Tuesday, January 11, 2011

N to the Izzo V to the Izzay

Please note that unlike David Ortiz, I will properly cite Jay-Z here.

As much as I continue the gimmick about the Red Sox being no sure thing next year (and I do believe this), I do not envy Pat. Talk about the Red Sox' rotation being a mess. At least they don't have Ivan Nova AND Sergio Mitre rounding out their rotation. Ugh. Wow. Thanks, Andy Pettitte. Go text a massage therapist.

Look, Ivan Nova or Sergio Mitre are fine back-of-the-rotation starters for a team in a weaker division. But not this one. And not if your payroll is as high as the Yankees'. It's like looking at the Red Sox' outfield last year, but Cashman cannot even blame injuries for this.

Of course, if he had any balls, he would do what's right and put a guy with the body of a starter and, for better or for worse, the stuff of either a decent starter or a decent reliever, into the rotation. The bloggers, including Replacement Level and NoMaas, are still calling for Joba Chamberlain to be in the rotation. Forget what's best for the baseball player. At this point, it's probably best for the team.

First of all, it's straight fact that strain in 2008, probably a product of Chamberlain being jerked around between the starter role and the reliever role, has resulted in a slight degradation of his stuff, most spectacularly his fastball. Does Chamberlain still have the raw heat to be a lights-out eighth inning guy? The WHIP of 1.3 and the ERA of 4.4 would suggest not. Not that the 9.7 K/9 is a bad statistic, but he's more human than they probably want from this guy. The slider location problems are also more of a problem when there are no outs and a man on second in a one-run game in the eighth.

However, this decrease in the quality of the raw, pure stuff is something you can overcome as a mid-rotation starter. Seriously, all the guy needs to be is marginally better than Ivan Nova and he presents value to the Yankees. He doesn't need to be "saved," in NoMaas's terms. He'll be able to face a whole lineup a couple of times, including the weaker parts of lineups. He can contribute innings. And, if the Yankees don't ultimately want the guy, they can get more value as a trading chip if the guy is a starter.

Lastly, if he really does have arm troubles and will never throw the smoke again that he threw back in 2007 as a starter or reliever, baseball history dictates that you can develop a brain and overcome less-than-lethal stuff. Many pitchers have put together Hall of Fame careers that way. But they did it as starters. Unless you have great stuff, you will most likely not be a good reliever in the long run. You can for a little while - look at Chad Bradford, Hideki Okajima, or Keith Foulke. But after a while, the party ends.

Joba Chamberlain is 25 years old. For those keeping score, he's two years and ten days younger than top prospect/future Hall of Fame outfielder 46. He can - and still should - be a starter. He isn't going to be Roger Clemens as a starting pitcher. But he can still have a long, worthwhile career. And he can help the Yankees for a long time that way. At least more than Ivan Nova can.

As a reliever? I don't see it happening.

3 comments:

Patrick said...

i think this came up in a comments section a little while back, but i'm not sure. either way, normally i'd be in the give joba another chance as a starter camp. starters have more value, and also, why not at this point, worth a shot. but maybe the yankees have reason to believe he just won't hold up as a starter, and therefore just want to continue to build upon his first full season as a reliever, the first full season he's spend pitching in any one way since 2006. if that's the case, then giving him a chance to start may be pointless, and even detrimental. in this situation, or others like this, i can see the rationale to keep him in the bullpen. better to try to develop a really good reliever then nothing at all just for the sake of giving him the chance to start. but if this isn't the case, and he is capable of being a starter, then i'd be all for giving him another shot in spring training.

one thing about your joba argument, he still has great raw, pure stuff. his fastball averaged 94.6 last year. it averaged 97 in '07 and 95 in '08. so it's not quite what it was when he first came up, but he has never recaptured that fastball since. and that's not really what matters, what matters is that 94.6 is still a major fastball. he didn't have a problem tossing up a 2.60 era averaging 95 flat in '08 (granted that 95 is more impressive in '08 than the '10 figure because he made 12 starts, but he also made 30 relief appearances and the general point can still be seen). he also averaged 87.2 on his slider last year, the hardest he's thrown it in his career. you could argue he should take a little off of it to get more movement, but the point is that he still has serious stuff. his problem out of the bullpen in 2010 was not a decline in stuff, but his inability to get there every day. he gave up 35 earned runs in 73 games total, but he gave up SEVENTEEN of those earned runs in FIVE APPEARANCES. put another way, he gave up 48.6% of his earned runs in 6.8% of his appearances. my point is not to say take these games out, because you can't. my point is that even with those games in there, he was downright dominant for most of 93.2% of the time, mostly because he still has big stuff. you'd rather he got rid of these really terrible performances, especially because some of them were in big spots. but there is still something to be said for being really good for most of 68 appearances and bad for 5 as opposed to being mediocre for 73. you can be a late-inning reliever in the former scenario, you can't in the latter.

you can get by with one of nova or mitre in the rotation, but not both. especially if it's nova, who is likely the much better pitcher, which it would be if they added another starter. nova has that raw, pure stuff - especially the fastball - that allowed him to dominate lineups the first time through last year. once he refines his command and learns more about the strategy of pitching to a lineup a 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th time he has the potential to develop into a quality back-end starter because of his stuff. it's a small sample, but even as it is, you'd sign up for the 4.50 era and 96 era+ performance he turned in over the course of 42 big league innings last year right now. that's the type of league-average-ish performance you don't mind seeing in the 5 slot. but that's protected by four more proven arms filling out the rest of the rotation. the yankees are an arm short right now.

the gm said...

Pat,

Is 94.6 a "major fastball" for a reliever? In the year 2011, 97 is again, yes. But is 94.6 as a reliever better than, say, 91 as a starter if he develops a brain? That's all I'm driving at.

All I know is that back in 2007, I was not hoping to see Chamberlain come in as a reliever. In 2010, he was pretty much Dan Wheeler in my eyes. This may be steeped in opinion, not fact, but that's the way I see it.

Perhaps the most valid point you bring up is that last year was the first year he was not jerked around, and jerking him around one more time would just do more damage.

Patrick said...

95 mph is an impressive fastball no matter how you slice it. that's going to get a lot of outs in relief, as the numbers i pointed out in my previous comment illuminate.

whether 95 as a reliever or 91 as a starter is better goes back to my original point about his ability to hold up as a starter. if he can, then your point is totally valid and we are in agreement. if he can't, then the yankees are better suited trying to get the most out of him by letting him get continually more comfortable relieving, which is to your last point. it really comes down to whether or not the yankees have serious reason to believe he just can't start. i have no idea whether they do or don't.