Two pitchers, two perceptions

Yanks drop a nail-biter as Rays escape 3-2
Deadline Day Open Thread

Look at the lines above (stats thru 7/28).  They are very similar.  Both pitchers are doing a fine job of missing bats with strong strikeout rates.  Both are struggling with walks, though pitcher B is much worse off.  Both are doing a good job of keeping the ball in the park.  And both have been terribly unlucky on balls in play.  As you can see by their FIP and xFIP numbers, the walk rate of pitcher B is the biggest difference between these two pitchers.  So why is Pitcher B replacing Pitcher A in the 8th inning?

Cleary Pitcher B, David Robertson, is trending up and Pitcher A, Joba Chamberlain, is trending down. With the limited sample size is this really shocking?  Is Joba really trending the wrong way or just hitting a rough patch?  Almost all middle relievers and non-Mo closers are going to have a few bad outings in a 4 or 5 game stretch that can completely skew the numbers with only 30-40 innings pitched.  For Robertson this happened early in the season and for Joba it has happened lately.  Is this really a reason to flip their spots in the bullpen?  If the intent is to ride Robertson while he’s hot and go back to Joba when he gets in gear I have no problem with it.  If it is set in stone however, I can’t agree with the decision.

Even though they have been similar pitchers this year, I think if both are pitching well Joba should be in the 8th inning.  Not because he’s necessarily a better pitcher, but I believe he’s more suited for the role.  8th inning guys across baseball have developed, much like closers under Tony LaRussa, into one inning guys who come in with bases empty.  While Joba has primarily been a starter in his college, minor league and major league career Robertson has been a reliever thru college and the minors.  As a starter Joba opened every inning with the bases empty.  Robertson, on the other hand, in his short time in the majors established himself as a guy who can put out fires.  In fact, Robertson has faced more batters with runners on than not.  Despite his scary walk rates, Robertson does a fine job of pitching with men on base which better suits him for a role in the 7th (or even 6th) inning when runners are on.  To make sure this wasn’t just anecdotal; I decided to take a look at Chamberlain and Robertson’s numbers with runners on:

As you can see, both in 2010 and in their career Robertson has been better with runners on.  Considering their career OPS’ against are within 1 point of each other it’s a pretty smooth comparison.  Joba’s career OPS against with runners on is 13 points worse than with the bases empty.  Robertson’s OPS against with runners on is 46 points better than with the bases empty.  While Joba doesn’t show much of a difference whether runners are on or not, Robertson clearly pitches better when the bases are occupied.

While Joba hasn’t been great lately, if you told me now the Yankees had a 1 run lead in Game 7 of the World Series (after 7 strong from CC) and needed to choose between Joba and Robertson to come in for the 8th, I’m taking Joba.

For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.

Yanks drop a nail-biter as Rays escape 3-2
Deadline Day Open Thread
  • Brian

    How in the world would you rather have Joba in the 8th inning of a game 7?????

    He is the biggest headcase.

    He can’t handle pressure.

    (See game 4 of 2009 W.S.)

    • All-Star Carl

      A-Rod will just Joe Carter them hoes the next inning.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      MULTIPLE INTERROBANGS??!?!?!??!??!?!?!??!?!!?!?!

    • Steve H

      Mariano Rivera can’t handle pressure.

      (See game 7 2001 W.S)

  • smurfy

    Interesting comparison, Steve. Joba had a splendid outing last night, and seemed to me markedly different: he was positively engaged in presenting the hitters with difficult strikes to hit. He wasn’t figuring out what would be clever to pitch.

  • Jose the Satirist

    “if you told me now the Yankees had a 1 run lead in Game 7 of the World Series (after 7 strong from CC) and needed to choose between Joba and Robertson to come in for the 8th, I’m taking Joba.”

    I’m taking what is behind door #3. Mariano Rivera.

    • Total Dominication


  • viridiana

    Excellent post. Would still love to see Cash land someone who can at least share 8th inning role with Joba. Better yet, would love to see Joba redicover the bite on his slider.

  • P. Allen

    Remember, thanks to Girardi, this Game 7 is on the road. Means no walkoff for Arod and the last time Mo pitched 2 innings to close out a WS game 7 on the road, well…. Means you are stuck with the original question, Joba or Robertson. I’d go with whoever is better on the road. Likely Joba first until he lets anyone on base, then its Robertson.

    • All-Star Carl

      Ugh that’s right.

    • Jose the Satirist

      Completely disagree. With 2 innings to go for a World Series win in game 7, you go with your best pitcher. Yes, we all know Mo lost the last game 7 on the road. You never want to send out a lesser pitcher than Mo for that 8th and precede to second guess yourself if they blow the lead. Always go with your best pitcher.

  • Jose the Satirist

    I said it a couple of days ago and I’ll say it again. Joba’s ERA is going to regress towards those fancy advanced metrics and is going to be much lower for the remaining part of the year.

  • frankie

    First of all if it came down to 7IP from CC i would go with MO for two innings. You try so hard to talk sabermetrical stats,but i bet you dont know what half of them mean. FIP is a horrible stat,and joba is doing terrible. He needs to be in the minors. His last 27 games overall have been horrible. As of now robertson should be the 8th inning guy.

    • Jon in CUO

      I love this. “Sabermetrical” – Joe Morgan, is that you?

    • nsalem

      his last two have been very good though. maybe not a setup man (right now) but he is a major league pitcher.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      “FIP is a horrible ”

      Explain, please. There have been plenty of people who have explained why FIP is useful. Where’s your backing of why it’s horrible?

  • nsalem

    Excellent Stuff Steve H.
    My question is this: If Joba straightens himself out in the
    7th inning role and Robertson is successful as the 8th inning setup
    man and the bullpen is stabilized, why change it at that point.
    I like the way Joba was used last night and am all for stretching him out a bit. Maybe he would be better off pitching twice a week in 2 and 3 inning roles rather than the traditional role of a 7th inning pitcher.
    BTW 1 year ago Thursday in Tampa Joba 3 hit the Rays over 8 innings.
    He was 7-2 with a 3.58 ERA at that point. That’s when the Joba rules kicked in and that’s when everything went south for him. This guy deserves lots of slack and patience. I’m sure with the correct handling he has a great future no matter what role he is in. I really hope it’s here.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      The Yanks have had plenty of opportunities to trade him and have declined to do so. I think that sends a positive message.

      • nsalem

        I’ll feel better about it at 4:01 pm!!!!

  • poster on a different computer who happens to be a deuce bag

    Well, I’ll have to disagree. I think Jobber and Robertson are two completely different cases. Robertson started off bad, explaining the numbers, and has improved ever since.

    Joba, on the other hand, has been mediocre all year. Sure, he’ll string together two or three good starts in a row, but I honestly don’t trust him enough right now to do it night in, night out.

    I want to see him sent to the minors to work it all out. But why he’s here, I’d rather see him in the less crucial situations.

  • rbizzler

    I like the analysis with Robertson being more apt to thrive in a fireman role and Joba more comfortable with starting an inning. As long as both of these guys, Logan, Marte (when/if healthy) are pitching well, Joe G. will have plenty of opportunities to match up in close games. Last night was a good start for Joba, and hopefully he can build on it.

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    All of these Joba articles are completely pointless. The fact of the matter is David Robertson has been pitching well of late, and Joba hasn’t. Hence, why Robertson has been promoted to the 8th, and Joba demoted to the 7th (or elsewhere). You can compare, contrast and analyze all the numbers and peripherals you’d like, but until Joba works out his mechanical and psychological issues, Robertson belongs in the eighth.

    • SF Yanks

      Actually, they are NOT pointless. They give you a little context to what you see. Would you have said the same thing about Swisher and his 220 something average before we picked him up? Articles like this explained why it was likely that Swish was due for a regression. And looked what happened.

      Articles like this explained Granderson’s number’s last year and why he might have been a great pick up after a poor season.

      Context, pal.

      Sure, maybe Robertson belongs in the eighth inning right now but having a little insight on the likely and/or possible turnaround of Joba is quite useful, and not pointless, as you claim.

  • J.B. Stewart

    While we ponder the eighth inning role and other assorted holes consider the job Marte did last postseason. I would even venture to say that without him the WS would have been a toss up. Yet this time last year he was virtually forgotten a victim of injury. He showed enough in the waning days of the regular season to earn a roster spot. Now with all the talk about relievers Marte’s prospects could again become critical to the Yankees success.

  • T. of N.Y.

    The truest thing written in this whole string of exchanges is when the “Joba Rules” kicked in, everything went south. The Yankees have really botched the handling of Joba and it’s a miracle the young man can pull any sort of major league performance out of himself.