Symposium: Joba Should Stay in the Rotation

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.

A good starting pitcher can start about 32 games and throw 200+ innings in a season. A good middle relief pitcher will pitch maybe 80 innings. Eddie Guardado, whose nickname was “Everyday Eddie,” never appeared more than every other day, or pitched more than 94 innings, in any year.

The fact is that a good starting pitcher is the most valuable player in baseball (and possibly all of sports). A starter pitches more innings and can basically win a game by himself (unless you’re Johan Santana). A good eighth-inning guy is certainly valuable, but in most games, he is not needed. The value of middle relief is generally overstated for two reasons:

First, because of the heightened role it takes on in the playoffs. Almost every year, a key postseason game comes down to which bullpen pitches better. Every fan probably has his own personal favorite (or most devastating) memory of a postseason game coming down to a comeback against a bad bullpen. (Mine is Jim Leyritz)

The second reason is middle relief’s tendency to fail in a big way. When a starter pitches poorly (or anyone on the team, for that matter), there isn’t necessarily one thing you can point at. Often, a starter can have a terrible performance, and the team can still win (ask Kenny Rogers). When a relief pitcher screws up, there is often a highlight (a walk-off hit or game-tying home run) that gets shown over and over again.

These two things lead us to overvalue middle relief. The bullpen is important. But starting pitching is more important. If you have good starters, you rely on your bullpen less and you have bigger leads and a wider margin for error in late innings. Joba showed in Cleveland that he can be a great starter. Putting him in the bullpen would be a waste.

One response to this post.

  1. […] Or the controversy caused if the manager ever tried to work him into the rotation (on the one hand, starters are more valuable, but at the same time, how do you stretch out a pre-teen’s arm?). I would get MLB’s […]

    Reply

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