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This Just In: Yankees To Wear Pinstripes At Home This Year
2008-03-19 22:10
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The Yankees admitted to the worst-kept secret in baseball yesterday by officially announcing that Joba Chamberlain would start the year in the bullpen. Shocker.

I largely avoided the What To Do With Joba debate over the winter, in part by avoiding blogging in general more than I should have, and in part because, to my mind, there's no debate. Save for two months of last year, Joba Chamberlain has always been and should continue to be a starter. Peter Abraham said it best last week, using a pitcher with Chamberlain's talent in relief is a waste equal to using Alex Rodriguez as a pinch-hitter.

That said, here's the point everyone seems to have missed thus far: The decision to put Chamberlain in the pen to start the year isn't about how to get the maximum value out of Joba, it's about how to get the maximum value out of the team. The Yankees have six legitimate starting pitchers. Three of them have no innings limit this year and of the remaining three, Chamberlain has the fewest innings to work with. Chamberlain also has the most and most recent bullpen experience of the six. Putting Chamberlain in the bullpen is best for Joba because it will help limit his total innings (though the team will also have to make sure he gets right up to that limit so he can increase that total next year), and it is best for the team because it allows the Yankees to maximize the value of their roster.

The second thing is that putting Chamberlain in the bullpen in April of what is still officially his rookie season does not mean he's going to be a reliever for the rest of his career. Someone in the rotation is going to get hurt, or is going to stink up the joint, and when that happens, Chamberlain's going to get his shot (unless he's hurt or stinking up the joint himself). Remember, the Yankees used 14 starters last year, six of whom made a dozen or more starts. In 2006 they used 12 starters, six of whom made nine or more starts. In 2005 they used 14 starters and nine of them made nine more starts. Even going back to the "five aces" rotation of 2002 (Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, Wells, El Duque), the Yankees used ten starters, six of whom made 11 or more starts and seven of whom made eight or more. Remember all of the debate about how and when to work Phil Hughes into the rotation last year? That worked itself out, didn't it? Joba will start games this year. Mark my words.

As for the words of Joba himself and of manager Joe Girardi, have fun: MLB.com, Girardi audio from Pete Abe. Key points: there will be no Joba Rules this year, and the Yankees still think of Chamberlain as a future member of the rotation.

The Yanks outslugged the Pirates 12-9 last night. There were six homers, five doubles, and four errors in the game.

Lineup:

L - Brett Gardner (CF)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Bobby Abreu (RF)
R - Alex Rodriguez (EB)
L - Jason Giambi (1B)
S - Jorge Posada (C)
L - Hideki Matsui (LF)
S - Wilson Betemit (DH)
R - Cody Ransom (2B)

Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Billy Traber, LaTroy Hawkins, Kei Igawa, Ross Ohlendorf, Edwar Ramirez

Subs: Morgan Ensberg (1B), Bernie Castro (2B), Alberto Gonzalez (PR/SS), Nick Green (3B), Chad Moeller (C), Greg Porter (PR/RF), Justin Christian (CF), Jason Lane (LF), Jason Brown (PH/DH)

Opponents: It's the Pirates, does it matter?

Big Hits: Two-run homers by Jorge Posada (3 for 4) and Nick Green (1 for 1), and a solo shot by Chad Moeller (1 for 1). Doubles by Hideki Matsui (2 for 3), Derek Jeter (1 for 3), and Alex Rodriguez (2 for 4). Bobby Abreu went 2 for 4, Jason Giambi went 2 for 3. The dingers by Green and Moeller both came off Byung-Hyung Kim in the eighth inning. Kim also allowed a pair of homers to the Yankees in the Billy Crystal game on Thursday and now has given up four homers to the Bombers in two innings this spring.

Who Pitched Well: LaTroy Hawkins pitched a perfect sixth inning, getting two outs on the ground. Edwar Ramirez pitched around a double while striking out two to pick up the save. Honestly, that's about it.

Who Didn't: After a great start to his spring, Phil Hughes got roughed up for the second straight start. He gave up three solo home runs in the first two innings (to Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, and Chris Gomez) and the runs just kept coming, exacerbated by a Cody Ransom throwing error in the fourth. By the time he hit his pitch limit after the first batter of the fifth (Hughes got to 77 pitches), he had allowed seven runs, six earned, on seven hits, four of them for extra bases, two walks, a hit batsman, and a wild pitch, though he did strike out three and get six other outs on the ground. Despite all that, Hughes says he feels good and that taking a few spring beatings is normal for him. Billy Traber replaced Hughes and allowed a single, walked a man, and uncorked a wild pitch, letting in two more runs in the process, though Ransom's E combined with another bad throw from Alex Rodriguez on a double-play ball rendered them both unearned. Kei Igawa, working in short relief for the first time this spring, gave up two singles and walked one in his lone inning, but managed to escape unscathed. Ross Ohlendorf allowed a single and a walk in his lone scoreless frame, which was neither good nor bad, but I had to put him somewhere.

Oopsies: In addition to the wild throws form Ransom and Rodriguez, Morgan Ensberg botched a pickoff throw at first base.

More: Pete Abe reports that the appeals of Shelley Duncan's and Melky Cabrera's suspensions won't be heard until April, which means they'll both be available for Opening Day. Also, the Padres returned Rule 5 draft pick Michael Gardner to the Yankees. A Miami University of Ohio product, Gardner is a righty reliever with a low three-quarters delivery and some nice minor league numbers. He's also going to turn 27 in May, has moved slowly through the system, and will be repeating double-A to start the year. There's a reason he was left unprotected in the first place.

Comments
2008-03-19 22:39:21
1.   Chyll Will
Well, since you put it that way... >;)
2008-03-20 00:37:16
2.   Yu-Hsing Chen
I'm pretty sure it's MIKE Gardner. ;)

the wind seem to have been blowing wildly today. a lot of hr flew out like nobody's busniess. though I'm sure we probably noticed that simply by looking at some of the guys that hit those dingers.

2008-03-20 01:07:35
3.   OldYanksFan
It's too late in his career now, but I wish ARod learned to throw a bit more overhand. His side arm throws sink, and he throws a number of balls to first in the dirt every year. I don't know if he ever throws one over the 1st baseman's head, but I get scared everytime he throws the ball.
2008-03-20 07:03:58
4.   ChrisS
"there will be no Joba Rules this year"

Is this because Torre's not there, or they trust Joba's arm, or a little bit of both?

I can't say I'm not getting a little excited about opening day. Although the weather needs to break something fierce.

2008-03-20 07:20:20
5.   Shaun P
4 Jeterismyhomeboy made a great point in yesterday's thread - there probably is a plan for using Joba, but it won't be publicized:

http://tinyurl.com/2w25lh

If we have a pool, I say Joba ends up going to the rotation when Moose tweaks something in mid-June. Its going to be interesting to see how this issue resolves itself . . .

2008-03-20 07:24:47
6.   monkeypants
I understand that someone needs to go to the pen, and starting Joba there makes perfectly good sense. I am just still a little skeptical about how the team will actually orchestrate this.

He pitched 116 INN last year, so his cap will be about 145 this year. If he starts half the season (about 16 starts) and pitches 5 or 6 innings per start, that's about 80 or 90 INN. This leaves another 55 to 65 INN for the rest of the year. OK, maybe he pitches 7 INN in a few starts, they still need to 'find' 50-60 INN.

How are they going to get 50-60 INN out of him from the BP in half of a year? Ideally they would use him for 2 or 3 innings about 20 times in the first 80 games. But that sort of pitching pattern is hard to maintain without a pretty fixed schedule--that is, it would be harder to use him tactically.

On the other hand, if he is employed tactically, as the need arises, there is the danger that the team is tempted to run him out there more frequently for only 1 or 2 innings each appearance. That's fine to a degree, and the innings total will be the same, but it will be difficult for him to develop the stamina to transition to starting; it may also be more difficult to develop his secondary pitches.

2008-03-20 07:32:40
7.   Cliff Corcoran
2 Oops. Fixed.
2008-03-20 07:33:27
8.   ms october
5 yes, agree - though there might not be rules per se, i think there are definitely strong guidelines

and your scenario seemingly has an effective moose, right, just a tweaked moose.
ideally for his pitch limits joba probably wouldn't join the rotation until after the asb

thanks for these extensive write-ups cliff, i have yet to really see a st game, so these write-ups really get at the heart of what happened. it seems from these write-ups though that we may be in for a lot of e-3s this year. and sounds like ohlendorf needs some more MiL seasoning.

2008-03-20 07:38:39
9.   Shaun P
6 My guess is that Joba is used in a mixture - some 1 inning stints, and some 3 inning "garbage time" stints too.

OTOH, if they knew in advance they needed him to start, they could always option him to the minors for a couple of weeks to stretch him out. Say Moose gets hurt and is going to miss 2 months. Some combo of Karstens/Rasner/Horne etc. could cover the 5th slot until Joba was ready.

Girardi is supposed to be an ultra-prepared guy. Its possible he (and Cashman and Eiland) have run through every possible scenario where Joba has to transition, and have a plan for each one. I hope.

2008-03-20 08:36:32
10.   williamnyy23
Starting Joba in the pen makes perfect sense. Otherwise, he'd reach his innings limit in August. Where the Yankees have needed a starter of Joba's potential ability is in the post season, not the regular season. I'd imagine (and hope) the plan is to keep in the pen into July, and then transition him back to the rotation to (a) be ready to start in the post season if so desired; or (b) rakc up enough innings so that he could start next year with a higher innings limit.
2008-03-20 08:37:46
11.   rilkefan
0 "using a pitcher with Chamberlain's talent in relief is a waste equal to using Alex Rodriguez as a pinch-hitter."

I don't think this is a very reasonable comparison - the leverage arguments aren't at all comparable, are they?

Putting Joba in the pen seems less good to me than having him in the regular rotation pitching half-games in concert with e.g. Hughes. Innings in the pen are surely more stressful than innings starting.

2008-03-20 08:51:12
12.   Cliff Corcoran
11 Look at it this way: A cleanup hitter probably gets four or five at-bats a game, while a pinch-hitter would get one. Meanwhile a decent starter will average six or more innings per start, while a short reliever will get one. So you're actually getting a smaller percentage of playing time from the reliever than from the pinch-hitter. True, an inning of relief is a much larger portion of any given game than a single at-bat and a one-inning reliever will face more batters than even a regular pinch-hitter will get at-bats, but the same is true for starting pitchers vs. everyday players. Alex Rodriguez had 708 plate appearances last year, but Andy Pettitte faced 916 batters.
2008-03-20 08:52:02
13.   pistolpete
I don't think anyone in his/her right mind thought Chamberlain should remain in the 8th-inning role for any significant amount of time. However I, like others, did see a lot of value with him in the closer's role.

But since Mo isn't going away anytime soon and Joba's already proven his prowess as a starter in the minors, he simply has to be inserted into the rotation at some point. If he can't sustain the same type of success for 6-7 innings a game over the course of a full season in 2009 or 2010, then maybe it's time to revisit a bullpen role.

2008-03-20 08:54:46
14.   OldYanksFan
Assuming we make the PS, the seasom could be as long as 183 games. When looking at Phil's and Joba's IPs limits, this needs to be taken into account.

I also assume a 4 man rotation in the PS, maybe even some 3... if they continue that stupid day off thing. So who's in the BP in the PS? Phil? Joba?

2008-03-20 08:59:16
15.   ms october
14 i think you make the ps rotation decision (again assuming the yanks get in)when you see who is healthy and effective
2008-03-20 08:59:33
16.   Cliff Corcoran
14 Getting way ahead of ourselves here, but the team said last year that they don't count postseason innings in their innings limits. What's going on there is that 1) it's not as if their arms are going to fall off if they pitch six more innings than intended and 2) there's no way to know how many postseason innings they'll wind up tossing until they actually do. Judging by recent years, it could be a mere handful, and thus irrelevant.
2008-03-20 09:06:32
17.   monkeypants
10 I agree completely that using Joba in the pen makes sense; my main concern is how he will be used in the pen, and then how he will transition to starting. It will be hard (IMO) for him to start the year as a one inning guy AND get him geared up to start later in the season AND use enough innings to get him to around 145. Everyone talks about the obvious concern (not using him too much), but is anyone thinking about the opposite danger (not getting him enough innings so that they are in the same boat next year with innings limits)?

11 I agree entirely--the best use (IMO) would be to use him for 2, 3, or 4 innings in tandem with any number of starters who won't go the distance (Hughes b/c of innings limits or Mussina because of age). 3 innings every four days would be 12 innings every 20 days, or about 60% of a young starter's workload (assuming 5 INN/start).

13 I'm curious, why do you see more value in him as a 'closer' v. an 'eighth inning guy'? They both pitch about the same number of innings, and it is likely that the 8th inning has as many high leverage situation as the 9th.

2008-03-20 09:16:59
18.   OldYanksFan
16 6 innings? The PS could be 21 games. That could be 4 games for Phil, or 20+ innings. For a BP guy, this could be 15 IPs. I'm not sure how these IPs don't count. They are the most stressful and demanding of any IPs. So Phil can go 160 in the RS and another 20 in the PS?

And are you really gonna start Moose in the PS rather then Phil? Moose could be better then expected, and Phil could be worse... but it's hard to see Moose having a better year then Phil. And this assumes that IPK is effective.

The IPs limits are about PHYSICALLY not overstressing a young players arm. How can PS inning not count? Is there really a 15-20 IPs 'slop factor'?

2008-03-20 09:28:33
19.   monkeypants
18 But you KNOW you are going to play 162 games, but you don't know if you are going to make the PS. Maybe if they lock up a PS birth, they can rest some of the young guns. But otherwise, I am not sure I want them limiting Joba (for example) to 130 INN on the off chance that he will need to pitch 20 INN in the post season.

Also, I presume that winning in the PS is one of the times that short term goals outweigh long term goals.

2008-03-20 09:48:52
20.   Shaun P
19 Flags do fly forever. Just ask the Marlins.

17 NoMaas has a nifty chart up today. The name of the guy who I take comfort from is Chad Billingsley.

FWIW, he threw 147 innings last year.

He started the year in the bullpen; here are his IPs and appearance dates there:

Apr 3 1.0
Apr 8 2.0
Apr 10 1.1
Apr 16 1.0
Apr 17 2.0
Apr 20 2.0
Apr 22 0.1
Apr 27 2.0
Apr 29 2.0
May 4 2.0
May 6 1.1
May 8 1.0
May 13 1.1
May 14 2.0
May 19 1.0
May 21 0.2
May 26 3.0
May 27 1.0
Jun 1 2.1
Jun 3 1.0
Jun 7 1.2
Jun 11 1.0
Jun 16 2.0

Total - 35 innings pitched in the 'pen.

5 days later, Billingsley started and that's where he stayed. He went 3.2 IP his first start, 4 IP his second start, then went at least 5 IP in every other start (except the last and one where he was bombed in Coors). He averaged 6 IP/start in that stretch, and pitched quite well.

Admittedly Billingsley pitched about 160 innings as a starter in '06 (not quite exclusively; he pitched from the pen 3 times) - but if the Dodgers could handle this well, why can't the Yanks?

2008-03-20 09:52:24
21.   monkeypants
20 Interesting comparison!
2008-03-20 10:06:46
22.   rilkefan
12 A-Rod can without consequence have those five ABs - and has a good chance to be in that high leverage situation anyway. In many games his AB is that leverage situation independent of everything else. Joba can't come in to a tie and win it. But he can be brought in for two high-leverage innings to maximize his utility. This argument doesn't prove anything, of course - I'd still like to see the numbers.

Related question - should the Yankees have tried to convert Mariano back to starting?

2008-03-20 10:51:43
23.   Shaun P
22 No, he didn't - and doesn't - have enough pitches to last 5+ innings.
2008-03-20 11:09:39
24.   rilkefan
23 He didn't even have the cutter when he was dominating in 96. Maybe he could have learned that changeup we keep hearing about in ST every year...
2008-03-20 12:05:26
25.   Cliff Corcoran
22 I sometimes wonder about that. Certainly the Righetti should have gone back to starting. Righetti in the rotation in place of Whitson in 1985 would have been enough to get the Yanks into the postseason. You can't really make those complaints about Rivera, but certainly the Righetti thing cost the Yankees at least one playoff appearance and, given that, perhaps even a championship.

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