Back in 2007, the Yankees had a starting pitcher in the minors who blew through several levels of play. He regularly hit the gun at 95-97 MPH, even as late as the seventh inning in one game for the Trenton Thunder.
He was good starting pitching prospect, but the Yankees needed his power arm in their bullpen. So Joba Chamberlain was in the bullpen for the 2007 post season.
He was tried as a starting pitcher and despite not being Wes Ferrell right off the bat, he still did well considering he was restricted in more ways that Stephen Strasburg laughs at him.
But Chamberlain was perceived to be a better pitcher as a reliever (where he was needed) and the numbers appeared to show this fact. Even before this inconsistent season from the pen, Chamberlain has a lower ERA, WHIP, and higher strikeout and K/BB rates as a reliever.
Despite only starting 43 games, Chamberlain was better in the pen than as a starter. The debate was fierce and everyone had an opinion.
However, the Yankees are going in a different direction with another pitcher who gets much better results when he comes out of the bullpen.
Manager Joe Girardi said today that Javier Vazquez will move back into the rotation on Saturday, replacing Dustin Moseley. This comes on the heels of Vazquez' two really good relief appearances over the past week.
In the first one on Aug. 25, Vazquez came in the middle of the fourth inning to replace Phil Hughes. Vasquez completed the game, going 4.1 innings, allowing two hits, one earned run, while walking one. He struck out two.
The second appearance was on Aug. 30, where Vazquez replaced the increasingly ineffective Moseley. Once again, he finished the game, cruising through almost five very effective innings. He finished with 4.2 IP, allowing two hits, one earned run, walked one hitter while striking out six batters.
In his last two appearances, both in relief of ineffective starting pitchers, and totaled nine innings of two run ball. He kept the Yankees in the first game (an eventual loss to Toronto) and got the win in relief of Moseley.
He also got the win in the May 17 game versus Boston, when he came in relief and struck out Kevin Youkilis in a big late inning situation. That was the game which Marcus Thames homered off of Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the ninth inning.
As a reliever, Vazquez has a 1.93 ERA, 0.643 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 4.5 SO/BB and a .125 BAA. All those numbers are considerably better than the 5.07 ERA, 1.366 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.9 SO/BB, and .257 BAA.
So then why put Vazquez back into the rotation?
He pitches so much better out of the pen in his long-man role. At the point when Vazquez enters games, either the Yankees are behind a few runs or the game is close and the Yankees have scored a bunch of runs already.
The game is already in its groove, and the big pressure of starting is off. Does Vazquez relish this lack of pressure role, where he is being used to give the Yankees innings?
Probably. Although he is a veteran pitcher, the pressure of New York was the reason why many people thought he wouldn't pitch well this year after the off season trade with the Atlanta Braves.
With Ivan Nova, Moseley's spot, and Phil Hughes commanding three straight starts in the current rotation, that is a lot of possible innings for the bullpen to pitch. You need a long man to maybe keep the Yankees in the game if one of those guys hit the showers early.
Like Hughes did on Aug. 25, and Moseley did two days ago.
Vazquez and Chad Gaudin (unbelievably surprising!) have formed a nice, recent one-two middle relief punch. Gaudin pitched well last night, throwing three innings in relief of another short Hughes outing.
But Moseley is not a very good pitcher, and should not start this Saturday. He is 2-1 but averages fewer than five innings a start. He’s walked 13 and struck out 11 while allowing five home runs, resulting in a 6.41 ERA.
But who to start on Saturday? You can always go the Sergio Mitre route, but that doesn't excite me.
Nova has done well in his recall from Triple A so why not got down that well once again? While Moseley ws blowing up Monday night in the Bronx, David Phelps was throwing five innings of one run ball in Triple A.
Phelps has a 3.23 ERA in 11 appearances. While he does allow a fair share of hits, Phelps is similar to Nova in that he does not walk many hitters (13 in 62 AAA innings). You can give up hits or walks, just don't be good at allowing both in the same game.
Phelps doesn't need to be on the Yankees 40 man roster until after next season, I can not see him spending all his time in AAA all next year. He will pitch in the majors sometime in 2011.
The Yankees have too many wasted spots on their 40 man roster, such as Chad Huffman, Wilkin De La Rosa, Reegie Corona and even Mitre is expendable. He will never get a post season roster spot.
So I say lets go with Phelps and see what he can do. It won't be for long since Andy Pettitte will be back in two weeks.
Vazquez needs to stay in the bullpen now. He is performing well in that role.
Let Phelps pitch and if he does well, you have an idea about what to do with next years rotation with two youngsters (Nova and Phelps) who can make a run at a spot in 2011.
At the very least, it could increase his trade value in the off season.