Joba's Innings Limit Cost Yankees Victory But Marlins Beat Mets With CG

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Joba's Innings Limit Cost Yankees Victory But Marlins Beat Mets With CG
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Much has been written about Joba Chamberlain and the starter vs. reliever discussion. Despite some writers on this site continuing to bring it up, that discussion has been over for quite some time as Joba has been a starter for most of his life and will be a starter for his pro career.

Any time you can get a pitcher who has two dominating pitches with his fastball and slider plus a pretty good curve ball and improving change up, he needs to be a starting pitcher.

While I agree with Brian Cashman in Joba’s ability and qualities to be a starter, I DO NOT AGREE with this innings limitation bull&#@*. Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci has single handedly pressured baseball’s general managers into limiting their teams young arms to increasing their innings from one season to the next to no more than 30 per year, as per his Year After Affect formula.

Verducci has reported that young pitchers who throw more than 30 innings over their previous pro season are more at risk for injury and reduced production in the year following. It appears Cashman fully subscribes to this theory as he has set strict innings limitations on Joba (and all the other key Yankee young pitchers) for two years running.

But, does every pitcher improve year after year? If they all did that, then most 10 year veterans should be 25 to 30 game winners!

Supposedly Joba has a set innings limit of 140 to 150 in 2009, which, if he remains healthy, translates to a 30 start season of 5 innings per start. Somewhere along the line Joba will be skipped in several of his starts and he will likely never go over 7 innings in any start.

And that is a huge mistake. Besides the fact that many pitchers in their careers have had a huge increased workload from one year to another and have gone on to have long careers (many without arm troubles!)—Tom Seaver, Bert Blyleven (that future HOFer!), Roger Clemens, Jim Palmer, Dennis Martinez, Greg Maddux and even Joba’s fellow teammate CC Sabathia. Sabathia increased his workload from 1999 to 2000 by 78 innings and looks like he has fared pretty well since then.

In fact, Blyleven AVERAGED 291 innings from the ages 20 through 25 with an incredible 325 innings pitched in 1973 at age 22! It was his only 20 win season.

Also, Maddux threw 100 more innings from age 18 to age 19 as a pro and threw 223 pro innings at the age of 20. In 1988, while a member of the Chicago Cubs, Maddux threw 167 pitches in a 10 2/3 innings stint againt the Cardinals, and proceeded to make his next 670+ starts.

By pulling Joba out of today’s game after 6 innings and only 88 pitches, Joe Girardi (more specifically Brian Cashman) cost the Yankees a game. Even if the ridiculous innings limits are in effect, Joba needed to come out and pitch that 7th inning. He only threw nine pitches the inning before including a strikeout of John Buck, who had hit a big, game tying home run earlier off Chamberlain.

Many baseball people are big on bullpens, saying that a lock down bullpen and big relievers are the keys to winning games. They will point out that blown leads by the bullpen cost the New York Mets a division title last year.

I counter that starters not going long enough last season, especially early in the season under manger Willie Randolph cost the Met that division title. Starters are your best pitchers, and should log the most innings, especially in games where they are dominating.

And the key to a good manager is knowing when the starter needs to be pulled. Chamberlain did not need to be pulled in today’s game. He was never laboring and dominated an inferior Royals lineup, even though his trademark slider was flat and very hittable.

Baseball bullpen pitchers are a fickle bunch. You never know how they will be from game to game, appearance to appearance but especially the game you are currently playing. But, a manager KNOWS how his starter is during that particular game, and Chamberlain was throwing great in this game.

Then if Girardi wanted to pull Joba after 7 innings, then Bruney gets his 8th inning and Mariano gets his 9th—although if Joba cruised through the 7th, I wouldn’t take him out a that point either.

No need here to mix and match with Damaso Marte, Jose Veras and Phil Coke. Interestingly, Coke is currently a reliever because of innings limits, going over his limit as a starter last season at Double A Trenton before switching to the pen and now a full time reliever.

There was no reason for any of those “8th inning guys” to be in the game. It should have been Joba’s game.

Many teams now are reluctant to throw their young pitchers for too many pitches or too many innings, fearing an injury and backlash from the fans, media and especially Tom Verducci. It appears that organizations are more worried about a potential injury (and waiting for next year) then they are about winning game today and this season.

Are the General Managers, fans and agents looking for guys who are going to have a 15 year career with 30+ starts a season? Of the tens of thousands of major league pitchers who have thrown a pitch (except for Larry Yount), only 76 pitchers have logged more than 450 starts, which equates to a 15 year/30+ start guy! The last pitcher to achieve this was Kenny Rogers.

That is why is was refreshing for Mets manager Jerry Manuel to worry not about the future during last season’s divisional chase, but the present when he allowed young Mike Pelfrey to log a large number of innings down the stretch.

All Manuel was doing was trying to win a title! Heaven forbid! Even veteran Johan Santana got into the ace frame of mind when he began to go 8 and 9 innings per start late last year.

Kudos to both Met pitchers and their manager!

Who would you rather have on your staff, a Kenny Rogers for 15 years or a Sandy Koufax who had a brief career, but was dominating for a 6 year stretch?

Pelfrey is on Verducci’s short list of potential injury risks due to his 48 inning increase in 2008 from the year before. But, as I said many times, injury risks are more the result of bad pitching mechanics than innings increases. Pelfrey has really good mechanics, similar to those of Derek Lowe of the Atlanta Braves.

So, a big cheer goes out to Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who let his ace Josh Johnson go 113 pitches in his 2-1 COMPLETE GAME victory over the New York Mets and Johan Santana today.

Johnson, only 25 years of age and 16 starts removed from Tommy John surgery, was allowed to throw his 7th, 8th and 9th innings rather than go to the Marlins bullpen. His injury (under the watchful eye of then manager Joe Girardi) had nothing to do with the Year After Affect as his professional innings were increased accordingly from year to year.

If Yankee manager Brian Cashman was more interested in winning games than worrying about injuries and such, Chamberlain would have followed Johnson’s lead and kept the Yankees in the win column today, too.

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