• Olney: Joba Could Start ’08 In The Pen

    Posted by on December 21st, 2007 · Comments (8)

    Via Buster Olney with a hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org and River Ave. Blues

    If all goes well in spring training for the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain is likely to start next season in the Yankees’ bullpen, as part of the team’s effort to limit his innings. Chamberlain will go to spring training and, at the outset, prepare to pitch out of the rotation, along with five other rotation candidates: Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mike Mussina and Ian Kennedy. Assuming that none of the other five has a physical or performance breakdown, Chamberlain would then open 2008 in the bullpen, as a set-up man, for at least the start of the season — under the Joba Rules.

    The Yankees want to restrict the number of innings Chamberlain throws, and working him out of the bullpen for at least a couple of months will allow them to do that. Chamberlain may return to the rotation sometime in the middle of the season, depending on the Yankees’ needs.

    Remember Tom “Flash” Gordon? He came up as a starter in the minors. In 1986, in the Rookie League, he made 7 starts after he was drafted and signed. Then, in 1987, he made 16 starts in A-ball. Gordon’s 1988 season was somewhat like Joba’s season this year. Then, Gordon started out in A-ball, then went to Double-A, and then the big leagues…making 28 starts overall…at the young age of twenty.

    However, in 1989, the Royals started Gordon out that season in their bullpen.

    Pitching from the pen, as a 21-year old, Gordon was a monster. He started the 1989 season going 10-2 in his first 33 games and the league was only batting .175 against him. Then, on July 17, 1989, the Royals moved him back into the starting rotation – and he remained a starter through the 1990 season.

    After 1990, Gordon’s role went back and forth. He pitched out of the pen and started for the Royals in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Finally, in 1994, the Royals put him back, full-time, in the rotation. And, Flash remained a starter until Boston converted him back to the pen near the end of the 1997 season.

    In retrospect, to date, Gordon has been a better pitcher out of the pen than as a starter in his career. Tom has faced 5,543 batters as a starter and allowed an OPS of .725 – whereas, out of the pen, he’s faced 3,366 batters and allowed an OPS of .609.

    What does this all have to do with Chamberlain? Other than showing Joba would not be the first hot pitching prospect to come up as a starter and then get jerked around a bit, between the rotation and the pen, not much, really. I just hope the Yankees don’t bounce Joba around as much as the Royals did Gordon. And, to be honest, if Chamberlain does start out well in the pen, I expect the Yankees to leave him there – as long as the rotation is not in flames.

    It would not shock me to see Chamberlain set-up Rivera in 2008 and then start to work into closing some games in 2009 – and then becoming the main closer in 2010.

    Comments on Olney: Joba Could Start ’08 In The Pen

    1. NJ_Rob
      December 22nd, 2007 | 12:25 am

      You know, in a weird way, I kind of prefer Joba in the bullpen considering how our relief in the past years have been under Torre. Rivera came up as a starter and look what happened. Let’s see what happens. Here’s praying that Moose won’t have any bad stretches like last year.

    2. December 22nd, 2007 | 12:34 am

      if this is true, it’s a big mistake. with Mo coming back, they dont HAVE to do this. Joba is a talent you dont waste in the pen. he has 4 quality pitches – he can hit 96 after 6 innings.

      and worst comes to worst, he can always FALL BACK to the pen. but once he’s a fulltime reliever, it’s much harder to go back to starting. why do failed starters become relievers? because it’s easier.

    3. Rich
      December 22nd, 2007 | 2:50 am

      Newsday’s Kat O’Brien seems to cast some doubt on Olney’s report:


      “…One thing — I’ve talked to several people in the Yankees organization today, and everyone expects Joba Chamberlain to be a starter. So don’t worry about a change in plans. He should be in the rotation.”

    4. MJ
      December 22nd, 2007 | 8:38 am

      A key question for me is the issue of workload. Do we want to overtax Joba in his second full season as a pro? If he has a cap on his innings (roughly 150 IP) then he’d be out of starts shortly after the All-Star Break. Then what? We shut him down?

      The idea would be to use him the way the Twins used Johan Santana from 2000-2003, giving him some spot starts, a few weekly outings of 3-5 innings, and a few outings of only 1 inning. Break him in slowly, diversify his role in a gradual way, and then unleash him on the big leagues in 2009 when he can get up to 180 IP.

      That’s the ideal. Unfortunately most teams fortunate enough to have a talent like him would either overtax him (Mark Prior) or become too addicted to the conventionality of turning him into a setup man/closer that only gets one inning of work in the 8th or 9th inning.

      Having said that, here’s a more general question: if both Hughes and Chamberlain have innings limitations in 2008, where will the Yankees make up those innings from? We already know that Mussina’s a piece of crap who doesn’t provide length. Kennedy’s arm strength is the most advanced of the three kids. Wang/Pettitte I’m not worried about. But the Yanks need to figure out how to get an extra 100IP from their two kids that can’t top 150 IP this year.

    5. baileywalk
      December 22nd, 2007 | 1:47 pm

      Kennedy’s high in IP, which was this year, was about 160+. Hughes got to 150+ in 2006. Joba’s high was just 118+ in 2005.

      I don’t think we need to worry about Hughes or Kennedy exceeding their limits. Joba is an issue, though. And what will be the limit, anyway? Will they want to cap him at 150 IP?

      I don’t really like the idea of starting him out of the bullpen and then asking him to start later in the year, though they did do that with Chad Billingsly this year in L.A. and it worked out fine.

      I completely disagree that Joba will end up in the bullpen. I don’t expect him to fail as a starter, and that’s the only way he ends up there — because you don’t waste an ace-type pitcher in the ‘pen.

      “We already know that Mussina’s a piece of crap who doesn’t provide length.”

      Damn, MJ, sometimes you are cruel. What Mussina is is a once-great pitcher who is now nearing 40. People get old. It doesn’t make him a piece of crap. And his current shortcomings are certainly not of his own choosing. He also saved this team’s ass in 2006 when Randy Johnson wasn’t getting it done. He had a bad year, but Steve’s post the other day pointed out that he went six or more innings 14 times in 2007, which I found surprising.

      What makes much more sense for the Yankees is to more or less keep six starters, with Chamberlain being skipped every once in a while and using Mussina (and vice versa). They should use Mussina as a sort of fill-in for when they want to skip Hughes or Chamberlain.

      Girardi is coming here as a thinking man, and he’s going to have to figure that out.

    6. MJ
      December 22nd, 2007 | 6:31 pm

      Damn, MJ, sometimes you are cruel.
      I believe most fans live in the moment. If we’re talking about Moose’s career, I’ll be happy to say that he’s a borderline Hall of Famer. He had a number of good years in Baltimore on some lousy teams and he had a number of good years down there when they were competitive. From 2001-2003, he was a bonafide #1 for the Yanks. And I agree that he did a great job in 2006 when the Yanks really needed him.

      But that’s the macro view of his career. The micro view is that, right now, Moose is a below-average starter. Yes, he pitched into the 6th in 14 of 27 starts. But we both watched him pitch last year (and in 2004, 2005, and the second half of 2006). Do you really think he’s good? I’m not saying it to be mean. But Moose isn’t bringing much to the table anymore. 2008 will hopefully be his last year in New York and the Yanks will only have to fill his spot in the rotation, but it won’t be hard to replace his innings.

    7. December 22nd, 2007 | 10:30 pm

      i think they will (and should) go with a 5.5 man rotation, like Bailey said, replacing Hughes and Joba when needed with Moose. but to keep all 3 sharp they might want to have them available out of the pen on their ‘throw days’ for an inning. that could work great: Joba makes 20 starts x 6 = 120 ip, that leaves him with 30 more ip available which could be stretched over 15 2 inning pen stints between starts, which could be 10+ days apart.

      So, first time through:

      2nd time:
      Moose (with Joba making an appearance)

      3rd time:
      Moose (with Hughes making an appearance)

      4th time:

      5th time:

      etc, etc, etc.

      And Moose wasn’t THAT poor in 07 – outside of those 3 horrendous starts in August, his ERA was under 4.50.

    8. Don
      December 23rd, 2007 | 3:13 am

      Over on RLYW, months ago, I had suggested that Joba pitch April and May from the pen, to keep his innings under control.

      In the end however, I believe making Joba a full time reliever is a mistake. April, May, maybe into June 2008, then into the rotation, sort of what the Twins did with Johan Santana.

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