Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Bullpen for Starters
2007-12-21 10:14
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

From Buster Olney's column today over at

Heard this: 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.

I can't imagine the thought of Chamberlain pitching out of the pen next season will sit well with many of you. Whatta ya hear, whatta ya say?

2007-12-21 10:22:40
1.   ny2ca2dc
Starting Joba in the BP is scary due to the uncertainty with the transition, but I'm more scared about overloading his arm with innings. So on balance, assuming the plan to return to the rotation (slowly, carefully) midseason happens, I'm for it. Scary either way.
2007-12-21 10:36:24
2.   Just fair
I just do not hold much hope that Mussina will be consistent enough or good enough at the beginning of the year to warrant keeping a rotation spot over Joba. What the hell to do with Moose, then? Injuries will certainly help things pan out. New year, new questions. Fun indeed.
2007-12-21 10:43:01
3.   rabid stan
So they're going to gear him up to relieve in spring training and toss him into the bull pen. Then, in the middle of the season, they're going to move him back to the rotation.


If you're going to put him back in the bullpen to limit his innings, do it for the end of the season. It'll take weeks (and be very risky) to gear him up to start after three months of relief.

I can't shake the dread that the idea of making Joba "the next Mariano Rivera" will ruin him.

2007-12-21 10:50:53
4.   rabid stan
3 Oh,right, it's worse: they'll prepare him to start in ST before throwing him into the bullpen.

This has to be a joke. Unnamed sources indeed. I can't believe the Yanks would jerk him around like that.

And if he does start the year in the 'pen, what happens to the curveball and change? They'll continue to rot, I suppose.

Alright, I'm done.

2007-12-21 10:51:33
5.   monkeypants
This pan sounds goofy. If they want to start the season with him in the BP, they need Joba Rules version 2.0. That is, he stay on a regular rotation, pitching every five days for three innings, or perhaps something like every three days for two innings. In the latter, he could be handcuffed to Hughes, IPK, and Moose, since these three will rarely exceed 5 or 6 innings per start.

But the organization probably does not have the patience for this, and instead will be tempted to use him more as a situational reliever. Great, one of the best pitching prospects in the game will be turned into a glorified set-up man. And how will this help him develop as a starter down the road?

2007-12-21 10:56:33
6.   Yankee Fan In Boston
a part of me just died a little.
2007-12-21 11:07:18
7.   Shaun P
I don't buy this at all. I suppose we'll see . . .
2007-12-21 11:19:10
8.   Rob Middletown CT
I don't think they've figured out what they're doing yet. This is just one possibility.

And even if this is the plan, what are the odds that Wang, Pettitte, Kennedy, Hughes and Mussina all break camp healthy? One of that group will probably tweak something, at which point Joba is the 5th starter.

2007-12-21 11:31:40
9.   Chyll Will
Grrr... Utter bullshyt. The young man has patiently explained to everyone listening that he needs to know what exactly his role will be next season so he can prepare, which is impressive enough as it is, but with that said, how can you still waffle this far into the off-season? Unless you are absolutely certain to bring in Santana, this has got to be the dumbest thing I've heard. And even then, why push Joba out the rotation? Bah, I don't believe it and I'm tired of hearing crap like this being published because of sheer boredom (no offense to you, Alex). I'm going home... (slam!, stalk-stalk-stalk...)
2007-12-21 12:01:13
10.   RZG
You should only get worked up if you can remember the last time Olney was accurate about something.

There, don't you feel more relaxed now?

2007-12-21 12:10:04
11.   JL25and3
I don't understand why anyone has a problem with this plan.

Put him through spring training as a starter. Then he starts the season in the bullpen. For the next couple of months he pitches one inning at a time, maybe three times a week, using only two pitches. By mid-June he'll have 30 or so IP under his belt, so the next move is obvious: have him start pitching six innings every fifth day, using two more pitches he hasn't thrown since March.

Come on, people. This is the textbook way to handle a valuable young arm. What's all the fuss?

2007-12-21 12:35:07
12.   Knuckles
I hope this is just a smokescreen. Maybe it's to lead the writers off the scent of Santana, and we'll get a lump of Johan in our stockings next week...
2007-12-21 12:39:46
13.   Shaun P
11 I started to write a reply to you about how Weaver's textbook strategy was to pitch a kid in long relief, not short relief . . .

and then I finally picked up on the sarcasm that is dripping from your post. =) Well played!

2007-12-21 12:45:34
14.   Dan M
I had no idea this site was so popular with pitching coaches and other experts on the matter.
2007-12-21 13:00:20
15.   RIYank
14 I know. This is a blog, people. Only professionals and other experts are supposed to give opinions in comments!

Yeesh. Obviously new to these internets.

2007-12-21 13:11:42
16.   Chyll Will
10 I know, I know. I wrote yesterday about the dangers of asking rhetorical questions, so you'd think I'd know better. Boy, am I glad I actually had nothing to say... >;)
2007-12-21 13:13:04
17.   standuptriple
Seems like a slow news day before a holiday. Easy to toss out there with "unnamed sources" and just enough of a possibility to get a bunch of hits so Buster gets a nice bonus.
2007-12-21 13:14:50
18.   Chyll Will
14 aha hahaha hahah.. um.. hahah ha... (ahem)... ah, fahgeddit. It's better when Weeping does it...
2007-12-21 13:17:49
19.   OldYanksFan
5 I agree, and I think the issue is more HOW they use him in the BP. Doing 1 inning stints, with 1 pitch, at full out speed is a bad idea. If they do 3 inning stints and have him 'pace' himself, I think it could work out. But as mentioned, the idea of having 5 other decent starters seems unlikely.

Do we have another SP coming via trade?
And it isn't different if we get Santana, because we will be losing Hughes.

Did I just say that?

2007-12-21 13:31:24
20.   wsporter
" Heard this ..." From whom? I hear a lot of things as well. I however choose not to talk about the things I hear and simply take my medicine.

This seems to be a new low for Buster; must be a slow holiday season.

2007-12-21 14:10:23
21.   JL25and3
13 I take Weaver's Laws as gospel.

If they wanted to pitch him in long relief, that would be a different thing. Even if the other five starters all pan out, Hughes and Kennedy will need some limits on their IP, and Moose may well be a 5-inning starter. There would be opportunities for Joba to pitch 2-3 innings at a time, and even get the occasional spot start.

That seems like a reasonable and prudent way to use him. He'd get in some real pitching, it wouldn't undermine his development as a starter, and he could move into the rotation later in the year if they needed him to.

2007-12-21 14:31:01
22.   markp
I agree about using the Weaver plan, but making him into a short man for the first 6-8 weeks of the season doesn't make sense at all. I think Girardi did use Weaver's plan with some of his young pitchers in Fla. If he comes out of camp as the 5th or 6th starter, he's not going to get many starts anyway.
2007-12-21 15:21:30
23.   Mattpat11
Trade Farnsworth
2007-12-21 17:11:18
24.   Gagne55
3 Two words: Chad Billingsley
2007-12-21 17:17:44
25.   wsporter
From Kat Obrien today at On The Yankees Beat: "OK, loyal bloggers/readers/etc., things are getting quiet for the holidays. One thing -- I've talked to several people in the Yankees organization today, and everyone expects Joba Chamberlain to be a starter. So don't worry about a change in plans. He should be in the rotation." Posted by kobrien on December 21, 2007 3:25 PM Link: look right
2007-12-21 17:43:27
26.   joejoejoe
I have no problem with starting Joba in the bullpen. Johan Santana did a mix of bullpen and starting work his age 21 to 24 seasons in the bigs. I'm not an expert but I think the big physical factors are cumulative innings and usage in any given short term period (no EDSP treatment). I think the mental aspects of switching back and forth are overblown. If Wakefield could do it and Smoltz could do it, Joba can do it as well.
2007-12-21 20:03:09
27.   monkeypants
26 True about Santana, but look at his innings v. appearances. When he was used as a reliever, he averaged around 3 or 4 innings per appearance, though the ave was elevated because he also started a number of games. But the main point is that he was used much more as a long man/fifth starter than the Joba rules from last would allow. If the Yankees go this route, fine. If they return to the 2007 Joba rules, then they will (I think) stunt his development as a starter, and at least make it more difficult to transition him to starting midseason.

The Smoltz and Wakefield comparisons don't really stand up. Both had been used almost exclusively as starters before being moved to the BP. Smoltz was basically never used as a reliever and starter in the same season. Wakefield only did it for three seasons, in his early 30s.

2007-12-21 20:32:59
28.   Mattpat11
27 Am I reading the numbers wrong? It looks like Santana's numbers as a reliever averaged a little under 2 and 1/3 IP per game (77 Games, 169.2 IP, 2.20 IP) Going year by year, there seems to be a high of 2.5 IP/G and a low of 1.77 IP/G
2007-12-21 21:00:25
29.   monkeypants
28 I'm not sure. Here is what I see from baseball reference:

Year, Games (starts), innings, inn/g

2000, 30 (5), 86, 2.9
2001, 15 (4), 43, 2.9
2002, 27 (14), 108, 4.0
2003, 45 (18), 158, 3.5

2007-12-21 23:06:16
30.   Orly Yarly NoWai
Bullpen to rotation worked ok for Johan and Liriano. As long as Joba's not stuck in the pen all year, I'm ok with it.
2007-12-22 00:36:00
31.   monkeypants
30 You mean in that Liriano had Tommy John surgery? That sort of ok?
2007-12-22 06:20:26
32.   bob34957
28 Hey, Matt! You Still doging Pavano?

What is wrong with you people? People,Do you really believe anything from ESPN? In my opinion, their opinion lacks any merit. All is rumor mongering and doing PR for the Saux. Let's chill and let the moves be made in Spring Training and during the regular season, plus official transactions on They will always publish info adverse to the Yankees. I only pray to God that the Yanks start kicking ass and winning back to back championships and to notice the face of desperation on their smug aloof faces!!!

Go Yankeees!!!

2007-12-22 07:15:32
33.   SpoonG91
Joba in the bullpen sounds great to me. He was dominant there and good set up men are hard to find (Kyle Fucksworthless). Plus, he will be able to slide easily into the ninth inning role once Mariano leaves. There is a possibility that if the Yanks move him to a starter that he will suck, and that may lead to struggles if they move him back because of confidence issues. The Yanks are better off leaving him in the bullpen and signing a solid fifth starter as Mike Mussina will not do.
2007-12-22 08:02:50
34.   joejoejoe
27 I'm for keeping the Joba Rules for 2008 and living with any problems you get from lack of flexibility. In fact, I'd be for expanding them to the entire bullpen if possible. If Joba Rules keep your players healthy (protecting your investment) and fresh (optimizing their performance) then why not use them for everybody?

They are very simple to apply and while they give you some less than optimal matchups on some days you have to tolerate that negative in order to reap the benefits of always having fresh pitchers on the mound who have less chance of injury.

The NBA don't play their best players 48 minutes a game. San Antonio has sub-optimal matchups whenever Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobli are off the floor but they have found keeping the players fresh for the playoffs is a good recipe for success. They'd rather lose the odd game in the regular season relying on their depth than go into the playoffs tired. It's slightly different because it's so much easier to make the NBA playoffs compared to MLB.

2007-12-22 08:21:14
35.   Mattpat11
32 I was completely right.
2007-12-22 08:34:19
36.   JL25and3
33 Good setup men are harder to find than good starters? The Yankees haven't found it so easy to sign "a solid fifth starter."

If Joba develops into a good starter - not even necessarily a great one - he's much more valuable there than in the bullpen. If not, I don't think there will be any issues moving him back into the pen. He doesn't look like confidence is going to be a real problem.

2007-12-22 09:44:30
37.   bob34957
35 No, you were infinitely correct. OK!
2007-12-22 09:46:55
38.   OldYanksFan
Just to runs some numbers:
1st half: 3 IPs * 20 APs = 60 IPs over 81 games, or 1 AP every 4 games
2nd half: 6 IPs * 15 starts = 90 IPs over 81 games... or basically the 5th starter for the entire 2nd half (asuming his spot is skipped once)

This seems to me to be pretty reasonable.
To limit his innings, we trade 1 start for 2 APs in the BP. I think that he may contribute almost as much to 'Wins' in this manner as a traditional starter.

Also, hasn't Joba pitched, or started very few games/IPs in Pro ball? Is it that bad an idea to give him a little more experience in the BP before becoming a full time starter? I mean he looks great so far, but he has very little 'Pro seasoning'.

The other alternative is 2 innings (for IPK and Hughes, for example) TWICE every cycle.
This would be 16 (rotations) x 2IPs x 2 APs or 64 IPs total. Still in sinc with what we want from his first half.

2007-12-22 10:18:27
39.   ChrisS
The problem with Joba in the bullpen is akin to the old saying that you shouldn't be irreplaceable in any job, because then you can't be promoted.

It's like taking A-rod and making him a pinch hitter because the manager would then be able use him in the most important situations.

2007-12-22 10:25:39
40.   Mattpat11
34 The NBA is also a league where over half the league makes it into the playoffs. You don't have to finish in first place or be the best second place team to make the playoffs in the NBA. Hell, you can be a last place, under .500 team and make the NBA playoffs.

Losing the odd game in the NBA doesn't matter because you have to actively try to not make the NBA playoffs. In Major League Baseball, those odd games can actually lost you the playoffs.

2007-12-22 11:06:55
41.   joejoejoe
40 I agree 100% but the question is what produces the best results, matchups, a rested bullpen, or some mixed strategy using elements of both. MLB teams DO lose the odd game because the manager absolutely has to have his favorite matchup for 3 games running, and then the pitcher gets shelled his third game out. Each successive appearance adds a fatigue penalty to the performance of the player.

Does a bullpen composed entirely of pitchers operating on Joba Rules outperform a standard a traditional bullpen over 162 games? My guess is 'Yes, it does'.

2007-12-22 12:29:31
42.   Mattpat11
41 I'd much rather go at it three days in a row with the best we have than let the dregs of the bullpen forfeit games for us.

If we miss the playoffs by two games because we allowed Kyle Farnsworth to pitch when [someone competent] was living and breathing, I'll lose my mind.

2007-12-22 20:17:06
43.   joejoejoe
42 Every team has dregs on their roster. It's a question of having the dregs pitch on optimal rest or not. The Red Sox won the AL East and World Series with 168 IP of Julian Tavarez and Joel Piniero in the mix. No team has a bullpen full of Rivera's ready to take the mound.

The open question is whether enforced rest squeezes better performance out of the pen than matchups without regard to rest.

2007-12-24 08:04:34
44.   Bob B
Obviously, everything changes if they sign Santana.......which I hope they do. Otherwise, I agree with 11 on how best to use him for the first couple of months.
2007-12-24 15:05:53
45.   Schteeve
He'll be a starter because Uncle Hank wants it that way.
2007-12-29 11:46:26
46.   Ramone
I hear a lot of complaining about this plan, but few viable alternatives.

I see four options:

A. Let Joba start from the beginning of the season and shut him down before he can pitch in September, much less the playoffs.

B. Let Joba start and pitch until his arm falls off.

C. Sit Joba for the beginning of the season and keep his innings down.

D. Limit Joba's innings by using him partially out of the bullpen.

Aside from a BP to starter plan, there is no way to way to use Joba for the entire season that wouldn't be highly likely to result in arm injuries this year, next year, or the year after.

Besides, regardless of who pitches in the role, long relief to Moose and the other young pitchers is going to be necessary for the Yankees. Why not kill two birds with one stone? I'd tell Joba: "You can expect that you will be pitching long relief with some spot setup work if everyone in the rotation pitches lights out that week. And if there is an injury to a starter or two, expect to move into the rotation sooner rather than later."

Moving Joba into the pen at the end of the year makes no sense. Aside from the fact that you may be losing a solid playoff starter, you will be interrupting his flow into 2009.

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