Scroll past the PED talk in Buster Olney’s latest blog entry, and you will arrive at a tidbit about Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees, Olney reports, plan to start the season with Joba in the pen. They just can’t quit him.
If all goes well in spring training for the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain is likely to start next season in the Yankees’ bullpen, as part of the team’s effort to limit his innings. Chamberlain will go to spring training and, at the outset, prepare to pitch out of the rotation, along with five other rotation candidates — Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mike Mussina and Ian Kennedy. Assuming that none of the other five has a physical or performance breakdown, Chamberlain would then open 2008 in the bullpen, as a set-up man, for at least the start of the season — under the Joba Rules.
The Yankees want to restrict the number of innings Chamberlain throws, and working him out of the bullpen for at least a couple of months will allow them to do that. Chamberlain may return to the rotation sometime in the middle of the season, depending on the Yankees’ needs.
Our initial reaction is one of fear. We fear that the Yankees are not serious in their plans to put Joba in the rotation, and as an aside, I have to wonder why the Yanks were so quick to give Mariano Rivera a third year if they want Joba in the pen. But that last point is neither here nor there.
For many, your reaction will be like ours: Are the Yankees really going to stick Joba in the pen with the intent of limiting his innings? Or will they keep him in the pen – and thus stunt his development – because they can’t resist the appeal of that 100 mph fastball and nasty breaking pitches in the 8th inning?
While we’ve long espoused the theory that 180-200 innings of Joba the Starter help the Yankees more than 70-80 innings of Joba the Reliever, I’m beginning to think the differences is not as great as we once thought. Using a study of VORP for starting pitchers and Win Expectation about Replacement (or WXRL) for elite relievers, the difference isn’t so great. But there’s a caveat: The Yankees would have to use their elite relievers in high pressure situations and not just as the de facto 8th inning set-up man or 9th inning, three-outs-with-a-three-run-lead closer to truly bridge this gap.
So here we sit in December, and Olney has an unsourced report about Joba going to the pen. We’ll see. There’s plenty of time before Spring Training, and the Yanks may not be done constructing this team. But it does give us some food for thought in the starter vs. reliever debate that seemingly never ends.
Brandon Laird | 3B
Laird was raised in Westminster, a baseball hotbed in Orange County, CA. He’s the younger brother of Texas Rangers’ catcher Gerald, and like his brother is a product of the famed La Quinta High School baseball program. The school’s alumni includes Bobby Crosby, Ian Stewart, and the Yanks’ own Ian Patrick Kennedy. He helped the USA Youth Tradition Team to the World Championship in the summer of 2004 (which was played in Anaheim Stadium), where he played alongside 2005 first overall pick Justin Upton.
The controversial Jason Grimsley affidavit was unsealed today, and contrary to reports from 2006, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were not named in the affidavit. I wonder what Curt Schilling thinks about that. (Well, actually, I don’t, but you get my point.)
Update: Pete Abe has a statement from Clemens’ lawyer:
“When this grossly inaccurate story broke in October 2006, Roger said it was untrue and the Los Angeles Times chose not to believe him. As the record now clearly proves, Roger was telling the truth then, just as he continues to tell the truth today. Roger Clemens did not take steroids, and anybody who says he did had better start looking for a hell of a good lawyer.”
Sounds like someone’s gearing up for a fight.
As has been the norm over the past few years, it appears the Yankees will be carrying 13 position players and 12 pitchers on their 25-man roster. In some ways, this is a luxury the Yankees can afford. As we mentioned earlier this week, the Yanks have a bit of roster flexibility on the offensive side, with backups Duncan and Betemit able to play multiple positions if needed.
If the team is going to carry 12 pitchers, some will argue that one of them has to be a lefty. I’m not quite sure I buy into that logic. There are a couple of questions that go along with this, which I’m not sure I’m able to answer.
First, what is the purpose of having a lefty reliever? Well, like having a lefty in the rotation, one purpose is to keep the opposition off balance. However, I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes. Sure, you see lefties less often than righties, but ballplayers surely see enough of them that they’re not going to be overly affected merely by seeing someone throw with their left arm.
It seems that we’ve come to the consensus of late that the purpose of a lefty reliever is to come in and face “tough lefties.” Of course, there is plenty of debate about this as well. To the Yankees, this issue might be a bit more paramount, since they see David Ortiz multiple times per year. There are other big lefties in the AL East, too, including Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Nick Markakis. In addition, Matt Stairs and Brian Roberts have favorable splits vs. righties, and there’s always J.D. Drew, who could go out and have a year like he did in 2004. And then there are the other lefties the Yanks face from time to time, like Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jack Cust, Yankee-killer Garrett Anderson, and soon to be Alex Gordon.
So the second question is, does the value of having a better chance of getting these guys out justify a lefty reliever’s place on the 25-man roster, and more specifically, on the 12-man pitching staff? After all, none of these aforementioned lefties hit back-to-back in their respective batting orders. This leaves few options for the deployment of a lefty reliever if there are multiple strong lefties in a lineup. You either have him face one or the other, or you have him pitch to the righty in between. And since these lefties, for the most part, hit at the front or heart of their order, you can bet the righty in the middle is going to be a masher himself.
Clearly, the overriding criteria for a lefty reliever is that he fare well against lefty hitters. Bonus points go to the lefty who can also hold his own against righties. Problem is, pitchers who fit this description are rare. Combined with the general volatility of relief pitchers, it makes the search of an effective lefty arm sometimes grueling.
Two lefty relievers remain on the free agent market: Trever Miller and Jeremy Affeldt. After seeing mediocre colleagues Ron Mahay and J.C. Romero pull down some serious dollars, the remaining two are sure to be holding out for similar deals. And while it may be tempting to pick up one of them, I don’t think either will make much of a difference.
Miller had an off year in 2007 after quite a few above-average years. A quick glance might suggest that he’s a viable bounce-back candidate — I thought the same thing when I pulled up his Baseball Reference page. However, let’s look at the numbers beyond the ERA.
The past two years, he’s struck out about a batter per inning, which is always nice from a reliever. However, this is a recent trend. Before 2006, he had never hit the strikeout-per-inning mark, though he hovered at about seven per nine for most of his career. Also, since 2000 he hasn’t allowed more hits than innings pitched. Ah, but he’s got the blemish: terrible walk rate. Or at least inconsistent. He was able to keep his walks per nine below 3.00 in two seasons — 2004 and 2006 — and he was stellar at those times. The other years, though, he’s been above 4.00. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough of that garbage from our pen.
His splits against lefties in 2004 and 2006, unsurprisingly, were excellent. He even had decent splits last year, when he was pretty much crap. On his “off” years, though, he’s had trouble keeping his OPS below .700 against lefties. And, though it all, one theme remains consistent, even in his “on” years: he gives up WAY too many bombs against lefties. Doubles and bombs. Exactly what you don’t want from a reliever.
If you’re as sick of me of relievers walking everyone, you won’t even look at Affeldt. His BB/9 — even in 2007, when he had a decent year — is consistently over 4.50. He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, either, which means that he’s allowing a lot of contact. Contact and walks. Not good. This has resulted in him allowing over a hit per inning every year of his career — except his contract year, of course. His splits are all over the place, but on the whole they’re not good against lefties at all.
I’d rather have no lefties in the pen than sign either of these guys. If Miller would accept a one-year deal, then maybe I’d consider, but it’s doubtful he’d do that. That leaves the Yanks with internal options: Sean Henn, Kei Igawa, Chase Wright, and possibly Ben Kozlowski, if they’re able to bring him back on a minor-league deal.
Henn survived the winter cuts and is out of options, so he’s likely to get the first nod. I’m not sure what the team’s plans for Igawa are, but starting him off in Scranton seems the ideal scenario. Chase Wright posted decent lefty/righty splits in AA, so there’s a chance he could serve as a bullpen lefty in the future. But, since he struggled at the AAA level, there’s little chance he breaks camp with the team.
Personally, I’d rather carry an all-righty bullpen than hand the spot to Miller, Affeldt, or Henn. It appears the Yanks are hearing those sentiments on the former two, but not on Henn. He’s probably going to have to fail at the Major League level again before the Yankees sever ties — and who knows how many games he’ll screw up by that point?
The overall idea is, why carry a lefty reliever if you can’t find any such players who can serve the purpose of having a lefty in the pen? It makes no sense to me.
Mark Prior is every baseball fan’s fantasy: A free agent pitcher with a career Major League K/9 IP of 10.37 and a career ERA of 3.51.
Of course, the flip side of that fantasy is Mark Prior’s current nightmare. Since carrying to the Cubs to within one bad play by their short stop of a World Series berth and throwing 235 innings in the process, Mark Prior has never been healthy. Since the end of 2005, he’s thrown just 43.2 innings of baseball, and after shoulder surgery last year, at the age of 27, Prior is trying to prove himself all over again.
For Yankee fans, Mark Prior would be everything Johan Santana, the other object of our dreams, is not. Prior is no sure thing. We don’t know how his arm will hold up or what sort of stuff he’ll have after an extensive rehab period. But he’s also carries a “low risk, very high reward” potential. So why not give him a contract offer and hope that, when he returns in May or June, he can throw four months of solid baseball?
Well, not so fast, says Hank Steinbrenner, the new Voice of the Yankees. In an article that says the Yankees have “an outside chance” at acquiring Johan Santana – is that even news anymore anyway? – Steinbrenner said the Yanks are going to pass on Prior. “We kind of looked into it, but at this point, no,” he said, sounding much like a 16-year-old girl.
I’m not sure why the Yanks are passing on Prior. Perhaps he’s indicated that he doesn’t want to come to New York or pitch in the American League. If that’s the case, I don’t blame him. New York isn’t exactly the city to come to if you carry around the potential of a Mark Prior but need some time to prove your health and ability.
But if the Yanks are passing on Mark Prior for reasons not related to his health, they’re probably making a little bit of a mistake. They’ve got nothing to lose from having Prior around and everything to gain.
Won’t he just shut up?
Roger has denied every allegation brought to the table. So as a fan my thought is that Roger will find a way in short order to organize a legal team to guarantee a retraction of the allegations made, a public apology is made, and his name is completely cleared. If he doesn’t do that then there aren’t many options as a fan for me other than to believe his career 192 wins and 3 Cy Youngs he won prior to 1997 were the end. From that point on the numbers were attained through using PED’s. Just like I stated about Jose, if that is the case with Roger, the 4 Cy Youngs should go to the rightful winners and the numbers should go away if he cannot refute the accusations.
Innocent until proven guilty? Or guilty — based on the testimony of one man — until proven innocent? Think what you will about Roger. Hell, I’ll concede that it’s in a way naive to dismiss the possibility that McNamee’s testimony is the truth. However, the burden is not on Roger. He’s accused without a shred of hard evidence. Any court in the land would throw the case out as it currently stands. Only when we see further evidence of his use should we even begin to consider the idea of him forfeiting his awards.
Even if Roger did assemble a legal team to demand a retraction from McNamee, he in all likelihood wouldn’t get it. Schilling himself explains exactly why:
The two men that fingered multiple players, from my understanding, both testified with immunity, but only if they told the truth. So these guys had every reason in the world to NOT lie.
So if McNamee was to retract his testimony, then he lied. Which means he likely spends time in the slammer. His entire reason for giving up Roger and Andy was to avoid just that. So why would he cave to Roger’s legal team? The outcome would end up being the same as if he didn’t give up any names at all.
There’s been a lot of talk of players’ legal rights in this case, and as a layman, I’m not in tune with much of it. But I have to think that McNamee won’t retract and apologize.
But this is all beyond the point. Roger shouldn’t have to defend himself until he’s presented with evidence that compels him to do so. The testimony of one man — no matter the accuracy of any other aspect of his testimony — is not sufficient evidence. At the very least, he needs a corroborating story. And to date, we’ve seen none.
Yet (yes, there’s more), Schilling tries to equate Clemens with Bonds:
Whatever happens now though, can you separate what Barry is accused of from what Roger is accused of?
Yes. There weren’t dumpsters full of doping schedules for Roger. There was no BALCO lab. There was no Game of Shadows. There is one man and his word. That is all.
I’m sorry. I don’t want to keep talking about steroids, and I really don’t want to talk about Curt Schilling. But this is really about neither. It’s about hearsay, justice, and windbags with an audience spouting off unfounded opinions.
We’re a day or two late on this one, but MLB Trade Rumors linked to this article in the Dominican daily Listin Diario about Melky Cabrera. The Yankees, it seems, have invoked the fatigue clause and have ordered Melky to sit out Winter Ball this year. While the paper in Spanish speculates that this move may be a part of any deal for Johan Santana, the truth is that Melky faded pretty badly down the stretch last year and probably shouldn’t be playing baseball until Spring Training. · (8) ·
Pardon me while I rant about something barely related to the Yankees for a few minutes…
On the same day that the friend-of-free-media and Russian President Vladimir Putin won Time Man of the Year honors, the NCAA released their new Live Blogging Policy. This is such a ridiculous step toward censorship. It’s rather shocking.
As The Big Lead noted, the NCAA will somehow try to enforce rather stringent live blogging rules. For football games, reporters are graciously allowed three updates per quarter and one at halftime; for basketball, it’s five times per half, once at halftime and twice per OT period; and for baseball, it’s just once an inning. The full draconian rules are available at the NCAA’s site as a PDF. This is a sad day for bloggers everywhere.
Ostensibly, the NCAA is worried about blogs somehow replacing live broadcasts of the game. If some blogger is allowed to update their live blog as often as they want, what’s stopping them from giving a text version of the play-by-play?
In reality, that’s a pretty weak argument. No one I know is going to sit a computer refreshing a blog while reading the play-by-play for the BCS Championship game. And if I were the NCAA, I’d be much more concerned with those online who are actively engaging in copyright infringing retransmissions of NCAA telecasts.
Blogs serve a journalistic purpose and provide an outlet for fans to share their common interest. Alienating sports sites and attempting to limit their post frequency during games is not only a form of censorship, but it’s bad business practice as well.
Alex Rodriguez isn’t shy about his association with the Southwest Miami Boys & Girls Club — he has a field there named after him. And now he’ll have the $1.5 million Alex Rodriguez Education Center, which projects to open in April. “It will include a state-of-the-art computer laboratory, an area for Internet use, classrooms for homework study and a huge teen center, where the older kids can meet.” A-Rod himself kicked in a third of the overall costs.
Say what you will about his character and his intentions, but nothing bad can be strewn from this. Helping underprivileged kids is one of the most noble things someone can do, no matter if their intention is to enhance their image, or if it’s true altruism. · (10) ·