Symposium: Joba to the ‘Pen 2

For those who haven’t been following, John first argued Joba Chamberlain belonged in the rotation, I countered that it was a smarter move for the Yankees to move him to the bullpen, John disagreed, and now I disagree with him again.

John³. First, don’t copy my style of introduction. Second, don’t copy my style of argument, with statistics and research and logic. It’s a bit derivative.

Third, clicking on that link constitutes “listening to a little too much Mike Francesa.” Fourth, there’s a difference between Francesa’s “Joba is not a very good starter” and my “Joba is not a very good starter.”

You selectively pull out four of Joba’s best starts in his young career as a starter, and they are impressive. So are these four starts:

August 1, 2008 at Chicago: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 K
August 6, 2008 at Arizona: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 K
April 21, 2009 vs. Florida: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 K
May 30, 2009 vs. Houston: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 K

They’re culled from the career of Pittsburgh’s Jeff Karstens, a pitcher you’re no doubt familiar with. Let me also remind you that no-hitters have been tossed by Bud Smith and Jose Jimenez. Suffice it to say, everyone stumbles upon good starts once in a while, and pulling out one here and there doesn’t prove anything.

Now clearly I don’t mean to say Chamberlain is no better than that triumvirate or that his WHIP is atrocious. But you call Chamberlain a “potential ace-caliber starter;” how many other ways do you want to qualify the key word there, ace? He is not now an ace; in fact, right now, he’s not even ace-caliber. (We both know adding “caliber” there broadens the range of “ace.”) He’s a potential ace-caliber starter. The same can be—and has been, by you—said for Philip Hughes.

And I simply don’t agree that it is likelier for any of the myriad of no-name, no-track record relievers to become quality eighth-inning guys than it is for Hughes and Wang to be quality starting pitchers. (Did you seriously imply that Mark Melancon can be 2009’s Joba Chamberlain?)

Furthermore, it’s not like Wang and Hughes are guys whose developments aren’t at the same critical point that Chamberlain’s is. Wang’s on the verge of either returning himself to “ace-caliber” status or going the way of Jose Lima or Omar Daal. Hughes, meanwhile, needs to be a starting pitcher somewhere, and the only guy with more Triple-A seasoning than Philip Hughes is Mike Hessman. Can you afford to mess with these guys by sending them to the bullpen?

Finally, you’re kidding yourself if you think Chamberlain is going to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter in the playoffs. When you have CC Sabathia, you’re going with a three-man rotation, and he’ll likely be followed by A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.

In the meantime, enjoy Brett Tomko. The rest of the American League certainly will.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on June 6, 2009 at 10:55 PM

    First of all, I would like to thank you, Tim, for bringing up Omar Daal. It had been too long.

    Moving on to the errors of your argument, Jeff Karstens’ career ERA: 5.02. Joba as a starter: 3.19. I think that’s a pretty disingenuous comparison. As for the phrase “potential ace-caliber starter,” I don’t think it’s fair to demand that Joba become Pedro overnight. Jake Peavy’s ERA in his first full season as a starter: 4.19. Sabathia’s ERA at age 23: 4.12. Pedro’s ERA+ (I’m still not entirely sure on what this stat means, but suffice to say, you want it high) in 1996: 117. Joba’s this year: 122. All of those pitchers had something called “potential,” which is why I use that word here. As for “ace” versus “ace-caliber,” the former is often a function of what team you’re on and experience, whereas the latter only refers to your quality as a pitcher.

    The substance of this disagreement, really, comes down to this: right now, Joba
    is a much better starter than either Wang or Hughes. The value of having him start games over either of them is greater than the value of having him in the bullpen, both because starters are generally more valuable than relievers and because Joba is a very good starting pitcher.

    Reply

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