A Joba musing

Bernie hurt in winter ball
Bang for the Yanks' buck

Remember the glory days of the Winter of 2007/2008 when some people thought missing out on Johan Santana was the end of the world? Well, it turns out it was just part of the master plan to sign every free agent in baseball this year.

But beyond the Santana talk last year, the Great Joba Debate was par for the course. Barely a day went by without some fight about Joba’s pitching out of the pen as opposed to the rotation. Nowadays, while we sometimes get a random “Joba to the pen” comment, mostly silence greets news about Chamberlain.

Nothing was more indicative of that silence than the reception a massive if unoriginal article from Saturday’s Daily News received. That reception was a big nothing. The article, relying mostly on Joba’s mom, talks about addiction in the Native American community and Joba’s confronting success on the big stage. It is, in other words, exactly what you would expect and nothing very compelling.

As I was reading over the Yankee news last night, I came across a Joba-centric post on Bleacher Report. There, Sean Serritella writes that Joba may, in a way, be the biggest beneficiary of the Yanks’ off-season spending. “I feel it’s good that Joba won’t be the center of attention,” he writes. “There will be less pressure on him and a lot of pressure on the two big-named free agents that just signed. Joba can now go out and pitch his game whether it’s in the bullpen or the starting rotation.”

That game, to deal with the final sentence, will be out of the starting rotation. The Yankees are very unequivocal about that. But that note aside, Serritella makes a good point. The spotlight won’t be on Joba Chamberlain as the season starts. It will very squarely be on A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. At this stage in his career, that is a very good development for a pitcher that has earned himself some weighty labels and expectations with just over 124 innings under his belt.

Bernie hurt in winter ball
Bang for the Yanks' buck
  • Andy

    I found the Daily News article interesting, if poorly written and unfocused, and I have to say I think the comment that it was centered almost entirely on Joba’s mother was unfair, especially considering the previous focus on Harlan – it had interviews with two former coaches, Harlin’s brother, and lengthy quotes from a close family friend who worked with Harlin for 20 years and helped pay for Joba’s college.

    Though the article could have been more focused on the point it was trying to make, I find these articles interesting, they give some perspective on our celebrity obsessed society. I just hope Joba doesn’t flame out, like so many others have before him…

  • http://www.myspace.com/earlweaverplaque Ace

    I understand why people want Joba to start, but I can’t stand when people don’t see the logic of the 1996-esque pen of Joba 7th, Joba 8th, Mo 9th. I read repeatedly on here that Mo is the most important member of the team and the security he gives the Yanks at the end of the game is immeasurable, so why not add that security to the 7th and 8th innings too?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I read repeatedly on here that Mo is the most important member of the team and the security he gives the Yanks at the end of the game is immeasurable…

      You do? You read here or in the comments? Big difference. A starter is far more valuable than some 7th inning guy who will pitch in close games maybe 30 percent of the time.

      • http://www.myspace.com/earlweaverplaque Ace

        From the chat yesterday…

        [Comment From steveo]
        The one player the Yankees/Red Sox can’t do without?
        Mo. Without him, the Yanks are in major trouble. The sense of security he provides is ridiculous.

        • http://www.myspace.com/earlweaverplaque Ace

          I have 2 problems with this comment.

          1. If we lose Mo Joba is more than capable of closing games consistently (based on his stuff and the bullpen work he did when he was called up)

          2. If a starter is far more valuable then how come Mariano, who pitches 1 inning about 30% of the time is the one guy the Yanks can’t lose or they will be in “major trouble”?

          • RichYF

            Mo and Joba are not the same. Dominant closers, in general, have 2 pitches (at most). They’re basically glorified relievers. Mo has one GREAT pitch and a decent 2-seamer. Basically, he’s the best reliever in the game. He might be able to start, but due to his lack of arsenal, it is more likely that teams would “figure him out” over the course of an entire game.

            5 pitches at a time and he’s not easy to figure out. 15-20 pitches and you can probably get some semblance of timing down. The Sox had Mo’s number for a few years and it’s not really a secret why.

            Joba has 4 plus pitches. You don’t waste that kind of talent in a 1 at-bat scenario. He can give you a different look every time you face him. That’s what makes a starter dominant. Not to mention his durability with his heater. He seems to throw FASTER in the late innings of games.

            • http://www.myspace.com/earlweaverplaque Ace

              I dig all that. But if he’s on an innings limit I think he is more valuable pitching the 7th and 8th to build up innings while he prepares to start.

              • RichYF

                Anything over 80 IP for a reliever is pretty much a bad idea.

                If he pitches 2 innings every 3 games, that’s about 110 IP. That’s #1 not good enough and #2 more stress on his arm than we want. You can’t just pitch him 2 innings every other day and expect him to not blow his arm out. I understand the desire to get to his innings limit, but if he’s pitching out of the bullpen he’s just never going to hit the magic number. So let’s say he does 110 this year. He still needs 140 next year. Rinse repeat. Just let him do 140, 170, no limit.

              • Should be working

                You’re not going to build your innings and get used to being a starting pitcher by pitching in the bullpen. What makes Mo so important is he’s the best at what he does and has proven it over time. If you took Mo out of the equation I dont think theres one yankee you could take out that would completly change the team. Everyone else is replaceable. Theres only 1 Mo.

              • I Remember Celarino Sanchez

                If he relieves, he’ll never make it to his innings target, and we’ll have the same issue next year.

                It is vital to find out if the guy can start. He has to be a starter from opening day. If he stays healthy and effective and his innings start to approach his limit, that’s a great problem to have.

                To plan on him spending any time in the bullpen is self-defeating. It’s like I said earlier, if the 7th and 8th or so important, why don’t Hallady, Lee and Sabbathia pitch those innings? It’s because great starters are more valuable. Joba is a starter until he proves he can’t be.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          I don’t agree with that statement from the chat. Mike’s view, not mine. Mo might be a nice security blanket, and his post-season work has been amazing. But there’s no way he’s the most important player on the team. He’s probably one of the best Yankees we’ll ever see, but that doesn’t make him the most important.

      • deadrody

        Agreed. You have to remember that in 1996, Mo and Wetland were coming into the 7th innings of games started by Jimmy Key, David Cone, Doc Gooden (no hitter), Andy Pettitte, and even Kenny Rogers, who, while remembered as a villain, still put up an ERA+ that was better than league average. Without those quality starters, there isn’t much point to dominating the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

        Comparing then to now, Joba serves best as one of the 5 starters. Only two guys put up an ERA+ better than league average last year, and even assuming Pettitte signs, if you put Joba in the pen, that leaves somebody to take the 5th spot in the rotation that wasn’t very good last year.

    • Spaceman.Spiff

      If Mo could give us 200 innings of production close to what he can do as a closer I’d probably move him to the rotation too. Why not see if Joba can be dominant in the rotation before sticking him in the pen?

      • Bruno


    • I Remember Celarino Sanchez

      If having a 7th and 8th inning lock-down guy is so important, why not move CC to that role? Or A.J.? Why don’t the Blue Jays make Halladay their 7th and 8th inning guy? Why don’t the Indians use Cliff Lee in the 7th and 8th? Answer: Because it would be ridiculous to waste these aces as a 7th or 8th inning reliever. The same logic goes to Joba. If he has a chance to be a great starter, you don’t put him in the bullpen.

    • RichYF

      I understand the logic, but how important are the 7th, 8th, and 9th in a game that you’re losing 10-2 because Sir Sidney pitched the first 6?

      If Joba can give you 6 or 7 strong, the probability of “losing it” in the final 2 innings is a lot lower than “losing it” in the first 7 (where Joba pitches the 7th and/or 8th). Think about it. 7 IP every 5 days or 2 IP every 2 or 3 days.

    • MattG

      The ’96 Yankees would’ve finished in 3rd place in 2008. That team won 92 games in a far weaker division. If you’ve got four really good starters and lots of off days, go ahead and move Joba to the pen. But with 162 games in 180 days, you need more than 1-2 innings per appearance from Joba Chamberlain.

  • JeffG

    I agree that CC and AJ will impact Joba in a very positive way. Hopefully they’ll be able to school him a bit too.
    I also think another key will be if we can re-sign Pettitte. By having someone dependable in the 4th slot it makes it easier to skip Joba which is needed to keep his innings down. I worry that IPK/Hughes/Aceves won’t be able to give the long quality outings we need. That would result in more pressure on Joba to perform and perhaps use up too many innings early in the season.

    • Klemy

      I honestly don’t care if Andy does come back.

      I’d rather just develop Hughes and IPK from the 5th spot in the rotation. If Joba needs a break, you throw IPK or a callup in his spot a time through. We have the depth available to give breaks when needed without paying Andy IMO.

      • JeffG

        Sure but what if the kiddies are getting knocked out in 3-5 innings like last year?
        I’m looking forward to seeing IPK and Hughes pitch again at a high level I think they can achieve. I definately wouldn’t mind giving them more time in AAA to get better prepared.

      • Mike Pop

        I think we need Pettitte back. He gives you those innings that we need. If shit happens like last year where all thesre injuries happen we will be in major trouble. Nomaas had something on it in their latest post. I think we need another innings eater because its better to be safe then sorry. I loved reading bout the trade for Harang but I doubt that would happen for Nady. Harang is filthy though man, if we could trade for him we would have the best rotation in baseball no questions asked.

  • Jay

    It will also take the spotlight off of Phil Phranchise if he is in the rotation, which he probably will be at some point; whether that is because of Pettite not signing or injuries, he’ll be back at some point this year, and with much lower expectations.

    • zzzzz

      agreed. joba seems to thrive in the spotlight. although that hughes kid has pretty good career post season numbers eh?

  • pete

    Also, on the Joba-to-the-pen front, look at the bullpen we already have. If it were in total shambles without any reliable arms besides jomo, then I understand the necessity of two dominant relievers, but as it stands we have mo, marte, bruney, edwar, veras, and potentially dominant relievers in robertson and melancon waiting in the wings so why get so worked up about having a guy that realistically would avoid maybe one or two blown saves over the others when the replacements in the rotation could be 10 wins worse?

  • Should be working

    I just wonder what direction we go when Mo retires/we dont resign him. Going to be a scary time. Mo is a good security blanket to have.

    • http://26ncounting.blogspot.com VO

      hopefully Melancon

  • deadrody

    The deflection of the attention is probably the single biggest by-product of these signings. Not only does it take the spotlight off of Joba, but also Phil and Ian, and thanks to Teixeira, A-Rod, too. And certainly Cano.

    All the young guys, Cano, Wang, Melky, Phil, Ian, etc., can all do their thing while the media vultures will be circling around Posada, CC, AJ, and Teixeira. They will still bother A-Rod, but that spotlight should be a lot less bright.

    • http://26ncounting.blogspot.com VO

      Arod is Arod no matter who you sign he will still get killed by the media. We can sign barry bonds and roger clemens but they would still kill arod.

      • RichYF

        Manny being Manny would overshadow A-Rod for sure. ESPECIALLY during the Boston series. I said once before that the impact of Manny on the Yanks in terms of diverting attention away from A-Rod would almost be worth the $25 million it would cost to get him.

        Manny would 100% draw all of the attention. Every “fit” he threw, every ball he dropped, every “long single” he hit would just ignite the press, begging him to implode.

        A-Rod could marry Madonna and bear three of her children and it would cease to be interesting compared to Manny.

        • Should be working

          Manny may have actual drama thats not media created and may be more interesting than A-Rod but there will ALWAYS be stories on what A-Rod is doing,going,sleeping with etc.

        • Reggie C.

          “A-Rod could marry Madonna and bear three of her children and it would cease to be interesting compared to Manny.”

          Ewww … scary..

  • ko

    You’ve sucked me into this once again. Because Chamberlain is excellent at both, you put him where he’s needed most. However, I believe he’s an injury waiting to happen as a starter because of his violent delivery. Also, I really like his bulldog demeanor – he looks like he was born to be a closer to me.

    • I Remember Celarino Sanchez

      But CC, Halladay and Lee would be great at both, too, no?

      You put Joba in the rotation and see what happens. If he gets hurt again this year, and then gets hurt again next year, well, then maybe you start to wonder if he is durable enough to start. But you don’t just assume he will get hurt. That is not the way to go. Any young starter can get hurt.

    • jon

      born to close yet hes been a starter his whole life

    • Ed

      Any good starter can be a good reliever. The bullpen is generally the domain of failed starters, as you can get by there with less pitches / stamina than you need in the rotation.

  • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

    Joba = starter

    And on a totally unrelated note, Francesa is bitching on air about ESPN being a joke. Pot? Kettle? Black?

    • I Remember Celarino Sanchez

      Ah, man. I hate agreeing with Francesa. It makes me wonder if I’m wrong.

      But I do think the ESPN on-air personalities should wear Red Sox jerseys, just so the network’s true bias is out in the open.

  • MattG

    I just figured out that if you took Mariano Rivera, and let him pitch one time through the order, one time each series, that with a 1.1 WHIP he would pitch 54 games and 143 innings. Do it!

    Seriously, I would like to see someone do that in a Diamond Mind-type simulation, and see what happens.

  • Let’s Talk About TEX Baby

    There’s really no debate between dominant setup man and dominant starter, or even pretty good starter. If Joba starts the next couple years and doesn’t look that great, or if he keeps getting hurt, there’s no reason why he can’t still close when Mariano retires. It’s just crazy to use this kind of talent in the 8th inning, especially without even seeing what he could be as a starter.

    It’s also not fair to Joba to not at least give him a legit chance to be a starter. The best closer in the history of the game makes $15 mil a year. K-Rod, the 3rd or 4th best closer in the game just signed for $12 mil a year. Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett who is, to be fair around the 30th best starter will be getting $16.5 mil a year through age 36. For the good of the player and the team, this guy needs to start.

    • steve (different one)

      love the handle

  • Steve S

    I just want one thing to stop in this debate. The premise that pitching out of the bullpen is somehow healthier for his arm than starting. Relievers hardly ever have extended periods of dominance. Why? Because its pretty well established that the strain on a shoulder and elbow when pitching on consecutive days throughout a season is greater than pitching every 5 days on a routine schedule and allowing the muscles to properly rest and heal. I know this debate came up with respect to Papelbon and the Red Sox were forced to keep him in the bullpen because their options were Joel Piniero and Mike Timlin. There are a lot more example of Eric gagne out there than Mariano Rivera.

    Everyone in the media portrays this innings limit as a safeguard for him because he is injury prone. Why cant people comprehend that the innings limit is there in order to prevent injury and help lengthen his careerer, and has nothing to do with the health of his arm, but rather what experience has told everyone. Most pitchers do damage to their arms when they are transitioning from amateur to pro and over extending themselves.

  • the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusiness

    Love the site. Unequivocal is like unique. It does not need a modifier. Sorry if I come off sounding like a jerk, that’s just a pet peeve of mine. Keep up the great work.

  • booch

    I think the point here is moot since the Yanks realize along with every other person in baseball that he is more valuable as a starter. The only way this guy goes to the pen is if he is approaching whatever mythical limit the yanks put on him. Personally, I say just let him pitch every 5th day and let God take care of the rest. If he goes through the whole year unscathed then count your blessings and let it roll.