Many members of the NY media believe that Joba Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen, and Joba’s slow start to spring training helped them make their argument. When he turned in a good outing against the Reds, it seemed likely that the Joba to the pen crowd would go silent for a few days. However, nothing can stop the misguided efforts of Bob Klapisch:
But is Joba’s mini-crisis really over? Of the 29 pitches he threw, Reds’ hitters swung and missed just once – and made contact every time they sized up Chamberlain’s famed four-seam fastball….Obviously, it’s still early in spring training. Chamberlain has plenty of time to build arm strength. But he’s not the pitcher he was in 2008; even while blanking the Reds, something seemed amiss.
“I didn’t see the same explosiveness out of his hand, and I’m factoring in that it’s March,” said one talent evaluator. Remember, this is the same reliever-turned-starter who was injured not once, but twice last year, including the final week of the season.
Clearly, Chamberlain isn’t the horse the Yankees projected while he was crushing the competition in the minor leagues. Joba might have the unbreakable mentality of a latter-day Goose Gossage, but he’s fragile. His violent delivery ends with a stiff front leg — a recipe for long-term trouble that’s already reared its head. It’s a mechanical flaw Chamberlain will spend the rest of his career trying to fix.
The Yankees would be wise to ask themselves: at what cost will Joba reach his 150-inning limit this year? Given his history of arm trouble, who’s to say Chamberlain can again withstand seven innings of work every fifth day? Who can assure the Bombers that his air-it-out, closer’s mentality didn’t wear him down by September?
GM Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi should consider the possibility that Chamberlain’s 80 innings in the pen might be more valuable than 150 innings in the rotation. His outings will be shorter, more explosive, and he’ll only pitch when it’s critical.
So Klapisch takes a solid performance and disparages it by quoting an anonymous scout on Joba’s mechanics, and deciding, at this early stage, that Joba is not the same pitcher he was in 2008. Klapisch also manages to fit all of the analytical errors made by the Joba as reliever crowd into those last two sentences. There is no way that 80 innings can be more important than 150 innings. You want your best pitchers to throw as many frames as possible, a concept that seems foreign to any writer born prior to 1980.
Furthermore, the idea that he will only pitch important innings is ridiculous. Relievers often are used in 3-4 run games, as well as in blowouts just to get some work. Starters throw just as many high leverage innings as relievers, if not more. For example, Andy Pettitte faced a few more batters in high leverage situations than Mariano Rivera in 2008, and 9 times as many hitters in medium leverage situations than Mo. Relievers are dependent on the context of the situation in which they are placed, while starters almost always enter a tie game.
However you slice it, Joba needs to be given every chance to stay in the rotation. If he shows that he cannot succeed in that role, he can always be moved into the bullpen at a later time.
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