|Point/Counterpoint: Joba Chamberlain||| Print |||Send|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on June 06, 2008
Leave Joba in the ’pen
Circumstances would have been better for the New York Yankees to move Joba Chamberlain into the rotation a few years ago. But that doesn’t hold today. Why not? Because they had ace relief pitchers like Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson setting up closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera. He wouldn’t have been needed to pitch high leverage situations.
Now the situation is entirely different. Outside of Rivera, the Yankees’ best relief pitchers are Kyle Farnsworth, who has earned the nickname “Farnsworthless” from Yankee fans, and Edwar Ramirez, who has a total of 37 major league innings. If used correctly in high-leverage situations, Chamberlain could pitch in the seventh and eighth innings, which allows Rivera to slide into a ninth-only role. Chamberlain could accrue enough innings in these high leverage to make himself valuable.
Another reason to keep Chamberlain in the bullpen is the Yankees’ minor leaguers. They have a few assorted relief pitchers coming up, but I don’t know if J. Brent Cox has the talent required to be a top-shelf reliever that Chamberlain seems to be turning himself into. The Yankees, on the other hand, have a ton of quality starting prospects: Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman.
And this may sound strange, but leaving Chamberlain in the bullpen may be good for the psyche of the players. When Rivera retires, the Yankees are going to need an unhittable guy to step in to close. It’s going to take a great pitcher to make Yankee players comfortable turning leads over in the ninth. The Yankees also need something to counteract Jonathan Papelbon, a fire-throwing maniac who goes crazy on the mound. Joba’s their man. Let him stay in the bullpen.
Why Not Let Joba Start?
More importantly he’s a patch on a rotation that is essentially in shambles. There is a reason that the Yankees are near the bottom of the AL East and that’s because they can’t pitch (ranking 10th of the 14 AL teams) and they haven’t been hitting. Right now the rotation is being propped up by some aging arms, mainly Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, neither of whom can be counted on as long term solutions to the Yankees’ pitching needs.
In fact the only veteran starter on the Yankees with an ERA less than 7 that is younger than 35 is Chien Ming Wang whose 4.57 ERA is hardly inspiring. That means that the Yankees need to find young pitching - and they’ve certainly tried hard by bringing up Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Darrell Rasner to take some starts. So far only Rasner has looked like a major league pitcher and the Yankees clearly need more starters, even if they intend to break the bank on buying a free agent staff in the offseason.
Thus they need to determine if Joba is really a top flight starter, a middling one, or best left in the pen. There is no better way to accomplish that other than trying him out in the role and that’s what the Yankees are doing. If he flops you can send him back to the pen, and if he succeeds then picking up a new closer, or developing one, for when Mariano is done in a year or two makes sense.
Joba fills a need now and as long as Mariano Rivera can still handle the ninth inning duties there is no point in making him wait for a chance to shine.