Joba Chamberlain was given guinea pig status again last night, allowed to throw only three innings for the third consecutive "start." Although he allowed two runs in the first inning, he only walked one batter and set down the last eight men he faced.
He deserved at least one more inning (or maybe two), but the Yankees have a plan for him—the "Joba Rules" limit his innings so as not to burn out his arm early in his career— so we should all see how that eventually turns out.
Will they now strategically increase his innings to six per start, where he will be able to start a play off game and contribute?
After giving up those two runs and getting the last eight batters, Joba was pumping his fastball at 95 MPH. In the first inning, he was topping out at 91, and it showed with his first inning struggles.
Ever heard what some baseball people said about hard-throwers like Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Doc Gooden, Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander etc., "You better get them early because they only get stronger as the game gets longer."
I feel that Joba is a similar type of pitcher. His increase in velocity last night only two innings later is a better indication of his future true effectiveness. I remember watching Joba when he was starting games in Double A Trenton back in 2007. His velocity was in the high 90s in the seventh inning of starts.
Remember back in May when Joba used to have those terrible first innings, but settled down and threw well the rest of the game? Then the Yankees increased his pregame bullpens to throw more pitches, and they had hitters standing there in the batters box? It seemed to work for a while, as he had that great start in Cleveland on June 1st.
I wonder if they Yankees still do that pregame routine with Joba? Probably not.
Not a full time part of "the plan" I bet.
After that Cleveland game, Joba then had a decent June where he regularly went into the sixth inning (drat those innings limits and pitch counts!), and while he had some control issues, Joba did not give up any more than 3 earned runs in any of those starts.
He then had two bad starts in early July where he gave up a lot of hits (but only walked one per game). But then after the All-Star break, he pitched brilliantly for three straight starts, including an eight inning gem at Tampa Bay. People began to wonder if this was "the real Joba"—the Joba most expected since he first burst upon the major league scene in late 2007.
But then the Yankees decided to change The Rules, and began to sporadically space out his starts to limit his overall innings. After the three great starts to begin the second half, Joba's next four starts were changed to go on seven days, four days, four days and eight days.
After those four starts, Joba's ERA rose from 3.48 to 4.34. Part of the plan?
If the Joba plan all along was to screw up this kid, then the Yankees should consider it a success.
After those starts, The Rules were changed again to start Joba on regular rest, but then limit him to three innings per outing. There are rumblings, however, that the Yankees will gradually increase his innings up to six innings in order to get him ready for the playoffs. Yankee management has constantly stated that Joba's innings limits will not be part of the postseason, that Joba will be allowed to pitch normally in a playoff game.
But if the Yankees decide to play in the ALDS which has the extra day of rest, they will not need a fourth starter. This scenario will also give the Yankees' position players extras rest. Joe Girardi has continuously held to his original plan (unusual for the Yankees) of regular days off for all position players.
Nobody was immune to that scenario, and it paid off well as the rested players have performed well down the stretch and appear to be strong in September.
But if the Yankees do not need a fourth starter, then Joba should not appear on the ALDS roster. Especially if they have upped his innings per start. The Yankees will have a long man in Chad Gaudin, (sorry Sergio Mitre) and a three inning type guy in Alfredo Aceves.
The playoffs are a time where innings limits and pitch counts are tossed out the window, especially with your top veteran starters. Does anyone remember Lou Piniella's blunder two season's ago at Arizona? Locked into a pitchers duel with Brandon Webb in Game 1 of the NLDS in 2007, the Chicago Cubs ace, Carlos Zambrano, was pulled after six innings because Piniella "wanted to save him for a Game 4."
Game 4 never happened as the Diamondbacks won three straight.
So expect CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte to pitch into the seventh inning or later in the ALDS. The only way Burnett or Pettitte should be pulled earlier is they are getting hit hard by the opposition. Sabathia should go at least eight innings and throw no fewer than 125 pitches.
Therefore, unless AJ or Andy gets rocked, long guys aren't really needed, and Joba wouldn’t be needed on the roster if he doesn't get a start. Why use him in a short role in the first round of the playoffs if he has once again been groomed as a starter? And if the Yankees advance, then Joba will probably be needed as a starter in the ALCS. Why move him back and forth again in different roles?
See why all this moving around and innings limits are incredibly stupid and defeating for a young pitcher? It would have been much better for the Yankees to deal with Joba the way another team has dealt with their young pitcher. Only on one of the Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw's 28 starts, has he started a game that was not on four or five days rest.
Now that is a real plan.
If Joba is not starting a game in the ALDS, the Yankees might be better served to keep an extra position player like Ramiro Pena or Francisco Cervelli. This offers the Yankees more versatility regarding replacements in later innings via pinch runners and pinch hitters.
Do you believe that Jorge Posada is going to catch every game? If so, that’s great, but I have doubts he will catch Burnett in the playoffs. If Molina catches Burnett, you might need an extra catcher.
Let's say that Burnett starts Game 3 and faces Detroit's Jarrod Washburn. You can start Jose Molina behind the plate to keep Burnett happy, but can sit the lefty-hitting Hideki Matsui and DH Posada against the LHP Washburn.
What if, with men on base late in the game, a RHP reliever comes in to face Molina? You can pinch hit and still have Cervelli catch and not lose Posada as the DH and the pitcher has to hit.
Just more options available to Girardi.
Assuming David Robertson is healthy, the Yankees have enough bullpen strength to withstand a five game series, especially when the veteran starters are going longer per start. Joba could then be held out of the ALDS, and if he is going to get a start in the ALCS, he can be sent to Tampa on an off day to throw in a minor league game down there and stay on regular rest.
If he is not getting a start, the Yankees do not need Joba on the ALDS roster.
But if they play Detroit (highly likely right now), they might want to take the other divisional scenario with fewer days off and keep Joba as the fourth starter.
Joba Chamberlain is 2-0, with a 1.32 ERA in two starts against Detroit this season, striking out 14 in 13.2 innings.