Thursday, October 2, 2008

Addicted to Coke

Something I found interesting:

Joba Chamberlain, September/October 2007

12.2 Innings Pitched
7 hits
2 runs
1 earned run
17 Strike outs
2 Walks
0.71 ERA

Phil Coke, September 2008

14.7 Innings Pitched
8 hits
1 run
1 earned run
14 strike outs
2 walks
0.61 ERA

(statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference)

There are a few reasons that it's hard to compare Phil Coke to Joba...right?

I was going to say that first there's an age difference, but Coke is only two years older than Joba. I understand that a 25 year old player should be at a different stage developmentally than a 23 year old. Joba's the Yankees #1 prospect of 2008 according to the Baseball America handbook while Coke isn't even in the index--and he's not in Baseball Prospectus 2008 either.

Two years, however, is just two years. Phil Coke isn't a 33 year old journeyman; he's a young pitcher. Perhaps a late bloomer, maybe, but if he continues to pitch as well as he did in September, he has more of his career ahead of him, rather than less.

The expectations on Joba are, of course, much different than those on Coke. Joba's expected to anchor a rotation in the future. Coke is...well, not.

If you get past that, for a second, think about the different situations in which the two broke in at the major league level.

When Joba broke in, it was after blazing through four levels of the minors in one season, and in the middle of a pennant race in which the Yankees still had realistic hope of not just winning the Wild Card but also winning the division.

When Phil Coke broke in, the Yankees had been realistically eliminated from the division and more or less eliminated from the Wild Card as well. the pressure, and indeed, the expectations on him were completley different

Coke has, of course, opened many eyes--and if the Yankees have noticed, so has everyone else.

You're not supposed to judge players based on September performances, but, alas, for Coke, that's all we have to go on.

This is what you like to see, as a baseball fan--the unheralded player, one that might even be a prospect, opening eyes and drawing much interest. Now there are questions as to whether Coke should be a starter, and depending on whether or not the Yankees land a big Free Agent starter, Coke might find himself talked about in February and March as being a part of the rotation.

Is Coke better than Joba?

Over the long run, probably not--Joba has better 'pure stuff', but every time you try to think of a reason that Joba and Coke don't compare, you find either that they do, or that there's a plausible excuse as to why not.

Joba has pitched in pressure situations.

Coke's never seen October, but he pitched quite effectively in the Final Game, which more or less had the same amount of must-win pressure (even if the season at that point had been lost, that one game was, of course, a must-win).

Joba's strike out numbers are much higher, but then, so are his innings, and when you take a look at comparative innings, the numbers are similar.

Joba can throw it 100. Coke finished the season at 96.

Joba's family life makes for a great story. Coke...well, nearly getting cut from the team in Spring Training is a story in its own right.

Joba has a cool name. You can make drug puns with Coke's.

It's very possible that next season Coke comes back to earth and ends up as a solid, if not spectacular left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen--and thus a very valuable commodity.

Yet there still remains the possibility--funny, ironic, whatever--that Coke ends up finding himself of more value to the 2009 Yankees than Ian Kennedy or Phil Hughes.

How many of us still remember he was almost dealt in the Nady/Marte deal? Were the Yankees, perhaps, on to something when they decided not to trade him? Did Pittsburgh miss something in preferring Karstens and McCutcheon? Time will tell.

We will be watching him with great interest.


  1. I was impressed with Coke, but you can't judge on September. I would like to see more of him next season. One advantage he has over Joba is that he is a lefty.

  2. I'm cautiously optimistic about Coke. He could turn out to be a big part of the team in the future but it's a little too early to tell at this point.

  3. At the very, very least, Phil Coke has earned himself serious consideration for either a bullpen or a starting role next season. As you pointed out, a good lefty out of the pen who can also give you length and perhaps spot start is a valuable commodity. A left handed starter to go along with either CC or Pettitte at Yankee Stadium is also nothing to sneeze at.

    I hope September wasn't a fluke and that Coke doesn't "fall back down to earth" come spring training.

    Good bit of writing, Rebecca and interesting comparison.

  4. I like what I saw of Coke this year. If he is not a Sept. flash in the pan, the Yanks will have found a diamond...wherever they put him. As the other posters said(more or less), "let's see how he is next year." All hope for positive results, let's hope he delivers. 27/09.