Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting
2008-03-20 11:54
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Behind a member of the actual starting rotation, Yankees B-team crushed the Blue Jays' starters hitting behind a replacement pitcher. Final score: 7-2.


L - Johnny Damon (LF)
S - Melky Cabrera (CF)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
L - Hideki Matsui (DH)
R - Shelley Duncan (RF)
S - Wilson Betemit (1B)
R - Cody Ransom (SS)
R - Jose Molina (C)
R - Nick Green (3B)

Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Dan Giese, Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain, Jonathan Albaladejo, Chris Britton

Subs: Morgan Ensberg (1B), Bernie Castro (2B), Alberto Gonzaelez (SS), Chad Moeller (C), Greg Porter (RF), Justin Christian (CF), Jason Lane (PH/LF), Matt Carson* (PR/DH)

Opponent: The Blue Jays' starters, including Alex Rios.

Big Hits: Consecutive RBI doubles by Wilson Betemit (2 for 4, BB) and Cody Ransom (2 for 3) in the second inning, a two-run double by Shelley Duncan (2 for 5) in the third, and a monstrous two-run jack to right field by Betemit (batting lefty, of course) in the fifth. Johnny Damon was 2 for 3 with a walk, Robinson Cano was 2 for 4.

Who Pitched Well: Ian Kennedy had a monster curve working as well as a good changeup and used those pitches to limit the Blue Jay's starters to one run on six hits and no walks over 4 1/3 innings while striking out four. If there's a knock on his outing it's that he was a bit inefficient, using 75 pitches and throwing only 56 percent of them for strikes. Chris Britton pitched a perfect ninth, striking out one. Jonathan Albaladejo pitched around a single for a scoreless eighth. Dan Giese walked back-to-back batters in relief of Kennedy in the fifth, but one came on a questionable full-count call and he managed to strand both men.

Making his first short-relief appearance of the spring, Joba Chamberlain looked like the guy who posted the 0.38 ERA down the stretch last year by striking out the side on 11 pitches (nine strikes, of course). Just like last September, Joba was firing laser-guided rocket fastballs and unhittable sliders. Of course, he faced a trio of low-minors nobodies, but the performance was so dominant that it almost made me worry that Joba's become a bit too fond and too comfortable in this new role, which could prove to be an obstacle to his return to starting. Indeed, check out some of these quotes:

Kennedy: "He looks like a different guy when he starts and relieves. He just goes after guys. I don't know if he was holding back too much, but he looked like a different guy today."

Joba: "It felt great . . . it's like riding a bike. . . . You just attack the zone. You stop worrying about your mechanics and your abilities take over. It was back to the slider that I'm used to throwing, and not babying it. . . . If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Admittedly that bit about "if it ain't broke" was in reference to his relief repertoire, not the role itself, but I do worry about the fact that Chamberlain suggests he might have been overthinking and babying things while working as a starter this spring. Joba seems to relish the big bad reliever role, but he absolutely must return to starting or he'll be denying the Yankees and himself a chance to realize his full potential.

Who Didn't: Kyle Farnsworth struck out two in his lone inning but also allowed a single, a double, a walk, and a run. Many point to Farnsworth's failings as another reason why Chamberlain needs to be in the pen. If Chamberlain does wind up sticking in relief long-term, Farnsworth's Yankee legacy will be even worse than his numbers will show.

Nice Plays: A relay from Shelley Duncan in the right-field corner to Robinson Cano to nail David Eckstein at third base trying to stretch a double in the first inning.

Ouchies: A week from tomorrow, Humberto Sanchez will throw off a mound for the first time since his Tommy John surgery.

Roster News: Catcher Kyle Anson was reassigned to minor league camp. He'll land in A-ball somewhere depending on where Austin Romine and Jesus Montero wind up. In the Cody Ransom article linked to above, Bryan Hoch suggests that Brett Gardner will not make the Opening Day roster:

. . . there may be no room at the inn for Gardner, who could benefit more from playing every day in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre than by riding the bench in New York. Girardi said he has encouraged Gardner along those lines, telling him to keep his head up and wait for his chance.

"I think he's got a chance to be a really good big league player," Girardi said. "It's like the pitching staff here, obviously, we can only take so many when we leave [Florida]. If you don't go with us when we break camp, you need to be ready at all times, because you never know when that call is going to come."

*Matt Carson, on loan from minor league camp, got in the game as the Yankees brought a limited roster on the road. Don't sweat Carson. He's a 25-year-old outfielder with a career .250/.307/.397 line after six pro seasons. He hit about that in his first full season in double-A last year and won't crack the starting lineup in Trenton or Scranton this year.

More: In order to avoid giving their divisional rivals an extended look at their starting pitchers with little more than a week left until the regular season, the Yankees will have Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte pitch minor league games tomorrow and Saturday while Darrell Rasner and Kei Igawa start against the Rays and Jays (who also happen to be the first two teams the Yanks will face in April). Indeed, the Jays did the same with Roy Halladay today, using Kane Davis against the Yankees in Halladay's place. Speaking of Davis, there was a nice moment early in the game when he threw a looping curve up in the zone to Cody Ransom who crushed the pitch just as it began to break, hitting it so hard that he pulled it well foul. Ransom hit the ball like he knew he was getting a curve, and a close up of Davis on the mound soon after showed him trying and failing to suppress a giggle. Speaking of the broadcast, YES has used Bob Lorenz in the booth twice this week, first at Virgina Tech alongside Michael Kay, then again today alongside Ken Singleton. I don't imagine the network plans to use Lorenz that way during the regular season, but I'd take him over Kay in a heartbeat (though that has more to do with Kay than Lorenz).

2008-03-20 21:35:00
1.   tommyl
I agree with you Cliff. Yes, Joba was impressive today, but I think when he was prepping as a starter if he just threw fastballs and sliders he would have been just as impressive (at least early on). Its precisely because he was working on his secondary pitches that he was getting hit more. My fear is that if they leave him in the pen all year, then his innings will be very low and his secondary pitches will not develop and then next year you're right back where you started.

I look at it this way. Next year its very likely that Pettitte and Moose will be gone. Would you rather be looking for a replacement for Pettitte, or a replacement for Kyle Farnsworth? Joba has the potential to front the rotation for years to come and we'll need him to as early as next year.

2008-03-20 21:55:32
2.   mehmattski
"The last time I walked back-to-back hitters was..." Giese leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds before finally saying, "You know what, that might have been the first time I've walked back-to-back hitters in my career."

Pretty hilarious, coming from a guy I'd never heard of before reading this post.

2008-03-20 22:51:12
3.   Cliff Corcoran
2 For what it's worth, Giese has walked just 111 men in his nine-year pro career and has a career BB/9 rate below 2.00, so he might be telling the truth.
2008-03-21 06:25:20
4.   OldYanksFan
Last full season: (MiLB and MLB)
Phil: 132 IPs
_IPK: 168 IPs
Joba: 112 IPs

Lets assume we make the PS... and Moose is our least effective starter (not that big a jump, is it?)

So 2008 projects to: 162(27 Starts) for Phil,
198 IPs for IPK, or basically a full season, and Joba at 142 IPs, maybe 60 in the BP and 13 starts?.

So... where do we fit in Joba's starts? Take them away from Moose and make Moose long relief in the BP? Skip a few of Phils to keep him fresh for the PS? Skip 1 or 2 of IPKs to keep him fresh for the PS?

My guess is we have a 4 man rotation for the PS and Mike and Joba in the BP, Mike as the long man?

IF IPK and Phil do pitch better then Moose, can you allow Moose to still Start is the PS?

I know this doesn't account for injuries, and maybe that's where Joba get's his starts,
If everyone remains FAIRLY healthy, it will be interesting to see how they get the IPs limits for Phil and Joba. I have to assume for development for 2009, they WANT to see Joba and Phil reach their MAX IPs limit.

2008-03-21 06:29:54
5.   ms october
1 agree fully. my fear also centers on approach/mentality/comfort - he has had and just had success as a reliever and struggled somewhat as a starter this st - though it is because he was working on other pitches and it was just st - he still knows when he has pitched better - which seems to be leading him to feel comfortable for now as a reliever. this could also impact his approach to pitching and certainly his stamina - not only physically but also how he paces himself.
i don't want to get overly concerned about this, but he can be and for the furthering of the yanks in the future needs to grow into a dominant ace role - i hope the reliever role doesn't set him back too much.
2008-03-21 06:40:03
6.   mehmattski
3 Oh I wasn't doubting the truthiness, I just thought the interview/response was hilarious. Five years ago, there is no Chad Jennings, and there is no interview of Dan Giese. Now, the little guy, who I'd never heard of, gets his quote in and it's a doozy. Good stuff.
2008-03-21 07:17:04
7.   Jimbo1
If Gardner does not get a spot on the bench, who does? Ensberg? Isn't Ensberg just another Shelley Duncan (and not even as valuable since he doesn't play the outfield)? That sounds redundant to me.

Gardner should be 4th oufielder/pinch runner. His game adds a dimension that the Yanks lack. And when exactly is he going to get a chance to be an everyday player for the Yanks? Never. Damon and Matsui are signed through 2009, Melky is established and Tabata and AJax are on their way! Thus, it makes no sense to send him down so he can play everyday. Give him the defensive outfielder/base stealer/bunter role in 2008!!!

2008-03-21 07:18:16
8.   Shaun P
4 "If everyone remains FAIRLY healthy"

That's one hell of an if. Forget, for a moment, all the data on the number of starters the Yanks used over the years that Cliff gave us yesterday. Moose has made 30+ starts once in the last 4 years. He's 39 this season. I cannot imagine he makes it through this season injury-free. Or reasonably effective the whole season. Or both.

"IF IPK and Phil do pitch better then Moose, can you allow Moose to still Start is the PS?"

No. I think Moose would ask to not start if Hughes and IPK outpitch him all year. Moose wants a WS ring, and this is likely his last chance to get one.

2008-03-21 07:44:17
9.   pistolpete
Personally, I think Joba getting more comfortable in any role will only help his confidence.
2008-03-21 08:20:09
10.   tommyl
5 Its really a question of usage I guess. My memory is a bit hazy, but when Santana was in the pen, he was used more often for multiple innings at a time which led to him still pitching with something of a starter's mentality. I doubt they'll do that with Joba.

My hope all along was that they'd go with a 6 man rotation (and eliminate the long man spot from the pen), with IPK, Hughes and Joba skipping starts on a rotating basis, probably Joba/Hughes skipping a bit more often. I can see why Girardi wouldn't want to do that, but its tough.

To me, the real problem is going to be fighting the impulse to take Joba out of the pen. I don't think his ERA will be 0.38, but I think he'll be damn good. However, one thing we have not seen Joba do yet is pitch like a true reliever. Last year he was used with kid gloves. This year, if he's used for 2 innings at a time, sometimes back to back days, etc. its not clear how well he'll do and hold up. There's a lot of ifs here, however I trust Cashman a lot and I believe he and Girardi are on the same page. That calms my fears a bit.

2008-03-21 08:55:20
11.   Cliff Corcoran
Allow me to point out that in 19 major league appearances last year, Joba pitched two full frames five times and an inning and change three other times, so eight of his 19 appearances were for more than an inning.
2008-03-21 09:06:37
12.   tommyl
11 Ah, Cliff that's a good point. What was Santana's usage pattern? was it mostly inning or inning and change? or was it 2-3 innings the majority of the time?

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.