Too much pitching a good problem for Yanks

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The series in Texas highlighted three Yankees pitchers who have been the subject of much debate: Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Chien-Ming Wang. All three could be part of the starting rotation, but there are only two spots for them. This has led to arguments about what to do with each. Should Joba go to the pen? Should Hughes? What about sending Hughes to AAA to get his innings in? Can Wang be the long man? These questions, and really any question about what to do with these three pitchers, can be answered in the simplest of manners:

Let’s see how this plays out.

Given the current state of the team and the statuses (statii?) of the three pitchers, there is no reason to make a decision right now. The Yankees can move forward as currently scheduled and observe how things play out. Over the next few weeks there will surely be an opportunity for the Yankees to arrange their pitchers in a sane and useful way, both for the 2009 season and the long-term.

There is no better example to illustrate this point than what happened in April with Wang. Who would have thought he’d be that bad? Some people might have been wary of his ability to come back full strength after his Lisfranc injury, but to be that bad? No one really foresaw that, not to that extent.

Pitching surpluses have a way of working themselves out. If the Yankees are lucky enough to have all three pitchers going at peak performance a month from now, then they might have a tough decision to make. Until then they can continue on the current course. Something’s bound to happen, and if it doesn’t the Yankees should be thankful to have to make said weighty decision.

Let’s take a look at each pitcher to examine his advantages and shortcomings. I think this will make it clear that the Yankees have nothing to worry about right now.

Chien-Ming Wang

He’s perhaps the strangest story of 2009. First he was the worst starter in baseball over his first three appearances. Then the Yanks were criticized for placing him on the DL. Finally, just before he was about to pitch another rehab start the Yanks recalled him to pitch out of the bullpen. Such a strange sequence of events for such a solid pitcher over the past two and a half years. This led many to wonder about the future of Chien-Ming. His first appearance after returning didn’t do much to quell those fears.

Last night, though, Wang impressed in his two innings of work. Not only did he keep the sinker low for the most part, but he struck out two and induced ground balls. That’s the Chien-Ming we know and love. Clearly, he’s going to be back in the rotation if he keeps this up. However, it’s the last five words of the preceding sentence are weightier than the first nine. It’s going to take more than one two-inning appearance for Wang to prove he’s ready for full-time action.

The signs last night were encouraging. If you look at Wang’s pitch f/x from this start in April, you can see it’s high and off to the side. Compare that to last night’s data, and you can see that his release point is lower and more over the top. That’s where Wang needs to be. Of course, there are other factors at play here, like pitch f/x consistency from park to park. I think, though, that it was easy to see that Wang used a lower release point last night.

Before moving Wang back into the rotation, the Yankees would do well to get him regular work out of the bullpen first. This is in order to 1) keep both Hughes and Joba in the rotation and 2) to let him work himself back at the major league level. He might not get long outings, or at least I would hope not. Long outings mean the starter failed. But maybe he can go two innings in relief of Pettitte on Friday, and then pitch again in relief of Phil on Sunday or Joba on Monday. The Yanks don’t want to overwork him in the pen, but he could certainly pick up two innings here and two innings there to help him work back into a groove.

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes’s starts for the Yankees, on the Crap to Lights Out scale: Lights Out, Crap, Crap, Decent, Decent, Lights Out. The potential is clearly there. Now Phil has to figure out how to put it together. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to do that in the minors. He’ll be able to get in his innings and build himself up to pitch ~200 innings next year, but he won’t be able to take the lumps which all young pitchers must take before blossoming into top-line starters. In other words, the best course of action for the development of Phil Hughes is to keep him in the big league rotation.

The problem is that there are still concerns with him from start to start. As we saw on the Crap to Lights Out scale, Hughes can take three forms. It’s nice to think that he’s turned a corner after his last start, but we all thought that after the Detroit start and he made four non-Lights-Out starts before his next. The in-between results were less than stellar. So it’s no guarantee that Hughes pitches another Lights Out start in his next few outings. At this moment, though, with Wang still working back into shape, it’s best to keep Phil in the rotation and see what he can give you.

What happens, then, if Wang proves he’s ready to re-enter the rotation? If Hughes throws a couple more Crap starts between now and then, the solution is obvious, in that the Yanks return Hughes to AAA to get his innings up in anticipation of a near-future recall. If Hughes is pitching Decent or Lights Out, it might be a tougher decision. It’s a nice problem to have, of course, since it means you have six good starters for five spots. The Yanks can afford to hold off on that decision for at least a week, probable more, which is also a comfort.

Notice how I didn’t answer the question? That’s because despite the niceness of the problem, the solution isn’t easy. Do you send Hughes back to AAA to get innings, despite his ability to help the major league club? Do you send him to the bullpen and work out a plan to get him his innings? The answer to both is dependent on the specific circumstances at the point of the decision. It also has a lot to do with the final pitcher in this equation.

Joba Chamberlain

The lowest common denominator solution in this case is to move Joba to the pen. We’ve seen him in the pen before, so there’s a confirmation bias built into the situation. Furthering the confirmation bias is that we saw him dominate out of the pen. Since he’s not exactly dominating in the starting rotation right now, it’s easy to see why some people would favor this solution. However, it’s the easy solution for a reason: it requires the least amount of thought. Joba’s struggling in the rotation, we’ve seen Joba dominate in the pen, therefore Joba goes to the pen. The actual situation digs a bit deeper than that.

Of the three pitchers discussed in this article, the Yanks hold Joba in the highest esteem. He was a potential top-ten pick who fell in the 2006 draft because of triceps tendonitis and concerns about his weight. The Yanks got a steal, a pitcher with front-line potential in the supplemental first round. It was a high-risk, high-reward pick, and surely the Yankees want to see if they can realize that high reward. The highest of high rewards, of course, is an ace pitcher, and that’s Joba’s potential. It behooves the Yankees to give him every chance to prove he can be that top of the rotation starter.

But what if Joba is struggling while Wang and Hughes are pitching well? Again, that would be a difficult question for the Yankees to answer. Joba’s innings situation is a bit more dire than Hughes’s. The latter pitched almost 150 innings in 2006, so they can afford to push him a bit higher this season. Joba maxed out at 112 innings in 2007 and threw only 100 in 2008. Clearly the Yankees need to build up his innings in order to maximize his value (as a starter). That won’t happen in the bullpen.

While it’s true that Joba could improve the Yanks shaky bullpen, it is far from the only consideration in the matter. First, think of how many games the bullpen has actually blown for the team this year. Then think about having Joba in those situations. Is it really a guarantee that he saves all of those games from the jaws of defeat? Is it a guarantee that he doesn’t blow a different game? Expecting him to have a 0.00 ERA in the bullpen is ridiculous. That’s not to say he can’t be lights out. It is to say that he might represent only a marginal improvement in terms of how the bullpen actually affects the team’s record.

Here’s one argument many B-Jobbers (for the uninitiated, our euphemistic moniker for the Joba-to-the-bullpen crowd) fail to acknowledge. Last year Joba was dominant in the bullpen in April and May. The Yanks then stretched him out to start in June, and he was dominant as a starter. This year Joba has struggled at times in the rotation. So who’s to say he won’t have equivalent struggles in the bullpen? Is he going to miraculously pitch with more efficiency because he’s only going one inning at a time? I don’t think so. Considering his first-inning woes, he might be even worse in limited action out of the pen (please, note the emphasis on “might”). Are the Yankees really better off with Joba pitching 20-pitch innings out of the pen three times a week than they are with keeping him in the rotation? Clearly, I think not.

The next few weeks will be important for the fates of all three pitchers. Maybe they all pitch well and the Yankees have a tough decision to make. Maybe Hughes and Wang pitch well, leaving them with a decision on Joba, which could be even tougher. Maybe either Wang or Hughes struggles and the answer becomes clear. In any case, it’s far better to continue on the current path than make a decision in haste right now. The Yankees are in first place. The offense is rolling. The starters have been pitching better. The bullpen has avoided its April misfortunes.

As I said earlier in the week, there are times when a decision needs to be made, and there are times when patience should win the day. In the case of Chien-Ming Wang specifically, the Yankees can ill-afford to wait around while he doesn’t pitch. But when making a decision among three pitchers for two spots when the team is going well, it’s a time to let patience reign. There’s plenty of season left, and something is bound to happen which will make the decision easy for the Yankees. Best to stay the course now. Let Wang build himself back up in the pen while Hughes and Joba work out their issues in the rotation. As long as the offense keeps rolling it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

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  • A.D.

    I agree with the end, let Wang build himself up in the pen, given the Yankees already painted themselves into that corner, and go from there. The key actually giving Wang innings, there’s no reason he doesn’t come out and pitch the 7-8-9 last night. Hopefully his outing has helped build confidence and we see him getting those 3+ inning stints when a starter has hit his pitch limit.

    • Chris

      I got it… 6 man rotation.. Sabathia, Joba, Burnett, Pettite, Hughes, Wang

  • ledavidisrael

    Why isn’t Joba to AAA an option. Dude needs innings. At the major league level he is getting pulled after 80-90 pitches cause they don want him taking any lumps. It would be much more beneficial to have him throwing 100 pitches and throwing on a nice chunk of innings.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      I never said it wasn’t an option. I avoided mentioning it because I don’t think the Yankees consider it an option. But since I don’t work for them, I could be wrong.

      • ledavidisrael

        Understandable. But could it be seen as one of the best options? If hughes is pitching well and wang is? Wang is an innings eater. If him and CC were going deep into games. That would help the bullpen out tremendously.

        I m also not opposed to a six man rotation. They could allow throw days to be days were the starters pitch out of the pen.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Here’s why I’d generally pick sending Hughes and not Joba down:

          1) Even if Hughes is pitching better at the moment, Joba is still, generally speaking, “closer” to being a legit frontline starter than Hughes is. Joba’s bad outings are still better than Hughes’s bad outings. I think Joba decreases our chances of winning less than Hughes does when either of them don’t have their “A” stuff.
          2) Joba’s older, and has been in the rotation longer. He’s earned more benefit of the doubt than Hughes has.
          3) Hughes has already burned an option. Sending him down again has no ramifications on our ability to send either of them down should something unforseen happen next year.
          4) Joba killed a guy with a trident in Scranton. He’s probably wanted for murder down there. He needs to keep laying low.

          • ledavidisrael

            I think closer should be defined by closer to 200 innings

            • whozat

              Carlos Silva is closer to throwing 200 innings than either of them. Doesn’t make him more of an ace.

              It’s a combo of dynamite stuff, efficiency and durability.

              • ledavidisrael

                LMFAO fam, way to skew the universal discourse of this thread.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              No, in this case, I wasn’t talking about pitching 200 innings. Ironically, Hughes is closer to being able to pitch 200 innings.

              Joba is closer to being able to give a team a great start every time he takes the hill. His floor is currently higher than Hughes’s floor.

          • kunaldo

            joba, where did you get a hand grenade??

    • Chris

      He’s still going to be limited to around 140-160 innings this year, so letting him throw more innings in AAA isn’t really a reason to send him down. If he’s sent down it should be because he’s struggling, not because of his innings limit (and I don’t consider a 23 year old who can maintain an ERA under 4 to be struggling).

      • ledavidisrael

        Just saying his 100 pitches in AAA would have him throwing more innings. There for take him farther in his development.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          So you would waste the innings of the team’s second best starters in AAA? That’s an awful plan.

          • ledavidisrael

            No sir it isnt. Not when your helping our second best young asset finally get closer to his final destination. Also if he went to the minors and threw 100 innings it would come quicker than 100 innings at the major league level. Which would allow for more time for him to pitch out the pen for us. Which is a NEED for THIS team right now.. and it wouldnt hamper his development

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I think the Yanks should just have Wang shadow Joba and Phranchises starts. Let them pitch 6 and then give way to the Wanger.

  • Simon B.

    If the Yankees wanted to, they could trade Joba for any relief pitcher in baseball + much more. It is the most insanely stupid mentality in sports I’ve ever seen with Joba in the bullpen. I’m just amazed how long this has gone on and there are still a significant amount of people who think this.

    • andrew

      That’s a good point. I never really thought about it like that. I’m pretty sure every team in the majors would trade their closer or set up man straight up for Joba. The one exception being the Red Sox with Papelbon. But i think that’s just as much because its the Red Sox/Yankees as it is because of Papelbon’s ability

      • Chris

        I think the Red Sox make the trade in a heart beat, and I’m left gouging my eyes out after every save.

      • radnom

        I’m pretty sure if Cash called up Theo tonight and said “Joba for Papelbon, straight up”, Joba would be on his way to Boston an hour later.

        • andrew

          You might be right, just wanted to leave room for error. I think Papelbon is one the guy that would require more than a nanosecond of thought for both teams, as i explained, probably more because of it being a Yankees/Sox deal than from an ability standpoint

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            No, it wouldn’t require a nanosecond of thought.

            Theo would do that deal in a picosecond. (A picosecond is smaller than a nanosecond, right?)

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Now Phil has to figure out how to put it together. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to do that in the minors. He’ll be able to get in his innings and build himself up to pitch ~200 innings next year, but he won’t be able to take the lumps which all young pitchers must take before blossoming into top-line starters. In other words, the best course of action for the development of Phil Hughes is to keep him in the big league rotation.

    Agreed. However, to anticipate the question, here is the hierarchy of courses of action for the development of Phil Hughes, in order from best to worst:

    1) Keep Hughes in the big league rotation for the rest of the season
    2) Keep Hughes in a rotation, in Scranton if there is a numbers crunch, and bring him back when rosters expand in September, possibly in the bullpen for September/October
    3) Put Hughes in the big league bullpen now and leave him there for the rest of the season

    Option #1 is the best option. However, if Wang continues to improve and earns his spot back, we move to option #2. Option #3 should probably be off the table.

    • ledavidisrael

      Whats the point in having a starter who can throw 200 innings without him being comfortable and acclimated to the bigs?

      Would you rather have
      1) Hughes as the number 4 starter who can throw 200 innings. With Joba in the role as 5th starter throwing 150 innings.

      2) Hughes can throw 200 innings but its between AAA and the majors due to lack of comfort and have joba throwing 160 innings as the 5th starter

      It is much more beneficial to the club to have 200 innings of adjusted hughes next season.

      Again I just think Joba needs to build longer legs, and if he can dominate in AAA and throw more complete games. Its just a way we can make sure he gets to his innings limit quicker. That should be everyones main goal.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        You lost me, what are you talking about, Joba, or Hughes?

        • ledavidisrael

          Both. Where did i Lose you?

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Everywhere. Can you separate what you’re trying to say about each pitcher into two separate thoughts?

  • OmgZombies!

    For all of Jobas troubles I can name only one game where he was taken out because he was getting hit around and not his pitch count.

    Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff he can still was managing to limit the damage to tough offenses. How many times have we seen Joba give up 5+ runs in the first 2-3 innings like Hughes and Wang have?

    BJobbers get excited over a couple Hughes starts but ignore that he has gotten rocked a few times in his career which Joba hasn’t. They want to move Joba to the pen becuase Wang is “back” but you really want to put your trust in him until you are sure he is back to pre foot injury Wang?

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Pete Abe was right in questionning the Yanks’ lack of respect for Wang. As much as it pains me, I think that, all things being equal (and you’re right in that they probably won’t be), the solution is to get Hughes the ball every five days, alternating him between the majors and minors, and giving the rotation spot to the two-time 19-game winner.

    • Simon B.

      He’s probably right that they’re mismanaging him right now, but I’m getting kind of tired of this post he brings up every few months about how Wang is always “disrespected”.

      I don’t suppose Abe has any personal stake in Wang considering he wrote a book about him.

      Abe has his guys he writes glowingly about, and his guys who he frequently likes to call “clowns” without any warrant.

      • ledavidisrael

        Na Wang is being treated like a minor league journey man. He did start the season pitching like one but cmon.

        • Simon B.

          Why? Because they didn’t sign him to a longterm contract?

          That seems like a pretty smart move to me. They’re under no pressure to sign him longterm until at least next offseason.

          With a pitcher like Wang, it’s better for the Yankees to take it year by year in arbitration and see how he performs.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          This may be a little cold, but I think “respect shown to a pitcher” should be at the bottom of the list of criteria when evaluating this situation. I have no doubt that if Wang were to show himself to be the Wang of 2-3 years ago, he’d get the proper amount of respect from the Yankees. Nobody is “owed” anything.

          • jsbrendog

            + Eleventy Billion

          • Bob Stone

            Second that thought.

            • Bo

              It’s about results and Wang hasn’t had any. You don’t just keep throwing him out there because it’s “respectful”.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    The lowest common denominator solution in this case is to move Joba to the pen… it’s easy to see why some people would favor this solution. However, it’s the easy solution for a reason: it requires the least amount of thought.

    That’s an oversimplification. Advocating for Joba to the pen doesn’t simply require the least amount of thought, it requires a willful and consistent disregard for logic. It’s not that B-Jobbers don’t want to think about it clearly and dispassionately themselves, they also don’t want to hear the arguments of the other side at all. They want to plug their ears with their pinkies and run around the room screaming “LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA!!!!!”

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Or, like Francessa, turn down the volume of the caller so you can scream like a 5-year-old about how wrong other people are, without providing one scintilla of evidence.

      • Stryker

        i was just about to post the YES link to the video of him doing that.

        question is: was the caller right? does joba really have one of the best ERAs in baseball since becoming a starter?

        • Benjamin Kabak

          He’s in the top 25 of ERA for all starters since June 3, 2008, the date of his first start.

    • JackC

      I think that’s painting with an awfully broad brush. I think it remains an issue much talked about precisely because there is logic to both sides. It’s tough to argue I feel that Joba wouldn’t help the team more this year eventually going to the pen, but there is the very real counter argument that it could potnentially stunt his growth as a starter inthe long term, and playing with a potentially excellent starter’s future is something not to be easily undertaken. What we do know is that Joba has been wonderfully effective out of the pen, and that he MAY one day be a very effective starter. I think framing the debate as I have heard it framed — “what’s more valuable an excellent releiver or an excellent starter” doesn’t frame it properly. What’s more avaluable – a PROVEn dominating reliever or a potentially excellent starter. That’s a rich vein of discussion. Dismissing it with a rather glib descritpion of those who disagree I think isn’t giving it its full due.

      • JackC

        Of course, my argument might seem more cogent if it weren’t riddled with so many typing errors.

        • Bob Stone

          if it wasn’t riddled – grammar problems as well

          • JackC

            True enough. Though of course, snarkiness about grammar on these sorts of posts is a slippery slope, especially as “if it wasn’t riddled – grammar problems as well” is, ironically, a fragment — and an improperly punctuated one, at that. I understand it should be “if it weren’t,” but I’m hoping we can respectful enough of each other to fight the impulse to jump on one another about improper use of the conditional voice. Having said that, I apologize and will vet my posts more stringently :)

          • Babe’s Ghost

            You seem to be forgetting the ancient chinese proverb,
            “Man cannot use subjunctive correctly, not throw stones”


      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        What’s more avaluable – a PROVEN dominating reliever or a potentially excellent starter.

        Who was more valuable to the 2008 World Champion Phillies, Jamie Moyer or Brad Lidge? It’s not Lidge.

        Mariano RIvera is the greatest reliever in major league history. And, if you ask B-Jobbers, he’s one of the two or three most important parts of those title teams. But he’s not. If you sat down and calmly analyzed his importance and primacy to the title teams, he wouldn’t even be in the top 10.

        It’s not a rich vein of discussion. It’s just not. Average starters are more integral to a team’s success than the best of the best relievers. I can confidently dismiss the discussion with a rather glib description of it, because it’s nonsense.

        • Chris

          Actually, Brad Lidge may have been more valuable. A typical closer would have lost around 5-10 of the games that Lidge saved. Joba should be a starter, but this isn’t the example to prove that point.

          • Alex

            Yeah, I dont agree with your comparison between Lidge and Moyer at all. Lidge didn’t blow any saves and was in the running for the NL Cy Young. He was utterly dominant, especially in the playoffs. I am no “B-Jobber,” but I strongly believe that MO was if not the most, one of the top three most important parts of our title teams. Jamie Moyer is a below average 46 year old starter. How could you compare his worth to a lights out Brad Lidge? So what you’re suggesting entails that Phil Hughes is more valuable to the Yankees than Mariano Rivera? I have trouble accepting that, even if MO hasn’t been completely lights out this year.

            • jon

              because an league average 200 innings is better than lights out 70

            • Ed

              Mo’s value (and Lidge’s last year for that matter) is skewed because of how dominant they have been in the post season. What b-jobbers don’t understand that dominance in the post season is not important unless you are playing the post season. Without starting pitching you are playing golf in October, not baseball.

              With that being said once the playoffs start it’s a whole new game. Who is to say that if the Yanks make the playoffs they go with a four man rotation and Hughes and Joba are in the bullpen.

          • jon

            in 2008 Brad Lidge WAR was 2.2

            Jamie Moyer was 2.6

            • Alex

              Okay, fair. But that doesn’t include the playoffs where Lidge was once again lights out(9 innings, 1 run), while Moyer pitched 12 innings and gave up 11 runs. Also, Lidge’s ERA+ that year was 225, while Moyer’s was 118. There’s a lot that WAR doesn’t account for, such as the pressure of the situation. Lidge was coming in in tight games all year and performing exceptionally, while Moyer obviously started the games in a low-leverage situation. It’s a good point, but I don’t believe that an equation can truly capture a players worth to a team.

              • jon

                The point is this

                if lidge could pitch 200 innings he would be starting for the phils

                but because of how he pitches he cant face the same batter 3 or 4 times a game, which is why hes a closer.

                Its the same reason why mo and paplebon are closers, they couldnt hack it as starters.

                The only reason joba should be moved to the pen is if cant stay healthy enough for 200 innings

                • Matt ACTY/BBD

                  And even that needs to be determined of a lot of years, not just one or two. As TSJC likes to bring up a lot, Kerry Wood wasn’t turned into a closer until he was 30.

              • Matt ACTY/BBD

                At the start of the game, the home team has about a 54% chance of winning. In the ninth inning, up by one, the home team has an 86.6% chance of winning. What’s the more high leverage situation?

                Just because Lidge had better surface numbers does not mean he was more valuable. The step down from Lidge to a replacement closer was not as big as the step down from Moyer to a replacement starter.

                150-200-innings of league average or even slightly better pitching is more valuable than 70-80 innings of incredible, fantastic, lights out, dominant closing. The example applies to the Yankees as well. Mo was worth 3.1 WAR last year, whereas the very average Andy Pettitte was worth 4.4.

                • Joseph Pawlikowski

                  I disagree about the 54%. I had this explained to me years ago. The argument is that if you factor in home/road variables, then why not factor in the lineup, the pitcher they’re facing, etc.? It’s best to say 50/50 at the beginning and let the game play out.

                • Rick in Boston

                  Lidge’s saves 2008 (done quickly, so there might be a figure mistakenly added):

                  3-run saves: 10
                  2-run saves: 17
                  1-run saves: 16

                  # of saves pitching >1 IP: 0
                  # of outings >1 IP: 0

                  Lidge was used under very strict circumstances last year: never for more than one inning; 57% of all appearances were “save situations”. For comparison, Mo was at 62.5%, Paplebon at 68.7%.

                  There’s a reason why they’re in those spots, being used so rigidly: They couldn’t cut it as starters in the majors.

                • Alex

                  “At the start of the game, the home team has about a 54% chance of winning. In the ninth inning, up by one, the home team has an 86.6% chance of winning. What’s the more high leverage situation?”

                  Taking a statistically driven approach to baseball does not do its justice. Surely it makes the most sense to the fans who analyze the game, but do you think mariano rivera processess that he has an 86.6% chance of winning when he takes the mound in the 9th? I don’t know if you were watching when Phil Coke closed out a game against the Twins. After the game he kept reiterating how every move he made was magnified and intensified (that was with a 3 run lead too). Although he got the job done he was rusty and after the game attributed that rustiness to nerves. It is an interesting point that you bring up, but empirical data can not always accentuate all the intricacies of the sport.

                • Matt ACTY/BBD

                  I appreciate what Coke said, but he was also worked more than usual that week and that may’ve had something to do with it.

                  My point is that at the beginning of the game, it’s essentially a toss up. Both teams have a pretty equal shot of winning. That, IMO, is a more high leverage situation than the later innings since, at the beginning of the game, just about every pitch swings momentum a great deal. Obviously, Mo isn’t out there thinking about Walk Off Balk’s Win Expectancy finder, just like I’m not thinking about my UZR/150 when I’m playing softball. But just because that’s true doesn’t mean it should hold all the weight. Yes, there is a big psychological part of the game, but I believe a lot of that is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you know what I mean, and a lot of “analysts,” announcers, writers, etc. don’t pay enough attention to the more empirical side of the game, which is rather large.

                • Tampa Yankee

                  “Taking a statistically driven approach to baseball does not do its justice.”

                  You are so right, judging players/events on pure emotional and feelings is the best way to approach to baseball. Stats lie, can be manipulated and don’t account for a player’s heart and grit!!1!11!

            • Chris

              But that isn’t a completely accurate reflection of Lidge’s value. That accounts for his runs allowed, but doesn’t account for the fact that he didn’t blow a single save. Even though it was probably just luck that he didn’t blow a save, luck is still a part of the game.

              • Matt ACTY/BBD

                Don’t you think the runs he allowed (or lack thereof, really) contributed to his lack of blown saves?

          • Benjamin Kabak

            Lost 5-10 games? Your numbers are skewed. A typical closer would have lost 2-3 games that Lidge, who atypically had no blown saves, would have lost.

            • Chris

              I think it all depends on who you replace him with. If the replacement is one of the better closers in baseball (Mo, Nathan, K-Rod, etc) then you’re probably right. If you’re comparing him to an average closer, then I’m probably right (but 10 is too high… more like 5-7 wins).

              And yes, this was atypical and likely attributable just to luck, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

              • Benjamin Kabak

                The numbers just don’t line up though. As Jon noted above, Lidge’s Wins Above Replacement was 2.2. That means his overall impact was 2.2 wins above the next best available guy. That’s the impact. Two wins.

                • Matt ACTY/BBD

                  That’s not even over the next best guy, though; that’s over a replacement. The next best guy probably would’ve been Ryan Madson, right? Madson was worth 1.3 WAR last year.

                  Lidge’s 2.2 – Madson’s 1.3 = 0.9. Not even a win better than the next best guy.

        • andrew

          Another factor you fail to take into account is that there are 6 potentially excellent starters and one is potentially going to be wasted in the minors. Did the Phillies have a 6th starter like Hughes who was ready to be nearly as dominant as Cole Hamels at his best or atleast as effective as Moyer? No.

      • I Remember Celerino Sanchez

        JackC, in order to find out if Joba is an excellent starter, you have to let him develop. Look at Halladay’s early numbers as a starter.

        It is flat-out insane to take a guy who is a potential ace starter, and stunt his growth by putting him in the bullpen, even if he is, as you say, a proven dominating reliever.

        To be a starter, he has to build innings. To do that, he has to start.

        There is absolutely no scenario under which Joba should find himself in the bullpen this year. For his long-term growth he should start until he hits his innings limit, and then come back next year as a starter and go from there.

        • JackC

          The question is, though, for THIS year, which would help the Yanks more. And I think it’s actually tough to argue Joba wouldn’t be more valuable to the Yanks out of the pen, as we can fill his role in the rotation far more easily at the moment than we can plug up the bullpen.And not even advocating that position, because I’m not in love with not allowing him to develop, but to say there’s no argument at all is to say the long term is always better than short term. It is very often, but not always.

          I also disagree with the idea that Moyer was more valuable to the Phils than Lidge. This smacks to me of the Jamesian notion that a closer isn’t really all that important. statistically speaking. Yet pyschologically, it makes an immense difference. It’s tough to find peopl ewho played the game who won’t say that the knwoledge that a team has only 6 or 7 innings to score runs as oppossed to 9 isn’t a huge psychological chip.

          However, I have feeling you’ll be abruptly dismissive of this argument, too, as it seems to me you’ve blocked out the possibility that there’s any logic whatsoever to a countervailing view. I envy your seeming certitude about this, in spite of the fact it seems to be doing the same thing Francesa is often lambasted for. He spent a fair time yesterday giving stacks of statistics to argue his point. In the end, I disagreed with it (namely, that Joba needs to be in the pen by the All star break) but it didn’t occur to me that the argument he was making was supremely silly.

          • I Remember Celerino Sanchez

            Actually, I think Lidge was more important than Moyer. So watch how you judge …

            As for your Joba argument, there are two points in play, and, to me, on both, your argument fails.

            On the long-term/short-term argument, I don’t think it is ever worth it to set a franchise back on the chance to have an ace starter for a short-term gain. You could be losing 10 years of ace performances. If Joba doesn’t get his innings this year, it affects next year and the year after. And the yanking back and forth to the bullpen and the mound is the exact thing you shouldn’t do with a future ace. It’s been established that as a reliever he didn’t use all his pitches, and he went all out knowing he was only in for an inning or two. His development requires that he never be put in that position again unless the day comes when it is clear that he won’t be an above average starter. And that day’s distance away is measured in years, not months.

            Now, for your short-term argument, you are still wrong. Joba, despite his “struggles,” has pitched to a sub-4.00 ERA as a starter, and he has struck out a batter an inning (even if his walks have pushed his WHIP over what would be ideal). In his current form as a starter, he is more valuable than any reliever (except Mo, see my comment above about Lidge). (And yes, I know many here disagree with the closer’s importance, but I think with real humans, it matters.) As a GM, you should never trade an effective 4th or 5th starter for a set-up guy. And that’s what you’re advocating. The Yanks have a ton of arms at AAA that could be integral parts of the bullpen come July. They can throw a lot of possibilities out there. There are answers. I just know that one of them is NOT Joba.

            • andrew

              On the long-term/short-term argument, I don’t think it is ever worth it to set a franchise back on the chance to have an ace starter for a short-term gain. You could be losing 10 years of ace performances.
              But, hypothetically, if Joba is nearing 120 innings or so in July and Hughes and Wang were ready for full time rotation spots, we could shift Joba to the ‘pen for the remaining 3 months and then have him take Pettitte’s spot in the rotation next year. We can maintain our long-term investment in Joba the starter while maximizing our short-term potential. I’m not saying Joba should be in the bullpen forever, but would it really kill his development THAT much to put him in the pen for 30-40 innings? I think it would set him back slightly, but it’s not like those 3 months will make or break whether or not Joba becomes an ace.

              • Matt ACTY/BBD

                I’m not saying Joba should be in the bullpen forever, but would it really kill his development THAT much to put him in the pen for 30-40 innings?

                Yeah, it might. Moving from a very firmly established routine and regular rest to irregular rest and inconsistent use could very easily lead to another injury.

            • JackC

              Well, as a GM, I think you should do what you need to to make your team stronger. If you can replace a 4th or 5th starter with no significant loss of quality and shore up your bullpen, it follows your team is stronger and therefore would be a move you’d have to consider.

              I also think your statement that in his current state as a starter he’s more valuable than any reliever accept Mo is debatable, assuming you’re talking about any reliever on the Yanks. If you meant any reliever in baseball, than I find that statement really problematic, but I’m assuming you didn’t mean that.

              I agree that trading short term for long term is usually a losing proposition. I guess it boils down to one’s view of Joba’s potential as a starter. I think Joba’s shown some problematic things as a starter. His era is perfectly acceptable — by no means bad, but not exactly lights out, either. Moreover, I think his era is a great example of the potential deceptiveness of some stats. He’s never expected/allowed to tough it out for very long when his stuff isn’t great, which would be a significant boon for anyone’s era. And I think you were being very kind when you referred to his whip as “more than would be ideal.” It sort of sucks, actually.

              Additionally, and this is far from quantitative, I admit, I feel his approach is better suited as a reliever. I could be wrong, but he seems oddly tentative at times as a starter. But, who knows, I could be wrong about that. I certainly hope that I am, because I would love to say in 2 years time “Boy was I wrong to have doubts about him as a starter.”

              • JackC

                “in baseball, than I find that statement really problematic, ”

                Obviously this should read “then” not “than”. Sorry

                • Bo

                  You’re kidding yourself if you think Moyer was more valuable to the Phils than Lidge last year.

                  And you’re even kidding yourself more if you think that Mo isn’t one of the 10 reasons the Yanks have been dominant since 1996.

                  Do you even watch the games??

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  JoePow says I need to let foolish dogs lie, so… I will.


  • YankeeScribe

    Prediction: All three guys will be in the starting rotation in 2010.

    – Wang will earn his starting job back. I have no doubt about that.

    – Hughes doesn’t need AAA innings, he needs to build up his confidence at the major league level by getting major league hitters out. When Wang gets his rotation spot back, send Hughes to the pen.

    – Joba, like Hughes, needs to stay at the MLB level. Joba’s problem is that he needs to learn to be more economical with his pitch counts. I have no doubt that he will learn

    • Nady Nation

      “Prediction: All three guys will be in the starting rotation in 2010. ”


      • andrew

        I don’t think it’s that bold… you think Pettitte is going to come back??

    • whozat

      Hughes needs to consistently command his cutter and, ideally, his change. This is something he CAN work on in AAA — you tell him he can’t throw more than 30% 4-seamers in his starts and MAKE him learn to succeed with the secondary stuff. That’s not something you can have him do in the bigs, but it’ll pay off down the road.

      I think there’s value in him pitching in the bigs right now, in terms of facing better hitters and learning that way. However, I think that saying there’s no value in him spending time in AAA is not true. So, if you need to send someone down, I think he makes the most sense.

      • YankeeScribe

        From watching each Hughes start this year, he’s at his best when he pitches like he isn’t afraid to let the hitters make contact with his pitches. In the Detroit and Texas starts where he dominated, he attacked the strike zone and whenever hitters made contact, very few hit the ball hard.

        In all of his other starts where he didn’t dominate, he’s pitched like he was afraid to use all of his pitches and afraid to let the hitters make contact. That drove up his pitch counts.

        He’s got the skills. Now he needs build his confidence and learn how to get big league hitters out the old fashioned way. He’s going to make some mistakes and stumble along the way but I think it will be more beneficial to than another trip back to AAA…

      • leokitty

        I agree about the change. Hughes really does need it to get working at at least an average level, it’ll help him get out lefties who have been mashing him pretty hard.

        That said, I do believe it’s something he can do.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I agree with your prediction. I disagree with your solution of sending Hughes to the bullpen, however.

      I’m sorry, 180 innings for Hughes, even if 55-65% of those innings are in Scranton, is more important for Phil Hughes’ development than the 100 innings tops he’ll get if he spends 55-65% of the year in a bullpen somewhere.

      This idea that he needs to “build up his confidence at the major league level” is valid but vastly overstated (people are acting like Hughes hasn’t already demonstrated any success at the big league level; he has), and it’s VASTLY outweighed by his need to build up his arm strength and his pitching arsenal by being a starter taking the hill every fifth day, and pitching into the 6th, 7th, 8th innings. If he goes to Scranton it would suck for the Yankees to not have the benefit of his arm helping the big club in 2009, but we’ll reap the rewards in 2010 when he can go 200+ innings.

  • thebusiness

    The clear option is to send Hughes to AAA. Why send Joba to the Pen? What happens when one of the other 5 starters goes down? Can’t put Joba back in the rotation at that point. Hughes remains the 6th starter/spot starter in AAA until returning to the Rotation in September when Joba reaches his innings limit.

    • Bo

      Why would they send one of their better pitchers to Scranton when they are trying to win a title here?

      Kinda defeats the purpose. No team keeps their talent in AAA.

  • JP

    We think alike, Joe…I liked this post.

    Not to repeat everything you say, or everything I said in another post, but for me, the only way that you don’t have all of these pitchers on the Major League 25 man roster all year is if one of them implodes, meaning crap-every-time-he-pitches. Not “decent starts with 100 pitches in 5 innings,” or even “lousy starts with 100 pitches in 4 innings,” mixed with good starts. I mean, before I send any of these guys to the minors, they have to show me that they are incapable of getting MLB hitters out. Right now, Hughes and Chamberlain have shown, repeatedly, that they are very capable of getting MLB hitters out. Wang, we know, was very good at this in the past, and appears to be recovering toward that form.

    Why do I say this, categorically? Because, as you say, they need to work at the MLB level to mature and reach their potential as starters. There is nothing to be gained at AAA other than the pitching equivalent of running laps.

    “But JP, if we keep all of them, we have 6 starters, but only 5 rotation slots! You can’t do that. Pitchers need to know their role, and they need routine, and they need to be pitching with a defined purpose!”

    Horse hockey. As you said, Hughes had 150 innings last year, which means this year he tops out at 180 or so. Chamberlain probably tops out closer to 150. So could they get all of the innings they need at the MLB level?

    A typical number of innings for a team’s starting pitchers is what you need to know. I looked at the Rays last year, figuring they were a good comparison, having an AL East schedule and good, healthy pitchers in 2008. They had about 1000 innings pitched, mostly by 5 starters, with a few spot starts from other guys.

    Here would by my projection for innings from Yankees’ starters this year, using prior season’s numbers as a guide, and choosing to err on the high side. I chose a best case scenario for Wang, as if he gets back into the rotataion at the 60 game mark, and stays healthy from there on out:

    1. Sabathia 230
    2. Pettitte 205
    3. Burnett 210
    4. Wang 130
    5. Hughes 180
    6. Chamberlain 150

    This comes to about 1100 innings.

    So if all 6 of those guys remain perfectly healthy and pitch a number of innings near the maximum of what you’d expect from all of them, the Yankees would have about 100 more innings of starting pitching than is typical for a good team.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m with Joe P. that it’s likely it just works itself out somehow…Pettitte or AJ spend a stint on the DL, maybe. Wang takes a little longer to get back in the rotation, etc. But even if everyone did stay perfectly healthy, you’re talking about maybe 100 innings of “excess” that you have. I think you can spread around the innings efficiently so that each one of these guys gets their work in.

    To me, to knee-jerk and think you have to send someone to the bullpen permanently, or to the minors, is silly. Is there any doubt that these 6 guys are, apart from Rivera, the best pitchers the team has? I say you keep them on the 25-man and get creative if you have to. Maybe this means that if you decide to bring Wang back, and he turns out to be a dominant guy again, you simply have Chamberlain and Hughes share a spot in the rotation. Chances are that with the number of innings each has worked so far, each could probably reach their innings limit in a shared capacity. I realized this is not a major league managerial procedure, but they do it in the minors all the time to develop pitchers. No reason you can’t have Chamberlain pitch 4, Hughes pitch 4, and Veras (sorry) 1, every 5 days, is there?

    Ok, I’m done being a baseball geek. I realize Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland and all these guys know much better than I how to use a pitching staff. But I think that the best thing for the future of the Yankees is to keep Hughes and Chamberlain on the MLB roster as starting pitchers all year. As Rafiki says in “Lion King,” it is time!

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      There’s a HUGE, GIGANTIC, GAPING hole in your math.

      You said the Rays used 5 starters and had “about 1000 innings) from them.

      You then outlined a scenario where we’d somehow use 6 starters and collectively get an extra 100 innings from them, for an aggregate total of 1100 innings from our starters.

      That’s 100 innings too many. If they’re going 6 innings a start (regardless of who’s throwing), it would take 183.3 starts to make it to 1100 innings. You need to add on an extra month to the season to get 6 starting pitchers all to at least 130 innings each.

      It’s not going to happen.

      • andrew

        But he sort of addressed this… he said 1100 innings if they all stayed healthy and reached the higher end of their innings prediction. What are the odds of all of them staying healthy the rest of the year AND reach their upper limits of innings? If it takes Wang more than another ten days to regain his rotation spot, you can send Hughes down for a few weeks and a DL stint or two… 1000 is certainly within reach if a few things happen. It’s probably more likely than us actually reaching 1100 innings.

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        The bigger logic gap everybody seem to miss when they put these “hey, everybody can get their work in if we give so-and-so spot starts” is that you cannot simply willy nilly swap starters and assign innings. Ever wonder why there is so much inertia to getting rid of journeymen like Ponson when they are stinking up the joint? Making a rotation change entails more than simply deciding to remove one starter in favor of another.

        Rotation/rest days need to match up. This most often means that you end up jockeying several starters around every time you make a rotation change. The exceptions to this are when you have the dumb luck of your best/desired AAA starter matching up with whom you want to swap out, if you accept a 4 inning start from your bullpen long-man, or if you call up somebody other than your best AAA starter (journeyman or lower prospect who is on rotation or who you are not worried about getting injured due to pitching off rotation).

        You can’t expect a bullpen swing man to get more than 150 innings unless he gets well over 15 starts (which means consecutive months in a rotation).

  • Tom Gaffney

    Nice article Joseph, I think you covered just about everything. The only variable I’d add is the alteration of Joba’s delivery. As Eiland said, they’re trying to “smooth out” Joba’s motions in an attempt to avoid future injury as a starter. If they moved him back to the pen, would he go back to his old, violent delivery? I’m not sure that would be good for his development or his health, but the new, smoothed out delivery might cause ineffectiveness in the pen (as you mentioned). I’d love to see an expert analyze Joba’s new mechanics versus his old. His stuff is clearly different. Even the slider lacks the same bite. I hope he’s just figuring out his new mechanics and the velocity and bite will come back.

    • ledavidisrael

      Thats why he should working this out in the MINORS

  • V

    The ‘Joba to the bullpen’ crowd needs to be asked one question.

    Would you trade Joba to the Mets for K-Rod, with the Mets paying all of K-Rod’s contract?

    I say no.

  • JP

    “What we do know is that Joba has been wonderfully effective out of the pen, and that he MAY one day be a very effective starter.

    I think this is an understatement. Not wrong, just way understating things. How many star pitchers today break into the majors throwing 180-200 innings and winning 15 games? It doesn’t happen often, if at all anymore. The guy on Seattle? Starts great, then comes back to earth. Ok, Verlander, but he’s come back to earth. Lester took time to mature. Santana required a couple of years as a starter-in-training.

    Chamberlain, for all his warts, has posted very good ERAs, and strikes guys out. If he remains healthy, this suggests he will be a very good starting pitcher. The “healthy” thing is the only reason I’d say he “may” be a great pitcher…not just effective, but great.

    • V

      Porcello’s looking good.

      :Hates Tigers:

      • AlexNYC

        Brackman will make it there…do not worry.

      • Chip

        I also would have loved Porcello being in the Yankees system but let’s hold off judgement on his start until the league gets to see him a second time. Having initial success is one thing, maintaining that is quite another

  • JP

    Huge gaping hole? (Avoids making cheesy yo mama joke…)

    TSJC – I didn’t mean to imply we get 1100 innings from 6 starters. I mean that the ceiling is 6/1100, and that ceiling presumes everyone remains completely healthy and gets their max.

    I am suggesting that it’s highly likely 100 or more innings will be sucked out of that total for various reasons, such as pitchers getting injured, or perhaps someone like Wang continuing to implode as a starter.

    Working 6 guys into the starting pitching roles will obviously require creative managing, and maybe usage that is not typical today. My point is that this sort of “creative managing” is a far better thing to do than jump through roster hoops and send proven pitchers to the minor leagues to “work on their cutter,” or whatever the baseball-speak du jour is. It may be as simple as using Hughes and Chamberlain in tandem, if and when Wang proves he’s regular rotation material again.

    Or, you skip Hughes or Chamberlain for 1 or 2 starts periodically, maybe using them once for a relief stint during the week they don’t start.

    We don’t have to pay homage to defined pitching roles and these broad declarations of status “Joba is our 8th inning guy now” crap.

    Pitching someone in relief once in a while, in lieu of a start, isn’t going to mess anyone up.

    These are our best guys. We need to use them, and not waste them by being baseball bureaucrats.

    • Chip

      Hughes needs to get consistent work in so he can learn to go through a batting order 3 or 4 times. The exact same thing goes for Joba. You just keep them going and don’t play games with them trying to extract as much “value” as you possibly can.

      If Wang comes back and is his old self, he’s better right now than Hughes. You’d be hard pressed to argue that point. In that case, you send Hughes back down to get his innings back up. Once he hits his innings limit, Hughes will be back up to make those starts (assuming nobody else got hurt and Hughes is already up making starts).

      If Joba struggles, you keep him in the rotation and make him learn. When you have 4 solid starters, you can let a guy like Joba take his lumps every now and then as long as everybody else is doing their job. This will pay off next season and beyond as Joba learns to pitch effectively in the majors.

      Next season, Hughes takes Joba’s roll as the young guy who takes his lumps learning to get major league hitters out. If Hughes dominates right away showing he didn’t need the extra grooming, awesome. More than likely he’ll keep up his decent/crap/lights out rotation for most of a season. That’s how it works for young major league pitchers.

      Stick to that and you get an effective rotation with injury back-up for the remainder of this season and a rotation with 5 potential Cy-Young contenders ready to all go 200 innings next year (and by then one of their young pitching prospects should already have us in this situation by dominating the minors which as we can see is a good problem)

      • Chip

        And I meant that when Joba hits his innings limit, Hughes will be back

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Okay. I didn’t want to do it, but you’re forcing me.

      We just finished our 47th game. We have 115 games left in the season. We have three pitchers who are fine (CC, AJ, and Pettitte), two who are young and on innings caps (Joba and Hughes), and one vet who’s working his way back in the rotation.

      Joba currently has 9 starts and 45.1 innings under his belt.
      Hughes, combined between majors and minors, has 9 starts and 49.0 innings under his belt.

      If we cut the remaining 115 starts 6 ways, that’s another 19 starts per starter. 19 x 6 =114, so with a 6 man rotation, Joba and Hughes pitch 159.1 and 163.0 innings, respectively; a little too much for Joba and a little too few for Hughes.

      But, here’s the rub: There’s no way we’re going with a 6 man rotation, because we’re not going to screw around with CC, AJ, and Andy; they’re vets who want and should get the ball every fifth day. There’s a reason nobody goes with 6 man rotations, it’s too much rest between starts and you’re shortchanging your ace pitchers.

      If we assume the three vets get 3/5ths of the remaining starts, that’s about 48 starts left for Joba, Hughes, and CMW. If our goals are 150 innings of starting for Joba and 180 for Hughes, if each start is 6 innings that means we want about 17 more starts for Joba and 22 more starts for Hughes. That’s 39 of our 48 starts, leaving 9 starts left for CMW. Even if we were to say, shave off 18 innings/3 starts from each of their totals and have them throw the those 18 IP in the bullpen sometime (which is a bad idea), that’s still only 15 total starts from CMW.

      CMW is going to basically have to either stay in the bullpen through late July/early August, or we’re going to have to do some crazy shuffling and crap to get everybody their starts. I don’t know how you use 6 starters AND get Joba and Hughes their innings without screwing everyone’s rhythm around.

      When CMW is ready to start, one of the kids has to go down. No other way around it, I’m sorry.

      • JP

        I am about 95% sure your conception of this thing, as you write above, is what the Yankees think and will do. In other words, you’re right.

        At the same time, take your rackin’ frackin’ slide rule and and shove it, TSJC. :wink:

        Seriously – while you are no doubt correct, how often do the formulas and predictions work out? I’ll eat my hat if the big 3 pitch regularly the rest of the season without missing a beat. If I’m the manager, I’d rather have the best 6 pitchers on the club. “Chances are” I won’t be able to meet all of the innings requirements, keep everybody “regular” and happy, but at least I’d be trying to win the pennant with the best guys I got, and the best guys for the future of the team.

        Your way – or the Yankees’ (or Red Sox, or Rays, or anyone’s for that matter), we’ll send Hughes to AAA in a few weeks when Wong has earned his stripes. Then Burnett will go down, and Hughes will yo yo back to the majors. Or Al Aceves will start games (yippie). Then Hughes will go back down. Then Joba will get hurt, or hit his limit, and here we go again. Oy.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          If I’m the manager, I’d rather have the best 6 pitchers on the club. “Chances are” I won’t be able to meet all of the innings requirements, keep everybody “regular” and happy, but at least I’d be trying to win the pennant with the best guys I got, and the best guys for the future of the team.


          If I’m the GM, I know this fact, and therefore, I demote Phil Hughes and take him away from you so I can ensure that Hughes gets his innings in, because I’m evaluated not only on wins and losses for 2009, but on the long term organizational plan for wins and losses (and cost/benefit analysis) for the rest of the next decade.

  • vj

    Wow that’s a lot of words. Too much pitching = good

  • Bryan W

    The Yankees never properly developed Joba as a starter in the minor leagues and now he’s learning on the fly at the major league level. Here’s the biggest difference between Joba and Hughes, Joba only pitched 1 season in the minors and made 15 starts and totaled 88 1/3 IP. Hughes has pitched in parts of 6 seasons in the minors and made 62 starts and 330 IP. No comparison who is more major league ready to be a starter right now its Hughes. Joba could just go back to the bullpen where he was more effective or go down to the minors again and build up his innings.

    • Chip

      Joba went to college where he was a starter. And Joba is better right now in the major leagues. We saw Joba pitch the other night where he didn’t have his best stuff yet still went 5 innings and kept his team in it. I haven’t seen that from Hughes yet

      • UWS

        That’s not exactly true. In what Joe called Hughes’ “decent” starts, he did exactly what Joba did. Went ~5 innings, kept his team in the game.

        • Chip

          How is 1.2 innings pitched allowing 8 runs keeping your team in it? The game before he allowed 4 runs in 4 innings. Following that, he had these “decent” starts of 5 IP and 3 runs allowed.

          Joba on the other hand, had the game against Cleveland where he allowed 5 runs in 4.2 innings as his only really bad outting.

          To me, it seems that Joba is much closer to being a dominant starter than Hughes is right now but I don’t think Hughes is very far behind

  • JP

    TSJC wrote: Mariano RIvera is the greatest reliever in major league history. And, if you ask B-Jobbers, he’s one of the two or three most important parts of those title teams. But he’s not. If you sat down and calmly analyzed his importance and primacy to the title teams, he wouldn’t even be in the top 10.

    It’s not a rich vein of discussion. It’s just not. Average starters are more integral to a team’s success than the best of the best relievers. I can confidently dismiss the discussion with a rather glib description of it, because it’s nonsense.

    I agree 100%. There is [warning warning, hero-worship, non-sabremetric terminology approaching] an intangible factor to consider, though, in regard to Rivera.

    His pure “numeric” contribution wouldn’t put him in the top 5 or even top 10, as you suggest, but there does seem to be, today anyway, a phenomenon whereby some players simply can’t perform at their best under the toughest pressure. Maybe Rivera’s numeric contribution was only the 11th most important, but perhaps there was no other pitcher on the team who would be able to have performed his job even passably well in those situations, so the real value of his contribution may be higher.

    This is invoking selective memory, I suppose. Rivera was “clutch” many times, but he also committed a famous throwing error in 2001…and a few pretty important hits have come off Boston bats, like in 2004…

    But I raise this point only because this is what the b-jobbers are going to cry: that you NEED a stud pitcher late in the game to be a championship team.

    I disagree with this. If it is in fact true that “ordinary” relievers have more trouble effectively closing a game than they do pitching in other innings, I’d venture that the only logical reason would be that they’re not being asked to do so on a consistent basis.

    Bottom line: Yankees with Joba as a starter will be stronger than with him as a lights out relief pitcher; going by the numbers it isn’t even close, as you suggest. If you invoke “clutch,” “pressure,” and other hero-worship gobbledegook, I still think his value as a relief pitcher would be less than that as a starter. We just need a major league manager to dispense with the robotic “middle relief – set up – closer” mantra and start being creative and original, and this closer nonsense will go away. Joe Maddon sort of used his bullpen non-traditionally last year. Maybe it’s the start of something.

    • Chip

      I still don’t buy this intangible closer thing. I understand the argument in the postseason that having a dominating closer is huge because every game counts more and they are more prone to be lower scoring affairs (I have no data to back that up but if I’m wrong someone please let me know).

      Think about it this way, if Rivera had been injured for the 1999-2000 postseasons, would the Yankees have been better off putting Clemens in as the closer? No way, Clemens was a force of nature in some of those games and single-handedly won the game.

      I agree with you on the Joba as a starter argument and all you need to ask yourself is, can Joba win a game almost all by himself as a closer? No way, but he’s capable of putting up a 9 inning, 15 K one-hitter like Clemens did in the 2000 ALCS

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I agree with you on the Joba as a starter argument and all you need to ask yourself is, can Joba win a game almost all by himself as a closer?

        Great point.

        Relievers don’t win games. They just prevent wins from turning into losses.

        Starters win games.

  • Rob in CT

    I’d leave Joba and Hughes in rotation for now, with Wang shadowing. Whenever there is an opportunity for a 2-3 inning relief appearance, go to Wang (and, if he looks good, you can put him into closer and closer games, not just 9-2 wins) instead of Aceves for a while. If Wang is consistently going out and pitching like he did 2006-foot injury, then you put him back into the rotation and send Hughes down (unless, of course, somebody gets hurt or is getting hammered repeatedly like Wang was before). We’re not there yet, though.

  • JP

    Absolutely nothin’wrong with doing that.

    The three of them can form sort of a “menage a trois,” sharing 2 full time slots between the 3 of them, taking turns as the “shadow” pitcher as the numbers dictate.

    Of course that would get in the way of robotically bringing in Mo when you have a 1 run lead going into the ninth inning…as opposed to, say [gasp] using him the next game to bail CC out of a tough 7th inning jam. Nope, can’t do that. He’s a clowwwwwwzerrrrrr.

    • UWS

      Duuuuuude….use the reply button!

    • I Remember Celerino Sanchez

      I think Joba shouldn’t see the inside of the bullpen (except to warm up before a start) in 2009 or 2010, no matter what.

      But, I think it would be wise not to be so dismissive of the human nature of players, and the need for a closer. The 2003 (I think it was) Red Sox tried to do the James-ian no closer thing after Urbina had a ton of saves in 2002. They gave up on it a couple of months into the season (Kim, believe it or not, got the job), and by next year they had brought in a “real” closer (Foulke). I may have my timing off, but they tried it and it failed.

      • Chris

        Closer by committee doesn’t work when everyone sucks.

        The 2003 Sox had only 3 relievers with ERAs under 4 (Kim, Timlin and Arroyo – and Arroyo only threw 17 innings) and no one with an ERA under 3.

    • Chip

      The reply button is your friend

      There’s no way you don’t bring in Mo when you have a 1 run lead in the ninth. I can understand the argument when you have a three run lead with the 6th,7th,8th hitters coming up but you always bring him in for the 1 run save if he’s available.

      We’ve also seen how bad this 3 starters in two slots thing can go. Wang never seems to respond well by missing a start and it just throws guys off.

  • JP

    UWS says:

    May 28th, 2009 at 1:22 pm Duuuuuude….use the reply button!

    I am…something’s wrong wit me browzer….

    • Chip

      Somtin’s alsow wrong wit yo spellzing

  • Tom Zig

    Just a quick foreword, I am not in favor of the Joba-to-the-bullpen hodgepodge.

    However, the only acceptable Joba-in-the-bullpen scenario I see is if we make it to the playoffs and Joba is at 150-160 IP, Hughes is at his limit as well, and our bullpen is still a bit shaky. Would anyone then be ok with putting Joba in the bullpen JUST for the playoffs (kinda like 2007)?

    Of course he would go back to the rotation (where he belongs) in 2010. There are of course huge downsides.

    1. He does well but he isn’t used to going max effort for the 1 or 2 innings at a time and he gets hurt.

    2. If he does well it gives the B-jobbers temporary credence.

    3. He is fatigued because he is at his limit, blows a bunch of games and gets hurt.

    • Chip

      I’d be comfortable having him out there in the playoffs. You’d assume that he sits right next to Hughes out there and watches most of the time though. I don’t want him pitching every other game

      • andrew

        I’d be fine with him pitching every other game. With the amount of off-days in the playoffs, if he pitched 3 or 4 times in a 7 game series he’d really be pitching only once every 2-3 days. If we make the playoffs and Joba is at 150 innings (approx) then give CC, Burnett, Pettitte, and Wang (hopefully) the starting spots and let Hughes and Joba become weapons from the pen.

  • JP

    My stupid reply button won’t work…anyway, on the point of being “dismissive” of a closer, and the failed attempt at Closer by Committee in Boston, I think you are thinking backwards.

    There are years and years of evidence in baseball that you don’t need a “closer” for any reason, psychological or otherwise. For decades, relief aces were used as fireman, not “closers.” If you want to invoke the importance of handling pressure, how is it that it’s suddenly tougher to come in and pitch the ninth inning with nobody on and a one run lead, as opposed the facing Youkilis with runners on second and third and the game tied in the 7th inning?

    The failure of closer by committee in one instance doesn’t refute the concept. Maddon used his bullpen very effectively last year without defined roles.

    We don’t know whether defined roles help pitchers or not. We see that managers use pitchers this way, and announcers and writers talk about pitchers’ roles, and so as biased observers we begin attributing things to these roles. If someone fails in an attempt to close a game, well, must be because he was “uncomfortable” in that role. Same thing if you have a team get hot and win the pennant using Hinkle in the eigth and Dinkle in the ninth, every day. No, couldn’t be that Hinkle and Dinkle just got hot, must be because they are psychologically suited to their “bridge” and “closer” roles.

    Baseball managers are like lemmings. We went from a situation in the 70s, when I was a kid and just getting into baseball, where you could manage a team with 9 or 10 pitcher, to a situation today where we have 12-13 pitchers per team and 10-15% more runs scored. And somehow, nobody wants to consider that perhaps managers and player development people are wrong headed about how to develop and use pitchers.

    • Chip

      You could also look at the other side of it and say the game has evolved and players are more specialized. Pitchers used to be pretty decent hitters compared with pitchers now.

      Guys in the bullpen just aren’t used to having to come in and throwing 50-60 pitches. We saw that happen last season with Marte and he wasn’t the same the rest of the season.

  • Chris V.

    The dumbest decision the yankees made was brining joba up in the bullpen. He would have started last year in AAA and pitched a few months there as a starter and came up and made a 10 starts in the majors, and then have been penciled in as a starter this year. There would have never been any joba to the bullpen talk, b/c nobody would have ever seen him in the bullpen. The Yankees made a dumb short term decision and its difficult to make the case that it didnt stunt joba’s long term growth.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      No, the Yankees weren’t dumb for doing that.

      The Yankee fanbase was dumb for latching on to that irrationally and thinking that Joba’s bullpen appearance somehow means that he “belongs” in a role of far diminished utility.

      The Yankees did nothing dumb in their action. Mike Francesa did something dumb in his reaction.

      • Bo

        They made the playoffs and had a great shot at a ring with him in the bullpen.

        How can you say it was dumb?

        • JP

          Read what he said again. He’s not saying it was dumb to use Joba as a “secret weapon” reliever, as a temporary thing, to try to win the pennant.

          Johann Santana began his career in the bullpen.

          The Yankees always saw Chamberlain as a future, front line starter, which wins more pennants than a lights out 70 inning closer does.

          The Yankee fans who like him better as the closer are the ones TSJC is callig dumb. And he’s right. To put it in your terms, they have a better shot “at rings” with Joba starting than as a relief pitcher.

        • Chris V.

          Its hard to make the argument that in the bullpen joba isnt as important as him being an average starter, and then say putting him in the bullpen got them into the playoffs. It was a dumb decision and it has hurt his development as a starter.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Utterly irrelevant to ANYTHING THAT WAS BEING SAID.

          Learn to read and write English before you say anything again, Sal/Bo/Grant/Lanny. Pathetic.

          • Chris V.


  • JP

    That’s a good point, Chip, about evolution. But I don’t know if there is really more meaningful specialization, or simply distribution of work. The defined roles “middle relief, set up, closer” are in a sense arbitrary. Closing a game can be simple and low stress (bottom of order, 3 run lead); middle relief can be highly stressful (starter at pitch limit, 2 on, one out, 1 run lead, you come in in 5th inning….).

    What I think is odd about how they use relievers now is that while the managers pay lip service to “matchups,” they aren’t really playing the percentages as effectively as they could, or as their managerial predecessors did as recently as the 70s and 80s. Gossage, Fingers, Quisenberry, Sutter, were relief aces as specialized as anyone today, but they were used when the game was on the line, whether it be the 7th or 10th innings. Today, this is rarely the case. Sutter was burnt out one year…Mike Marshall…other examples exist, but somehow the need to preserve a relief pitcher’s arm has trumped the reality of baseball: that your ace is most valuable to you if you have him in there when the game is on the line.

    And while specialization no doubt is a natural course of evolution in any endeavor, there is a disconnect in baseball pitching evolution. We have starters, and then a collection of 1 inning guys. The number of pitchers who can pitch 2 or 3 innings, relatively regularly, and effectively, is quite limited. Why is this? If you need 12 or 13 pitchers on your team, and 8 of them are limited to 3-4 outs per appearance under normal circumstances, isn’t that highly inefficient? Wouldn’t it be better to develop a class of pitchers who can pitch 2-3 innings routinely, allowing you to eliminate 2 or 3 pitchers from your staff, and use those roster slots for position players? If you can have a pitcher pitch 220 innings as a starter, and 70 as a short reliever, shouldn’t you be able to develop a “species” of pitcher that can pitch 130, without destroying his arm?

    No reason you shouldn’t be able to do this.

    I’m not disputing what you’re saying as it reflects the state of the game now. You’re right about alot of things. But maybe it’s time to rethink pitching. One thing is for sure – you’ll never get something out of a pitcher if you don’t ask them to do it in the first place. Does any organization train pitchers to do anything other than these narrowly defined roles?

    • Chip

      The Yankees actually are trying to do this. They had used Coke, Veras and Albaladejo (all former starters) for a few 3 inning stints this season. Also, they have Aceves pitching a crazy schedule that could end up with him pitching 100 or so innings. In their minor league system, they’re always having their “relief prospects” throw 2-3 innings at a time so they can put innings in.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Melancon get more 2 inning appearances as he adjusts to the majors.

      • JimM

        As long as the Yankee starters are going 6 innings + in four out of the 5 starts, they can afford to carry the extra starter in the bullpen. If the number of “short starts” increases beyond that, they will not be able to carry someone who can only pitch every 4 days or so. Also, Wang is not going to get “built up” by pitching 3 innings every 4 days or so. However, as this is a business, the current investment in Wang dictates that Hughes be sent down, soon – the downside of an underused/messed-up Wang is simply not worth it. Also, given the currently light schedule in Sept./Oct. and the ability to expand the roster, Joba (as the #5 starter) would appear to be headed for the ‘pen in September anyway, if the Yanks are in position to prep for the playoffs(Yes!).

        • JP

          Wang is not going to get “built up” by pitching 3 innings every 4 days or so. However, as this is a business, the current investment in Wang dictates that Hughes be sent down, soon – the downside of an underused/messed-up Wang is simply not worth it.

          [long sigh, head in hands] I’m a contrarian and am easily frustrated (ask my wife)…but I swear I should never participate in discussions on pitchers.

          You’re right – this is exactly the way the Yankees will see things.

          But I gotta ask, are major league pitchers the athletic equivalent of decorative crystal? Highly valuable, and extremely fragile?

          My G*d, if they pitch too much, that’s a huge problem. But if they don’t pitch enough, well, that’s another problem. They have to get their work in, but not too much, and it has to be regular. They need to learn how to get MLB hitters out, but not at the expense of long term strength building and development. Building arm strength comes from pitching, but the correct amount is a precise number which, if you go over, you risk ruining someone’s career.

          this is changing the subject a bit, but let me ask you guys: does everyone believe that the current model of starting pitching – virtually no complete games, averaging 180-190 innings, maybe 200-230 if you are a rare stud and stay healthy, and 100-110 pitches per outing, is a law of nature and will remain the standard from here on out? Does anyone believe it’s possible to have, say, 5 starting pitchers accounting for, say, 1200 innings, and a relief core of 4-5 pitchers handling the rest? Why or why not, comparing to, say the 1970s and 80s?

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  • Some call me…tim


    Mets have a replacement ‘quality’ closer, they go to the WS…

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