Yesterday, when Joba left the game after throwing just three innings and 35 pitches, the Internet was abuzz with criticism of the Yankees plan. Andrew Fletcher of Scott Proctor’s Arm called the move “utterly moronic” on his Twitter feed. Ross of New Stadium Insider commented that “the Joba rules keep on getting lamer and lamer” on his. Plenty more fans chimed in with similar comments. Apparently the Yankees decision to limit the workload of their prized young pitcher isn’t going over well with the fan base.
Many of these same people criticized the Yankees when the plan was to spread out Joba’s starts over the remainder of the season. This brings to the fore an apt question: what, then, are they supposed to do? If the Yankees aren’t going to shorten Joba’s starts or spread them out, then what options do they have?
1) Pitch Joba as normal and shut him down when he reaches his prescribed workload
2) Pitch him normally without regard to prior workload
As to the former: if people are complaining about Joba now, the noise would be louder than ever if the Yanks shut down Joba. It would relegate either Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre to the fourth starter slot in the playoffs, should the Yankees need one. It would also be denying the team a useful pitcher. While it would probably be the best thing for the future development of Joba Chamberlain, it just doesn’t fit well into the way 2009 is unfolding.
As to the latter, I’ve made my feelings known on the matter. That said, if you believe that Joba should throw as many innings as possible this year, there’s no way we’re going to see eye to eye. May I suggest, though, that you go out tomorrow and add 50 pounds to your bench presses and 3 miles to your daily run. Then see how you feel the next day.
The whole point of the “Joba Rules” is to make sure they’re not adding too much weight to the bar. By keeping the incremental increase in his workload under control, the Yankees hope to prevent Joba from succumbing to the injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness we’ve seen afflict so many young pitchers in recent years. The Yankees have invested millions of dollars in this pitcher, and could see millions more in production from him in the future. If they can keep him healthy, that is.
One thing I noticed in this argument is that many people do not favor the way the Yankees are going about this. Said Fletcher on his Twitter feed: “Treating August games like spring training games is not doing it right.” To that I ask: What is doing it right? He suggests they do it in the minors. Unfortunately, that’s not much of an option right now. The minor league season ends rather soon, and as we’ve argued many times, Joba might not learn much by pitching down there. He has the stuff to destroy minor leaguers. At least he’s being challenged in the majors.
The Yankees are afforded some luxuries because of their lead and their current level of play. It seems like the Red Sox are winning every day, but the Yanks still maintain their lead in the East by a sizable margin — and that margin grows with each passing game, because the season creeps closer to an end. One of those luxuries of which they’re taking advantage is the ability to curb Joba’s innings while pitching him regularly in the majors. This might not be the same story if it was the Yankees who trailed the Red Sox by six games and led the Wild Card race by a small margin.
This is not a necessary endorsement of the specific manner in which the Yankees are handling Joba. Maybe having him throw normal starts that are spread out further is the better plan. Maybe letting him get to 160 like normal and then shutting him down is the best for his long-term potential. I don’t know which is best, and neither does anyone else out there. We should understand by this point that just letting pitchers go out there and throw is a poor strategy. There need to be limits to ensure that young pitchers don’t vastly exceed their previous workloads.
Please, if you don’t agree with a move that the Yankees make, criticize them for it. However, when you choose to do so, make sure you have some substance to your argument. Why are the Yankees doing this wrong? What should they be doing instead? This is what makes for good arguments and conversations. Instead, thanks to media like Twitter, we’re getting a lot of noisy complaining with no substance to speak of. That won’t fly. If you don’t agree with the Yankees handling of Joba, tell me why, and what might work better. That’s the kind of talk we appreciate around these parts.