Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Here We Go Again

Christ on a cracker, John Harper, let it go. In today's Daily News, we get this nonsense:
A new Job-a?
Harper: At some point, the Yanks need Joba back in the 'pen to have any hope of winning a championship. Maybe Phil Hughes can help convince them.
Think about that for a second: the absolutes. "The Yanks need Joba back in the 'pen to have any hope of winning a championship." Give me a break. Here's the rest of the nonsense here:
If successful, Phil Hughes could put Joba Chamberlain back in Yankees' bullpen

Updated Tuesday, April 28th 2009, 8:32 AM

So tonight Phil Hughes gets a chance to begin recapturing his can't-miss status of a couple of years ago, and maybe this is where the Yankee season begins to find its footing. Hughes could solve so many problems if he is ready to mature into a dependable major league starter, directly and indirectly.

Obviously he plugs the Chien-Ming Wang spot in the starting rotation, but beyond that, he gives the Yankees flexibility to make the move they may need to save their season.
It's fucking April. The Yankees are .500 and they've done it without A-Rod, who is coming back soon. "Save the season"? What the fuck?
Yes, Joba Chamberlain. It's an old debate but with a new twist, since Brian Bruney is out now with an elbow injury, leaving a bullpen - in front of Mariano Rivera - that could be hazardous to Joe Girardi's job status at some point.
No, it's the same fucking debate with the same fucking twist and you just can't seem to get past it.
I'm not saying the Yankees should move Chamberlain back to his set-up role immediately if Hughes delivers a solid start tonight.
God forbid you would say anything crazy.
They need to find out more about Bruney's elbow problem, and how long he is likely to be out. They need to see if the highly touted Mark Melancon can be a savior of sorts for the bullpen. And they need to see if Wang can be fixed in Tampa over the next couple of weeks.
No, they don't. Joba is a starting pitcher. Always was, except when you first saw him.
But if the Yankees learned anything from their lost weekend in Boston, it's that they need a much better bullpen to match up with the Red Sox in the late innings, where their head-to-head meetings are so often decided.
Here's what they learned:
Game 1: Joba (!) pitches 5.1 innings of one run ball. The bullpen gets the game from the 6th through the 9th with one more run. Rivera gave up a lead when the bullpen gave him the chance for a save. Can't blame the bridge there. Also does anyone find it disturbing that Harper wants Joba in the 'pen to protect leads by the starter, Joba?
Game 2: Burnett is handed a 6 run lead and can't hold it, surrendering 8 ER. Doesn't sound like the only problem with Game 2 was the bullpen, but they did blow a couple of leads. The problem here, of course, is that your starter shouldn't be giving up 8 fricken' runs.
Game 3: The Yankee offense couldn't score. Pettitte pitcher 6 innings, Melancon 2 innings. Melancon doesn't give up a run.

So essentially, Harper believes that the Yankees should have "learned they need a better bullpen to match up with Boston" because the bullpen faltered in a game in which the starter gave up 8 runs.
For now, at least, they seem firmly committed to keeping Chamberlain in the rotation. But part of the equation here is that he shows no signs of being a dominating starter.
It's been three starts. He's a kid. To anyone other team, their top prospect having a 3.94 ERA would not be sending off alarm signals. Get a grip here.
Indeed, during the weekend at Fenway Park full of ugly pitching numbers, the most alarming number of all came from Joba's pitching line on Friday night:

Of the 91 pitches he threw, only two produced a swing-and-miss. He used to get two per at-bat, it seemed, as a blow-away reliever.
It's like Harper doesn't follow baseball at all. Relievers will get more K/IP than starters, because they're more focused on getting through one or two guys and not setting guys up for their next at bat or saving something in the tank.
Chamberlain did show plenty of grit in his start against the Red Sox, inducing four double-play balls that allowed him to escape big trouble and surrender one run over 5-1/3 innings. But where is the dominance?
Three. Fucking. Starts. As a starter in his career, Joba is 3-1 with a 2.43 K/BB ratio and a 2.99 ERA. Admittedly his WHIP is a bit high this year at 1.8, but the BABIP shows that at .335, he's been pretty unlucky. These things balance themselves out eventually.
Soon after his conversion from the bullpen at midseason last year, he blew away the Sox over seven innings, allowing three hits while striking out nine hitters as he outdueled Josh Beckett.
Well fuck! Let's get him out of that role based on a second game in which he didn't do as well!
On Friday night, meanwhile, Chamberlain allowed 14 baserunners in 5-1/3 innings, and struck out two. In his three starts this season he has allowed 32 baserunners in 16 innings, while getting 11 strikeouts. Although he has managed to limit the damage to a 3.94 ERA, it's clear this is not the Joba who was automatic out of the bullpen.
No starter will ever be that dominant. Let's look at that for a second - Harper is complaining that Joba the Starter is not as dominant as Joba the Reliever. You want to see Joba the Starter's stats if he were?
Fictional Joba Average season: 17-6, 1.53 ERA, 293K.
That would be extrapolating his reliever stats over a full season as a starter (and the wins total is actually low because Joba rarely came into a game in which the Yankees were tied/behind). If that's what Harper expects, he's insane.
Since spring training the fastball velocity has been an issue, as he throws mostly around 92-93 mph now as opposed to 96-97 when he was relieving.
When you're throwing more pitches, they won't be as fast. Let me give you another example: Let's say in 1992, Carl Lewis decided to run a marathon, and ran well. John Harper would be mocking Lewis for not averaging the same speed that Lewis had in his record-breaking 100-yard dash, regardless of the fact that no human has ever even come close to anything like that.
And while his celebrations as a reliever may have been a bit over the top, he seemed fueled by the emotion and let-it-go fire he could pour into a one-inning stint, as opposed to pacing himself as a starter.

The combination of lower velocity and a mostly placid demeanor have baseball people wondering what's wrong with Joba.
"There shouldn't be that kind of difference in velocity between starting and relieving," one AL scout said Monday. "When (Josh) Beckett is right, he's topping out at 96-97 from start to finish.
Who the hell? Sure there is. Look at what Burnett said about being a pitcher and not a thrower and trying to stretch himself deeper into games.
"It makes me think (Chamberlain) is worried about hurting his arm, especially after the shoulder problem he had last year. He's had injury issues before - that's what scared a lot of teams off of him the year he was drafted. I don't know, I just see a different guy out there as a starter. He doesn't have that swagger he had when he was coming out there, knowing he could empty the tank for one inning."
Shit, that's what this is all about, isn't it? Joba isn't pumping fists and yelling, so he must be not as good. What kind of scout gives a flying fuck if a guy is full of "swagger" or not?
The Yankees have to be thinking this way themselves, so you wonder how long they'll give Chamberlain before deciding to try him in the bullpen again.
Unlike Harper, the Yankees realize that a starter is more valuable than a reliever, and that 200 IP > 80 IP.
Perhaps it all depends on what happens in the next few weeks with Bruney and Melancon, as well as Wang and Hughes.
No, it doesn't.
I still think the Yankees will be OK. Assuming Alex Rodriguez returns in a week or so with no complications to his hip injury, their lineup should be explosive, especially with Robinson Cano off to such a hot start.
Uh, here's the blurb from the beginning: "The Yanks need Joba back in the 'pen to have any hope of winning a championship."

Doesn't sound like you think the Yanks will be OK to me.
Likewise, assuming that Wang isn't a lost cause and A.J. Burnett's meltdown at Fenway on Saturday wasn't an omen, the starting pitching should be among the best in the league over the long haul of the season.
... an omen. One bad start is to be concluded that it's either a trend or some supernatural bad mojo.
The bullpen is the trouble spot. Even if Bruney returns in a couple of weeks, the Yankees don't have enough depth, unless Melancon's power arm is ready to make a huge impact.
John Harper doesn't obviously follow the Yankees minor leagues, because if there's one thing they have down there it's a ton of bullpen depth.
At some point it's hard to see how the Yankees deny the obvious, that they need Chamberlain back there to have any hope of winning a championship. Maybe starting tonight, Hughes can help convince them.
There we go again... "to have ANY hope." I thought you "still think the Yanks will be OK"?

ATTN: Daily News, please fire John Harper as he's a complete hack.

Don't worry though, he'll still sell you papers since the idiots that read your paper agree with him.
Poll Results

Should Joba Chamberlain be in the Yankee bullpen?
Yes, it's where he is most dominant 71%
No, he will be an elite starter 9%
It depends on Phil Hughes and Chien-Ming Wang 20%

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posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 11:36 AM   1 comments


At 4/29/2009 5:16 AM, Blogger Rex Banner said...

Joba should be a starter and a reliever on his off days. By the way, are you really comparing running to baseball?

His velocity is cause for concern. I know he won't always be in the high 90's, but he should be able to gear it up if he needs to. A couple days ago I saw a comparison between his starts last year and so far this year. Velocity is way down. It's still early though and I'm not overly worried about it.


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