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Fresh Out the Box
2008-06-06 05:01
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"We're putting a great arm in the rotation that we believe is going to win games," [Joe Girardi] argued in response to the veteran outfielder's comments in yesterday's Daily News. "I want to know the games that we've sacrificed by doing what we did. Everyone is assuming that we would have won that game in Baltimore if we had Joba in the bullpen that night. You're pretty smart if you know that. Everyone is assuming we would have won the game in Minnesota if we had Joba in the bullpen that night. It doesn't always work that way.

"I think people make the assumption that if he's in the bullpen, you're going to win every game. That's not the case."
(N.Y. Daily News)

More than a few panicky Yankee fans are not pleased about Joba Chamberlain becoming a starter. I've encountered several over the past few days. I am not one of them. I think it's great that Chamberlain is returning to his original pitching position. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus agrees:

I have to give the Yankees full credit here. I insisted that once they started the year with Chamberlain in the bullpen, they wouldn't move him midseason. Given the dropoff from Chamberlain to the next-best reliever in that pen (Kyle Farnsworth or Edwar Ramirez or LaTroy Hawkins), I expected that the team wouldn't deny Joe Girardi his eighth-inning security blanket in the middle of a pennant race. I remain surprised by the decision. It's driven by the failures of Hughes and Kennedy (as well as Kei Igawa in a cameo role) to provide quality pitching at the back end of the rotation as much as it is by the desire to maximize the long-term value of Chamberlain. Nevertheless, the right decision for the wrong reasons has its appeal.

The move will work out for both parties. Chamberlain has the build and the repertoire to be a good starter, especially now that he'll be more than a fastball/slider pitcher. The Yankees have been extremely conservative with his arm and his workload—I actually wonder if some day we'll look back at the handling of Joba Chamberlain as some kind of peak in the handling of young pitchers, where the industry eventually backed away a bit from being quite so cautious with them. Chamberlain has thrown fewer than 800 pitches since being called to the majors last August, and he had a pitch count in last night's game of around 60 tosses. There's a wide, wide gulf between that and what Chamberlain can safely manage, and the Yankees have to start closing that gap to maximize both his potential and their chance of getting back into the AL East race.

Chamberlain will make his second start on Sunday against the Royals. It is supposed to be in the mid-90s in New York this weekend.

Comments
2008-06-06 05:39:55
1.   williamnyy23
I've actually enjoyed listening to some of the illogical arguments offered in support of why it's better to have Joba be a set-up man. Ultimately, I think what is fueling this debate, however, is emotion.

Think about it...what is more crushing than a late inning blown lead? Most fans (and even players) can live with a starter getting pasted over 2-3 innings because the pain is quick and death comes fast. With a blown lead, however, anticipation for a win builds and then suddenly the rug is pulled out from underneath. These are the wins labeled demoralizing. Of course, they count equally in the standing.

Most people are not thinking of this from the standpoint of what makes most sense...they simply want that security blanket...a chance to run out the clock with a lead. Sure, it might be sweaty and anxious with Kyle & Co. in the backend, but the fact of the matter is that if the Yankees offense can pick up the pace a bit, they should be able to get the ball to Mariano without too many hiccups. On the other hand, sending out a starter like Igawa (or the like) not only ensures that you'll have very little chance in that game (not as painful, but still a loss), but it also taxes the bullpen and adversely impacts future games as well.

If Joba does his thing, everything will work out. While the Yankees will be taking a short-term hit over the next 3-4 weeks until Joba can consistently go over 100 pitches, it is up to Damon and the offense to hit with RISP so that Kyle is protecting a 3-run lead instead of a 1-run margin.

2008-06-06 06:57:24
2.   mehmattski
Girardi failed to make the obvious point, that the Yankees might have won the game in Baltimore with Joba as a starter, rather than an ineffective Kennedy.
2008-06-06 07:15:49
3.   horace-clarke-era
I'm with Sheehan (not that he needs me). This is obvious, appropriate maximizing of a player's value and I also see the downside as a lot less than 3-4 weeks. He should be at 75-80 this week and 90 next outing in terms of stretching. That's a starter's pitches for a LOT of AL starters, 7-8 DAYS from now. Note that not only is the bullpen shaky, so are the starters with Wang and Andy looking slightly (more than that?) iffy. Really, so we have Joba for the (when we have a narrow lead) 7th/8th every 2-3 days. Zowie. Who's 5th starter? Random AAA Guess? We got lucky once (so far) with Rasmatazz.

The point is, for me, that as I said awhile back ... the fragility of this team is still on the mound, front and back end. The imploding of BOTH kid starters hurts a ton and really it is actually pretty remarkable we are only 5-6 out of WC and even AL East given the major hits we took with right hand bats down and Cano dreadful.

You figure the Jays are happy with their pen right now ... it was a massive strength just 8-9 days ago! Bullpens, especially set-up guys TEND to drive you crazy in this game. Banterers, we need to cheer for Farnswhacker, prop him up, hope for ballpark mediocrity, give him high fives for 1 run innings ... and same for Hawk and Veras and Edwar ... we ain't got a whole lot of options right now. I can see Kennedy in long relief for awhile when he returns, anyone else agree?

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