The “Joba is babied” line is tired by now

Yankee offense flashing shades of 1998
Game 118: Fister? Hardly even know her

I’m not mincing words here: I am sick and tired of people claiming that “Joba is babied.” Honestly, I think it’s just something to complain about now that the Yankees are consistently winning. There’s no other explanation for it. Why would anyone complain that the Yankees are taking precautionary steps to protect a player whom they view as a future top-of-the-rotation performer? Why put him at obvious and considerable risk just to “push him to his limits”?

Look, I’m not saying the Verducci Rule is the be-all, end-all in this conversation. There is plenty more that goes into it, which is why the Yankees aren’t capping Joba at exactly 30 innings more than his previous season high. They’re working through a plan they devised in order to not drastically increase Joba’s workload and put him at risk for injury. That’s to the benefit of the team’s long-term outlook. It might hurt the short term, but that’s sometimes the price you have to pay to cultivate an ace.

Think about it this way. If you’re going to start lifting weights, you don’t go in and lift as much as you can the first day. You don’t lift as much as you can the second time in. If you do, you’re going to burn yourself out or get hurt. Instead, you work yourself into a routine, adding a bit more weight each time to make sure your muscles can handle the load. It works this way in many facets of life. The Yankees are simply building Joba up so he can handle the workload of a starter, rather than taking the chains off instantly.

This is a direct response to Mike Silva, who has been on the “Joba is babied” bandwagon for a while. He offers nothing but anecdotal claims to back up his position, while completely ignoring the physical realities of pitching in the modern era. As Joel Sherman noted, things have changed a bit since then.

[Bob] Gibson never faced hitters who watched their at-bats against him before and during games to pick up patterns. Gibson did not face an era of players steeped in the value of the long at-bat and drawing walks. Gibson enjoyed a larger strike zone and — at times — a higher mound. He did not use a more tightly-wound ball against lighter, whip-like bats designed to zip through the zone for more damage. And we haven’t even mentioned steroids yet.

Yet we should treat pitchers the same as we did back then? It seems a bit absurd after reading that Sherman paragraph, no?

Silva does offer one name as a comparison: Tim Lincecum, last year’s NL Cy Young winner at age 24. Why was he able to pitch 227 innings last year with little ill effect? Because he was built up to that point. He pitched through his senior year in college and racked up over 330 innings with the University of Washington. The year he was drafted, 2006, he threw 180 innings, 125 in college and another 31.2 in the minors. When the Giants called him up in 2007, he finished the year with 174 innings. This made the jump to 227 innings the next year a bit easier.

Yes, that’s a considerable jump, 47 innings from the career high he set the previous year. But it was a work up. Entering 2008, he’d had about 550 innings of pro and college ball under his belt. That’s considerable experience. Joba does not have this type of experience. According to The Baseball Cube, Joba pitched just over 200 innings at the University of Nebraska over two years. He did pitch some winter ball to augment his 89.1 innings at Nebraska in 2006, the year he was drafted, and worked up to 112 innings the next year.

Unfortunately, Joba succumbed to injury last year, limiting him to just 100 innings of work. So, entering this season, Joba has never pitched more than 127 innings in a season. In college and pro experience he had just 458 innings of experience over four years. When the Giants allowed Lincecum to pitch 227 innings in 2008, he’d thrown 551 innings over the past four years. That’s nearly 25 extra innings per year that Lincecum could build up.

Like any kind of physical work, Joba needs to work up to full capacity, rather than being allowed to just run his way into a wall. The 121.2 innings he’s pitched this year is just shy of his previous total, which came three years ago, and a decent start today could put him at or over that total. His 22 games started, 23 once he throws the first pitch today, is already the greatest number of games he’s started in his career in one season. Yet there’s still a month and a half left in the season, plus the playoffs. You really want him to go full bore in personally uncharted territory? In a pennant race? When he has so much to offer over the next four, five, six years?

To advocate allowing Joba to throw 200 innings this year is to completely eschew the long-term for the short-term. Yes, we all want Joba to keep pitching on a regular schedule this year, but physical realities render that a poor choice. You can bang the drum of Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, and all the other greats who pitched when men were men, but it does no good. The modern game is different. Babe Ruth once ended a season with more individual home runs than any team combined did. That doesn’t happen any more. In the same way, pitchers tossing 250 innings in their rookie years doesn’t happen. You can either be patient and accept it, or complain about it. In any case, the Yankees are making the right move by not letting Joba go into the gym and load up the bench press with eight 45 pound weights.

Yankee offense flashing shades of 1998
Game 118: Fister? Hardly even know her
  • The Artist

    The poster boy for the anti-innings limit Nolan Ryan, who is scrapping these restrictions, saying “pitchers need to build their arms up” and stuff like that.

    Guess what? Nolan didn’t break 152 IP until he was 25 years old. In his case it was unintentional, he served in the military on weekends and had blister problems that kept him from making all his starts. But Nolan is telling pitchers ‘Do as I say, not as I did’.

    • Drew

      Ha, I’m waiting for him to bash little leagues. “I started every game for my little league team! I’m Nolan Ryan dammit!! We need to stop babying these babies.”

      • The Artist

        I will enjoy a hearty laugh when half the Texas pitching staff is on the DL, and Nolan gets fired.

        • monkeypants

          Well, for what it’s worth, Bill James agrees with what Ryan is doing. Also, let’s not mischaracterize Ryan’s deal: he has NOT eliminated pitch counts. Rather, he he has simply done away with the magic, arbitrary and completely lacking in medical/scientific justification number of 100 pitches. Instead, his pitchers are put on somewhat higher pith (and inning) limits.

    • wilcymoore

      I agree with Nolan Ryan to some degree. I think veteran pitchers should be able to pitch deeper into games; I think 100 pitches per start is a completely arbitrary number; I think pitchers have to learn to pitch out of trouble and not be looking over their shoulder for the relief pitcher when they get a couple guys on base in the fifth or sixth inning.

      But young pitchers should be handled carefully and built up slowly … just as the Yankees are doing.

      • AndrewYF

        That’s exactly right. You think CC Sabathia got where he did by pitching 120 pitches each time out when he was 23? No, Cleveland handled him perfectly, and he’s one of the healthiest pitchers in the game, and able to go 130 pitches in a pinch.

        The Yankee veterans don’t get cut off at 100. Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte have multiple times gone over 110 pitches this season. But the youngsters do, because they’re simply not conditioned for it yet. But once they get enough starts topping out at 100 pitches, THEN you can go higher.

        Good luck to Nolan Ryan, but he’s going to do Texas a disservice by having young pitchers continue to pitch in a game when they’re exhausted.

        • Drew

          CC is also a freak. He isn’t able to throw 130 pitches and pitch on 3 days rest just because of how Cleveland handled him. Some guys are just different animals all together.

  • Drew

    If it’s not one thing, it’s another. People just love to complain and bash everything the Yanks do. What sucks is, next year we have to hear people complain about the same thing with Phil, assuming he returns to the rotation.

    • The Artist

      Welcome to being a Yankee fan. It’s part of the deal, and always has been.

  • The Artist

    BTW-Noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tom Seaver chimed in again on this today.

    • The Artist

      “He’s still emotionally tied to the Mets, but has an even greater passion for the art of pitching — which he says, sadly, “has turned into science.

      “Everything is run by numbers now,” Seaver said.”

      I forgot to mention the good doctor decried how “science” has overtaken Baseball. In his day, Baseball was operated by opinion, not by fact-based analysis. I’ll let you decide which one was better.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    …I know we all argue about HOW to manage The Hut’s innings, but I think everyone here agrees they need to be managed.

    So do we all comment on articles where kooks say “baby!” and try to inform to general fans?

  • wilcymoore

    Who’s this dude, Silva, anyway? A Mets fan? He doesn’t offer a shred of substance or logic in support of his position. He does have that noted orthopedist Dr. Tom Seaver on his side, though.

    • Go Joba

      Silva is pathetic. He’s trying to drum up page hits for his awful blog by posting trollish things about Joba and sabermetrics. Apparently it’s working, as BBTF continually links to his blog, if only to comment on how foolish he is.

      RAB would be best served not even linking to the guy anymore.

      Go Joba. And I’m a Mets fan.

  • Thomas A. Anderson

    Ask the Cubs if they wish they had adopted The Prior Rules. Greatness doesn’t come easy. It takes some time.

  • Zack

    Seaver, Gossage, Ryan and any other old time player really needs to stop talking about pitchers now a days. That’s like my grandfather telling me I should walk 5 miles to school everyday because thats why he had to do so I should do it to- times change so quit the bitching

    • Ivan

      In my day, we actually talk to people. What the hell is this texting thing?

    • monkeypants

      Times change. Your granddad could walk ten miles a day as a boy. Now kids can’t and America is a lot fatter. Just because times change doesn’t mean they change for the better in every way.

      • Zack

        Right, and some changes are for the better.

        This has nothing to do with the Yankees, teams all around the league do it. Why does no one talk about TB shutting Shields down in 2006? Or moving Price to the pen last year? Or having him on an innings count this year? Wait, the Yankees arent the only team doing this!?!

  • Ivan

    It’s not just Joba with the whole being babied, but’s the same people who say these things are the same people who still value BA over OBP% and etc. It’s primitive thinking, and in today’s era, primitive thinking obviously doesn’t work. Yes baseball has become “scientific” which not is not a bad thing, and one of the most significant aspect of science and data and etc, is mondernizing and try newer things. Baseball purits need to understand that.

    • Zack

      Every sport is getting scientific. NFL is figuring out that giving your RB 20 carries a game instead of 40 carries keeps him fresher, more effective and healthier. Freaking amazing.

      • Thomas

        This comment reminds of the part of a classic FJM post:

        The NFL does the same thing, in a different fashion. To convince you that pro football is actually a 17-week MENSA convention, The League whips out its 800-page playbooks and offers up oh-so-serious coaches who work 20 hours a day and act as if their jobs involve brain surgery and a red telephone.

        QB: What play are we running, coach?

        Coach: (furious) What “play” are we “running?” This ain’t science, you jackass! You, Johnson. Just run down the field, and kind of squiggle around. Henderson? I want you to just groove. Bergleson — let your soul take over. I want you to feel it. Smithson? Put this welding helmet on and close your eyes. Run wherever you feel like you should run. And Thompson? When the ball is snapped, I want a long primal scream. Don’t worry about “blocking” or “patterns” or “execution.” This game is about emotion, people.

        Assistant Coach: Have you noticed that everyone on this team is named “something-son?”

        Coach: You’re fired. I don’t pay you to think. Now. Soul-Ball Gut Check 34 on 3.

        Possibly, it’s less complex. Block. Tackle. Win.

        If you try to win a modern-day NFL game solely by telling your players to “Block and tackle” you will lose 100-0.

        • Ivan

          Exactly, you think baseball is too scientific, Football is more of that and then some.

        • AndrewYF

          How I miss FJM.

    • monkeypants

      Find me the scientific evidence for 100 pitch limits. There is none. It was chosen simply as a convenient number, arbitrarily , with no evidence or science behind. The 100 pitch limiut could hardly be less scientific.

      • Ivan

        There have been research, data collected and experience performed to at least prove that if you go over 100 pitches especially for a young arm may be damaging.

      • Joseph Pawlikowski

        I think you should do a little research on how they came about the 100 pitch number.

      • Drew

        Observations lead to scientific theories. The majority of pitchers begin elevating pitches or overthrowing due to tiring when they approach the 100 pitch mark. It’s not just a convenient number. WHether a guy begins showing signs of tiring at the 85, 95, 105, 115 pitch mark, it’s important for a manager to get his guy out before the tiring leads to over-compensation.

        • monkeypants

          It’s a completely convenient number. Check out:

          Obviously the more pitches one throws, intuitively, the more tired a pitcher is likely to get. But there is no reason to pick 100 over 90 or 110 or 105 or 93 or 107. But 100 is a round number, and now–without any scientific or medical study–the number has become enshrined for all pitchers in just about every game and game situation.

          • Drew

            How many times is a pitcher pulled because he is exactly at 100 pitches? I mean, in the middle of an AB, the middle of an inning? Hardly ever. The fact is that managers don’t push most guys too far past 100, but 100 is not the end all, be all.

            • Salty Buggah


              • pete

                another way to think about is this: cruising through 7 innings will take about 100 pitches, battling through 6 will take about 100, and struggling through 5 will take about 100, for the most part. If you’re cruising, maybe you go a little further, depending on your age and experience, but thats when you’ll start warming up your pen because that seems to be when guys start to get a little tired. Why risk losing the game? As for the other scenarios, if it takes someone 100 pitches to get through six, chances are he’s not gonna be too great in the seventh because he hasn’t been particularly good through the first six and will likely start to tire soon. Same goes for 100 through five, only more so. If a guy barely got through his first five (unscathed or no, 100 pitches through five innings is struggling), why push your luck by sending him back out there?
                Everybody assumes that the pitch count is all about pitchers’ health, which of course is part of it. But a lot of it is also the fact that good managers will always play the hand likeliest to produce wins. If the guy going for you is still the best pitcher in the park, leave him in. If he isn’t, take him out. It’s that simple.

      • Joseph Pawlikowski
      • Joseph Pawlikowski
  • Bugsy

    I think the problem lies in the fact that stats are misleading when they are taken out of context. This happens when baseball writers and fans become wholly mistyfied legends of baseball then proceed to compare stats, players, era without doing much, if any, homework. This is lazy journalism that spreads its leathery fingers all over the baseball community. Instead of digging through history and finding stories of import (and finding new ways of looking at the game) these writers (and pundits, if you can call them that) produce shit that mimics everything else that has been written about baseball and claim a position of outrage. They reproduce the same myths, and have the same indulgent awe at looking at baseball. For one thing, I haven’t read (nor heard) too much written on how technology changed the game and what possible changes technology might have on the game. Do your jobs.

    And I blame Ken Burns.

    • PinstripesForeverDougie


  • monkeypants

    FWIW, what Bill James, et al have to say about the Nolan Ryan experiment:

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      That’s fine. Maybe they should start them off with a bit higher workload. But what’s done is done with Joba. They don’t want to drastically increase the workload he’s used to at this point. It’s definitely something to think about for their lower level minors players.

      • The Fallen Phoenix

        But I think it’s less about pitchers beginning with higher workloads, professionally, than allowing those pitchers who have already established themselves to have looser reins.

        So that you have more guys like CC Sabathia, who can throw 115-125 pitchers per game, rather than 100. You might not do that to Mark Prior or Joba Chamberlain in their first few seasons, professionally, but you might increase the number of pitches they can throw per start per year to build them to that point.

        • The Fallen Phoenix

          (I know this isn’t exactly what Nolan Ryan is doing; just pointing out an alternate way of circumventing the 100 pitches-per-game “rule.”)

      • monkeypants

        I agree with you about Joba, entirely.

        My argument is more systemic. And I a rubbed the wrong way by those who smugly dismiss what Ryan is trying to do. I am very sabermetrically oriented, and I am appalled when McCarver or Morgan or whomever sneers at new ways of looking at and analyzing baseball and fall back on old orthodoxies. It’s closed minded. But it’s just as closed minded for more enlightened fans (as are those who contribute to these threads)to suppose that the new orthodoxy–their orthodoxy–cannot be questioned.

        • The Fallen Phoenix

          Well, those who smugly dismiss what Ryan is trying to do generally misunderstand what he’s trying to do. He’s not trying to eliminate pitch counts entirely, or completely reverse the movement the industry has experienced since the 1970s.

          He’s loosening the restrictions, he’s not eliminating them entirely. And that’s absolutely fine; he’s not turning all of his managers at all levels of the organization into Dusty Baker.

          All it takes is looking at Neftali Perez to see that the Rangers aren’t nearly as off the mainstream as they’re sometimes made to appear.

          • Joseph Pawlikowski

            Ditto both you and monkeypants. Perhaps, out of concern for younger pitchers, the restrictions teams have placed on pitchers have been a bit extreme. That’s Ryan’s position at least, so he’s trying to work them a bit harder. It might work, it might not. But the case can be made that he’s just trying to make a correction to an overprotective mindset, while not completely removing those protections.

  • Salty Buggah

    Isn’t Mike Silva a B-Jobber too?

  • RCK

    Yes, yes, and yes! I list to a lot of WFAN (which I probably shouldn’t, I know), and all the “babying Joba” talk drives me up a million frickin’ walls!

    The ridiculous part is how many people claim simultaneously that Joba is being “babied” by having an innings limit, and that “not knowing when his next start is coming” will make it impossible for him to pitch well. If they want pitchers to be such tough guys who can go out and pitch until their arms fall off, how is claiming that their mental state is so fragile that they’ll fall apart should they be asked to deviate at all from the every five days schedule any different?

    • AndrewYF

      I don’t understand why a pitcher needs to know when his NEXT start is. His next start is the one that’s coming. Does any pitcher think about the start after the one he has yet to pitch? In fact, I doubt ANY pitcher knows when his next start is after his coming-up one. Look at what happened with the Yankee rotation recently. Everyone got an extra day of rest. Are you going to tell me that Pettitte, Burnett and Sabathia are now living in fear of not knowing 100% when their next start is? After all, it can change in an instant! What horror!

  • Lanny

    You can’t compare any pitcher to Lincecum. Its unfair. The guy is what his nickname is. Freak.

    The Yankees put a lot of money, time and research into young pitchers. have a little faith that they know how to build a young pitcher up.

    • monkeypants

      To be fair, their track record over the last decade or more with young pitchers, esp. starters, is not really very good.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Well, their track record over the last decade with drafting young pitchers may not have been very good (until the last few years, that is), but I don’t think there’s much evidence of a systemic problem with developing young pitchers. It’s an important distinction.

  • Mike Silva


    I am not advocating Joba throwing 250 innings here. But can’t he go every 5 days? Why would you want Chad Guadin and Sergio Mitre to get more starts because this guy can’t take the ball every fifth day. Its absurd and I bet if you got a member of the clubhouse off the record they would tell you the same thing.

    Tom Seaver is a HOF pitcher who might know a thing or two about pitching. The problem with you guys is that you rather throw your entire starting rotation into chaos than let this kid stand on his own two feet.More than likely he won’t go much more than 5 innings. Don’t you agree that 100 pitches isn’t all the same? I think the Yankees have a great shot this season to be special and it would be a shame that this childish, unfounded, nonsense would derail the team. Joba himself has said he wants to pitch. Drive the car off the lot already enough!

    Amazing how I am called anti Yankee by some the same day I am advocating Teixeira for MVP. Of course, those that haven’t watched him play are bashing me at BBTF citing WAR and UZR. Real good ways to evaluate the MVP award. Thank god we have members of the BBWAA making these calls and not give the vote to the fans. That is how we get the same nonsense All Star starting lineups.

    • http://Greg Greg P

      My Grandfather was an auto mechanic who retired in the early 70’s. I’d say he might know a thing or two about auto repair. Will I take his word on my 2002 Nissan? No. Seaver was a great pitcher, and there are surely things to be gleaned from his experience. But, can you take the advice of anyone who retired from their chosen profession over 20 years ago as omniscient? I don’t think so.

      • Zack

        It’s more like, my grandmother has driven Fords her entire life so that gives her the right to tell me how to do an engine swap on my 2009 Ford.

        Just because you drive (pitch) a car doesnt mean you know how the engine (arm) works.

    • Zack

      “The problem with you guys is that you rather throw your entire starting rotation into chaos than let this kid stand on his own two feet.”
      No, we rather take advantage of the 8 game lead and not blow out Joba.

      The 100 pitch count has nothing to do with Joba, he doesnt get taken out once he hits 100. If hes over 100 is he going to start another inning? No thats stupid. If hes laboring through 5.1 and hes in trouble do you leave him in just because hes at 95? No thats stupid too.

    • DF

      This entire line of argument is silly.

      “I am not advocating Joba throwing 250 innings here. But can’t he go every 5 days?”

      If he pitches every 5 days, he will amass far more innings than the Yankees want him to. This is a simple matter of addition, isn’t it? Every five days = more innings = more pitches. With so much of the season and playoffs left, an every-five-day schedule for Joba would cause him to blow past any reasonable innings limit.

      “Why would you want Chad Guadin and Sergio Mitre to get more starts because this guy can’t take the ball every fifth day?”

      I’d rather never watch Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre throw another inning in pinstripes. But this is the team the Yankees have assemebled, and so those are the pitchers who are going to have to pitch, if, again, the Yankees are going to control Joba’s innings this year.

      “Its absurd and I bet if you got a member of the clubhouse off the record they would tell you the same thing.”

      This isn’t an argument, but an appeal to authority. And a poor one at that. If a member of the clubhouse doesn’t like that, on or off the record, well, tough. They’re paid to play, not manage. I frankly don’t particularly care what they think about the issue over and above their ability to make a cogent argument for their position.

      “Joba himself has said he wants to pitch.”

      Again, this doesn’t mean much. Joba should pitch when the Yankees tell him to pitch. His input should obviously be solicited, but the ultimate decision should be made independent of his wishes.

  • Yankee1010

    Silva has no business pontificating about baseball. Never has. Never will.

    He’s like Lombardi’s bastard son.

  • Mike Silva

    Well, it’s not pontificating Yankees1010

    Another outing where Joba resembled Sergio Mitre. If it was about development he should be doing that in Scranton, not during a pennant race in New York. I still see no reason why he can’t pitch every five days.

    • DF

      You’re just grasping at straws now.

      What does Joba resembling Sergio Mitre have to do with your original point, that the Yankees are babying him?

      You stated earlier you that Mitre and Gaudin should not be starting in place of Joba. Now you want to send him down to Scranton to ensure that they do so?

      And finally, whether Joba pitches poorly or not has essentially nothing to do with why he can’t pitch every five days for the rest of the season.

      I’m starting to think you don’t have a point. You just have a termpermental aversion to the idea of innings limits.

    • Yankee1010

      Yeah, put a guy with a sub 4.00 ERA while pitching in the AL East in Scranton.

      Wow. I can’t believe the lengths that you go to in order to make it 100% clear to everyone that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Mike Silva

    If a pitcher needs this much development and can’t go once every five days than clearly he is not ready for the big leagues. That is all I am saying.

    • Yankee1010

      You have no clue what you’re talking about. That’s all everyone else is saying.

  • lenNY’s Yankees

    Wow. Excellent article, Joe. Completely agree. I want to link all of my Red Sox fan friends to this article.

  • jonas

    i love tex as much as the next person, but joe mauer is having one of the best seasons in baseball history, and he’s a catcher which makes it all the more amazing. just look at the numbers, it’s staggering.

  • yankee in virginia

    the real issue may be that Joba is not the real deal

    22 yr old – relatively unproven pitchers would be beter off not shaking off catchers — despite all the booth admonitions to “get on the same page” we would humbly assert that Joba, Hughes et. al. just don’t have the experience to read hitters the way Posada, Molina do — maybe my old coach had it right — leave your brain on the bench and throw

    Joba “appears” to want to fool batters when he might safely overpower them — he is doing .200 hitters a favor by throwing sliders vs. locating his FB

    It drives us fans crazy that he can pitch to Junior and make the 9 hitter look like Junior

    Must make Eiland and Girardi crazy as well but they can KITA and force him to listen — he is in danger of being the phenom flame out — searching for whatever he had in the pen, for seasons to come

    I am not down on Joba — I want him to succeed – he is just a kid but he is getting in his own way.
    In similar ways Phil Franchise can lapse into the nibble the corners, trick a hitter but he has shown less of this than Joba

    Maybe the light switch goes on in the next game — we thought it was there against the Red Sox — with AJ and CC the Yankees have the luxury of bringing Joba and Hughes along — they are kids and need to be directed — I think that is what girardi gets paid for.

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