Mar
23

Pleading the fifth

By

Phil Hughes, left, and Joba Chamberlain in spring action two weeks ago. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

On Thursday — or maybe Friday — says Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, all will be revealed. By the end of the week, the Yankees will have chosen their fifth starter. They will have ended the Great Spring Training Debate, and for now, at least, even though the team doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 24 in Anaheim, the Bombers will have a full rotation.

So who will it be? That, of course, has been the question since the World Series ended, and the buzz is certainly growing louder with every passing pitch around Phil Hughes. On Twitter and in columns, around the Internet and around the Yankees, Hughes is the word, and if Phil Hughes wins this battle, where, we might wonder, does that leave Joba Chamberlain?

For much of Spring Training, eyes have been riveted on the fifth starter race, and it is a problem the Yanks would love to have on an annual basis. Which young stud deserves a spot in the rotation? Is it the hard-throwing 24-year-old or the harder-throwing 25-year-old? Is it the guy with parts of two seasons of Major League starting under his belt or the guy who emerged as a calm and confident force in the bullpen in 2009?

The Yanks have played this out over the course of Spring Training as a seemingly fair fight, but at times, we might think the spot was Hughes’ to lose. The Yanks, despite inflicting it upon themselves with zany Rules, grew tired of Joba last year. They grew tired of repetitive 10-pitch at-bats, constant decisions to shake off his catcher, a seeming unwillingness to attack the strike zone. Even though the team had put Joba through three years of rules and limits, starts and relief appearances, the team seemed to feel as though Joba were to blame for the yo-yo approach to pitching development.

Yesterday, the fifth starter battle reached a crescendo. Joba Chamberlain took on the Yankees in an intra-squad game while Phil Hughes faced the Phillies later in the day. Joba was good — probably as sharp as he had been all year — but Hughes, despite allowing three wind-aided home runs, was better. He threw 4.1 innings, struck out six and walked no one. His change-up kept hitters off balance, and the Yanks love both his development and his 5:1 K:BB ratio this spring.

In excellent piece at the official site, Bryan Hoch goes in depth into the minds of Joba and Phil. The two talk about fighting it out for a spot and staying focused for a month while building up strength. What Hoch doesn’t discuss is the role of the loser in this fight. What will the Yanks do with Joba if he isn’t bound for the rotation?

The answer, I think, is simple, but I fear the tough or wrong outcome. The Yankees made a point of stressing that the Joba Rules are no more in 2010, but he has to pitch. He can’t just throw one inning every other game and expect to reach 200 innings any time soon. He has to throw regularly and deploy all of his pitches. He has to be ready to be the team’s sixth starter if another pitcher goes down. He has to stay on a routine, and to that end, Joba should be ticketed to AAA if he isn’t the fifth starter. (And whether he should be that anyway is a topic we could debate forever.)

If the Yanks take the easy way out, if they stick Joba into the pen, they’ll be doing no one any favors. They will be taking a pitcher who should probably be starting this year and stunting his development three years later. Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself because we’re still waiting for Thursday (or maybe Friday). But when it comes, when that announcement arrives, we’ll have something old to debate as something new all over again.

Categories : Pitching

206 Comments»

  1. Stryker says:

    i’m more than convinced that whatever happens, no one will be happy.

    • bexarama says:

      I laughed. And, agreed. Example:

      But when it comes, when that announcement arrives, we’ll have something old to debate as something new all over again.
      My first thought was “FML”

    • Tank the Frank says:

      No one will be happy because I think we all know that both these pitchers need to be in the starting rotation at some point. These are homegrown kids. I’ve wanted nothing more than to see both Joba and Hughes develop and find success as starting pitchers.

      The Yankees are going to need cheap pitching. They know this. Why they continue to put their BEST young starting pitchers in a bullpen role is beyond me. Do it once to fill a need… fine. But enough is enough. These kids need to pitch. They need to build up innings. After that, if either one can’t hack it, then you consider a permanent move to the pen…but I’m talking about after a few years.

      My prayers will be with Chan Ho Park, in hopes that he can dominate and solidify a late-inning role. With Aceves, Robertson, Park, and a healthy Marte handing the ball to Mo, there’s no need for either of these kids to be in the bullpen.

      • My prayers will be with Chan Ho Park, in hopes that he can dominate and solidify a late-inning role. With Aceves, Robertson, Park, and a healthy Marte handing the ball to Mo, there’s no need for either of these kids to be in the bullpen.

        Repeated for emphasis.

        The loser of the Phil/Joba competition going to the bullpen would make the bullpen stronger, but the bullpen does not NEED either of them. It’s a perfectly strong bullpen without them. Marte, Park, Aceves, and Robertson have all demonstrated the ability to be dynamite setup men, even in high leverage situations.

        A Mo-Marte-DRob-Aceves-Park-Melancon*-Mitre bullpen would still be quite solid.

        *Feel free to sub in “Logan” there if you like rolling with two lefties, it’s still solid.

    • Thomas says:

      Hopefully, at least the Yankees org will be happy.

  2. Bo says:

    Kind of moronic to go thru the all the rule crap the past 3 yrs just to stick him back in the pen right away at the start of the yr. Esp when Hughes has an innings limit anyway.

    It’s even worse they didn’t trade him when his value was sky high. Not a good use of your assets. But Im sure plenty will give Cashman a break.

    BTW how many pitchers has his regime developed???

    • Dirty Pena says:

      Kind of moronic to go thru the all the rule crap the past 3 yrs just to stick him back in the pen right away at the start of the yr. Esp when Hughes has an innings limit anyway.

      I’m just gonna pretend the post ends here, and say I wholeheartedly agree.

    • bexarama says:

      It’s even worse they didn’t trade him when his value was sky high. Not a good use of your assets.

      BTW how many pitchers has his regime developed???

      a. lol regime
      b. Do you not realize that these sentiments are at least vaguely contradictory? We haven’t developed any pitchers, but the second our pitchers show promise, we should trade them?

      • Reality Check says:

        The second one of the pitchers show promise and they have no idea what they are going to do with him or how they are going to develop him….yeah trade him.

        Generally, I’m not for trading away talent(esp talented young pitching), but if you are wasting it with a giant yo-yo…whats the point of keeping it. Get something you know what to do with.

      • Ed says:

        Do you not realize that these sentiments are at least vaguely contradictory? We haven’t developed any pitchers, but the second our pitchers show promise, we should trade them?

        Bo stated it badly but he does have a point.

        You’ve got two approaches to using prospects – develop them and use them to fill holes on your team, or trade them to fill other roles.

        If Joba was traded a year or two ago when he still looked like a can’t miss front of the rotation pitcher, he would’ve had a ton of trade value. If the only choices were trade Joba the potential ace making the minimum or use him as a setup man, he’d be worth far more as a trade chip.

        • bexarama says:

          I understand this but you can’t complain about the system not producing pitchers then demand the system trade the pitchers it does produce.

          If the only choices were trade Joba the potential ace making the minimum or use him as a setup man, he’d be worth far more as a trade chip.
          Right. Those aren’t the only choices, though.

          • Ed says:

            I screwed up with that “the only choices” part, but again, Bo’s point is about not making effective use of your assets. He is right, if they put all the effort into building Joba’s innings just to stick him in the pen this year it’s kind of a waste – getting to the point where you have to wonder if it would’ve been smarter to trade him years ago.

            • Meaning that Dirty Pena was correct above when he said “I’m only going to listen to the first sentence in your statement when you made sense. Everything after that was batshit insane, so let’s just pretend you didn’t say it.”

              • Ed says:

                No, I’m saying the second part of his comment does follow from the first, he just could have said it better.

                The last line was silly though.

              • DerMegalodonster says:

                “Meaning that Dirty Pena was correct above when he said…”
                This is quite comical – considering that it comes from one who fancies himself a paragon of logical analysis. I mean, to make that statement even AFTER Ed succinctly and rationally summarized why the second part DOES matter…

    • jsbrendog says:

      this from the guy who repeats daily that joba’s future is in the pen? i think your multiple personality forgot to chage the name from bo to sal/grant/lanny

  3. Drew says:

    No mention of my boy Mitre?!

    Ben, you mentioned that Joba should be ticketed for Scranton if he can’t win the 5th spot. Which, I agree with, felt that way the whole time. If roles are reversed and Joba is appointed as the fifth starter, I want Phil in Scranton as the 6th starter. Do you feel the same way?

    • Dirty Pena says:

      Personally, I’d be OK with Hughes in the bullpen (at least way moreso than Joba.) If Hughes goes to the bullpen, next year he’s in basically the same spot he’s in right now. If Joba, goes to the bullpen where is he next year? 2008?

      • Drew says:

        Yeah but Hughes hasn’t pitched more than 105ish innings the past 3 years. His previous high was 4 years ago, when he was 20 years old. He pitched 146 innings that year.

        Generally you only increase a starters workload about 40ish innings over their previous high. However, if we are another year removed from that previous high, I’ve got to think that inning total is too far away to use as a benchmark.

        Now we’d be looking at a 100 inning benchmark that would leave him around a 140 inning total for 2011.

        It’s time, imo, for Hughes to start working towards 200 innings, the process he began 4 years ago, back in 2006.

        • Dirty Pena says:

          I’d rather have Hughes in Scranton than the bullpen. I’m just saying if we absolutely HAD to put the loser in the bullpen, I’d rather it be Hughes than Joba, if for no other reason than the development.

    • Beamish says:

      Hughes option clock runs out in the first month of the Season. He has to be on the 25-man roster or pass through waivers to stay in Scranton. May as well have him start the season in the MLB ‘pen if he is not the 5th Starter.

      • Dirty Pena says:

        I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as an “option clock.” I think you are mixing up the fact that if he’s in NY for more than a month, he’s arb-eligible at the end of the season with the fact that he has an option left (which simply means he can still be sent down once, for however long before he becomes a minor league free agent- definitely more than a month.)

        • pat says:

          No, there’s a little known provision that if a guy is optioned to the minors X amount of months or years after his initial MLB debut he has to pass through irrevocable waivers.

          • pat says:

            For Phil Hughes that deadline is the end of April.

            • Dirty Pena says:

              But if he was optioned at the start of the season, he wouldn’t have to be called up by the end of April, would he?

              • pat says:

                I don’t believe so. Axisa would know better than I would, however.

                • Drew says:

                  I’m confused. All this Huba debate and I don’t think this issue has ever come up.

                • pat says:

                  It’s been brought up but not really made a big deal of because if Hughes gets optioned to Scranton it would most likely be straight out of ST, not a month into the season.

                  I only brought it up to clarify what Beamish was referring to.

                • Drew says:

                  Oh, so my point remains, I’d rather the loser of the battle to go to Scranton.

                  Beamish said it makes more sense to keep in in the Bronx in the pen. I think it only makes more sense to start in Scranton since he can’t be optioned to Scranton later on.

              • Beamish says:

                Good point. I am unclear on that twist.

                If that is so then they could only call him up once and for good. So no spot starts out of AAA for him.

                Joba’s date is much later in the season – I think it is September. So they could send him back and forth for spot starts up until that date.

              • Ed says:

                If Hughes is in the minors before his late April 3 year debut anniversary, he can stay in the minors. If they try to option him after that date, he has to pass through waivers.

                So if they’re thinking about optioning Hughes, they should do at at the start of the season or they won’t be able to.

      • Drew says:

        I wasn’t aware of this. So, are you saying he has to be on the 25 man for the rest of his career, or just for 1 month? I don’t really understand this. Please explain.

    • Pete says:

      Someone called into Michael Kay yesterday with the same exact point, and it made sense to me. Start Joba in the 5th hole for the first 1/2 of the season, and if he’s absolutely awful you can finally put him in the pen for good.

      That said, you can’t simply plop Hughes into that 5th spot because he’ll have pitched an entire half a season in the pen, and therefore won’t be stretched out enough to handle starting. We also have to think about any possible injuries to the front 4 starters, fwiw.

      I mostly agree with the Scranton idea – I think we have enough experience guys (Aceves, Mitre, Park et al) to hold the fort in the pen, and possibly step in as an emergency starter if need be.

      Heaven forbid Joba doesn’t work out or if someone like Pettitte or Burnett goes down, up comes Phil from Scranton – stretched out and ready to start.

      • Steve H says:

        and if he’s absolutely awful you can finally put him in the pen for good.

        I agree with most of what you and the caller said, but there is absolutely no reason to pull the plug on Joba as a starter this year, no matter what. Dude is young.

        I’m in Boston, and I can assure you there is no “pulling the plug on Buccholz as a starter” talk. Buccholz is a year older than Joba. Hell, Wade Davis is older and has 6 starts to his career, there will be no pulling the plug on him soon.

        • Pete says:

          Yeah, I definitely agree that Joba’s still too young to relegate to the pen permanently, but maybe a trip to Scranton would be in order if the first half doesn’t go so well, and then you replace him with Hughes.

          I’m okay with either one being the 5th starter, as long as we’re not planning on putting one in the pen and then trying to swap them in August.

    • Steve H says:

      Burnett is to Mike Pop as __________ is to Drew?

      Answer: Mitre!

      I agree that the loser should go to Scranton. If that is the case, I have a much smaller issue with Phil over Joba. I want Joba for all of the reasons stated a million times, but the loser should not have their progression halted to go to then. The pen should be very strong as is, and you can always bring the loser up to the pen later in the year.

  4. KayGee says:

    I’m still holding out hope that all of this talk about Hughes is strictly media hype to build up a story during a slow sports period. I just can’t imagine the Yankees growing “tired” of Joba because of a bad couple of months. All of the rules and restrictions were put in place to build him up to a point where he could pitch a full season and show what he can do on the ML level. If he is never given that opportunity, the Yankees’ ability (or inability) to develop starting pitching has to be questioned.

    Joba in the 5th spot
    Hughes to Scranton

    Please

    • Tank the Frank says:

      Yes PLEEEEAAAAASE!

    • Riddering says:

      Yes! I too don’t like the “Yankees are tired of Joba” talk. This is a matter of developing pitchers, not dating. It seems to be pulled from the Joba critics rather than the Yankee organization.

      But then I continue to be annoyed at the media representing Hughes as a strapping, handsome, respectful young pitcher while Joba is a lazy punk with poor personal makeup. How far we’ve come from 2008!

  5. Beamish says:

    He has to stay on a routine, and to that end, Joba should be ticketed to AAA if he isn’t the fifth starter.

    Amen. I don’t want to see Joba in the bullpen until it has been shown he cannot start – and that means at least a year if not two of nothing but starting.

    I cannot help but think that reality – Joba has to go to AAA to work as a starter – combined with Hughes innings limit will be the trump. Joba will be the 5th Starter, Hughes will work out of the pen and be stretched out if needed to become the new 5th Starter later in the season.

  6. pat says:

    Come on Girardi, don’t tell me all those 3 and 4 inning scheduled starts went for naught. Joba can finally be unleashed and not have to worry about all the pitch counts and junk. All that trouble last year was to get him to this point, now he’s going to be relegated to the pen after a few Spring Training innings? I really think Joba would have had to royally shit to the bed and Hughes be the second coming for it to not be Joba.

  7. Tank the Frank says:

    Doesn’t Joba have a longer and more successful track record as a starting pitcher than Hughes?

    Yes. The answer is yes.

  8. Slu says:

    I just hope that if Joba loses, it isn’t the end of him as a starter for the Yankees. But I have a feeling it is. It will then be all about replacing Mo.

  9. jeff says:

    i cant help but think what could have been if one of these guys had been packaged with ian kennedy to get johan santana

  10. Rey22 says:

    There is a little voice in the back of my head that secretely wants Pettitte or AJ to go down with injuries so both Chamberlain and Hughes can go into the rotation…

    • Accent Shallow says:

      While that has upside, be careful what you wish for. After Hughes and Joba, the depth drops off precipitously.

      • Rey22 says:

        Absolutely. It is definitely not optimal at all for it to happen. It’s just the inner fanboy in me that wants to see two home grown studs out there every 5 days.

        • bexarama says:

          It’s just the inner fanboy in me that wants to see two home grown studs out there every 5 days.

          So… Joba/Hughes and Pettitte? ;)

    • Drew says:

      That is flawed logic if I ever heard it.

      • pete says:

        i think he did a perfectly good job in pointing out that it isn’t logic. and are you telling me there isn’t a tiny part of you that wants both Joba and Hughes in the rotation now as well? Obviously it would represent a scenario that was not ideal, but all of us have a little fanboy in us that wants them both out there.

        • Rey22 says:

          Bingo. I don’t want it to happen, as it would definitely harm the team. It’s just the little voice in the back of your head that would be thrilled to see them out there.

        • Drew says:

          I fully expect Phil and Joba to have growing pains. So, if my options are:
          CC+AJ+AP+Javy+Huba
          or
          CC+AP+Javy+Joba+Hughes

          I choose the first option.

          That’s what’s lost in a lot of these debates, many people are assuming Philly is going to come in and pitch great, as a starting pitcher. I assume when he does become a full time starter, his first full season, probably second season too, will have his ERA closer to 5 than 4.

          • pete says:

            no i realize that, i don’t think anyone disagrees with it. It’s just that irrational part of you that wants Joba and Phil to be better than CC this year so that the world knows how awesome our farm system is. It’s true of every prospect fan for every team – part of them enjoys the fantasy in which their whole roster is made up of home-grown studs, all of whom are all-stars. it’s not an actual want, as much as a fantasy one.

            • Drew says:

              Patience young grasshoppa. 2011 is the year.

              • pete says:

                hehe 2011 is going to pretty much be the best year ever for Cash/Oppenheimer fans I think. We could/should have both Hughes and Joba in the rotation, both of them pretty much ready to go, we should have the Jesus, and Slade (he of the second greatest first name for a yankee prospect ever) should be pretty close. The scary part is that the 2010 club looks a lot more like the 2009 club than the 2008 club, so it’s not like we are just gonna be sitting out waiting for next year this year. We’re still the balls this year.

    • bexarama says:

      I used to say this about people that spelled “Pettitte” wrong but with a sudden uptick in “I hope Pettitte gets hurt so we can have Joba and Hughes in the rotation” sentiments I would just like to say that every time you hope Pettitte gets hurt a super hot lefty that would go on to have a very long and successful career with the Yankees decides pitching is crazy and gives up on it. SO THERE.

  11. pete says:

    I have looked and looked and looked and haven’t found anything that anybody closely affiliated with the Yankees FO who has an actual name has said that indicates that Hughes is in the lead. Hughes pitched well yesterday, certainly, but how can we know whether or not Joba did as well? He faced the same hitters 8 or 9 times each and put up better results than Hughes, who faced mainly the end-of-a-ST-game Phillies. Now I’m in total accordance with everyone who feels that results are less significant in ST than the progression of stuff and command, but we didn’t actually see Joba pitch yesterday. For all we know he could have been better. And he was excellent his last time out – I think that was the best i’ve seen his breaking ball since ’08, to be honest.

    I will say, though, that i’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well/quickly Hughes’s changeup has developed this spring, and that, from a purely performance-based perspective, I do think he could pitch just as well as Joba could this year. But based on pure ability to perform this year, I’d say that the two are, at best (for Hughes) equals right now, and Joba has the edge in workload-readiness.

    Ben, you mentioned that the Yankees seemed to grow tired of watching Joba towards the end of last season, but who didn’t? You did, I did, yet we still want him in the rotation? Who’s to say that the Yankees don’t feel the same way? Who’s to say that they don’t consider his first 110 innings of last year much better indicators for 2010 than his last 40? The only people I’ve seen say that are the members of the media who have been calling for Joba-to-the-Pen for two years now.

    The yankees know they can find quality relievers for cheap. But without developing them yourself, it’s impossible to find quality starters for cheap. Joba and Hughes don’t need to be great, or even particularly good starters to be more valuable than relievers. They just need to be able to give the team innings, and right now, Joba is better equipped for that than Phil is.

    Of course, if the Yanks option Hughes after April 24th, then he’ll have to clear waivers (which he almost certainly wouldn’t do), and this is, i believe, the biggest factor in his favor. But I don’t think it’s enough to overcome the obvious fact that it is, finally, time for Joba to take on a full-time role as a starter for the yankees. I’d have to imagine that Cash & Co could figure out a way to deal with the Hughes waiver situation.

    • Tank the Frank says:

      They just need to be able to give the team innings, and right now, Joba is better equipped for that than Phil is.

      B-I-N-G-O

    • kunaldo says:

      That’s what I’m saying dude. Until I hear Cashmoney or Girardi say Hughes is the winner, I ain’t buying it.

      (praying this isn’t false bravado)

      • pete says:

        bingo. we can hear all the reports of “Hughes to be 5th starter”, “Joba to the ‘pen likely” that they can throw at us, but until they’re based on actual fact, rather than the desire of the reporters writing the stories, I don’t take them as anything more than fodder.

        • And to be frank, I’m trying to remember a single story written about Hughes having the edge over Joba for the 5th starter role that wasn’t written by a notorious B-Jobber.

          Coming up blank.

          • pete says:

            well curry was saying it in the game yesterday, and Leiter said something to that effect on MLB network. Still, I honestly value a lot of people here’s opinions more than either of those guys, no offense to either of them (offense to mitch williams and john kruk, though. always offense to mitch williams and john kruk).

          • kunaldo says:

            To be fair, Sweeny Murti and I THINK Mark Feinsand have supported Joba being a starter. Maybe, though, they’ve been convinced otherwise by all the hooligans around them.

          • Tom Zig says:

            Can you also try and find direct quotes from someone with decision making power saying said things?

  12. mustang says:

    “and it is a problem the Yanks would love to have on an annual basis”

    So true at the end of the day both these guys are going to be major parts of this team. We can all argue their roles I’m just happy to have them.

  13. Chip says:

    Joba can be sent down to the minors and actually save an arbitration year if they play it right. I think right now Hughes has much better command and control with his secondary pitches. Hughes has really been great lately in using his change-up to induce weak contact plus he’s got a cutter which looked like an out-pitch at times last season.

    I’d love them to put Joba down in AAA until at least the all-star break with orders to start using his change and curve consistently and work on fastball command and getting ahead of hitters. Take away his ability to fall back on his slider and make him throw changes and curves in 2-1 and 1-0 counts.

    IF and that’s a huge IF nobody in the rotation goes down in the first half, you call him up and put him in the bullpen if you need (you’ve already burned an option anyway) but either way you’re guaranteeing that he’s going to get 120-130 innings so there wouldn’t be an issue of him throwing a full year next season. Best of both worlds baby

    • mustang says:

      Like this the Joba part probably wouldn’t happen, but I agree.

      • Chip says:

        I realize the Joba part is a pipe dream but they seriously have to realize that putting Joba in AAA for a few months could save them a year of team control which is probably like 10 million dollars of value. You would have to think that becomes an issue if they’re really close in the Yankee’s eyes. Plus, it’d stagger the free agency seasons of Hughes and Joba so you could maybe avoid having to fill two spots in the same off season.

    • pete says:

      well this is where the Hughes waiver/option issue becomes huge – if Hughes starts the year in the rotation, but is optioned down after April 24th, then he has to clear waivers, which he would never in a million years actually get through.

      • Chip says:

        I agree, there’s no chance he goes down this season. If you put him in the rotation, you let him take his knocks in the fifth spot and get to his innings limit. There’s no way Phil (or Joba if he wins) goes down to the minors if he wins the fifth starter job.

        • pete says:

          that’s actually not what i meant – if hughes gets optioned down before 4/24, we’re cool. That, I think/hope, is what will happen. Then, when somebody goes down with injury, Hughes can come up, or come in and pitch out of the ‘pen when he begins to approach his innings limits.

          The difference is that with Hughes you’re locked into keeping him at the majors after 4/24. Joba’s mark isn’t until august for that deadline, by which point Hughes probably won’t be starting anymore anyway.

    • rex manning day says:

      Joba isn’t going to improve by pitching against AAA hitters. The only upside to either of these kids throwing in the minors is innings limits. There are obviously things they can work on at the same time, but you can’t hone Major League pitching against minor league hitting. Joba would be blowing those hitters away before he really had time to test out his abilities.

  14. Chris says:

    They grew tired of repetitive 10-pitch at-bats, constant decisions to shake off his catcher, a seeming unwillingness to attack the strike zone.

    Girardi made a point during one of his in-game interviews that what is often seen as lack of aggressiveness can actually be poor mechanics (this was specifically referring to Joba). This would make the issue more typical player development issue than somehow trying to change his mentality.

    • pete says:

      “This would make the issue more typical player development issue than somehow trying to change his mentality.”

      yeah. that.

    • Also, for the record, for all the “repetitive 10 pitch at bats” and “shaking off his catcher”, Joba still pitches EXACTLY as deep into games as Phil Hughes does.

      They both average 5.1 IP per start. They both average 22 batters faced per start.

      It’s not like Joba’s this frustratingly deliberate and obstinate flawed work in progress while Phil Hughes is this polished, finished, Greg Maddux-esque machine of pitch economy who finishes hitters off with two pitches per AB and is throwing 89-pitch complete games left and right.

      As starters, both of them nibble. Both of them walk too many guys and let guys off the hook. Both of them have problems getting out of an inning and closing the door.

      Which is to be expected; they’re young starters still honing their craft.

      • Steve H says:

        Which is to be expected; they’re young starters still honing their craft.

        Emphasis: repeated for.

        This is an even more valid point considering they are pitching in the AL East.

        Expect the same problems from Davis, Buchholz, Price, Niemann, Romero (who are older than Huba), Matusz, Tillman, etc.

        • Except for Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. They both came into the thick of the AL East grind at the young age of 20, already fully formed super-aces capable of throwing 10-15 complete game shutouts a year. They didn’t struggle at all, they just came up from Pawtucket and dominated. And they haven’t stopped since.

          I remember it like it was yesterday.

          [Ed. note: that may not be entirely factually accurate.]

          • bexarama says:

            Buchholz as well.

            • pete says:

              buccholz represents a unique paradox in baseball history – because the redsox have single handedly developed so many aces, his rotation spot is not guaranteed, despite the fact that he would inevitably through 280 innings of 0.30 ERA ball next year, while striking out over 500.

              The red sox are so good that they don’t even have enough rotation spots to accommodate all of their young starters this year! oh wait…something sounds off there…

      • pete says:

        ok seriously can somebody say something on this thread that isn’t spot on so i can argue with it? i’m getting friggin bored of saying “this.”

        • bexarama says:

          Joba AND Hughes should be in the pen. Mitre for the fifth starter. The game would be over after six innings!!!!

          There, I have given you something to disagree with.

          • pete says:

            i’m going to bite. I’m that bored. 6>2. therefore, it is harder to win a game with a worse pitcher pitching for 6 innings than it is to have two lesser pitchers pitch the two innings before Mo comes in. And that’s not even getting into the dangers of temptation that can (and frequently do) ruin the arms of managers’ “go-to guys” from overuse.

            ahh that’s better. thanks bex

      • Riddering says:

        The lack iof perspective from people raving over Hughes while dogging out Joba has been frustrating. Their memory must frtiz out anytime before Hughes last start vs. Texas and before Joba’s final start in 2009 (I doubt they went back as far as his Boston start to remember what the Yankees are hoping to get out of him as a starter.)

  15. You know… I keep thinking about this issue, and just this morning when there was a conversation in another thread about this fifth starter situation I thought to myself ‘if Joba loses the competition he should probably be in AAA so that he can soak up late-season innings after Hughes hits his limit and also so that we don’t freeze his development and fail to get him his innings,’ so I totally agree with Ben on that point… But I keep returning to one basic point about this whole question, and that point is that the Yankees really shouldn’t be making this decision based on Spring Training. The very concept of Spring Training competitions is questionable – I get them and support them as far as motivating guys and other tangential purposes, but to actually make a significant roster decision based on a handful of Spring Training innings just seems extremely short-sighted to me. Obviously if one guy has incredible stuff and one guy just can’t perform in Spring Training then you have an issue to address, but short of something like that happening, you’ve got to keep things in perspective and look at the big picture.

    Joba has been fine this spring, Hughes has been fine this spring. If Joba has the leg-up because they’ve worked so hard and waited so long to be at a point at which they can let him loose and see what he’s got (and because he’s a year older than Hughes), then they can’t choose to start Hughes over Joba just because he looked a little better in a couple of exhibition games in mid-March. I really hope the Yankees show some patience here and keep their eyes on the long-term goals instead of overreacting to a handful of Spring Training innings.

    • But I keep returning to one basic point about this whole question, and that point is that the Yankees really shouldn’t be making this decision based on Spring Training. The very concept of Spring Training competitions is questionable – I get them and support them as far as motivating guys and other tangential purposes, but to actually make a significant roster decision based on a handful of Spring Training innings just seems extremely short-sighted to me…

      Joba has been fine this spring, Hughes has been fine this spring. If Joba has the leg-up because they’ve worked so hard and waited so long to be at a point at which they can let him loose and see what he’s got (and because he’s a year older than Hughes), then they can’t choose to start Hughes over Joba just because he looked a little better in a couple of exhibition games in mid-March. I really hope the Yankees show some patience here and keep their eyes on the long-term goals instead of overreacting to a handful of Spring Training innings.

      This. All kinds of this.

      Man, there’s so much on-point knowledge all over this thread, all I have to do is restate other people’s excellent words… you guys make me proud.

      RAB: the balls.

      • kunaldo says:

        Agreed. I wanted to post a comment about all this, but it’ll be pretty much redundant at this point. Crap, even this is redundant.

    • Chip says:

      I doubt they look at numbers so much. If I were them, I’d be looking more at willingness to work on secondary pitches and attacking the strike zone than anything. I do think they had to very much be leaning in a direction before camp even started.

    • Steve H says:

      I’d repeat this whole post for emphasis. Very well said.

      The Yankees cannot reasonably say that either one of them “won” this ST competition. Whomever gets the 5th spot will be the guy they wanted to get the 5th spot long before ST started.

    • Chip says:

      Another huge point that you somewhat touch on is that the Yankees have proven that they understand small sample sizes. Girardi made a comment about Granderson and small sample sizes against lefties and I think Cashman said the same thing about the postseason. I’m finally confident that these guys know what they’re doing and am completely ok with what they decide.

    • Drew says:

      This is why I think the “competition” was less of a competition and more of an insurance plan. If, and only if, Joba looked absolutely horrible in ST, he was going to get the job. By horrible I mean, no location, no command, basically if he was incapable of getting major leaguers out.

    • On the other hand, I suppose the negative aspects of making the decision to go with Hughes over Joba would be mitigated by a decision to send Joba to AAA instead of banishing him to the MLB pen, but the same could be said if they kept Joba in MLB and sent Hughes to work as a starter in AAA. Just to get this on the record… I think the worst decision they could make, of the reasonable options, would be to put Hughes in the rotation and Joba in the bullpen. It just doesn’t make any sense.

      In the end… Just don’t make this decision based on Spring Training. If you just think Joba has some learning to do and that he and the team would be better off if he were in AAA and that Hughes is ready for MLB, then do that, but do it based on the totality of the evidence, of which Spring Training should be low on the list of importance.

      • Just to get this on the record… I think the worst decision they could make, of the reasonable options, would be to put Hughes in the rotation and Joba in the bullpen. It just doesn’t make any sense.

        Yes.

        Options, in order of overall optimal roster construction and flexibility:
        1.) Joba as the 5th starter, Hughes in Scranton ‘Til the Stretch™
        2.) Hughes as the 5th starter, Joba in Scranton ‘Til the Stretch™

        (gap)

        3.) Joba as the 5th starter, Hughes in the big league bullpen

        (titanic, colossal, vast, mammoth, gargantuan, Bunyanesque, brobdingnagian gap)

        4.) Hughes as the 5th starter, Joba in the big league bullpen

      • pete says:

        “I think the worst decision they could make, of the reasonable options, would be to put Hughes in the rotation and Joba in the bullpen. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

        that, a million times. What’s great is that for the 2010 club, even that is still a net positive. Clearly worse than any of the other three options, but a net positive nonetheless. God this team fucking rocks.

    • pete says:

      exactly, to the millionth degree. Throw in the waiver issue with hughes, and you get a scenario in which you would, for the purposes of Hughes’s development, HAVE to keep hughes in the rotation till around august, and HAVE to keep Joba in AAA until Hughes needed replacing in the rotation (or somebody got injured).

      If the waiver issue weren’t there, then you could just take whoever looks better out of Spring, and if that changes, call up the other guy and let the first guy go sort his shit out in the minors. But we can’t do that. Joba has, in my opinion, shown more starting ability than hughes has up to this point. Joba was dominant for a stint in ’08, and then inconsistent but overall pretty effective (especially considering the level of comp. in the AL-East) in ’09, until falling apart. Hughes, on the other hand, has had a couple of great outings, but has really never strung anything more impressive than a few solid starts together.

      The problem is that people only really see the progress with hughes – they saw him shit the bed in ’08, then come up and pitch decently, save for one outing in Baltimore, in ’09 as a starter, and then saw him dominate out of the bullpen – whereas they only tend to focus on what appears at first glance to be regression from Joba. He came up and was dominant in the ‘pen, then great in the rotation for about 8 starts, then got injured and came back more inconsistent in teh rotation, and then fell apart. Without context, this would seem to indicate that Joba is getting worse, but when you throw in context, sample size, etc. you find that his fairly standard growing pains are just exhibiting themselves in that format, misleading the reactionary media into thinking that he really just isn’t cut out for this starting business, when in fact all he’s doing is adjusting.

      At the end of the day, Joba is further along in his development than Hughes, and was arguably the better prospect to begin with. The 5th spot, therefore, HAS to be his to lose.

    • rex manning day says:

      I think, at the end of ST, it’ll turn out that this was all a media circus over some pretty standard manager-ese.

      After all, making these kids “earn their spot” on the rotation is good. Making them show improvement, show they’re working hard–those are good things. So having a “fifth starter competition” is good.

      But I simply can’t imagine that this ST was ever really going to define the result of that competition. Unless either a) Joba was awful, b) Hughes was perfect, or c) both, I think the decision was mostly made before ST. Make the kids work for it, make sure they both show improvement, and then go with what makes sense.

      Which, of course, is Swisher in the rotation and Joba/Hughes in the bullpen.

      • pete says:

        that. i liked that. it was good. i found reading it rather enjoyable, and especially enjoyed the ironic twist at the end. it made me laugh.

  16. Zack says:

    I think all has been said about this issue; we all know the (rational) arguments for the different options and just hope it turns out the best.

    And for all of those who want Hughes as the 5th starter, where will they be if an injury occurs, Hughes is now the 4th starter, reaches his inning limit sometime in August and then they have 2 holes in the 4th and 5th spot; and with the change in the playoff schedule, they cant get by with only 3 starters. But atleast the 8th inning will be protected..

  17. currambayankees says:

    The Yankees and Yankees Fans should have the patients to send Joba back out there this year and give him the time to develop into a starter instead of putting him back in the pen. How they’re going to let Hughes go more then 150 innings when he hasn’t thrown that many in the past is beyond me. I hope he doesn’t end up getting hurt in the process.

    • Snakes on the mother effin plane says:

      Well if they have the ‘patients’ then in all likelihood both Joba and Phil will be starters, no?

      /TJSC spelling police’d

    • Zack says:

      What happened to having standards?

      /Ken Rosenthal’d

    • pete says:

      see, back when it was “should be in the ‘pen”, they could at least still contend their rightness afterwards, especially when joba struggled as a starter. But just saying “joba will be in the ‘pen” means that at some point, they actually have to admit that they’re wrong. Although he’ll still assume that the yankees FO, which is WAYYYYYYYYYY more informed and more intelligent than Heyman could ever dream of being, is wrong, and that he is right. cuz he’s a douche.

      • Dirty Pena says:

        Except writers never admit they are wrong, and now if he’s right, he’s the one who got the “scoop.” It’s a no-lose situation for that d-bag.

        • Zack says:

          Exactly. While I’m not a fan of Ken Rosenthal, he did point that out in his recent article. It’s no longer about getting the story right, it’s about hearing the slighest whisper and reporting it so they get to be “first.”

          And if anyone actually has the guts to question them on it, they just use the “I had a reliable source and reported what he told me” excuse. Don’t believe any signing, trade, move, injury, etc until it actually is officially announced.

  18. Bronx Ralphie says:

    Joba will never be the pitcher that we all hoped he was going to be if in the starting rotation. When are you naive fans going to understand that? Tampa Yankee, where are you my friend? I know you love Joba.

  19. mustang says:

    I know I’m going to regret this and I’m opening a BIG can of worms. And I understand the value of a starter over a reliever.
    I know people here don’t put too much value on relievers, but guys like Mo, Nathan, K-Rod, etc. just don’t grow on trees.
    Maybe just maybe the Yankees see how to replace an important often-expensive part of the team with a young inexpensive arm.

    I fall dead center on this issue I’m just throwing something out there so please be gentle.

    • I know people here don’t put too much value on relievers, but guys like Mo, Nathan, K-Rod, etc. just don’t grow on trees.

      Guys like Mo don’t grow on trees, but Mo is the best of the best. Serviceable closers generally do grow on trees though. We’re just spoiled as Yankee fans. Using Joba or Hughes as a closer without giving them a chance to succeed or fail in the rotation would be a monumental waste of opportunity.

      • mustang says:

        “We’re just spoiled as Yankee fans.”

        Exactly and maybe because of that we might not see how hard it will be to replace Mo.

        • Zack says:

          No one said replacing Mo would be easy- but every other team out there doesnt have Mo and many of them are successful.

          Brad Lidge was one of the worst closers last year, yet his team made it to the World Series, that’s impossible right?

          • mustang says:

            Best answer.

            Very well done.

          • JGS says:

            Brad Lidge was one of the worst closers last year, yet his team made it to the World Series, that’s impossible right?

            It wasn’t just closers–Lidge had the third-highest ERA in all of baseball (50 IP minimum). Only Sir Sidney and Rich Hill were worse

    • Zack says:

      “Maybe just maybe the Yankees see how to replace an important often-expensive part of the team with a young inexpensive arm.”

      Disagree. Good starting pitchers get paid more than good closers.

    • mustang says:

      Life after Mo could be harder then you guys think.

      • I agree, life after Mo will be hard and it will suck in many ways.

        That doesn’t matter AT ALL in terms of the development of Joba or Hughes, though. Not at all.

        If we need a replacement for Mo, we’ll either sign one on the market or promote from within, but that promotion will be a talented young pitcher who does NOT profile as an elite 4-pitch rotation mainstay. Using Joba or Phil to be a closer when a guy like D-Rob or Melancon could do the job doesn’t make much organizational sense.

        I agree that we need a replacement plan for Mo. Joba and Phil should not be part of that replacement plan. That’s a poor allocation of resources.

        • bexarama says:

          this.

          Of course we’re gonna miss Mo. Dude is the best reliever ever. But there’s no point in putting guys that could be great starters in the pen when we have guys that could be quite good in relief.

    • Fun Fact: The Angels losing K-Rod and the Mets adding K-Rod did not alter the fortunes of either team, not an iota.

      Fun Fact #2: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Twins loss of Nathan doesn’t change the fact that they’ll contend for the AL Central crown. I put their odds of winning their division and making the playoffs at exactly the same as they were a month ago.

      Nathan will be replaced. Will he be replaced by an inferior player? Yes. Will it matter much? No, probably not.

    • Maybe just maybe the Yankees see how to replace an important often-expensive part of the team with a young inexpensive arm.

      Other ways to possibly replace that important, often expensive part of the team:

      David Robertson
      Mark Melancon
      Al Aceves (it’s not that far fetched)
      Ivan Nova
      Chris Garcia
      Graham Stoneburner
      Andrew Brackman (if he can’t stick as a starter)
      Dellin Betances
      D.J. Mitchell
      Hector Noesi
      Jairo Heredia
      David Phelps
      Caleb Cotham
      Bryan Mitchell
      Manny Banuelos
      Gavin Brooks
      Jason Hirsh
      George Kontos
      Jon Ortiz
      Sam Elam
      some other pitcher we draft this June

      Seriously, yes, we need a replacement for Mo. We don’t need that replacement IMMEDIATELY. There’s lots and lots of quality arms in our system that either don’t have the pitch diversity to be starters and thus have already been moved to relief roles or will be moved to a relief role at some point in the near future. One of them will probably be a very above average reliever, even closer material (i.e. Stoneburner).

      It’ll work itself out. No need to waste one of these two legit MLB starting pitchers in a role that can be capably filled by a less-complete pitching talent (i.e. failed starter).

    • pete says:

      mo will be hard to replace. damn near impossible actually. if you’re thinking of “mo” as himself- the closer who is more consistently dominant than any closer has ever been. If you’re thinking of replacing the current bullpen that includes Mo with one that doesn’t include him, however, it won’t be as hard. Who was the closer on the 2008, AL-East winning Rays again? And who closed for the Yanks that year?

  20. Steve H says:

    When do we all start singing kumbaya? Reading thru this thread, we all need to get a room (and I am not getting one with TSJC, due to the large sample size.)

  21. JoeyH says:

    Too bad neither one of them have outright won the job. But rest assured, Fatcesa will be like a pig in shit, Jobber to the bully for sure.

  22. The Joba in the bullpen debate will never end!

  23. mike c says:

    is a split season 5th starter spot a really dumb idea? I thought Joba made the transition from 5th/pen pretty well last year.. they could just let the two guys split the difference since it seems they are pretty equal in terms of skill level

  24. Andrew what? says:

    Its kind of amazing to see the turn of events. Let’s assume that the beatwriters are right and that Phil is the 5th starter and Joba is going back to the pen with no chance of going to Scranton to stay strected out. I mean they’ve been preaching for 3 years that Joba is a starter long-term. Now after 2 bad months last year and 3 spring training starts the yankees are giving up on Chamberlain as a starter? Makes no sense to me that Cash and the FO why would be doing this, considering the fact that Cash has been on record saying that there are no more Joba Rules and if they put him the pen, that’s his long-term role. If that is the case, what was the point of doing all this Joba Rules and inning limits and then give up on him after one season where he was slightly below leage average as a starter. LMAO pretty amazing turn of events.

    • Drew says:

      This is why I believe that there has been no turn of events. Joba will be a starter this year.

      • currambayankees says:

        This is why I believe that there has been no turn of events. Joba will be a starter this year.

        From your keyboard to Cash’s ears. Keep JOBA a STARTER.

        • Andrew what? says:

          Oh btw, writers such as Sweeny, Mark Feinsand, and Tyler Kepner have all been supporters of Joba as a starter and they`re making the same assumption. So it`s not only B-Jobbers.

      • Andrew what? says:

        That`s why I said lets assume the beatwriters are correct with their assumption that Joba will end in the pen as the set up guy. I totally agree, it makes litle sense that they would give up on Chamberlain based on a small sample.

    • Steve H says:

      Well put and that’s why I don’t buy the Phil is in the lead angle. That’s B-Jobbers and their self-fulfilling prophecy.

  25. mryankee says:

    I think sending Joba down to AAA might not be a bad idea. Joba has to learn that he needs to be consistent with velocity and location. He cannot give up 5 runs and think he did OK. Some time in AAA to iron out any remaining kinks might be beneficial if the team plans to keep him as a starter.

    • Drew says:

      He cannot give up 5 runs and think he did OK.

      He really can. Whether you agree with him or not is another story.

    • Steve H says:

      Joba has to learn that he needs to be consistent with velocity and location.

      Some time in AAA to iron out any remaining kinks might be beneficial if the team plans to keep him as a starter.

      And how would these two statements, if you believe them to be true of Joba, not also apply to Phil?

  26. Ultimately, though, picking who gets the fifth starter spot between Joba and Phil is kinda like being with pornstar Joslyn James:

    No matter which hole you pick, you’re gonna have a lot of fun.

    Sincerely,
    Tiger Woods

  27. KyleLitke says:

    If Gaudin has indeed been placed on waivers, doesn’t that already guarantee the loser winds up in the pen? Unless the Yankees have decided they really want to break camp with Boone Logan or Mark Melancon instead (I’d take the latter but I doubt they will), they wouldn’t have put Gaudin on waivers if they were planning to send Joba to AAA.

    • pete says:

      gaudin’s good a decent shot at clearing waivers though. $3 mil for a mediocre starter with a gross platoon split? meh

  28. Clemens911 says:

    Hey guys, please come on over and check out my commentary on who should the #5 starter for the Yankees. http://tinyurl.com/y865ysa

  29. DB says:

    So, if Hughes is in the rotation, what do they do with him when he nears his innings limit? Throw him in the BP and bring up Joba to fill the 5th spot?

    Joba being demoted would probably be the best thing for him. A bit full of himself.

    For some stupid reason I drafted Joba instead of Hughes in my FL for my 24th pick…Just didn’t see them passing on him since he has been groomed for the past 2 years for this spot.

    Obviously this is all conjecture, but what else do we got to do.

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