Joba Chamberlain had his best outing of the spring Tuesday,, limiting the Reds to five hits and two runs in 51/3 innings. He was so good, in fact, that he pitched the Yankees almost to the point where, ideally, Joba Chamberlain would come into the game.
And that's the problem.
So his pitching well is a...bad thing? Why? Because he did it starting instead of relieving? That makes very little sense.
Not even Joba, as good as he is, can fill two roles at once. He can start a game or he can finish it.
Or, he could throw a complete game and do both. But that's a rarity in baseball. It's also a story for another day. Anyway, if I have my choice between Chamberlain starting and pitching 5-7 innings, I'll take it over him relieving and pitching 1-2 innings.
The Yankees, who have an abundance of guys to start their games this year, think it's a good idea to take the greatest two-inning pitcher since Mariano Rivera, circa 1996, and turn him into just another starter.
Yeah, they also have an abundance of guys who can relieve. That's why Dan Giese, Brett Tomoko, and Al Aceves were sent down to Scranton instead of breaking camp with the Yankees. It's not like the pen isn't some rag-tag group of ne'er-do-wells. They've got a good core of live young arms--Brian Bruney, Phil Coke, Jon Albaladejo--two seasoned veterans--Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte--and the capable Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez. In fact, this bullpen had a 3.73 ERA in '08, along with an 8.66 K/9. I know that includes some of Chamberlain's numbers, but they'll be more than fine without him.
As for Mariano Rivera...do you wanna know why he was a two inning pitcher, Matthews? Because he failed as a starter. He was a fantastic starter in the minors, but he couldn't hack it as a starter in the majors. Why's that? Because he didn't have enough pitches to make it through the lineup more than once. Joba Chamberlain does not have this problem. He has a plus fastball, an explosive slider, a workable changeup, and a solid curveball. Guys with four pitches don't need to be wasted in the eighth inning.
I think they're nuts.
Pot? Kettle? Black?
The reality with starters is that they are six-inning pitchers on most days, seven- and eight-inning pitchers on their best days.
Yeah, and? Wouldn't you rather have a guy pitch six innings instead of one or two, especially if he was fully capable of doing so?
In four out of every five starts, they are going to need a guy to come charging out of that bullpen in the seventh inning to hold the game until the closer gets there.
A guy like Joba Chamberlain.
You wanna know the truth, Wallace Matthews? Most games are essentially already decided by the 7th inning. Using the WPA Calculator, we can see that a home team, winning by one, in the top of the seventh, wins the game 72.5% of the time. You don't need a guy as good as Joba Chamberlain to pitch the 7th or 8th to hold that lead down. You only need a guy as good as say...Brian Bruney or Phil Coke or Albie or Edwar or Veras or Marte...
Not to mention the Yankees were something like 73-2 in games in which they led after 7 innings. Taking Joba out of the 8th inning role will not drastically hurt that number.
But Joba isn't doing that anymore. Greater baseball minds than mine have analyzed this situation at great length and determined that Joba for the first six innings every five days is better than Joba out of the bullpen five times a week.
You know why they've determined that? Because even a slightly above average starter is more valuable than a lights out reliever.
I say that's like hiring Picasso to paint your garage door or asking Mozart to come up with a toothpaste jingle. Many can start; few can finish. Joba can finish. He was a great setup man, and someday he'll be a great closer. Those commodities are a lot scarcer on the market than starting pitchers.
Actually, I'd say in your situation. That'd be like hiring Picasso or Mozart to do such menial tasks. Joba is fully capable of being a great starter and wasting him in the eighth and ninth innings would be so silly.
That second statement about the market is just a joke. Why do you think CC Sabathia's getting $14 million in 2009 and $23 million from '10-'15 and K-Rod is never making more than $17.5 in a year? BECAUSE STARTERS ARE ALWAYS MORE VALUABLE THAN RELIEVERS!
And the Yankees, of all teams, should know it. In 1996, they wrote the book on the art of shortening the game. The nightly relay team - starting pitcher to Rivera to John Wetteland - was more reliable than Tinker to Evers to Chance. It forced every one of their opponents into the hurry-up offense, every night.
Again, Rivera failed as a starter. Go look up Rivera's minor league numbers. If he had been able to duplicate them at the Major League level, do you really think he would've been turned into a closer? I doubt it.
If you didn't get those Yankees within six innings, you weren't getting them at all, and the numbers bear it out - the record of the 1996 world champions was 70-3 in games they led after six.
That's because it's hard to win a game when you're down with only 9 outs to play with no matter who's pitching.
I also love how he completely ignores the Yankees good starting pitching in the late '90s, as if it was the bullpen that did the job.
The Yankees patented that formula, bottled it and swigged liberally from the bottle for the next decade, although it never worked quite as well when Rivera had to depend on mere mortals such as Brian Bruney and Kyle Farnsworth to get him the baseball.
Didn't the Yankees make the playoffs all the time despite "poor" set up men? Yeah, they did. They also survived with Joe Torre's more-than-questionable bullpen management. Also, Brian Bruney was awesome in '06 and '08 so I don't see Matthews's point here.
Best of all, he seemed to solve the biggest question the Yankees will have to face in the next couple of years, namely, who would replace the irreplaceable Rivera?
I'd say a bigger problem was their crappy starting rotation, which they've fixed with the likes of Sabathia, Burnett, and Chamberlain. As for who will take over the closer role? Well, if Rivera were hurt, there's a ton of bullpen guys who can do that. And there's Mark Melancon.
As great as Rivera has been for the Yankees, he is overrated. Yes, I said it. The closer is probably the most overrated position in American sports, even if it's Mo--the greatest closer ever.
Besides, now Joba and his colleagues will have to sweat out games entrusted to the likes of Bruney and Damaso Marte. It could be worse, I suppose, but thankfully Farnsworth is in Kansas City this year.
Like I said, Brian Bruney was fantastic last year. Damaso Marte wasn't great, but he has a history of performing very, very well. Does this guy seriously know anything about the Yankees?
This guy can shorten games for the Yankees now, and close games for them over the next 10 years. Barring catastrophic injury, that's virtually a certainty.
Yeah, you know how he can shorten games? Pitch the first six or seven innings, which are more important than the last two. Why do games get shortened in the first place? BECAUSE OF GOOD STARTING PITCHING! The bullpen can only be effective when the starters are good, right? You could have a 7-8-9 combo of Soria-Papelbon-Rivera but if your starters are Ponson, Rasner, and Igawa, what does it matter? I know it's not that drastic since the Yankees now have a strong rotation (with Chamberlain) but what's the point of weakening it by removing Chamberlain?
I'll end on this. Here are Chamberlain's stats as a starter:
12 G, 65.1 IP, 60 H, 25 BB, 74 SO, 2.76 ERA, 1.305 WHIP, 2.96 K/BB, 10.23 K/9