BREAKING: Joba To the Pen

Pete Abraham reports what we all figured would be the case: Joba Chamberlain will start the season in the bullpen, and there will be no “rules” constraining his use beyond, in the words of Joe Girardi, “common sense.” The idea, presumably, is to keep his innings under control for the first half of the season, and shift him to the rotation thereafer. Of course, Phil Hughes was supposed to spend the first half of last season in the minors. So, best layed plans….

32 comments… add one
  • Much as it annoys me, this is probably the right move – given how low Joba’s workloads have been, it makes sense to keep him in the bullpen for at least a while, and it’ll provide a very stabilizing force setting up Rivera.
    If the Yanks start suffering a lot of rotation injuries again, though, I bet they turn him into a starter.

    Micah-SF March 19, 2008, 4:23 pm
  • No rules for Joe “send every young Marlin pitcher to the DL” Girardi? Be still my beating heart!

    Paul SF March 19, 2008, 4:26 pm
  • Hey, at least he’s not Dusty Baker. ;)

    Micah-SF March 19, 2008, 4:29 pm
  • By my calculations, we get this:
    Rotation: Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Moose, Kennedy
    Swing: Karstens
    Loogy: Traber
    Pen: Mo, Joba, Farns, Hawkins, Ohlendorf/Bruney/?
    Should be an interesting year!

    YF March 19, 2008, 4:29 pm
  • No baiting, Paul!
    If anything, putting Joba in the pen indicates a clear understanding about the danger of workloads!

    YF March 19, 2008, 4:32 pm
  • nice paul…looks like the sox have their own version of ‘a yf’…sorry yf, i had to do it, and now i’ll drop it…just proves the point i made on the other thread…

    dc March 19, 2008, 4:39 pm
  • The difference would be if I kept harping on that facetious point and insisted against all evidence that Joba’s arm will fall off by the All-Star break under Girardi’s management. Any way, I probably shouldn’t have gone there. Sorry!
    As a Red Sox fan, I do enjoy that Chamberlain won’t be pitching as many innings early in the season. Not so much the prospect of him starting during a pennant race though.

    Paul SF March 19, 2008, 4:45 pm
  • well, to be completely truthful, i am worried about joe g’s reputation for pushing young pitchers, and this is the youngest staff the yanks have had in awhile, with the obvious exceptions…but i’m no more worried than i would be with “the other joe”, who also developed the reputation for falling into a pattern and over-using certain pitchers

    dc March 19, 2008, 4:52 pm
  • Yeah, has anyone started a “Scott Proctor’s Bionic Arm” fund? He’s going to need one with Torre going to the Dodgers.
    Honestly, I guess we’ll see about Girardi – I didn’t pay too much attention to what he did with the staff in Florida – but I think he’s got a chance to be better about pitcher management than Torre was, which doesn’t make me too happy as a Sox fan.

    Micah-SF March 19, 2008, 4:57 pm
  • I, for one, am happy to hear this. I am of the opinion that Joba belongs in the pen. We’ve heard many a scout/front office type talk about his potential as a starter. I think it’s very simple…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With Joba and Mo, the Yankees have a very effective closing situation. Let Hughes and IPK work there way into the Yankee rotation for the next 10 years while Joba becomes the new closer in a few when Mo retires. (unless of course we sign Nathan and Papelbon!!!)

    krueg March 19, 2008, 5:09 pm
  • I think Joe said that WHILE there are no rules for Joba, he would follow common sense regarding his use, unlike a certain other Joe we know, who is currently labouring under the extremely tough decision of whether or not to use Andrew Ethier, a young promising hitter with outstanding spring numbers, in left field over Juan Pierre, of the career 87 OPS+.

    AndrewYF March 19, 2008, 5:11 pm
  • kreug – not to get into it now, but your analysis is wrong regarding Joba. He was one of the top STARTING prospects in the game even before he was converted to the bullpen for the short term. He has yet to fail as a starter, and should be given ample time in that role before limiting his value in the bullpen. 200 innings of above-average pitching > 80 innings of above-average pitching, as Nomaas aptly puts it.

    AndrewYF March 19, 2008, 5:13 pm
  • I’m going to say here that the torre-abuses-bullpen arms is a bit tired. Yeah, he had a doghouse, but the system, such as it was, wasn’t as poor as it is often described. If the argument is that he wore out Scott Proctor, the rejoinder is, who cares, except Scott Proctor and his agent? Middle relief isn’t expensive and it’s not easy to model, so if you’ve got a hot/trustworthy hand, there’s a good argument for using it as often as possible. But of course you can go to far……anyway….

    YF March 19, 2008, 5:13 pm
  • Andrew: with all due respect, that is the other side of the coin. I wouldn’t say my analysis is wrong, the kid was money out of the pen. He hasn’t done anything starting in the majors yet. Maybe being in the pen will keep his innings down and limit his injuries as he has been prone in the past. As long as he is successful, I don’t care either way.

    krueg March 19, 2008, 5:28 pm
  • True, Joba has yet to fail as a starter, but remember he has only one season in pro ball as a starter, and no experience doing that in the Majors.
    I’m inclined to agree that with Rivera aging, having Chamberlain be the closer could be the best move for the Yanks. This is much like the Papelbon debates from last offseason. He COULD be an ace starter (he was projected that way before he made the decision to return to the pen), but we KNOW he’s an ace closer. And a shutdown closer like Papelbon or Rivera are immensely valuable, moreso than the unknown quality of a potential ace starter.

    Paul SF March 19, 2008, 5:32 pm
  • kreug – okay, so he’s successful out of the pen. How much do you want to bet that Beckett, Peavy, Bedard would be just as dominant?
    John Smoltz, in fact, is an EXCELLENT example. He was an ace starter for years. Then, he went into the bullpen and was even more dominant. But then he went back to starting and is inarguably more valuable as an ace starter.
    If they had just limited Smoltz to the bullpen for some reason for his career, he would not have been nearly as valuable. Putting Joba in the bullpen for the entire year, thereby limiting him to 80 or so innings, kills his development as a pitcher. He will reach about 140, 150 innings this year, and the only way to do that is as a starter for a signifiant amount of time. Guaranteed – he will not be pitching in the bullpen the entire year. You’ll thank me later. Mike Francesca will state that he knew all along.

    AndrewYF March 19, 2008, 5:36 pm
  • Unfortunately for your point Paul, there were many other factors that limited Papelbon to the pen. One was that in Spring Training of 2007, he was completely losing his velocity in (or after, can’t remember) the fourth inning. It seems the shoulder troubles and lack of starting pitching he did in 2006 doomed his starting career. So clearly, making Papelbon the closer in 2007 was the right move, but only because he would likely have a large amount of trouble as a starter.
    Other than their obvious immense talent, their situations are very different.

    AndrewYF March 19, 2008, 5:38 pm
  • Andrew: you could be right and he would be more valuable in the long run IF he panned out as a starter in the same way he did as a reliever. No one knows that answer and the Yankees will have to make that call at some point. No doubt they want him to be a starter, I would too, but as long as he remains lights out in the pen, I think that’s where he should stay. If something happens, and he has to start and blows up, then by all means let him. I do equate it to Papelbon…he may be a hell of a starter but it takes a certain mentality to close out a game and Joba certainly has that going for him. Who has been the most important pitcher on the Yankees the last 12+ years…a starter or a certain closer???

    krueg March 19, 2008, 5:44 pm
  • I meant the discussion over whether it’s more valuable to have an ace closing or starting. My position at the time was (and still is) that, all things being equal, the starter is more valuable, but I think if you already have the starting depth, the shutdown closer could be more valuable than is often considered.
    The Yankees don’t have the starting depth that the Sox did at the time, so that definitely changes the complexion, but I wonder what going eight or nine months without throwing more than 1 inning will do for Chamberlain’s own velocity, particularly if he’s asked to jump straight into starting.
    This is also kind of like the Santana discussions — if you know you’re getting X value, but you have the potential to get X+Y value by doing something else, do you pull the trigger? Potential is still just potential, after all.

    Paul SF March 19, 2008, 5:45 pm
  • Paps also only had two pitches at the time, I never really thought making him a starter was a great idea after 2006.
    However, aren’t there similar concerns about Joba? I thought I read that some place, could be wrong.

    LocklandSF March 19, 2008, 5:47 pm
  • Speaking of Santana, wasn’t he broken in via the bullpen. I see this decision as similar to the one the Twins made with Santana at the beginning of his career. They need to limit innings for a number of their starters. This is a sensible way to do this while getting value out of Joba. The risk is that pitching out of the bullpen changes Joba’s approach enough to hurt him when he tries starting. Long term, he should be a starter.

    Nick-YF March 19, 2008, 5:48 pm
  • Lock: I’ve read Joba has four pitches, three at least…we’ll see I guess. We saw the curve a little at the end of the last year.
    Paul: well said…I agree 100%. Why mess with success???

    krueg March 19, 2008, 5:51 pm
  • i dunno guys…we’ve had this same debate about mo too…as i recall [sorry, too lazy to dig up the stats], he was fairly undistinguished as a starter, but when he went to the bullpen, well…if the expectation is that joba could be an ace or a #2, i’d perhaps feel differently than if he were projected as a #4 or #5…i have to admit that i don’t fully understand the number of innings argument…i think i’d rather have 80 effective innings in 50 or so games to possibly save those games, or hand off a potential win to mo, than have 180 effective innings in 25 games…in one scenario the pitcher impacts 50 games, in the other, only 25…to use pap as an example too, i realize that the sox turned to him partly out of necessity, but had he not been such a rousing success in his first season as a closer, they might have turned in another direction and put him in the rotation to get those extra innings out of him…but, maybe i’m not looking at it right…

    dc March 19, 2008, 5:51 pm
  • Also, I don’t want to seem baiting or whatever, but I don’t think Papelbon was quite the starting pitching prospect (I’d ital the word starter if I knew how!) that Joba, or Clay Bucholz, is. Was he on everyone’s Top 5 propect lists?

    Nick-YF March 19, 2008, 5:51 pm
  • I think Paul and Krueg are way off base here. The value (on the field, monetary, in ease of replacement) of an ace starter or even a very good starter for exceeds the value of a closer. Joba’s only had a small sample in the pen, where numbers are exaggerated down anyway. The Yanks need to give him the opportunity, closely managed, to start. The Papelbon comp is a non-starter.

    YF March 19, 2008, 6:02 pm
  • The value (on the field, monetary, in ease of replacement) of an ace starter or even a very good starter for exceeds the value of a closer.
    That’s certainly not what I’m arguing. My argument is whether you replace certainty (as certain as you can get, given the sample size, anyway) with potential.
    Having said that, I will take slight issue with YF’s point in the starter vs. closer value debate. I think in general what he said is true, but do the Yankees win their championships with another closer on the mound? Do the Red Sox without Foulke or Papelbon?
    I think the value of a lights-out closer (of which there may only be 10 in all of baseball) comes closer to rivaling that of an ace starter — perhaps enough to tip the balance in a case where you’re dealing with the certainty of one but only the potential of the other.
    Papelbon was only the 37th ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2006, so I agree he was not the perceived talent Chamberlain is now. Papelbon did start to exhibit some disconcerting issues once he began starting in spring training, so I agree the comps do not line up. But we don’t know how Chamberlain will react adjusting back to starting after 10 months or so of relieving — and that’s where the balance the Yanks will have to consider comes in.
    I’m not saying definitively one way or the other; how would I know? I’m just saying, keeping Joba in the pen as Rivera ages out could be the best move for the Yanks. It’s worth some more thought than is generally given, I think.

    Paul SF March 19, 2008, 6:11 pm
  • I think that if Joba can keep his velocity and the bite on his breaking pitches late into games, you’ve got to move him back to the starting rotation eventually. An ace starter – and there’s no doubt in any of our minds that his stuff is ace-level, I think – is absolutely more valuable than an ace closer.
    I think ace closers are more important to teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees than they are to most teams, in the sense that an ace closer becomes vastly more important in the postseason, and the Sox and Yanks are a good bet to make the postseason almost every year. We’ve got a ton of examples of this on both sides – Foulke in ’04 (probably the most important pitcher in that entire postseason) and Paps in ’07 for the Sox, and of course Rivera (greatest postseason closer of all time) for the Yankees. Still, with Joba, we’re not talking a #3 starter vs. an ace closer. With (at least at the moment) a lot less physical red flags than Paps, you’ve got to try to make him a starter at some point, because not even the postseason relief ace trumps the postseason starting ace.
    Andrew’s example of John Smoltz is really the best one we’ve got – if Joba can be John Smoltz in the bullpen and John Smoltz in the rotation – you’ve got to find out if he can be the Smoltz-in-the-rotation, because that’s getting the most value out of your pitcher.
    So, really, as terrifying as Joba is in the Yanks bullpen – it would make me feel much better as a Sox fan if he stayed there long-term.

    Micah-SF March 19, 2008, 6:14 pm
  • The point is that it’s easier to pick up a closer (foulke being a good example) than an ace, and certainly cheaper. Would the Yanks have won those rings without Mo? Who knows. They won with Mo in the Chamberlain role in 1996, and Mo blew wins (convenient how we forget this) in 1997, 2001, and 2004. So, I love Mo, HOF, all that, but let’s be real.
    The argument about taking certainty over risk needs to be understood in terms of odds. If the payout weighs heavily in favor of risk, than it’s foolish to take certainty. And in this case the risk is low–he can always go back to the pen. The logic of keeping him in a closer role (when he’s not even the closer, and the Yanks have spent a great deal of money on set-up already) is, well, it’s not there.

    YF March 19, 2008, 6:21 pm
  • Few things that concern me and have concerned me with Joba’s situation:
    1. Stretching a pitcher out does not take a day. He is going to have to either become the long man, spot start or get sent down during the season to stretch him out for his eventual arrival in the rotation. It would have made much more sense to prepare him as a starter then send him to the pen.
    2. What if Joba continues to be lights out in the pen and the Yankees are 1/2 game out in late July? Who then fills Joba’s role? So now you will ask a guy who hasn’t been the set up guy all year to step in and be the set up guy during the most important time of the season?
    I am sure the Yankees have a master plan and I am sure it will most likely work out, BUT right now without knowing the details it seems sketchy.

    John - YF March 19, 2008, 6:59 pm
  • “…Mo blew wins (convenient how we forget this) in 1997, 2001, and 2004….”
    nobody forgot yf, but put that into context with the notion that the yanks probably don’t get into the position for mo to blow those wins without, well, mo…2001 was a backbreaker because it was a bloop single, probably busting the bat, that did him in…i agree with you that it might not be as tough to find a good closer, but there aren’t many mo’s or pap’s out there…if joba demonstrates that he can perform at their level, i’d have a hard time taking him out of the bullpen…unless we have another disaster with injuries to the starting staff…

    dc March 19, 2008, 7:14 pm
  • I wonder what going eight or nine months without throwing more than 1 inning will do for Chamberlain’s own velocity, particularly if he’s asked to jump straight into starting.
    But he won’t go 8 or 9 months without throwing more than one inning (or really, what you were getting at, throwing strictly in a relief role). He’s pitched multiple innings at a time in a starting role in ST already (I believe he threw 65 pitches his last time out), working diligently on his secondary (non-slider) off-speed pitches. The only way he goes eight or nine months as strictly a reliever is if the Yankees keep him in the bullpen for the duration of the season, which is precisely why I don’t think they will.
    The only way I see the Yankees keeping Joba as a reliever is if all their starters are completely healthy and performing. Can’t really see that happening. But even if it does, well, that’s great, and I doubt the Yankees will be in enough of a hole to worry about who will be their setup man.

    AndrewYF March 19, 2008, 9:46 pm
  • Joba today against the Jays in RELIEF…one inning, 3 strikeouts.

    krueg March 20, 2008, 4:22 pm

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