One inning, under the microscope

All but official as Yanks seemingly opt for longer ALDS
Fan Confidence Poll: October 5th, 2009

I missed most of Sunday’s season finale against the Rays. I was perusing the Atlantic Antic today in Brooklyn while keeping track of the game via’s mobile site. I arrived back home just in time for the all-important seventh inning when Joba Chamberlain made his 2009 relief debut.

Earlier in the day, I had read all about the Yanks’ plans for Joba. As they can do with a series in which they need to use only three starters, the Yankees plan on loading up their bullpen with guys who can get outs. To that end, Chamberlain will more likely than not be available for relief work during the ALDS before potentially moving back to the rotation for Game 4 of the ALCS.

Initially, I was skeptical of this move (and still am) due to the fact that Joba has been rather abysmal in his first inning of work this year. In 31 first innings, he has allowed 37 hits, 12 walks and 21 runs. Opponents are hitting .301/.360/.504 against him in 136 first inning plate appearances. Considering that a reliever generally pitches only one inning, those early-game struggles do not bode well for Joba Chamberlain out of the pen.

Apparently, though, everyone else was pretty excited about Joba’s return to the pen. Bryan Hoch called it a revision to the 2009 Joba Rules. Mark Feinsand noted that Joba would return to his “old role,” never mind that Joba had always been a starter until necessity knocked in 2007.

During the game, Joba blew everyone away!! Or so the story goes. Unfortunately, pitch f/x caught just four of Joba’s seven pitches, but he was sitting where he has been all season. His fastball topped out at 95 and his slider had some bite. It was Joba the starter on his good days but just transported to the bullpen. Not to take away from a crisp inning, but Joba was certainly helped out by the fact that he faced three guys hitting a combined .244 with a .395 slugging. Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel this was not.

After the game, the media went gaga over Joba. Feinsand called him “a man on fire” and noted his seemingly increased fastball velocity based on the Tampa gun. Sam Borden, somewhat skeptically, called him the “old” Joba. Tyler Kepner, a somewhat recent convert from the B-Jobber position, noted how comfortable Joba looked. Kepner noted the 95-mph fastball too, but again, that was nothing we hadn’t seen from Joba this year. When he’s regularly hitting 98/99/100 out of the pen, we can chat.

Echoing David Cone’s in-game comments, even the Yanks’ skipper noted Joba the reliever. “He looked a little different,” Joe Girardi said after the game. “Starting is different than relieving; one inning is different than asking a guy to go seven or eight. You don’t necessarily need to use all your pitches, so you can pitch a little different.”

The truth is that Joba threw exactly one inning of seven pitches against three weak hitters in a low-stress situation. He showed that he can warm up to come out of the bullpen, and he showed how good he can be when he’s throwing well against bad hitters he should dominate. As Phil Hughes has shown this year, Joba illustrated the simple baseball truth that good starters make excellent relievers.

I’m sure over the course of the next few weeks, Joba will be called upon to get some key outs as a reliever, and he’ll rise to the task. We’ll have the same old bullpen/starting pitcher debate all over again. There is, though, but one simple truth. To paraphrase a famous New York City radio personality, Joba Chamberlain is a starting pitcher.

All but official as Yanks seemingly opt for longer ALDS
Fan Confidence Poll: October 5th, 2009
  • chriskeo

    “Joba Chamberlain is a starting pitching”

    Amen to that

    • Z

      Who says this? Steve Somers?

  • Jamal G.

    I really don’t think I can handle another winter of The Great Joba Stupidity.

    • whozat

      At least we can get a double dose, as people say the same shit about Hughes and clamor for the Yanks to sign Lackey and Holliday while simultaneously whining about wishing the Yanks would get younger and more athletic.

      • Zack

        And then you get the Mike Francesas “Yankees trading or signing top guys messes up the universe” then keep Joba in the pen and sign someone

        • Klemy

          Well, it’s not like you can wave a magic wand and 3 new guys are showing up.

  • lily-bk

    yea i don’t knwo if i can take another off season of joba starter/reliver again. and i was actually waiting for someone to write about joba and his one inning of work. he faced three weak hitters with an 8 run lead. one fastball was clocked at 96 and everything else was 92-93 so it wasnt anything new. so it wasnt an omg impressive performance.

    • Jersey

      Actually, it was mostly 94-95.

      • lily-bk

        no it wasn’t. first pitch he threw was 96 and then it was 92-93

        • Jersey
          • Zack

            facts > perception

            in his defense he might have been watching YES, im assuming the gun is still off

            • Klemy

              I don’t even remember the last time it was correct. lol

  • Phil McCracken

    Sam Borden is questioning Joba as well in his article, not anointing him the savior as depicted in your entry.

    While it may be titled “The Old Joba”, he has same concerns you do Ben.

  • ashish

    If he’s used in the playoffs, it better not be in high leverage situations. Hughes, Aceves, Robertson, and Coke all should have their numbers called before Joba’s in a tight game. They’ve been doing it all year, and one inning in the last meaningless game of the season should not change that.

  • Mark Feinsand

    Just for the record, folks, I am still a believer that Joba should be a starter. And when I said his “old role,” I meant his role as setup man when he was pitching out of the pen, not for his old career.

    Sadly, unless he pitches Game 4 of the ALCS and pitches well, this debate is not going to go away. The Tampa scoreboard radar readings were 94-95, but I spoke with someone that was holding a gun and they said he was mostly 96-97.

    I’m guessing if he pitches out of the pen in the playoffs, we’ll see some 97-98, but more than anything, he attacked hitters and just let it all out instead of trying to conserve himself and pick at the corners. If he could ever take that approach and trust his 93-94 fastball, he’d be a terrific, consistent starter.

    • Phil McCracken

      Good info about the gun readings Mark. Thanks.

    • Dela G

      thanks for coming on the site mark, i enjoy your posts on the daily news website

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      There’s no reason to think he’ll be at 97-98. Perhaps he’ll be less likely to pick at the corners, but I think it would be a misnomer for us to surmise that he’ll be able to dial it up to 2007 playoff Joba. The evidence this season indicates he’ll likely be around 94 with decent, but not great control. His velocity has been down since his injury last August, and he hasn’t gotten to 97-98 yet this season. Maybe he’ll Verlander it, but I could also make it 50 blocks uptown by cab during rush hour in 15 minutes. Sure, it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s realistic. Again, it’s not impossible, but I’m not sold on him pitching to three crappy hitters topping out at 95 in one inning.

      /really likes Joba
      //thinks he’ll pitch very well as a starter next year with increased velocity

      • RZG

        “… I think it would be a misnomer for us to surmise that he’ll be able to dial it up to 2007 playoff Joba.”

        The word “misnomer” is not what you think it means.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Thanks, Mark. I appreciate the clarification. I don’t mean to say that you personally believe he should be in the pen; I just meant to highlight how coverage of it will feed into the reliever/starter debate. It’s nearly impossible to write about it without feeding into that debate in my opinion, and that applies to us as well.

      • pollo

        *to Dora the explorer*


        j/k Ben

    • Edwantsacracker

      I think alot of people have been misquoted about Joba’s outing. I watched the postgame show on YES so I saw Joe Girardi’s comments in context.

      Kim Jones (Gushing): Joe didn’t Joba just look so different on the mound today?

      Joe Girardi (Dismissing): Well its different. He looked different, starting is different from relieving.

      Girardi wasn’t volunteering information, saying that Joba looked like a different person, he was actually trying to diffuse that. The reporters already had their story written with an (insert Joe Girardi quote about Joba).

  • JMK aka The Overshare

    I bought two tickets for ALDS game 2. $211 and totally worth it. Anyone else going? Section 409. Fuck you, Comet!

  • Mike bk

    i think joba is a starter, just as i think hughes is a starter, but just as the argument has been made that this year hughes as the 8th inning guy gives us the best chance to win with joba’s inconsistency in his approach and aggressiveness in the rotation i think sticking him out there in game 4 as a starter is like playing lotto and hoping you hit the numbers. there is no guarantee he will increase the velocity out of the pen and i certainly dont think we will be talking about 97-98, but if he is aggressive there as hughes is combined with Mo and K-rob that is 4 power pitchers that make it a very short game, while have marte and coke as matchup lefties if girardi wants. personally at this point i think gaudin giving us 4-5 innings backed up by ace for 2 is our most reliable option if we get to the alcs.

    • Drew

      Ain’t nothin wrong with that. I’d still rather Jober than Gaudin in the ALCS though(after all, if it’s a must win CC would be going anyway).

    • Benjamin Kabak

      In 1996, Kenny Rogers started Game 4 of the World Series. In 2000, Denny Neagle drew that start. The Yanks have put pitchers far worse than Joba that fourth starter role. I wouldn’t worry too much about that crapshoot.

  • JMK aka The Overshare

    By the way, big congrats to Mike, Ben and Joe on a great year. I think I speak for everyone on here (at least the regulars) in saying this place has been a great refuge for non-conventional thought and solid analysis of all things Yankees. Again, great job, guys.

    • Bob Stone

      I strongly second that sentiment. Great job guys!

      • Jersey


    • Klemy

      Amen. Great year gents.

  • JMK aka The Overshare

    By the way, breaking news from Lucky: Edwar Ramirez is scheduled to start Game 1 for the Yanks. Mark Melancon will be the Game 2 starter. Bruney will be starting Game 3. The rest of the rotation remains the same. Oh, also, Ted Williams has been thawed and will be starting for Boston instead of JD Drew. Williams will also be the starter for each game in the playoffs. Beckett will be the closer.

    /ESPN Boston comment section

    • TheLastClown

      For your…enjoyment?

      Makes for more interesting playoffage, no?

      • Jersey

        That is terribly tragic.

        • Klemy

          I actually laughed about it when I heard about it on sports radio. Not that I don’t think he should be respected, just that if you choose for that way to go, you almost get something like that when being handled by strangers. Next, they’ll be using Walt Disney as a crayon.

  • thony

    I am agree with this… Like the Cincinnati Red of 1990, a bullpen with Joba, Hughes and Mo could be like Rob Dibble, Norlm Charlton and Randy Myers commonly named “the nasty boys” (look

    I would like Joba in the 7th, Hughes in the 8th and Mo obviously the 9th. They can use them to rest the starters just giving them 6 innings…

  • YankeeDoodleDandie

    If the Yankees face the Twins they probably will need to put Damaso Marte on the postseason roster because the Twins have more good lefthand hitters. So, if we face the Twins, I expect that Joba will be left off the postseason roster.

    • crapulent aka I said good day sir

      No one expects him to start in the ALDS but he won’t be left off the roster. He needs the work.

  • Jake H

    I would rather they put Joba off the roster and have him in Tampa pitching so he can pitch in the ALCS.

  • crapulent aka I said good day sir

    When I was making all my Joba is a starter arguments I always said we have GOT to see what he brings as a starter. Now my b-Jobber friends are saying see what he has? It’s crap.

    I still don’t agree with that assessment. He’s a young pitcher who spent only a little bit of time in the minors before being thrust onto the biggest stage in the world. He’s still evolving.

    Maybe the fans and media were “overly excited” by his initial bullpen appearances because our bullpen wasn’t that good and he seemed like a kid on fire. They loved the fist pump and energy. They got excited when he came in unlike most of our other relievers (‘cept the great Mariano).

    Maybe they longed to love Joba-the-starter this year but his streakiness left them ambivalent (and sometimes hateful). Then he returned to the pen and people projected fire in his eyes onto him…the “old” Joba, the one we love, is back. Those fans and media need to get over themselves. And they need to get over themselves when the same thing goes on with Phil Hughes next year.

    Good starters do make excellent relievers. And unless they’re Mariano Rivera, they should give every chance to start. This winter I’m not engaging in this argument. I’m done. My position is clear. Both Hughes and Joba need to start. If you think anything different, we have nothing to talk about anyway.

    • Bob Stone

      Amen. I couldn’t have said it better.

  • JackC

    I think arguing that Joba’s fastball out of the pen this year isn’t likely to hit the highs of 2007 ( I think he still hasn’t recovered from his injury last year. Hopefully he will at some point)is true but missing the larger, and for someone like me who’d like to seem him thrive as a starter, more troubling point. We can scoff all we want at this as it’s not mathmatically quantifiable, but his demeanor WAS tangibly different. The aimless walks around the mound, the maddening indecisivenss that were a hallmark of many of his starts, was absent.

    Do I think a good starter is, as a rule, more valuable than a good reliever? Unequivocally. And I still want Joba to succeed in that role. But we may soon reach a point at which ignoring his clear comfort comin gout of the pen in comparison to his starting games may become as willful and obstinate as the opinions of those who refused to let Jobe grow into the role.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      But we may soon reach a point at which ignoring his clear comfort comin gout of the pen in comparison to his starting games may become as willful and obstinate as the opinions of those who refused to let Jobe grow into the role.

      Yes, we will reach that point, but not until he is 30.

    • Zack

      “We can scoff all we want at this as it’s not mathmatically quantifiable, but his demeanor WAS tangibly different. The aimless walks around the mound, the maddening indecisivenss that were a hallmark of many of his starts, was absent. ”

      Can we attribute that to never being in trouble as a reliever? How many blow up innings has he had as a reliever? If he gets in trouble and we see his demeanor change then is that a sign he’s not made for the bullpen?

  • Chris

    There may come a point where it’s clear that Joba won’t develop into a great starter, but we’re nowhere near that point now.

    On August 1st, Joba’s ERA was 3.58. If he had maintained that through the end of the season, that would have ranked him 7th in the AL in ERA. The big question is why he struggled so much in August and September. The most obvious explanation is that he just wore down as the season went on. In his entire baseball career before this year, Joba only started 1 game after August 1 – and that was the game in Texas where he got injured. He needs a few full seasons as a starter to build up his stamina to last through the second half of the season.

    On a similar note, I have significant injury concerns for Joba last year. The biggest injury risk for a pitcher is pitching high pressure innings while tired and losing your mechanics – which appears to be exactly what Joba was doing these last two months.

    • Chris

      Obviously I mean I have injury concerns for Joba next year, not last year….

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      “There may come a point where it’s clear that Joba won’t develop into a great starter, but we’re nowhere near that point now. ”

      I know others in the thread have said it. This is important. Too many people overlook the idea that those who want Joba starting aren’t opposed to him ultimately ending up in the pen. We just want to see him get an extended shot at starting.

      • Zack

        That’s the point. You dont rush a kid because you have no patience, Joba as a starter supporters have given many, many examples of other young pitchers who were not aces in their first or second year and others who failed as a starter and were eventually moved to the bullpen and reached success.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        This burrito takes a long time to cook. As patient as people may think they are, most are not prepared for the reality of actually waiting years and watching a young player take their lumps as they mature.

  • Rob in CT

    I think he’s still (subconciously or not) being careful with his shoulder, and that he’s tired (mentally, maybe) after pitching more than he’s ever pitched before. I’m fine with him going to the ‘pen for the playoffs, but I’d have him down the list behind Mo, Hughes, Aceves and Robertson… and doesn’t that make him a borderline garbage time reliever?

    I see no reason to believe that the ridiculously dominant lights-out reliever Joba is available to us right now (the role of top prospect becomes crazy awesome reliever is being played by Phil Hughes).

    Honestly, I think what Joba needs most is the offseason. I hope he goes into it with a ring on his finger, and comes back fresh next year.

  • Guest

    A major issue here: just exactly what happened with his shoulder last year? If it was really nothing, as we have been told, perhaps he will regain velocity as he develops more arm strength (see Verlander, Justin). But if it was something more, well, that would be material…

    Again, though he just turned 24, Joba is an absolute baby in terms of career innings pitch. Its just too soon to know how good he can/will be as a starter. But lets give someone with his talent at least a couple more years to find out if he can do it. If he can, great. If he can’t, then let’s send him back to the eighth. But it would be imprudent to do so without giving him every shot to make it as a starter.

    • Chris

      People speculate that his drop in velocity was related to the shoulder injury, but it’s not clear what happened (and whether they are related). The timing of the injury and velocity drop match, but he could be holding back, changed mechanics, or throwing 2 seam fastballs more often.

      Another thing we don’t know if how common this type of velocity drop is. Verlander experienced it (roughly correlated with his no-hitter) and came back to his previous velocity. It may be that most pitchers see a drop in velocity like this as they develop, and we just weren’t been able to measure it until Pitch f/x came along.

  • jmas12

    I hate to say it, as I have been a proponent of Joba being a starting pitcher this entire time, but maybe he is just a better fit for the bullpen. Hughes, while he’s been in a similar situation in terms of a rise in velocity and effectiveness out of the pen, I think just translates better to the rotation than Joba does. Joba needs the adrenaline to be successful, that’s why he was solid against Boston in this last series, flanked by two stinkers. Hughes has the demenor of a starter, and was showing signs of life right before he was moved to the pen when Wang came of the DL. With Kennedy healthy next year, and Pettitte likely to return, I’m not saying that we should just return Joba to the bullpen. I think he deserves a fair crack at the rotation in Spring Training. But I think it at least needs to be considered, especially if we see him hitting triple digits on the radar gun in October.

    Also, in the pen Joba sits between 95-98 and can hit 100. In the rotation he sits between 92-95 and can hit 96. Hughes in the pen sits 94-95, can hit 96. In the rotation he sits 90-93 and can hit 95 if needed. It’s less of a dropoff for Hughes, as is his stuff. Plus as a starter Hughes has been able to go deeper in games, and I think has been a little more consistant.

    Like I said, I’m not christening him for the bullpen in ’10, but if he doesn’t earn it, and Hughes or Kennedy look better, I’m all for it, which considering how I was a hard-liner “Joba -> Rotation” guy since ’07 is a pretty big swing.

    • jmas12

      Oh, and I meant to end with a question. If we advance to the ALCS (I think this is a foregone assumption, but I don’t want to jynx it), who starts game 4, Chamberlain or Gaudin? I really don’t know the answer to this. Joba has the potential to be lights out as a starter, we’ve seen that on occasion and I think it is even more likely if he’s well rested from the Division series and has the adrenaline flowing from a playoff start (and potentially against Boston). But Gaudin has at least earned consideration.

      One thing I will say though, if we were to advance and play the Angels, I wouldn’t want him to start. The Angels would steal he and Posada blind, regardless of how effective his stuff may be.

  • Will

    Yesterday’s outing doesn’t reignite the starter versus reliever debate (at least not yet). Instead, it addresses the question of taking Joba on the ALDS roster or leaving him off. His effective inning definitely deserves to be weighed into the equation. While he didn’t attain blistering speeds, his more consistent 93+ was an improvement over the 90-91 he would often throw at times as a starter. Quite frankly, Joba doesn’t need to live at 98…he seems to do just fine around 95. If one inning from the bullpen allows him to sit in that range, then he would definitely be an effective reliever in the playoffs.

    If you look at the post season schedule, the Yankees would only need a #4 starter one time all post season (game 4 of the ALCS), and even that could be eliminated by having CC pitch one game on short rest. In other words, Joba as a reliever would contribute much more than Joba as a starter in the post season (exactly the opposite of the regular season). For that reason, I would remove him from the #4 starter equation and simply let him know he is in the pen throughout.

    • Andrew

      but if he is getting in the pen for the whole post season if they want him to start again next year he is going to be in reliever form not in starter form and what about the world series you have to win 4 games there too. so he should start game 4 especially if its not a need win game and so CC can have full rest.

  • Andrew

    I personally think that Joba should be on the ALDS roster. This is because what if we need an extra arm. For example if the Yankees get into a big jam and they need an extra right hander that can get some quick outs.

    Thats all I gotta say on the Joba subject I am not a big fan of him but I think he should be there as an insurance policy.