In trying to keep Chamberlain's total amount of innings around 160 for the regular season, the Yankees have decided to let Joba pitch every five days. The disastrous results from his 6, 7 and 8 day layoffs haven't thrilled Yankee management (or Yankee fans), so Joba will pitch in lock step within the the rotation.
But he will be limited in the amount of innings he goes every start. He likely will no go more than five innings in any of his remaining six of seven starts.
According to Yankee manager Joe Girardi, the primary goal is to get Joba on a regular routine and not worry about his (or the team) getting a victory. "He's in the starting-pitcher mode in the sense that he's going to get the ball every fifth game," Girardi said. "As far as innings, there's going to be games that will be short. I will say that. He might not factor in a decision."
While Joba might not factor in the decision, the idea to pull out an effective Chamberlian after four or five innigs could result in a Yankee loss. If Joba is cruising in a game with the Yankees winning, say 3-1, after five innings, the Yankees would then rather take the risk of blowing a September game with their bullpen coming in for the remaining four innings.
The Yankees do have a current six game lead over the second place Boston Red Sox, and with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte throwing very well, the Yankees don't appear to be in line to blow the division lead.
But, they should also keep an eye on Los Angeles for the best overall record in the American League. Especially if they want to limit Joba's innings. With the best AL record, the Yankees get to choose what playoff schedule they want to appear. With the right schedule Joba does not even have to pitch until the ALCS, and then only one game there.
That is very appealing to the Yankees and their fans as they can ride the power arms of Sabathia and AJ Burnett, plus the playoff experience of Andy Pettitte as much as possible.
If the Yankees are worried about Joba throwing every five days and staying in "rotation" then they can simulate games while the ALDS is going on.
In today's game, Joba only went three innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs. However, he did walk any White Sox hitters, and after only 35 pitches, Joba was relieved by Alfredo Aceves. With a plethora of pitchers (Mark Melancon, Anthony Claggett, Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, Zachary Kroenke/Michael Dunn) likely being called up on Tuesday when rosters expand, the Yankees will have plenty of options to piggyback Joba's future starts.
For example: Melancon, Claggett and Kroenke have regularly pitched 2+ innings in each of their last 10 appearances, with Claggett and Kroenke starting several games.
With the way it looked today, the best bet might be to always follow Joba with Aceves, the 26 year old multi-talented Mexican import*. That will allow Aceves to lengthen his innings to fill a long reliever/extra innings role during the playoffs.
*It is funny how the Yankees do not worry about Aceves' innings, pitch counts or how they use him as he wasn't a high draft pick or considered a "prospect." Minor league starter to begin the season, multi-inning reliever, one inning reliever, major league spot starter. It didn't matter for Aceves as he is still throwing the ball when called upon.
If the idea was to limit Joba's innings this year, and the didn't ever want him in the bulpen, why not piggyback every one of Joba's starts with a multi-innings relievers such as Aceves, Melancon, David Robertson or even Brett Tomko, who was the Yankees veteran "long man" early in the season.
It was a scenario I originally brought up in May 2008 on a radio show called "The Locker Room" with Kevin Williams when the Yankees moved Joba from reliever to starter last season.
It is exactly what the Yankees do in their minor leagues to develop their young pitchers, to keep their innings in check. Even though the minors are about development and not necessarily winning (although try telling that to the kids who travel the buses and play the games), it would have been better to let Joba from the #5 spot in the rotation go 30 starts at five to six innings per to get to his innings limit.
That scenario would have been much less problematic all season long, with less questions from an ever inquisitive New York media. After all isn't it about Joba's future and no his present?
With the stud aces at the top in CC and AJ, returning veterans Chien-Ming Wang and Pettitte and a potent lineup, this was the perfect season to let Joba and Aceves work the #5 rotation spot all season long. It would have limited Joba 's innings the correct way, and would have limited his frustrations, too. It would have been a good plan all season long.
And it is the successful system the Yankee organization has been using in the minor leagues over the last several years.