As the Yankees head into the playoffs, the team’s pitching will move to the forefront of the discussion. The Yanks’ offense is far and away the best in the game, but how the pitching holds up will determine how deep they go into October. We know about Andy Pettitte’s shoulder and A.J. Burnett’s inconsistency, but Joba Chamberlain lurks as well.
To that end, the last two days have given us two discussion-worthy items about Joba Chamberlain. We start with Joel Sherman’s 3 Up post. In it, Sherman notes that the Yankees, had they other options, would have considered sending Joba to the minors when he struggled in August and early September. With Chien-Ming Wang, Ian Kennedy, Al Aceves and Phil Hughes in other roles, though, the team had no choice. Writes Sherman:
Yankee officials tell me there was really no option but to have Joba continue to do his work in the majors because the club already was dealing with a fifth starter spot combo of Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin.
But it is worthwhile to remember heading into next year that Chamberlain does not have the divine right to a major league job. The Marlins sent down Ricky Nolasco this year and the Brewers sent down Manny Parra. Chamberlain still has options, which means he is going to get the first opportunity to start and some rope to keep a job. And it is important to remember that the Yanks believe Chamberlain is on the way to the top of a rotation. However, he will not have endless rope in 2010 when theoretically both Hughes and Kennedy will both be rotation options again.
Sherman’s take today juxtaposes nicely with his musings on the Joba Rules The Post published yesterday. Sherman talks about how Joba is young, still learning and facing an innings limit. While many fans and commentators refuse to recognize this reality, Sherman ends with a zinger: “This” — meaning the Spring Training-like build-up in September — “is all part of the continuing education of a young starter. But education, like facts, get in the way of you yelling about Chamberlain not throwing 120 pitches last night.
Not everyone appreciated Sherman’s musings. Mike Silva at NYBD voiced his belief that “Joba’s development should not take precedence over the Yankees season.” Silva understands the need for an innings limit but feels the execution is wrong. He wants Joba on the mound throwing full games to gear up for the post-season and would have limited Joba’s innings by keeping him off the mound earlier in the year. As a comparable pitcher, he cites the Braves’ Tommy Hanson.
Hanson, though, isn’t a valid comp. He’s thrown 167 innings this year so far after tossing back-to-back seasons of 133 innings. The Braves, meanwhile, are preparing to shut him down once they are out of the playoffs. They also avoided summoning Hanson to the Majors until June because they didn’t want his arbitration clock to tick. For Atlanta, it is about the money.
For the Yankees, this has been a year of Joba, and it isn’t over yet. The youngster showed signs of emerging from his funk on Monday, and he’ll look to build on that over the weekend in Seattle. The Yanks may need Joba to start in the ALDS, and they will definitely hand him the ball in the ALCS. This ride is far from over, and Joba will throw more innings with or without the rules.