A fist pump does not a setup man make
A year ago, Tim and I finished up a Symposium on whether Joba Chamberlain belonged in the Yankee bullpen (what Tim thought) or in the starting rotation (what I thought). Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it looks like Tim was right. Chamberlain struggled mightily down the stretch last season—in August and September he was 2-4 with a 7.51 ERA—and he has been in the bullpen since Opening Day 2010. Not only that, but he’s been pretty good in that role. Through his first 17 appearances his ERA was 2.16—over two and a half runs lower than his ERA last season. Since then he’s had three bad appearances that have swollen his numbers, but overall Joba has held opponents scoreless in 19 of 25 appearances in 2010.
Having Said That, I’m still not sure I lost the argument. For one, Tim’s central point—that the 2009 Yankees needed Joba more in the bullpen than they did in the rotation—didn’t really pan out. To quote Tim: “Please note that the entirety of the Joba Debate has been framed under the assumption that Hughes and Wang will be, at the least, serviceable sub-5.00 ERA starters. If Hughes doesn’t ultimately cut it or Wang doesn’t make the expected comeback, the debate is largely moot.” Of course, Wang didn’t make the expected comeback, Hughes didn’t “cut it” as a starter, and Joba didn’t move to the bullpen… and 2009 still worked out pretty well for the Yankees. Continue reading »
Well, we’ve reached the big boys of the American League, which, despite what Tim might tell you, means we’ve reached the big boys of MLB. Each of the last three AL Champions, and two of the last three World Series winners, have been from the AL East, and it’s been a different team each time. You can make a very reasonable argument that three of the six best teams in baseball are in the AL East, which means one of them is going to get left out of the playoffs. There’s also the fact that—allegedly—the Baltimore Orioles are getting better, meaning the 19 “easy” games in the division won’t be as easy anymore. Even so, the Wild Card will almost certainly come out of this division. After all, it has every year since 2006. Continue reading »
In Part I, John S and Tim exhaustively and inconclusively dissected the Yankees and Phillies’ respective lineups. In the much-anticipated (and admittedly more concise) Part II, it’s time for the pitching staff and predictions–detailed predictions.
LEE V. SABATHIA
TIM: Everyone knows Mets fans are devastated about this series. But what about Indians fans having to watch this?
And do you expect CC to ever give up TWO runs in a playoff game?
JOHN: It’s probably especially rough for Indians fans given the trajectory of each of their careers. Both Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia were always guys who had tons of potential who couldn’t stay consistent. Then each of them put it together for a Cy Young year….and was promptly traded to a playoff team.
My confidence in CC at this point is reaching a point I’ve never reached with a starter. This is odd, given that as late as July I was wondering if he was worth the money. I’m kind of hoping for a rainout betwen Games 3 and 4, so Sabathia can pitch 3 times this series (although I guess they’d just ditch the off-day if that happened). I cannot conceive of losing a game he starts in the playoffs, despite his shaky history against Philly in the postseason. I’m adamantly for going with a 3-man rotation, something I’d always thought was a bad idea when other teams considered it.
Phillies fans, however, probably have similar confidence in Cliff Lee. I’m a little worried about Lee, despite his bad numbers vs. NYY in his career. Those are mostly from pre-2008, so it was really a different pitcher. But I know you think he’s a pretty weak ace, right?
TIM: I never said he was a “weak” ace. I did need to see some validation this year from him, and I have. The thing about Cliff Lee is that nothing he does looks very impressive. He doesn’t blow anything by anyone, he doesn’t make hitters look silly very often, and his stuff doesn’t jump off the TV screen. He’s just a very good pitcher…that I think is going to have one bad start in this series. I think he and Sabathia each have one good and one bad start, but Sabathia will be better in both (assuming they match up twice). Continue reading »
Minnesota Twins (87-76) at
New York Yankees (103-59)
(RIDICULOUSLY BIASED) OVERVIEW
The Yankees are the best team in the AL, but they’re taking on the Twins, who just completed one of the most incredible comebacks to win a division (down three with four to play). Fortunately for them, that makes them hot. Unfortunately for them, that makes them spent. I can definitely foresee an’03 Yankees World Series type situation, where the Twins feel as if they’ve already won their crown just by getting this far. Plus, the division race has left their rotation a little out of whack, forcing them to use rookie pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 1.
As I insisted repeatedly earlier this week, the Yankees have the best lineup in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the best three-four hitters in the league, but the lineup is also deep with seven guys who have over 20 home runs. A lot of that, of course, is due to the new Yankee Stadium, but a lot of it is also great production from guys like Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano.
The Twins, on the other hand, have Joe Mauer, the best hitter in the league in 2009, but not much beyond that. Justin Morneau is hurt. Their second best hitter now is Jason Kubel who, though he did have an impressive season in ’09, is not going to strike fear into a lot of pitchers’ hearts. And the fact the Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and Jose Morales are all getting significant numbers of at-bats is not all that intimidating. Continue reading »
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.”
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Tim, Tim, Tim. I think you’ve been listening to a little too much Mike Francesa. You seem to have bought into the “Joba isn’t a very good starter” line of thinking.
But even the stats you cite (thanks for showing me up, by the way) prove otherwise. A 3.19 ERA is very good. Is it phenomenal? No, but it’s pretty impressive. Johan Santana’s career ERA: 3.06. CC Sabathia’s: 3.65. Roy Halladay’s: 3.48. Do you want to move those guys to the bullpen? I bet they would be pretty awesome set-up men. Joba has certainly had some rough patches and some bad starts, but the idea that he hasn’t proven that he is capable of being a brilliant starter is a little misguided:
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John, John, John. I’ll start with a concession: Yes, starting pitchers are more important than relief pitchers. We’re not breaking any new ground here with that vague and general idea. But that’s not at the heart of the Joba Debate. Instead, the first critical question here is: Is a good starting pitcher more important than a great relief pitcher?
Because Joba Chamberlain isn’t the same pitcher across those two roles. With the help of Baseball Reference (really a great tool; maybe you should use it sometime), we learn the following:
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In his last game (against the Indians), Joba Chamberlain pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning on the way to a Rivera save and a Yankees win. Oh yeah, he also pitched the first seven innings, giving up only four hits and two runs. That was probably more important.
This shouldn’t even be a debate. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that a starting pitcher is more valuable than a relief pitcher. In fact, anyone who knows anything about ANYTHING knows that, if someone is good at something, you want him to do that thing MORE. Continue reading »