Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Joba Like It's Hot (and some 23 April pregame notes)

So I've just come back from my lone class of the day, Transnational Politics. At the beginning of class, I tend to talk to a couple of students in the class that happen to be big baseball fans--one a Yankees fan, one a Red Sox fan.

Let's call the Red Sox fan "T".

T and I stand on opposing lines, of course, but we usually manage to have reasonable conversations, like talking about how Jacoby Ellsbury is insanely fast and Jason Giambi is leaving a little something to be desired.

Today, however, our conversation was sparked by my shirt--my Joba t-shirt. On the front of the shirt, it says "JOBA THE HUT", while on the back it says "IN A BULLPEN FAR, FAR AWAY", to which T remarked, "where he belongs."

Now, of course, being the Yankee fan that I am, I felt somewhat violated by that comment.

"He's a starter," I said.

"If you take him out of the bullpen, you lose the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball," T remarked, "and you have no one to pitch the 8th inning."

This is so not right, I thought, it makes no sense.

"What good is the 8th inning," I said, "if you're already down 7-0 because you had no starting pitching?"

We preceded to argue in a fairly friendly manner for such divided loyalties as we have. He remarked that it would end up like Papelbon, who failed as a starter and now excels as the Red Sox closer. I said it wouldn't be, because unlike Papelbon, Joba has four pitches he can use.

The argument continue until T's friend and Yankees fan, we'll call him W, walked into the classroom and I posed the question, should Joba start or relieve? W responded,

"Are you kidding me? He has to start!"


There is some truth to the notion that Joba will likely get lit up as a starter--it's happened to Phil and it's happened to Ian, and it's happened to every great pitcher, every average pitcher and every failed pitcher.

Joba will not have a 0.38 ERA as a starter, and he will, in all likelihood, have a much lower K/BB ratio.

That does not mean he should not start.

When you have a talent such as Joba--someone with two amazing pitches, a plus curve and a serviceable change--it'd be high crime not to have him start at least a few games.

If it doesn't work, it doesn't work--but the far greater crime is not to try.


The question of when to make the move is a much harder one to answer. Ideally, the Yankees will find someone (at this point, anyone) capable of getting three outs in the eighth without surrendering the lead. However, despite an overall okay performance from the bullpen thus far, there is no one name that inspires enough confidence.

While it is impossible unlikely that the Yankees will find another Joba, they don't need a Joba--a Jeff Nelson or Mike Stanton would be exceptional, but right now, the Yankees just need someone to do the job.

Then, of course, there's the issue of how to stretch Joba out--you can't just give him the ball five days after his last appearance and say "Okay, now give us seven innings."

One idea might be to gradually increase the length of his relief appearances, if the Yankees wanted to resist sending him to the minors, but this would mean he would also need increased time off between appearances.

It's far more likely, however, that the Yankees would send Joba back to the minors, which, by virtue of a (temporarily) free roster spot have interesting consequences for the team.


It will be interesting to see how the Joba saga plays out, not just from the Yankees point of view, but from points of view around the league as well.

I have to wonder if what T thinks is peculiar to him, or if his is the prevailing opinion of Red Sox nation, and I have to wonder what fans of, say, National League teams like the Padres, who don't have longstanding rivalries with the Yankees, think.


Yankees will play the second of three in Chicago tonight, with Mike Mussina on the mound. Mussina has got to feel the pressure--the longer he struggles, the more likely Joba is brought up sooner. The Yankees need him to give them innings to spare the bullpen, something he was not able to do in his last start.

And Moose, for the love of everything holy, don't pitch to Jim Thome...


  1. Brilliant post, and ITA. Papelbon didn't fail as a starter though. He never really was given the chance because of concern over his shoulder, the Sox having quality starters and needing a closer.

    Gotta try Joba as a starter.

  2. Joba has 4 great pitches he can throw. He seems to have more poise the Hughes and Kennedy. Don't forget he is coming in to relieve and has to throw strikes and he does. I think he is by far better than Hughes and Kennedy. I think the argument could be made for the starting rotation or the bullpen, but I think that Joba could be the shutdown ace that the Yanks have not had in a long time.

  3. You don't keep a guy with 3 (maybe 4) plus pitches in the bullpen.

  4. Nice post. I'm surprised at the number of people who think Joba should be in the bullpen permanently. The bullpen is for guys who can't make it as a starter, either due to a lack of 4 good pitches, a lack of endurance, or an injury risk. If you are able to throw effectively as a starter, you do. If you don't pan out as a starter, you try your arm in the bullpen, where you can succeed pitching only a few innings at a time, and with fewer pitches in your arsenal. It doesn't work the other way around - if you can't succeed in the bullpen, you're not going to transition to the starting rotation.

    Joba clearly deserves a real shot at the starting rotation when the time is right (so that he won't go over his 150 inning limit).

    The Yanks have plenty of guys right now who can set up Rivera and they've got Rivera's successor waiting in the minors as we speak.

  5. Nice post. I'm on the fence on this one. I think he should definitely stay in the bullpen this year. As for next year, if we have 3 good (not merely decent) starters who can give us some length, I have no problem grooming him to be Mo's replacement.

    If our starting rotation leaves a bit to be desired, then definitely throw him in there. I'm completely on board with the "what good's an 8th inning guy if we can't get through the first 7" argument.

    For the rest of this season you HAVE to keep him in the bullpen, though. Next year, we'll see.

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