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Friday, December 21, 2007

River Ave. Blues: Olney: Yanks plan to start Joba in the pen

LOVE/HATE?  This could be the biggest wasting of a Chamberlain…since Richard Chamberlain mitchumdrumed his way through “Night of the Hunter”!

Scroll past the PED talk in Buster Olney’s latest blog entry, and you will arrive at a tidbit about Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees, Olney reports, plan to start the season with Joba in the pen. They just can’t quit him.

...For many, your reaction will be like ours: Are the Yankees really going to stick Joba in the pen with the intent of limiting his innings? Or will they keep him in the pen - and thus stunt his development - because they can’t resist the appeal of that 100 mph fastball and nasty breaking pitches in the 8th inning?

While we’ve long espoused the theory that 180-200 innings of Joba the Starter help the Yankees more than 70-80 innings of Joba the Reliever, I’m beginning to think the differences is not as great as we once thought. Using a study of VORP for starting pitchers and Win Expectation about Replacement (or WXRL) for elite relievers, the difference isn’t so great. But there’s a caveat: The Yankees would have to use their elite relievers in high pressure situations and not just as the de facto 8th inning set-up man or 9th inning, three-outs-with-a-three-run-lead closer to truly bridge this gap.

Repoz Posted: December 21, 2007 at 11:14 PM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: December 22, 2007 at 12:21 AM (#2651919)
It's Chad Billingsley all over again!
   2. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: December 22, 2007 at 12:40 AM (#2651926)
Hahahahahahahaha!
   3. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 22, 2007 at 12:43 AM (#2651928)
This was the only reasonable thing to do from the beginning. The only weird thing is that someone should probably have made clear earlier that Joba needed to start the season in the pen to protect his arm. But given that the audience here is tiny, and no one cares about us, that's a pretty minor bit of weirdness.
   4. Famous Original Joe C Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:10 AM (#2651946)
Looks like he's on the old Earl Weaver plan. So they'll give him a bunch of multi-inning, high leverage stints, and probably have him worked into the rotation no later than the first day of summer.

I agree with MCoA, this is completely reasonable and defensible. I seem to remember many here disparaging the Twins for not putting a certain young starter into the rotation sooner in 2003. Can someone remind me how that one worked out?
   5. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:17 AM (#2651949)
We'll see. God knows I'm never afraid to be in the minority, but I still think Chamberlain is in the bullpen to stay, a la Papelbon.
   6. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:26 AM (#2651957)
I'll add that it's quite possible that Chamberlain is best suited to the pen. He hasn't proven over any stretch of time that he has the stuff or durability or mindset to handle a major league starting job. A lot of people think he has both, based on subjective evaluations, and I'm in no way stating my disagreement with that evaluation.

But having watched Papelbon, I think it's obvious that the Red Sox made the right choice. He is a closer in mindset, he's never shown a consistent, high-quality third pitch, and he apparently was losing velocity and bite after a couple innings.

If that's the case with Chamberlain, the Yankees' player development system will be able to boast a huge success. I think the Yankees should try to see if Chamberlain's even better than that, and all indications are that that's what they're doing, but they're looking at two really good options as it is.
   7. Urban Faber Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:26 AM (#2651958)
I went looking for another Twins starter from 2003 to respond snarkily to Joe C but there really wasn't one.

I was surprised, though, that Santana doesn't have any Hall of Famers on his comp list (though Oswalt and Peavy may yet get there).

Back to Joba - the Baron may well be right. And maybe that's the right move.
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:30 AM (#2651963)
Matt, I'll tell you this. What the Yankees clearly have, and no one else except maybe the Giants with Lincecum has, is an opportunity to blow the world away by correctly using an ass-kicking relief ace. Chamberlain's still close enough to his years as a starter that he can be trained to be accustomed to pitching two, sometimes three innings at a time, and then brought in anytime it's the sixth or later and the score is tied or the Yankees are down one, to pitch for two innings at a time, or to pitch in a situation like eighth inning, runner on second, one out, Yankees up by one.

If Chamberlain did that for a full season, for the Yankees, pitching at anything close to the level at which he pitched last year, he'd finish the year with a record like 19-4, plus 10 or 12 saves. And the best part is, since modern relief ace usage is so brain dead, you could do it without even messing with 90% of Mariano Rivera's save opportunities.
   9. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:32 AM (#2651966)
I am deeply, deeply skeptical that the relief ace model was a good one. The injury rate on those guys was ####### insane. If I had a great arm in the bullpen, I wouldn't touch the relief ace model.
   10. Spahn Insane Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:33 AM (#2651968)
Seems like a reasonable course of action to me. Earl Weaver would approve. He'll be in the rotation by June anyway, when (not if) one of the existing starters craps out/and or gets hurt.
   11. Spahn Insane Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:34 AM (#2651970)
I say that on the assumption that (agreeing with post 9) he's in long relief, being groomed to start.
   12. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:35 AM (#2651971)
I didn't say the 1970s model was exactly correct, Matt, but it's not unreasonable to expect your relief ace to pitch two innings at a time. I use the word "relief ace" because I hate the word "closer", but I wasn't referring to the "relief ace model" you have in mind.

The "closer model," as I guess you'd call it (the modern usage), uses your best reliever exclusively in situations where, over the course of a season, he'll impact your win total no more than, what, 10% more than an average reliever?
   13. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: December 22, 2007 at 02:24 AM (#2651995)
Actually, Baron what you said does sound kind of Mike Marshall-esque.

I really don't see why they don't think he's old enough to throw 200 innings though. Tom Seaver pitched 250 innings a year from the get go. Blyleven threw 278 innings at age 20. Doc Godden did too.
   14. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 22, 2007 at 02:28 AM (#2651998)
Brad-

It's not age, it's previous workload. Joba threw 112 IP last year, and 89 and 119 the two years before that. The Yankees don't want to ramp up his workload too aggressively.

I don't know if they're right about the logic, but it's not the quantity, it's the rate of increase. (Dwight Gooden doesn't seem like the best comp to lay out in favor of high IP totals early in a pitcher's career, fwiw.)
   15. Valentine Posted: December 22, 2007 at 02:41 AM (#2652000)
BvA, the problem with leveraging relief innings is that you are faced with two competing objectives:
(1) "Schedule" the workload for minimum impact on the arm.
(2) "Time" the workload for maximum game effect.

I don't know if the "modern closer" role is optimal, but I'm pretty certain that those high-leverage two-inning stints don't occur on a perfect once-every-three-days schedule.
   16. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 02:52 AM (#2652007)
Well, if you work him hard one day, obviously he isn't available the next. That's fine. And it works the other way, too; sometimes you're just going to have to let him pitch when you're sitting on a 3 run lead, because it's been six days, you haven't been involved in a close late game, and he needs to work a little. That's fine, too. The guy won't always be available for every crucial situation, just like your staff ace isn't always available for your most important games, but you still get your relief ace into the most important situations whenever you can, and pitch him two innings whenever he's fresh enough to go two innings (and the first inning he pitches goes quickly; if he has to work to get through the eighth, even if he escapes with no damage, he's done and somebody else has to take the ball in the ninth.)

I'm not advocating crazy reliever arm abuse here.

Nothing works out perfectly on schedule; in fact, most teams could stand to gain by being less rigid about their starting rotations, not more. The fact remains that you do your best to get your best pitchers pitching the most important innings, to the fullest extent you can.
   17. tinker Posted: December 22, 2007 at 03:15 AM (#2652015)
This is sort of a good idea except for the thing about the Joba rules being adhered to. He can't be an ace reliever, as described above, if Girardi has to follow 'the rules'. I wouldn't want it to be permanent either way. If you believe that they need an ace for the postseason, and they don't get Santana, then Joba is a guy who has a good chance to be ace caliber by next October. So if you lose him as a starter then you're starting Pettitte or Wang in a game 1, and that's probably not going to cut it. Plus, you can't point to anything in his pitching resume that says he won't be a great starter. His health record is another matter. maybe that's what this is all about? Scouts reported seeing him pumping 98 M.P.H. fastballs in the 8th inning as a starter at times last season in the minor leagues.

Also, if this is how they're going to limit Joba's innings, I wonder if or how they're going to limit Phil's. They'll probably pitch about the same number of innings in '08 based on what they did last season.
   18. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: December 22, 2007 at 03:36 AM (#2652025)
IIRC, Johan Santana wasn't a full time starter until he was 24-25 y/o.
   19. NJ in DC (Now with temporary employment!) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 03:46 AM (#2652030)
Also, if this is how they're going to limit Joba's innings, I wonder if or how they're going to limit Phil's. They'll probably pitch about the same number of innings in '08 based on what they did last season.

Phil pitched 152 innings in '06 so the equation is going to be different for him, I think.
   20. Darren Posted: December 22, 2007 at 03:50 AM (#2652032)
I don't see why a 50-60 appearance, 85-110 IP workload is not doable. I agree with MCOA, though, that the idealized relief ace model of the 70s is not all it's cracked up to be.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: December 22, 2007 at 04:28 AM (#2652052)
My favorite part here is the confidence some have that the 5 projected Yankees starters will all be healthy and effective for the first two months, which supposedly is what allows Joba to be in the pen.
   22. jyjjy Posted: December 22, 2007 at 04:46 AM (#2652059)
But, but - they have Igawa to step in if a starter goes down!
   23. smilinmike Posted: December 22, 2007 at 05:05 PM (#2652150)
They can rotate the 3 young starters into the bullpen if they want to limit innings. Also, don't forget Horne, Sanchez, etc in the minors to possibly impact the staff in some way in the second half.

The key pitcher for the Yankees this season will be Mike Mussina. If he gives them 180 innings of average major league quality they have the luxury of being careful with all of the kids. Should be a fun season.
   24. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: December 22, 2007 at 07:47 PM (#2652245)
Why are there Joba Rules but no Ian Rules? Are the 60 more minor league IP that much of a difference?

IIRC, Johan Santana wasn't a full time starter until he was 24-25 y/o.

His use also had something to do with his status as a Rule V draft pick. He lost minor league development time and had to build his arm up at the major league level.
   25. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 22, 2007 at 07:52 PM (#2652254)
Why are there Joba Rules but no Ian Rules? Are the 60 more minor league IP that much of a difference?
-The "Joba rules" were for his use as a short reliever. He'd never been a short reliever before, so they managed his use. Kennedy wasn't and isn't a short reliever, so they didn't have Rules.

-Well, I have no idea whether 60 more minor league IP make a difference. Both the Red Sox and Yankees have clearly decided that they do, though, for pitcher development (or at least that it's not worth the risk.) But I think that conflating the "Joba rules", which were about reliever usage, with the limiting of IP totals, makes what the Yankees are doing appear extreme, when it's actually common practice. It might not be the best practice, but it's not weird.
   26. Praise Jaha Posted: December 22, 2007 at 10:05 PM (#2652360)
1. Starters typically throw 100 pitches in a game every five days.
2. In those other 4 days, they typically throw once, and pitch off a mound once.
3. Mazzone is famously known for having his pitchers throw more often than most, with some pretty fair success.
4. It has been pretty well established that it is not a lack of rest that is the largest factor in pitching injury, but pitching while fatigued.

If those 4 items are true, then it might mean that some innovative organization might make an experiment, and see if a pitcher can pitch 3 innings every 3 days, over a minor league season. 40 games, 120 innings, in 50 pitch bites, with no throwing in between.

Not a high profile player like Joba--obviously, its too risky. Not even someone like Ohlendorf, who is likely to have a career of some length. Instead, a willing reclamation project, or a 28th round pick, or something like that.

I mean, if a pitcher can throw 100 pitches every 5 days, with reps in between, why is 50 pitches every 3 days impossible?
   27. Dr. Vaux Posted: December 22, 2007 at 10:27 PM (#2652372)
What keeps that from happening is the "win" stat.
   28. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: December 22, 2007 at 11:07 PM (#2652392)
MCA,

My question was put poorly. Why does Kennedy go into the rotation no questions asked while Joba is put in the pen to protect his arm?
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 11:14 PM (#2652395)
My question was put poorly. Why does Kennedy go into the rotation no questions asked while Joba is put in the pen to protect his arm?

I'm not MCA, but I think it's b/c Kennedy put in 165 IP minors and majors last year and is very polished.

Joba only logged about 100 total IP, and is younger and more raw.

Many teams don't like to increase workload more than 20-30 innings in one year. So, starting Kennedy in the rotation, he can probably log 180-190 IP and still be reasonably fresh for the playoffs. If Joba starts from day 1, and is any good, he's likely to be gassed by October.
   30. Praise Jaha Posted: December 23, 2007 at 07:25 AM (#2652553)
Vaux: the win stat is irrelevant in the minor leagues. If you want to answer the question concerning optimal bullpen usage, there probably needs to be more experimentation. I think it's pretty clear that the specialized roles we see today are not the answer, for a variety of reasons. It would be beneficial to know if it were at all possible to use a pitcher 2 times a week for 50 innings. Anyone you ask will tell you they'll end up injured, but based on what evidence?

By no means am I saying that a pitcher can definitely withstand that workload. But I would like to see some organization expend a draft pick on a college pitcher with clean mechanics but no real shot at a major league career, and test his limits.

Finding a valuable role for all those 5th-6th starter types that are bouncing around AAA would be a huge advantage for an organization. Other than conformity, I see no real reason why a team wouldn't experiment with some of it's non-prospects.

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