinals? Jeff Weaver. He had a 5.76 ERA in 2006 and 6.2 ERA in 2007.

              • SM

                It would be nice to test persistance of these numbers over the last few years. Rough guess, I would think a higher percentage of the top starters tend to be top starters again over the following years whereas that would not be the case for relievers. Another factor to look at is cost.

          • JimT

            I don’t think that anyone can say that Joba is a better late inning pitcher than Papelbon. If you use velocity as a measure than Farnswoth would be a world beater. If the amount of effective pitches was all that mattered then where would Mariano Rivera with his cut fastball be? The only measure is results. Until Joba surpasses Papelbon in meaningful results i.e. “saves” he is not a better pitcher.

            Rivera is going to run out of gas someday. maybe this year, maybe next year, who can really tell. When he does Joba will be the Yankees new closer. Cashman is hedging his bets.

    • mustang

      Well put.

  • mustang

    Just for the record guys I would love to see Joba as starter SOMEDAY.
    Enjoy the rest of the day.

    • Jamal G.

      Are you serious? LoL, I never would’ve concluded that.

      • mustang

        You have to read all of my comments Jamal G. Not just go off because I don’t agree with the way you guys want these 3 guys incorporated into the Yankees.
        I want these guys to do great I would not be Yank fan otherwise.

    • whozat

      “Just for the record guys I would love to see Joba as starter SOMEDAY.”

      How do you get him there? If you keep him in the pen all season this year…we’re in EXACTLY the same boat next season…stuff’s good enough to be an excellent starter, but he still can’t start for a whole season.

      The people who say “oh, move him next year…” never provide a HOW. And it’s not a transition. It’s a return to a role he’s had for years, and in which he has always excelled.

      • http://2009 Haggs

        Here’s the plan:

        Joba comes to Tampa early next spring, just like he did this year, and he is told that he absolutely positively will begin the season in the starting rotation.

        At the same time, Kyle and LaTroy will no longer be around, and all the guys who aren’t quite ready for primetime right now because of rehab, youth, etc. will be in Tampa competing for open bullpen spots that don’t exist today but will in ’09.

        So the Yanks work out a formula whereby x amount of starts plus x amount of relief appearances equals the 2009 innings cap for Joba.

        Yeah, its less innings in the rotation than it would be if he were moved midseason this year, but it doesn’t take him away from the team in the middle of the year, and I think there will be better arms available to fill the bullpen void next season . Right now they’re stuck with Kyle and LaTroy.

        This makes the Yanks a better team in ’08 and in ’09. To do it this year so Joba can pitch 40 or 50 more innings next doesn’t seem worth the pen problems and media circus his departure will create.

        • Yankee1010

          Just to be clear, your plan is to have Joba start next year in the rotation, but to also spend time in the pen at various times? How exactly does that work? That switching would be very hard to handle smoothly.

          Also, the Yanks don’t necessarily need to send him to the minors. The Yanks can have him start games in the majors and have a long man ready. First Joba can throw around 3 innings. Then 4 or so. Then 5. And so on. The Dodgers did the same thing with Billingsley last year.

          Would you plan on having him be able to start in the postseason under your plan? They’re only going to increase his innings by about 30 over this year, and rightfully so. Under your scenario, there’s no way he’s pitching more than 140 innings next year and maybe not able to start in the playoffs. So then it’s 2010 before we can expect about 170 innings and 2011 before we can expect 200 innings or so? Um, that doesn’t really seem like it’s maximizing the value of the low-cost Joba.

          • http://2009 Haggs

            Last year, he began the season as a starter (albeit in the minors), then pitched the last 2 months in the bullpen.

            I propose the Yanks follow a similar plan in 2009, only all of his innings would be in the majors. Since Joba has done this before he would likely be more comfortable with this plan. One more year of Joba in the playoff bullpen won’t be the end of the world.

            The 3 innings than 4 innings than 5 innings plan is like spring training in July and makes zero sense to me, as does sending him to the minors mid-season to prepare.

            The Yankees are a better baseball team this season and next under this plan in my humble opinion.

  • Casper

    Take it a step further, though. If you say you want Joba to be a starter “someday,” how do you go about making that happen? Do you give him 80-90 innings out of the bullpen in ’08 and then expect him to give you 180 out of the rotation in 2009? It doesn’t work like that. This argument for Joba as a starter isn’t solely based on a belief that 200 innings of shutdown starting pitching is worth more than 90 innings of shutdown relief pitching; there’s another layer to this when you look at the bigger picture. Joba threw about 110 innings in 2007. He should throw something like 140 innings this season, and then (assuming he throws 140 in 2008) something like 170-180 next season. If you leave him in the bullpen and he throws 90 innings in 2008, how/when is he going to become a starter “someday?” There are serious consequences for his development if he is not transitioned back into the starting rotation this season. He has to throw more innings and he has to “pitch as a starter” (throw 3-4 different pitches regularly, etc.). If you want him in the bullpen all season but also want him to be a starter “someday,” how do you propose the Yankees go about making that happen?

    • Casper

      Again with the “reply to this comment feature.” Sorry… I was typing, clicked a link by accident, went back to the page and thought I was still responding to Mustang’s comment at 4:08 pm (but instead I was no longer in that thread). My bad.

    • Casper

      And “whozat” beat me to it, anyway.

  • Steve S

    I didnt think there was another possible way to have the same conversation. Who cares what Johnny Damon thinks? Or for that matter what the other Yankees think. They dont get paid to run the team. This issue has been decided, its only a debate if Cashman comes out in a month and says Joba is staying the bullpen.

    I have an idea, lest speculate as to what they do if Phil or IPK flop this year, do they acquire a starter? Do they wait on Joba and allow Mussina to keep on crawling into the sixth inning every game. I think the reality is that Joba fills one hole, but beyond this need for an ace, which Job wont be, who do the yankees call up or trade for in order to replace Mussina. Ill assume one of these kids works out. Alan Horne is coming back so I know he may be there, Marquez has had a rough April. Rasner? Kei Igawa? WHO

  • Tripp

    Is it possible to get 140 innings from the bullpen? I think I agree with Joba somewhat where as long as he’s contributing to the MLB team then that’s the most important thing.

    I could care less if he’s in the bullpen or the rotation as long as someone replaces Mussina and as long as Joba gets the 140 innings that allows him to pitch for most the season next year in the rotation.

    The fact is that all anyone can do is speculate about what’s going to happen in 2-3 months. Maybe Cashman pulls off a monster deal for Huston Street. Then no one can complain about Joba the starter. It’s all speculation and right now he’s in the bullpen.

    Cashman has a plan and I think we all know that Cashman doesn’t give a shit about sportswriters, nor does he take advice from Johnny Damon and Goose Gossage.

    • whozat

      “Is it possible to get 140 innings from the bullpen?”

      yeah, but his availability would be very limited and structured…3 innings every few days or something. To do otherwise (three innings today, two tomorrow, none for three days, four the day after that) would jeapordize his arm health.

      Frankly, I’d like to see them dump Farnsy or Traber, bring up Rasner to be the long-guy, and put Ollie in a late-innings role. I appreciate him taking one for the team every several days, but I think he has the stuff to be a late-innings power arm and it’s silly to waste that in low-leverage innings.

    • Yankee1010

      Not if you want his arm to stay attached to his shoulder.

  • YES

    I’m pro Joba to the rotation.
    But I will say if the Yankees (besides Horne) had major league ready starting pitching prospects I would say keep him in the pen.
    Even if they had gotten Porcello (and they almost did) I would think about keeping him in the pen.
    It’s tough! You would love to have potentially 4 or 5 outstanding young starters.
    Wang, Hughes, Chamberlain, Porcello, Betances/Horne
    Wang, Hughes, Horne, Porcello, Kennedy/Betances with Joba in the pen?
    Wishful thinking on my part.
    We didn’t get Porcello.
    I’m all for Joba to the rotation but it would have been very interesting if they landed Porcello and Betances was major league ready.

  • Sciorsci

    I’m not suggesting that Joba should not be transitioned back to the rotation, just that I don’t feel it’s the no-brainer that others do. The guy has an injury history in college (that’s why he lasted to the sandwich round), and his mechanics have been said to pose some level of risk for future injuries. I know his repetoire screams “DOMINANT STARTER!” but I was just expressing some concern that his mechanics may ultimately limit him to the bullpen in the long-term. And given his success, along with Rivera’s age, I don’t necessarily think that will be a horrible outcome.

    • Steve S

      But ist not as if guys in the bullpen have these long term careers. I think we were all spoiled by Mariano. But normally the wear and tear on middle guys and a closers knocks them out in about three to five years. Thats to say three to five years of dominance and then they start to come back to the pack. And a lot of them fade into oblivion.

      I agree that this concept that he will be dominant is a little bit much. A lot of guys have the stuff to be number ones doesnt always translate. But its clear that he has suceeded as a starter throughout his career and at every level. So projecting him as a starter, just a starter, is a safe bet and it probably is the best way to ensure a longer career.

      If you have serious concerns about mechanics, then he definitely shouldnt be in the bullpen. I think speculating about mechanics is a scam. Its not difficult to look at 100 pitching prospects and say 75% of them will have some kind of arm surgery in their career. Because in the end most of them do. I see a pitchers arm as a rubber band, some of them make it and some of them dont. trying to predict it is fun but staring at mechanics doesnt seem to be the best measure.

  • ceciguante

    nobody knows if joba can put up a 3.5 ERA as a starter. that is asking a LOT, to instantly garner cy young consideration in your first season as a MLB starter. it’s highly unlikely, regardless of stuff. todd van poppel had good stuff. ben mcdonald had good stuff. you need to know how to outsmart hitters 3 times through, consistently, to approach those numbers. i agree that joba should be transitioned to starter this year to give him a SHOT at eventually becoming an ace, but i have a problem with those who argue that, as a matter of course, joba should be assumed to step in and post a 3.5 era as a starter or perform as a #1 starter.

    to be fair to the BP proponents, at least we have seen him perform at a 1.5 era (or better) in what is now over 30 MLB innings across 2 seasons. there’s no reason to think he can’t sustain that in the pen.

    from what i see, a team needs 3 good starters to win a championship. it also needs 2 good relievers (i’m not defining “good” for the time being). the problem is that the yanks need joba in the pen…AND the rotation. these yanks just don’t have enough good pitchers right now, barring some surprising emergence by hughes or kennedy into plus starters, or bruney or ohlendorf into plus relievers. this is not at present an elite pitching team, and non-elite pitching teams rarely win championships. they probably need to acquire pitching to win a WS this year.

    • Yankee1010

      It is far easier to find a good reliever than it is to find a good starter. People aren’t arguing that, right?

      The fact is that the Yanks have bombed out of the playoffs the last few years because their starters have gotten killed. Having Joba as an 8th inning shutdown guy doesn’t matter without any starting pitching.

      Ben McDonald and Van Poppel didn’t dominate the minors quite like Joba did. Yes, Joba has pitched well out of the pen. It proves that he can get major league hittters out. He has done that without having to really use his curve and change. Why not give him the chance to pitch 180-200 innings a year with those weapons instead of 80? There are a lot of guys in the Yanks’ system with 2 legit Major League pitches (see above). Those are the guys that should worry about the 7th and 8th innings. They couldn’t survive as starters because their pitches and repertoires aren’t as dominant and as deep as Joba’s. The best way to maximize value is definitely with Joba as a starter and the other guys in the 7th and 8th innings.

      Also, Joba was a starter throughout college and the minors until the end of last year. He dominated as a starter at every level. That matters. It’s not unreasonable to think that he could dominate as a starter in the majors. He has a plus-plus fastball, a plus-plus slider, a plus curve and an above-average changeup. You’re right that it’s not easy to pitch to a lineup for the 3rd time, but it’s a whole lot easier for a guy with 4 legit pitches.

      Plus, I think everyone needs to get off the ledge about Hughes and Kennedy. They both pitched very well throughout the minors and in the majors last year, including the playoffs. They have pitched in crappy weather and neither of them are fast starters. They’re both also extremely young for the majors. Maybe we can wait just a little longer before their eulogies are written.

      • ceciguante

        yes, far easier to find a reliever than a starter (but we fail to do that every year, somehow). and no argument with your reasoning to try joba as a starter. i’m fine with the stated plan to move him there this year. he deserves the shot, and if we don’t move him now, he won’t get moved. but 4 good pitches does not a 3.5 era make — that is the assumption i reject. it COULD…or he could fall short for any number of reasons (lack of experience, poor pitch selection, stamina problems, injury, etc). 3.5 is a lot to ask right away.

        as for hughes and kennedy, i’m not on the ledge, nor writing eulogies, but i don’t apologize for their suckiness the way some rush to do. they’ve been horrid, and the weather isn’t an excuse, because guys on the same mound were shutting down our lineup on the same nights, and posters on this blog loved to cite the weather for that, too. can’t have it both ways. i’m not writing hughes or kennedy off at all. i’m just not holding my breath that they are ready to be above average MLB pitchers this year. and yes, i’m taking their first 4 games into account. lord knows, if they had been stellar, about 100 posters here would remind everyone how useless johan santana is. instead, we hear about the weather an awful lot. lest we forget, october is pretty chilly, too.



    I think your analysis is incorrect. While the “numbers” may indicate that Joba will be more helpful to the Yankees because, as a starter, he’ll throw more innings, but the reality (in terms of team wins), is that Joba will help the Yankees more as reliever.

    For example, assuming Joba starts, he’ll have one great performance every 5 days (maybe…maybe not) and go 7 strong innings. How many wins does that equal???…1.

    OK, now Joba as a reliever, pitches in 3-4 games out of the bullpen during that same week, how many wins can he bring us then???…3 to 4.

    So it seems pretty simple, Joba as a shutdown force after the 7th inning will likely lead to more team wins, than Joba as a shutdown force once a week as a starter.

    And if you want to look at it another way, how about this: A starter has about what, 35 starts a year? Ok, best case scenario, those 35 starts equate to 20 total wins. Now, as a reliever, how many game appearances will he make a year? Close to 80. How many more wins can come from his 80 appearances out of the pen in late game situations…the answer is A LOT MORE than 20.

    Thats my take on it, anyway.

    • Ben K.

      The problem with that analysis is that one player’s contribution to the game does not equal one win. In the vast majority of cases, Joba’s one inning of work won’t have nearly the same impact as just about any other event in the game. That’s why Bill James has win shares.

      The better way to look at it is through runs allowed and runs prevented.

      And overwhelming number of those 80 wins (probably as high as 75 if not more) would be wins whether or not Joba pitches in them. The same cannot be said of a starting rotation featuring, say, Mike Mussina instead of Joba Chamberlain.

      • Yankee1010

        Ben, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to sink in. It seems that innings 1-7 do not exist for some people.

        • LLOYD


          It is sinking in. I’m not dismissing innings 1-7. I’m emphasizing innings 7-8….4 times a week. We’re do we lose 70% of our games….oh that’s right, in innings 6 and beyond. So yes, it has sunk in, and I do understand both sides of the argument, in my opinion, however, greater emphasis should be placed on our (historically) despicable bullpen.

          • RichYF

            First of all it’s “where do we lose” not “we’re do we lose”

            Second of all, and more to the point, What good is a lights out 8th/9th inning if we’re down by 5? That’s all I have to say. If our starting rotation has no depth and only 2 pitchers have a chance to win out of 5, what good is that 7-9th inning of “lights out” pitching?

            Wang and Pettitte, on good days, go 7-8 anyway. So Joba’s primary position would be to get 1-2 outs in the 8th twice a week? I don’t understand.

            Let’s just assume that Joba the starter fails miserably. So we let him do that for a year or so (I don’t know how long is “long enough”) and he’s just miserable. Guess what! We can put him back into the 8th inning role!

          • Yankee1010


            Have you tested out of 5th grade yet?

  • Realist

    4 quality MLB pitches spells starter…………..

    One thing that does worry me is that he and some of the management seem to think his mental makeup is more of a reliever………..

    Don’t get me wrong , if he is the heir apparant to Mo then awesome but I would like to at least see him get a chance to show what he can do as a starter.

  • YES

    Here’s the thing if Joba for whatever reason doesn’t succeed as a starter you can always move him back to the pen.
    I have a problem with Joba staying the pen for one the Yankees don’t have other then Horne major league ready arms that can be fixtures in the rotation.
    Hughes I think is still going to be very good despite this slow start.
    I’m not worried about him being a fixture in the rotation.
    It’s actually Kennedy I’m slightly worried about.
    They can’t afford to keep Joba in the pen. because the rest of the rotation is filled with uncertainties.
    When your building a baseball team you start with up the middle and with starting pitching.
    You don’t start with the bull-pen.

    • ceciguante

      but are we “building a baseball team” as you say, or are we trying to get a good team over the top? for 2008, it really depends who has emerged by the playoffs. we should have starters 1 and 2 already, and need another good top 3 starter. we also have the closer, and need a top flight setup guy. but there is only one joba. hopefully, hughes will emerge as a solid 3 starter to form the core of the playoff rotation, but there is a lot of growth needed between now and then for that to happen. i don’t trust kennedy as a top 3 SP, he just doesn’t have killer stuff. of course, ohlie, bruney or someone else can rise to the 8th inning slot, too. it’s an intriguing situation and will make for a fascinating season. but we’re asking for a lot of improvement (or a trade) to be ready for the playoffs.

  • Sky

    I hate the comparison of Joba as the “0.00 ERA 8th inning guy” to Dotel as the “gives up a grand slam every day” guy. I mean seriously, does anything think Joba’s replacement in the 8th inning would have a 36.00 ERA? Do you know how often a league-average pitcher gives up a run in an inning? Something like 20% of the time. So you get shut-down performance 80% of the time. From a league-average guy.

    That being said, you can’t directly compare relief innings with starter innings. The innings Joba pitches ARE more important than the average 1st-6th innings. It’s a win-probability thing. When you pitch in close games, your appearances are more important. In 2007, Joba’s appearances were 10% more important than typical innings. So far in 2008, they’re 40% more important. (Go to for LI data.)

    Here’s the basic value formula: (repERA – ERA) * IP * LI / 9
    That’s the number of runs a pitcher will save your team compared to replacement level — 5.75 ERA for starters and 4.75 ERA for relievers. LI is leverage inde — use 1 for a starter.

    • ceciguante

      why am i supposed to believe that this formula represents reality? b/c some statistician said so? 10% more important for joba’s innings last year? i’d argue that it is more than that, that he was in some way the heart of the team down the stretch last year and made the league (and the yanks) believe the yanks were dangerous. leverage index? not for me. i prefer to watch the games to decide which spots are important.

    • Bruno

      The late innings are made important because the starter failed for the first 5+. If the other teams is shut-out, or even 1-2 runs, over that span then the late innings probably won’t be as “stressful”.

    • Sciorsci

      If a league average guy, in your example, gives up one run in 20% of his innings, his era would be 1.80 – last I checked, that’s not the league average for relievers.

      • Sky

        My bad, it’s actually more like 28-29% — sorry about that. But it’s wrong to assume a pitcher will always give up exactly one run. It’s often 2, 3, 4 or more. Teams are held scoreless just over 70% of the time against league-average pitching.

  • fay day

    The math might be off for the regular season but it adds up if we are talkin about the post season.

  • Bruno

    “To me, it seems as though the idea of Joba has become something of a crutch for the Yankees.”

    This is exactly why I said keep him out of the ‘pen in the first place.