"Now, what is this site about, how Joe Torre ruined pitchers' arms? Is that it?"
-Michael Kay, August 18, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reviving a dead issue: The Joba Debate

"Reviving the Joba (Chamberlain) Debate," by Justin Sablich (via Greg at Sliding Into Home).

Why? Why bring up this issue again? It's been understood for a while that Chamberlain would go into spring training as a starter. We don't need to discuss this any further.

Let's examine Mr. Sablich's points.

Should Pettitte return, is there any reason to believe (other than injuries) that the Yankees cannot survive with a rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte and Hughes?

Chamberlain in the bullpen would most likely make each starting pitcher better by shortening his starts. Fans concerned about Sabathia burning out in September or Burnett breaking down over the long haul could rest a little easier. A Chamberlain bridge would also make life easier for Rivera, who turned 39 in November and may not be able to crank out a two-inning save with as much ease as in the past.
The Yankees could probably survive with that rotation, but having Andy Pettitte and Chamberlain round out that rotation is better than Pettitte and Hughes alternative. This, of course, is contingent on Pettitte accepting the Yankees' offer.

CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Chamberlain miss bats and are intimidating figures on the mound when they're on their respective games. Why try to break that up?
In addition to keeping others healthy, Chamberlain could be healthier by remaining a reliever. There’s no questioning his effectiveness as a starter. His numbers as a starter last season (2.75 ERA and 10.3 K/9) were almost identical to his stats as a reliever (2.31 ERA and 11.1 K/9). But his shoulder injury came about as a starter, and fewer innings could only help him keep his shoulder strong.
Maybe his shoulder injury came about as a result of his transition from a reliever to a starter?
A popular argument for having Chamberlain start is that you should not waste a player with such ability as a reliever because the more innings he can pitch the better. Wouldn’t you rather have 230 innings of Chamberlain rather than 90?

The problem with that argument is that you can say the same thing about Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon or a number of other great relievers. Are the Red Sox wasting Papelbon’s talent by limiting his innings and not converting him back to a starter?

Yes, I would rather have 230 innings out of Chamberlain rather than 90, thank you very much. He'll most likely have an innings limit this season, but 230 innings a couple of years down the line sounds very nice. It's always better to have more than less.
If the Yankees used Chamberlain to shorten games to six innings, is that really a waste of talent? It sounds more like an incredible advantage to me.
Piggy-backing off of what Greg said, having a good bullpen is nice, but a rotation of aces is even better.

The "Joba Debate" will always linger for as long as he pitches. If he struggles or gets hurt as a starter, Yankees fans will immediately ask, "Why wasn't he in the bullpen this whole time?" Chamberlain was drafted and groomed to be a starter. Because Brian Cashman has always struggled in building a bullpen, Chamberlain had to put his development on hold to save the Yankees. He is not a reliever, nor should he be in 2009, 2010, or anywhere else in the future.


Frank said...

The Joba argument IS pointless because the Yankees are complete idiots for putting him in the starting rotation. It should be understood that having him as a setup man is only grooming him to take over Rivera's role as a closer in a couple of years. Closers are easy to come by, but GREAT closers are not. Joba has already shown that he has the ability to be the most dominant one inning pitcher in the league. I guess that maybe the Yankees will come to their senses when Mo retires and they realize that Joba is the absolute best option to take his place. The issue is gunna keep being brought up until he's back where he belongs, Fletch.

Andrea said...

Don't the Yankees have a future closer waiting in the wings?

Andrew Vazzano said...

At least I don't have to hear "Aaron Heilman should be a starter" anymore.

Andrew Fletcher said...

Frank, we're going to have to agree to disagree on this.

Andrea, good to see you back. Mark Melancon is highly-regarded, but he's in the minors and the jury is still out as far as I'm concerned.

Aaron Heilman should be a starter.

Anonymous said...

I hope Frank gets eaten by a bear.

Anonymous said...

Wow, harsh.

The Yankees need to play this one by ear. As of now, he's better off in the rotation. If everything goes well, he'll make it as a starter and the debate will be over.

If he falters in his role as a full time starting pitcher, the Yanks will move him back to the pen in time for Rivera to retire.

Either way, the Yankees have a tremendous pitcher on their hands.

Having seen him pitch in both roles while in the minors, I thin he's better suited to be a starer thanks to his size and stuff, but that's just my opinion.

Andrea said...

Thanks! yeah, I went missing there for a while.

Wasn't Humberto Sanchez viewed as a potential closer too, or am I totally making that up?

Andrew Fletcher said...

He was viewed as a bullpen option, but he was hurt when they acquired him and needed surgery, so I'm not sure where the organization stands on him.

John102355 said...

Personally, I think that Joba belongs in the bullpen. Physically, it would put less of a strain on his body. Psychologically, I think that he is better suited for the pen. He's young and emotional and is better for one great inning rather than 6-7 innings.

With Joba coming in at the 8th inning that would put less of a strain on the starting rotation and put more pressure on other teams to score runs early in the game.

Most importantly, the Yankees need to find a new top quality closer because we don't know how long Mariano will last. In a couple of years Joba can slide right into the 9th inning closer position. In the meantime, he's being tutored by one of the best closers EVER!

Andrew Fletcher said...

I still think his future is in the starting rotation. If he consistently struggles next year or has a serious arm injury, I'd possibly reconsider. But all things being equal at this point, I feel he's better off in the rotation, pitching six or seven innings every five days.

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