Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Joba's 12 K performance undermined by bad first and bullpen (Postgame notes 5 May 2008)

If you ask someone whether it's more important that Joba Chamberlain struck out 12 batters in five innings or that the Yankees can't buy a win against the Red Sox, the answer they give you will probably tell you where they sit on the Joba-as-starter-or-in-the-bullpen debate.

There's no getting around the fact that Joba's first inning was bad, and I mean really, really bad.

The first five batters all reached base and before Joba recorded an out it was 4-0 Sox. No matter what Joba did the rest of the game, this would hang over him and the Yankees.

So what did Joba do?

He did the only thing he could do after that inning.

He went back out and pitched some more, and dominated. I don't mean he pitched well. I mean dominated.

He struck out 12 Red Sox and the last eight were all in a row. The last time a Yankee struck out 12 at Yankee Stadium? Mike Mussina in 2003.

It's been a long time.

Joba's pitch count did get up there fairly quickly because of the first inning and because strike outs tend to take a lot of pitches, but, if Joba's doing this at 23...

Alas, the good news for the Yankees ends there.

The bullpen was handed a 4-3 lead, and within a couple innings it was 6-3. The only reliever right now who seems to be able to get anyone out with any sort of certainty is Phil Coke; Veras and Ramirez inspire little confidence, Melancon could not throw a strike and Albaladejo simply had nothing.

The offense was never able to get the clutch hit, but with Posada injured and A-Rod still at least a few days away, the Yankees will have to get used to a Peña-Molina combo at the bottom of the line up. It doesn't help that Robinson Canó seems to have gone ice cold, either.

Granted, Canó was never going to keep up his hot start, but it's been a few games now without a hit and the Yankees really need everything to be working.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but Nick Swisher doesn't seem to like to hit at Yankee Stadium. His hitting on the road sorta makes up for it, but it'd be nice to see him hit at the Stadium.

Right now, Melky's attempt to stretch a double into a triple looms large, as he was the tying run, but with one out it wasn't an awful decision, and he very nearly made it.

It's only the fourth time all season the Yankees failed to score four runs, and they would have if not for that play.

So there are two things to take from tonight's game:

1) Joba is a starter. No question. Yes, he could help the team in the bullpen, but the bullpen isn't even a factor if the Yankees can't get to it with a lead or a close game.

2) The bullpen is an abyss. It's baffling. These guys were so good last year, so why are they so bad this year? It makes little sense.

Such is the nature of baseball, however, and if you can't handle that, then you need to find a different sport.