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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brooks: IN JOBA MATH, LESS MEANS MORE (RR)

and as the Yankee jewel melted, his childlike erratic behavior began to frighten fans.

IN the Bizarro World that Joba Chamberlain inhabits, the better he pitches, the fewer times he’ll get the ball, while the worse he pitches, the more starts he’ll get between now and the finish line.

It’s the innings, stupid, and no, the pejorative is aimed neither at Chamberlain nor at Joe Girardi, the manager whose task it is to steer the Yankees to the playoffs while constructing a starting rotation that accommodates the latest edition of the Joba Rules.

Girardi on Monday said that the Yankees’ plan for Chamberlain, who will be capped at no more than 160 innings in the regular season, “is mapped out.”

...“I understand that it’s a process and that there are ways to make the best of my days off by going to the weight room, watching video, doing whatever to improve,” Chamberlain said. “I want to be out there competing with my teammates, but I understand that I have a long time and that I have to be patient.

“I can’t be mad at it. I just have to be patient. I’ve had to be patient my three years here.”

Rules. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them in Bizarro World.

Repoz Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:12 PM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Jeff R. Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:53 PM (#3290054)
160 inning limit? Wow. I understand not piling the innings onto a young pitcher, but 160?
   2. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:03 PM (#3290067)
160 inning limit? Wow. I understand not piling the innings onto a young pitcher, but 160?
He threw 112.1 innings in '07, 100.1 last year. The idea is that they don't want to increase his workload too dramatically year-to-year.

If he hadn't gotten hurt last year, he'd probably have an innings limit around 180 this season.
   3. aleskel Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:04 PM (#3290069)
160 inning limit? Wow. I understand not piling the innings onto a young pitcher, but 160?

The Yankees' rule of thumb for young pitchers has been to only increase their innings by 50 or so year-to-year. Since Joba only threw 100 last year (due to an early-August injury that effectively shut him down for the rest of the year) 160 is just barely stretching what they had already planned.

EDIT: Coke to Larry
   4. RollingWave Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:28 PM (#3290096)
being careful with a guy that fell in the draft due to injury history and had a shoulder injury last year isn't exactly weird is it? espically when your team already have a very commanding lead in the playoff hunt.
   5. Honkie Kong Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:48 PM (#3290125)
This ridiculous Year After Effect is getting credence? PAP sounds better in comparison to this...

And capping at 160..He is turning 24 this season. This not some tender , young prospect
   6. aleskel Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:50 PM (#3290130)
This not some tender , young prospect

tell that to Edinson Volquez
   7. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:51 PM (#3290131)
The first time you went to the gym, did you immediately try to bench press 300 lbs? Or did you work your way up to that?
   8. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:54 PM (#3290137)
I've been sorta wondering when the training wheels come of with Chamberlain. Next year? The year after? I wonder if they might have come off this year if he'd forced the Yankees' hands a little -- not that he's been bad at all, but if he were doing a Lincecum right now, they might feel compelled to let him stretch out.

Also, what does this mean for the playoffs? Does he go to the pen?
   9. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:54 PM (#3290140)
He threw 112.1 innings in '07, 100.1 last year. The idea is that they don't want to increase his workload too dramatically year-to-year.


The Yankees' rule of thumb for young pitchers has been to only increase their innings by 50 or so year-to-year. Since Joba only threw 100 last year (due to an early-August injury that effectively shut him down for the rest of the year) 160 is just barely stretching what they had already planned.

EDIT: Coke to Larry


There is absolutely no evidence for the benefits of such restrictive usage.
   10. aleskel Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:58 PM (#3290147)
There is absolutely no evidence for the benefits of such restrictive usage.

Yes, and there's absolutely no evidence that anything is 100% effective in preventing pitcher injuries. This is just what the Yankees think will work.
   11. aleskel Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:59 PM (#3290150)
Also, what does this mean for the playoffs? Does he go to the pen?

He's their third best starter right now. I don't know how you can't start him in the playoffs.
   12. Honkie Kong Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:01 PM (#3290157)
The first time you went to the gym, did you immediately try to bench press 300 lbs? Or did you work your way up to that?


Did you increment the weight you bench press by 10 lbs every year?
I am not against protecting the arms of your young pitchers, but this is going way the other way. And this has just as much chance of blowing up in your face, when he has to go that extra mile sometime for a playoff push, and he can't find the gas or really hurts himself.

And this is no Edinson Volquez situation..the Yankees have been babying his pitch counts too, and pull him at rather sane times. This just smells of being over cautious.
   13. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:02 PM (#3290159)
That's sorta what I was thinking, but at 120 innings with 6 weeks to go in the regular season, a deep playoff run would stretch him far beyond where they wanted him to go.

Of course it's just dawning on me now that maybe they've already taken this into account.
   14. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:05 PM (#3290164)
They aren't saying as much so far as I know, but I'm sure at least part of bumping him for this start is that it sets him--rather than Mitre or Gaudin--to face the Red Sox next series. So it's a two birds/one stone situation.
   15. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:20 PM (#3290175)
Yes, and there's absolutely no evidence that anything is 100% effective in preventing pitcher injuries.

Jordan Zimmermann has already blown out his arm after just 91 career innings, so tell me about it.

Personally, I think the injuries have a lot more to do with mechanics, body frame, and stress of pitches than raw innings.
   16. aleskel Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:21 PM (#3290180)
In a related story, someone needs to tell Peter Gammons that he can stop complaining about Yankee Stadium now. We get it, Pete, right-field is short and you can hit homers there.
   17. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:24 PM (#3290184)
And this is no Edinson Volquez situation..the Yankees have been babying his pitch counts too, and pull him at rather sane times.


Edinson Volquez:

2004 - Age 20, 127.1 IP (minors)
2005 - Age 21, 140 IP (combined majors/minors)
2006 - Age 22, 154 IP (combined majors/minors)
2007 - Age 23, 178.2 IP (combined majors/minors)
2008 - Age 24, 196 IP - single game high in pitches of 121
2009 - Age 25, 49.2 IP in 9 starts - single game high in pitches of 110

It's not like Volquez has been horribly abused, or been greatly overworked from year to year. Sometimes people just get hurt.
   18. Honkie Kong Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:29 PM (#3290193)
If there are always going to be injuries, Dusty Baker might be the genius here. When you need it, just use the pitchers as best suits the team's current needs. They will be hurt in the future anyway
   19. aleskel Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:32 PM (#3290198)
2008 - Age 24, 196 IP - single game high in pitches of 121

But if you dig a little deeper, you see that he topped 110 pitches in 14 of his 33 starts. He also had a stretch of starts in Sept. that went 110-117-119-121-111.
   20. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:33 PM (#3290199)
Personally, I think the injuries have a lot more to do with mechanics, body frame, and stress of pitches than raw innings.

Sure, but the Yankees know this too. I'm sure their rules for Joba are not as simple in actuality as "this is the innings limit".
   21. BFFB Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:33 PM (#3290200)
I think I'd broadly go for the every arm has a limited number of pitches in it, and you just can't predict what that number is.
   22. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:44 PM (#3290208)
Also, what does this mean for the playoffs? Does he go to the pen?

He's their third best starter right now. I don't know how you can't start him in the playoffs.


Who knows? It's entirely possible that come October Pettitte might be the third best starter they've got---he's had a 1.87 ERA since the All-Star break---and Joba would get at most one start per series. Seven weeks is a long ways down the road, and right now I doubt if even Girardi has too much idea as to how it's all going to play out.
   23. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:46 PM (#3290210)
If the Yankees win HFA, they'll probably take the long series and start Sabathia and Burnett twice, with Pettitte taking the Game 3 start. They may put Joba in the pen for that.
   24. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:50 PM (#3290213)
Yes, and there's absolutely no evidence that anything is 100% effective in preventing pitcher injuries. This is just what the Yankees think will work.
Sure, but that's the only evidence for the effectiveness of this process. Actual evidence that it's going to help Joba Chamberlain, going forward, to throw 160 instead of 180 innings in 2009:

(1) The Yankees think it will work.
(2) No, that's it.

Now, I'm ok with this. The Yankees surely have done various forms of research and come to this conclusion. We don't know what the evidence they have is, but we have to acknowledge, as baseball fans, that clubs know things and have information we don't. We also know, as baseball fans, that clubs often do things that are wrong, or unproductive, or counterproductive. So it's not particularly strong evidence, either.
   25. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:38 PM (#3290269)
Sure, but that's the only evidence for the effectiveness of this process. Actual evidence that it's going to help Joba Chamberlain, going forward, to throw 160 instead of 180 innings in 2009:

(1) The Yankees think it will work.
(2) No, that's it.


Agreed.

Now, I'm ok with this. The Yankees surely have done various forms of research and come to this conclusion. We don't know what the evidence they have is, but we have to acknowledge, as baseball fans, that clubs know things and have information we don't.


The Yankees have three advantages in doing this kind of research that informed outsiders don't:

1. Access to their own pitchers, and to pitchers' deliveries/mechanics, and to coaches and former pitchers within the game, and knowing more about the scouting/coaching/pitching side of things than informed outsiders do.

2. Money

3. Time.

I agree that the Yankees could know something that informed outsiders don't.

On the other hand, informed outsiders -- intelligent people -- have made various runs at solving the pitcher injury mystery, and they've come up short. Far short. In fact, they have made a stunning lack of real progress on the issue, other than on the margins. We think it's not a good idea to overwork young pitchers, either in terms of innings/year or pitches/game. We think it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to overwork non-young pitchers, but we're not as concerned about them.

But we know just two things for sure about pitcher injuries:

1. If a pitcher throws zero pitches, he will not get hurt.
2. If a pitcher throws more than zero pitches, he may get hurt.

That's about all we really know. If pitcher injuries are caused by a single pitch that something went wrong with -- particularly at a young age, and even if unknown at the time -- then it makes sense to reduce a pitcher's workload. If pitcher injuries are caused by a build-up of pitches -- particularly at a young age -- then it makes sense to reduce a pitcher's workload.

But if pitcher injuries are essentially random, or are based on unknowable things about the pitcher's physical makeup, then there's nothing that can be done other than at the margins.

Dusty Baker's strategy is a bad one because we think we understand pitcher injuries at the margins, and he didn't abide by even those limited guidelines.

But any more detailed guidelines (jump in a young pitcher's innings from year to year) are pure guesswork as far as the outsider knows, although I concede the Yankees may know something that we don't.

I'm all for protecting pitchers, and I was critical a decade ago of how pitchers -- particularly young ones -- were being handled. But I think teams have since *over*compensated, with little evidence for it in the other direction.
   26. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:53 PM (#3290292)
The Yankees don't *need* to know something that we don't. They've decided that they'd rather have a set plan for how to bring along homegrown pitchers and stick to it than to *not* have a plan and see the pitcher get injured. At least if Joba gets hurt this way, they know they've tried to do something to lessen that risk.

No, we don't know if it will work. Okay, we actually know that it *doesn't* work, in the sense that pitchers often get hurt no matter how carefully you handle them. But we don't know if it decreases the risk of him getting hurt at all. The proper reaction to that is not to say \"#### it, let's just throw him out there until he breaks down", it's to have a plan that you *think* might help, and stick to it.
   27. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:06 PM (#3290319)
I imagine that the Yankees are using more sophisticated measures than innings pitched. What is a bit more disturbing is how the analysis gets dumbed down for newspaper readers.
   28. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:10 PM (#3290330)
The proper reaction to that is not to say "#### it, let's just throw him out there until he breaks down", it's to have a plan that you *think* might help, and stick to it.


But I don't see why having a plan you don't know is worth anything is better than having no plan.

If you don't have the foggiest clue whether your plan helps more than having no plan, I don't see why it's rational to prefer one over the other -- especially when your plan comes at the expense of not having him available while he's being babied for no good reason.
   29. MSalfino Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:12 PM (#3290332)
Pitching is a violent, unnatural act. Pitchers will get hurt no matter what you do. They are getting hurt as much now as they ever have before in baseball history. So, let's move on and ditch the junk science.
   30. MSalfino Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:15 PM (#3290338)
The Yankees surely have done various forms of research and come to this conclusion.

I'd bet heavily they've done no research. I know for a fact teams are incredibly cheap when it comes to this stuff and largely rely on intuition. Teams won't play $30 K for the best data in the world because of budget constraints. In the recent past, those teams have included the Yankees.
   31. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:16 PM (#3290340)
Pitching is a violent, unnatural act. Pitchers will get hurt no matter what you do. They are getting hurt as much now as they ever have before in baseball history. So, let's move on and ditch the junk science.


They're actually getting hurt more, because we now have the ability to put them back together after they get hurt the first time. It used to be a matter of blowing out your arm, farting around at the back of a roster for a couple years throwing garbage innings, and then retiring. Now, you blow out your arm, rehab for a year, come back, miss a bit of time with shoulder soreness or a tight forearm, pitch a bit more, get shut down with stiffness, come back again, blow out your arm again, and repeat the comeback process.

We just notice the pitching injuries a lot more now because we're no longer allowing the injury prone or less healthy pitchers to be filtered out of the game in the way they used to be (which is both a good and bad thing, and also ignores the cautiousness that multi-year multi-million dollar contracts have on a teams thinking).
   32. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:19 PM (#3290347)
The other thing we know now that we didn't know 10 and 15 years ago when people were worried about pitchers, especially young ones, being overworked:

The pendulum swung completely in the other direction and it didn't help anything. To keep going even further down that path -- the silly treatment of Chamberlain -- seems irrational.
   33. Swedish Chef Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:26 PM (#3290359)
I have seen a lot of blathering and speculation about Joba and innings but never any references to what the Yankees has actually said about what they're planning. Is there anyone who can provide a handy link?

I can't help but think that the punditosphere is building a mountain out of a molehill. But as I have never seen the actual statement from the Yankees that all this is based on I have no real clue.
   34. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:27 PM (#3290362)
Because the Yankees aren't telling anyone what their plans are. Because they're not idiots.

The "Joba Rules" from 2007 weren't what people thought they were. Even Torre was wrong on what they were, as in one game he didn't know he was allowed to use Joba until Cashman told him he was.
   35. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:29 PM (#3290363)
I have seen a lot of blathering and speculation about Joba and innings but never any references to what the Yankees has actually said about what they're planning. Is there anyone who can provide a handy link?


Cashman won't say. And I don't see why he would broadcast their specific plans.
   36. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:37 PM (#3290381)
The other thing we know now that we didn't know 10 and 15 years ago when people were worried about pitchers, especially young ones, being overworked:

The pendulum swung completely in the other direction and it didn't help anything. To keep going even further down that path -- the silly treatment of Chamberlain -- seems irrational.


Ray, after reading the study you did, I totally agree.
   37. rfloh Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:30 PM (#3290604)
29. MSalfino Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:12 PM (#3290332)
Pitching is a violent, unnatural act. Pitchers will get hurt no matter what you do. They are getting hurt as much now as they ever have before in baseball history. So, let's move on and ditch the junk science.


Where is the non junk scientific evidence that pitching is an unnatural act? And more violent than other sporting actions?
   38. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:31 PM (#3290607)
I'm trying to imagine what kind of "scientific evidence" would be involved in showing whether something is an "unnatural act".
   39. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:34 PM (#3290616)
Probably something from a conservative think-tank.
   40. Swedish Chef Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:44 PM (#3290629)
I bet throwing small round objects hard is one of the more natural acts around. If you're a Cro-Magnon man and a bear charges you, what do you do but throw a fastball at his nose?
   41. MSalfino Posted: August 13, 2009 at 02:10 AM (#3291165)
Not throwing them 100 times from a full windup. It's tautology that it's unnatural act -- hence, the vast multitude of injuries.

#31 nailed it, I think.
   42. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 13, 2009 at 02:53 AM (#3291192)
But we know just two things for sure about pitcher injuries:

1. If a pitcher throws zero pitches, he will not get hurt.
2. If a pitcher throws more than zero pitches, he may get hurt.


And we can't even trust Rule #1.

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