• The Joba Debate – Chapter 2009

    Posted by on January 3rd, 2009 · Comments (16)

    Justin Sablich, over at The Times, yesterday took a stab at “Reviving the Joba Debate.” His conclusion:

    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.

    Back on May 23, 2008 I took a look at this question and offered the following:

    As you can see, in the A.L., recently, a stellar set-up man on a winning team is usually good for 12-15 Win Shares. And, at the same time, in the A.L., an above-average (but not awesome) starting pitcher on a winning team is usually good for 15-18 Win Shares.

    Based on this, I would offer that the claim of “A stud in the pen setting up your closer is more valuable than a solid starting pitcher” doesn’t hold much water. Actually, it’s a push.

    So, it’s safe to project that an “ace” in the rotation, on a winning team, is worth around 19 to 25 Win Shares in a season. And, that’s better than the 12 to 15 that you get from a stellar set-up man (also on a winning team).

    Based on all this, it does suggest that the best place for the Yankees to use a talent like Joba Chamberlain is in the starting rotation. At the worst, it’s six of one, haf-dozen of the other. At the best, it’s a better position for Joba to add more value.

    Of course, my position on this swings on the assumption that Chamberlain can give you 200+ innings as a starter. And…well…if attempting that is going to cause Joba to breakdown during the season, then you have to wonder if it makes more sense to use him out of the pen, save his shoulder, and have him for the full year in that roll.

    Chamberlain does have a recent history of getting hurt: A tricep strain/tendinitis in 2006. A hamstring strain in 2007. And, the shoulder issue last season. Is it crazy to assume that a pitcher with a history of injury is more likely to go down again (compared to a pitcher with a great health history)? Maybe not…

    I just hope the Yankees know what they’re doing here…if not, it could get ugly.

    Comments on The Joba Debate – Chapter 2009

    1. thenewguy
      January 3rd, 2009 | 12:31 pm

      It’s amazing to me how proponents of “Joba in the pen” refuse to look at any statistical analysis and simply say “HE SHORTENS THE GAME BY AN INNING!” To begin, you want someone as good as Joba to pitch as many innings as he can; something only possible if he starts. Why would you want to only pitch Joba 75 innings a year if he could pitch at least 160, with the hope of eventually working up to 200+ innings a year.

      If he put Joba, Burnett, CC, and Hughes in the bullpen, we could probably shorten every game to 4 innings. We could have Wang pitch 3 times a week!

      This Joba to the pen stuff is quite frankly getting ridiculous. Every statistical analysis shows that (assuming he can be almost as good a starter as reliever), there that is very little value in an 8th inning guy. Someone like Bruney can do the job more than well enough. Hell, Bruney or Veras or someone else in the Pen could probably do a good job of closing as well.

      What do you think would more negatively affect the Yankees opportunity to win this year: Bruney taking Joba’s place in the bullpen or Phil Hughes taking Joba’s 25 starts?

      I’m going to make up some random numbers here, but how many times do you think Bruney would do considerably worse than Joba? I mean, even Farnsy had a lot of 1-2-3 innings last year. Bruney might lose 4 or 5 games (at the very most) that Joba would have helped win. Now put Phil Hughes in Joba’s place in the rotation. How many wins would Phil Hughes cost the Yanks vis-a-vis Joba as a starter? 8? 9?

      As a starter, Joba gives the Yanks a chance to win everytime he goes out there. It’s as simple as that. 25 chances to win every year from him. He simply can’t do that in the bullpen. The 8th inning is not some baseball wide bugaboo. It’s not that hard to pitch the 8th inning, even at a high level. It is, however, hard to be an elite starter.

    2. thenewguy
      January 3rd, 2009 | 12:33 pm

      It’s as simple as that. 25 chances to win every year from him.
      —————–

      I meant 25 next year (or whatever his innings limit would hold him to,) with the hope of gaining stamina.

    3. clintfsu813
      January 3rd, 2009 | 4:07 pm

      Im totally pro rotation for Joba..IF he can stay healthy. If he cant..gotta put him in 8th and eventually succeed MO

    4. DJ21996
      January 3rd, 2009 | 5:07 pm

      I dont get what is so difficult for people to understand.

      He will get a chance to prove that he can be a starter, just like Mariano did.
      If he fails, like Mariano, then he will go back to the pen.

      Is that rocket science?

    5. Evan3457
      January 3rd, 2009 | 5:15 pm

      I also like the way people assume that using Joba 60-65 times a year for 1-2 innings an appearance will be better for his arm than using him for 25-35 times a year for 6-7 innings at a time; as if relievers don’t tear up their elbows or shoulders, ever.

      And if he does blow out his shoulder as a starter, who’s to say it wouldn’t have happened sooner as a reliever, say, the first time he has to pitch 5 times in one week?

    6. Raf
      January 3rd, 2009 | 5:33 pm

      Burnett, Smoltz, Pavano have extensive injury histories. They started more often than not.

    7. mmbaseballfan
      January 3rd, 2009 | 6:59 pm

      Joba is just not ready to be a starter at the big league level. If he was then they would have never put him in a reliever role from the beginning. When he came up two years ago was the staff so good they could not find him a place to start…..hardly. They wanted him to build innings and move up to the starter role…well with injuries he has not had a chance to do that so he is still a reliever. The other part of this argument is Mo who is 39, coming off surgury and is a ? for the season…If Mo does not perform it would be nice not to waste the starts with losses from the pen.

    8. Evan3457
      January 3rd, 2009 | 7:43 pm

      That’s rubbish.

      He was already successfull as a major league starter last year.

      The two reasons he was brought up as a reliever last year:

      1) The Yanks were limiting his innings for the season. He only had about 25 innings left, and they would’ve shut him down after about 5 more starts in the minors, if they hadn’t moved him to the pen in the majors.

      2) The Yanks had a big hole in 8th inning set-up relief.

      A shutdown starter is the trump card of postseason play, and Joba has that potential. Much more valuable than an 8th inning set-up guy. The only question on Joba is can his arm stand up to 34 starts, 200-210 innings. He won’t get there this year, but with luck, he’ll get there by 2010.

    9. mmbaseballfan
      January 3rd, 2009 | 10:52 pm

      Evan3457 writes:

      The only question on Joba is can his arm stand up to 34 starts, 200-210 innings. He won’t get there this year, but with luck, he’ll get there by 2010

      All the more reason we should use him in the pen this year and not rely on luck. Next year we may lose Wang and will absolutly need him and this yr we still don’t know about MO……He could be great as a starter but Kerry Wood, Mark Prior were can’t miss starters who didn’t make it due to injuries…….I would rather fall on the side of caution, have the best pen in baseball with the knowledge I can always bring him in during the season.

    10. Evan3457
      January 4th, 2009 | 2:15 am

      You can’t move Joba into the rotation full-time from the bullpen, and increase his workload by 100+ innings in one season.

      The Yanks have it right; 150 or so innings this season as the #5 starter, and then up to 200 innings in 2010.

    11. thenewguy
      January 4th, 2009 | 3:46 am

      All the more reason we should use him in the pen this year and not rely on luck. Next year we may lose Wang and will absolutly need him and this yr we still don’t know about MO……He could be great as a starter but Kerry Wood, Mark Prior were can’t miss starters who didn’t make it due to injuries…….I would rather fall on the side of caution, have the best pen in baseball with the knowledge I can always bring him in during the season.
      —————————————-

      You can’t just put Joba in the pen and say “oh well, we can stretch him out anytime we want to.” If anything, I would expect his arm to get hurt most by continually switching between starter and reliever. Also, if we want Joba to develop best as a starting pitcher (which should be the ultimate goal if he can be a shutdown starter) it is important for him to get practice AS A STARTER. Pitching innings from the bullpen is different than pitching as a starter. He uses fewer pitches and doesn’t have to learn how to adjust to seeing the same batters 2 or 3 times. He needs to eventually become a starter and should practice as such.

      mmbaseballfan: How can you justify putting Joba in the pen because “we still don’t know about mo” (who has pitched at least 63 innings every year since 2003) and because 2 absolutely random pitchers who have nothing to do with Joba, other than being young and throwing a baseball, got hurt. That makes no sense whatsoever.

      “Joba-in-the-pen” crowd generally ignores most rational arguments for putting him in the rotation, but if nothing else people should be able to understand that PITCHING MORE INNINGS CONTRIBUTES MORE TO THE BASEBALL TEAM. It has been statistically proven by many people that pitching the 8th inning is no harder than pitching the 3rd, or 1st, or 7th, or even 9th. For some reason, people just think that pitching the 8th inning is really, really hard. It’s not hard. It’s just hard to find someone there because generally any *good* pitcher is made a starter.

    12. Raf
      January 4th, 2009 | 10:25 am

      Joba is just not ready to be a starter at the big league level. If he was then they would have never put him in a reliever role from the beginning.
      ————–
      Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez and Earl Weaver, among others, would disagree with you.

    13. mmbaseballfan
      January 4th, 2009 | 3:37 pm

      Agreed more innings means more contribution for a team…….but that is not a baseball insider view it is a common man view who doesn’t know anything about baseball. That is like saying more money in your pocket is better than just a little. What you do as a baseball person is look at a team and ask yourself…..where do we need the most help and how can we win more games….1. we just spent tons of money on the starting rotation and we need to protect that investment. 2. We are not sure how Mo will respond and we need to make sure that closing a game is just as important as starting one. It is funny how everybody likes to comment on Santana but the reality is he was added to the Mets last yr and he pitched well….the problem was they missed the playoffs because the bullpen could not close games…..I don’t care what Joba can do for us in 2010, 2011 and so on….I want make sure we have an answer to the pen this yr because we have addressed the starting rotation and will lose the division if we have no back up in the pen or if the starters get worn out by the time September roles around……..Hey Raf….Santana, Pedro….Earl Weaver…please……….

    14. Raf
      January 4th, 2009 | 5:05 pm

      Agreed more innings means more contribution for a team…….but that is not a baseball insider view it is a common man view who doesn’t know anything about baseball.
      ———–
      Sounds like a logical commonsense view to me.

      Why are you concerned about Rivera, when Wang is coming off injury as well?

      Santana & Pedro were mentioned in the context of a pitcher being wasted in the pen.

      Besides, if it were such a big deal, why wasn’t Santana moved to the pen? Perhaps because he had more value as a starter?

    15. mmbaseballfan
      January 4th, 2009 | 5:34 pm

      Raf,

      Agreed Santana had better value as a starter.. but my point is he was an established starter and the Mets had no need for the reliever role as Wagner and others were look at as solid…. for the Yanks Joba has a much less established record as a starter and the need for the Yanks(after the signings) is they need to protect the bullpen cause Santana and the Mets were watching the playoffs just like us because nobody could close a game. i worry more about Mo cause he is 39 and Wang is younger….we won 89 games with a bunch of fill ins at pitcher last year. We can find some spot fill ins or sign somebody else but nobody is a dominating as Joba walking to mound. I am not saying he would not be a good starter but for the YANKS(because of singings) he has more value from the pen.

    16. Raf
      January 4th, 2009 | 6:43 pm

      The whole point of mentioning Pedro and Santana was to show two talented starting pitchers who started their careers in the pen. They were established relievers before they were starters. David Cone was another pitcher who started off in the pen.

      Yanks only signed 2 starters, they need 3 more to fill a rotation.

      Worry about Mo if/when he shows that he is incapable of closing.

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