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A Rant

Posted by Matt Imbrogno at 3:50 pm Add comments
Mar 262010

Normally, I consider myself a pretty reasonable person. In general, I don’t let my emotions get the best of me. Most of the time, when confronted with something I don’t agree with, I’ll at least try to think it through and see the valid points of the opposition. As a rule, I try to avoid gut reactions. Yesterday, I broke that rule.

When I found out that Phil Hughes would be the fifth starter, via phone conversation with my girlfriend when I left my internship, I let loose an array of curses like few I’ve uttered before. I’m very angry about this.

Before going any farther, I want to say this: my ire is not to be taken as vitriol against Phil Hughes. I like Phil Hughes and I really hope he succeeds in the rotation. He’s got all the tools to do so, and I think he’ll prove himself well. Anyway, let me tell you all why I’m angry about this (it’s pretty predictable):

1. It makes me lose a bit of faith in the front office’s ability to decide how to best utilize talented players. The last two and a half years of Joba Chamberlain’s handling has been absolutely atrocious. Despite Joba’s success in the rotation in 2008, that year is almost a wasted year of development, if only because of his injury. Due to that injury, the attempted back loading of his innings looked even sillier than it did in the first place. He should have been starting from day one in 2008. That was the first major set back to his development; this is the second, and more major, hindrance. The handling of Phil Hughes in 2009 was also sketchy–he never should have been relieving. I fear that future big time prospect pitchers–Manny Banuelos, for example–will be mishandled in a similar fashion to Hughes and Chamberlain.

2. It’s short sighted. While either pitcher who lost the competition would be getting set back, it makes little sense for Chamberlain, who just pitched a full season and has been gradually broken in as a starter in the past two years, to be the one who takes a step back. Doing this now makes the 2011 Yankees a little weaker (discounting a huge FA pitcher contract that I don’t think is coming). Once again in 2011, the Yankees will have to play it safe with Joba-the-Starter (if he returns to that role, ugh). 2010 will be another year of lost development for Chamberlain. In the bullpen, he likely won’t be utilizing all of his pitches, but rather just his fastball and slider, which don’t really need that much work. This move, if made permanent, has the ability to be Dave Righetti Part Two.

3. It kills Chamberlain’s trade value. I have never wanted to trade either one of Chamberlain or Hughes, but I have to wonder now if the Yankees could get more value out of Joba by trading him now. However, the Yankees know Joba better than any other team. If they don’t believe that Chamberlain can handle being the fifth starter for two consecutive years, why would any team think that? Even if another team’s GM does believe (and properly so) that Chamberlain could be a good starter, why would he let that on? He’d likely “pretend”, so to speak, to be low on Joba and would not give up as much as he should. This move has made Joba basically un-tradeable.

Of course, there are ways that this catastrophe could be mitigated:
1. If a starter gets hurt and Chamberlain fills the role. Based on what the Yankees did with Phil Hughes/Chien-Ming Wang in 2009, this seems unlikely.
2. Chamberlain starts 2010 in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. This also seems unlikely in light of the Hughes/Wang situation of 2009 (I hope this is what happens, but I’m definitely not holding my breath).
3. Chamberlain’s role in the 2010 Yankee bullpen is not as a one-inning-and-done-closer-lite-role. If he does indeed pitch out of the ‘pen to start, ’10, I hope it is in an Alfredo Aceves type role, in which he can get multiple innings at a time. Again, though, this seems unlikely. The Yankees already have two long guys in Aceves and Mitre. Of course, it’s never a bad thing to have three guys who can go multiple innings out of the bullpen; but given the trends of current bullpen usage, it’s not likely that all three are used as multiple inning guys (I’m pining for the return of the 2-3 inning closer and using that as a way to break in young pitchers).

Basically, I’m pretty peeved about this. It does, however, make me realize how lucky I am as a Yankee fan. Most teams would kill to have one of Hughes/Chamberlain on their rosters; the Yankees have both. When your team’s biggest problem is which high-upside-ultra-talented you can put in the rotation, you know you’re pretty lucky.

So, in closing:
Dear Phil: Good luck; don’t forget about the curveball.
Dear Joba: Tough break, but blow ‘em away, anyway.
Dear Brian Cashman, Dave Eiland, and Joe Girardi: I hope you know what you’re doing. Do the right thing and send Joba to SWB to start the year.

16 Responses to “A Rant”

  1. Why Righetti part two (although would that be so bad)? Remember, Mariano also came up as a starter. Do you wish he were still one? It is easy to see any of a number of free agent starters we would like to have. Can you think of a single possible replacement for Mariano who might come close to having his value other than Joba?  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Papelbon for one, although I hate him. Joakim Soria. These guys are not Mo, but no one will be. I have a tough time believing Joba would be any better than either. I do know that he has 4 pitches, which makes me believe he can be a starter. Mo came up as a starter, but he had 1.5 pitches, which is why going to the pen made sense.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. I have long been in favor of trading one. I have been pretty vocal about it. That said, as karlovau said, maybe Joba really is the next starter turned dominant closer. Let’s not even compare him to Mo, but I don’t think a Pappelbon would be an unfair comparison. I think there HAS to be a reason for this that we don’t know about. Maybe Girardi, Cashman and Joba sat down and said, “Joba, we think your stuff plays better out of the pen,” and he agreed. Obviously everyone has thought a lot about it, and the thing that makes the LEAST amount of sense is the whole “the front office is making a mistake.” This is becoming a front office that is right up the sabermatrics fans alleys. They clearly know 200 innings is better then 60. There just has to be something that is unknown to us, some variable that the fans/media don’t know about (yet). I keep going back to the Red Sox, because they honestly do have a good front office. They realized that it was smart to let Lester take his lumps and knew to pull the plug on the Pappelbon experiment quickly. Perhaps there is something here.

    Now I have to repeat, and I think Matt did well to point it out (since no one else seems to be echoing my statements) that Joba’s value on the trade market is plummeting. The smart thing to do would have been to deal from a strength to help a weakness (such as an outfielder for instance) or to further strengthen the minors. Once Vazquez got here, two were fighting for one spot. Hughes is where he should be. I firmly believe this. Mike at RAB long ago thought Joba would have the higher high, while Hughes had the long lasting career. The problem is, it’s looking more and more likely that the Yankees will not get ANYTHING CLOSE to the return they expected on the player they were against trading in the Johan Santana deal.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    There just has to be something that is unknown to us, some variable that the fans/media don’t know about (yet).

    I’m not so sure. Every quote said if they had two spots, both would be in the rotation. They had one, they gave it to Hughes. It doesnt mean that they dont see Joba as a starter.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Jay Reply:

    Ok well that may be true. However, the question still stands could Joba’s shoulder withstain another round of in and out of the bullpen.  (Quote)

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  3. I feel your pain. I don’t think it would have been smart to not trade for Vasquez and rely on both Hughes and Joba through growing pains so one was going to draw the short stick. I don’t think there is an easy answer and as you said in a way this is a good problem to have. I think it would be a waste to stick Joba in AAA and I believe Cashman when he says that he still views Joba as a starter long term. I think the best solution could be to use Joba as a swingman so that he’s still #6 starter and gets multi-inning bullpen outings to work on his secondary pitches. They’d have to make a deliberate decision to do that though and I’m not confident that they will when they have Mitre, Aceves and Park all capable of providing multi innings in relief.  (Quote)

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  4. Moshe, this is the part I liked the most…
    So, in closing:
    Dear Phil: Good luck; don’t forget about the curveball.
    Dear Joba: Tough break, but blow ‘em away, anyway.
    Dear Brian Cashman, Dave Eiland, and Joe Girardi: I hope you know what you’re doing. Do the right thing and send Joba to SWB to start the year.
    ===============================
    Only one addition would I make…I mean, other than NO trading of Joba…that would be;
    Dear Phil: Good luck; don’t forget about the curve-ball and the Change-up.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Ken (OR) Reply:

    Sorry ’bout that Matt, must have been a brain lock to forget which of you guys wrote the blog.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    Don’t worry about it, Ken. We just appreciate your reading.  (Quote)

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  5. Let me just say I disagree with most of what you said. Catastrophe? I don’t think so.

    If Joba had been chosen and Phil was sent to the pen, I would have been disappointed. Hughes is the one that needs to bring his innings up now, not Chamberlain. But that wouldn’t have been a catastrophe to me either. I truly believe they did exactly the right thing. Now both of them will be ready for full time work next year.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    So it wouldn’t make sense to limit Hughes’ innings, but it makes sense to DECREASE Chamberlain’s? I don’t follow that logic.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    oldpep Reply:

    The Yankees position is that the previous high inning mark is the one to use, not the most recent one. I think that’s the right way to do it. That’s why Hughes is slated for 170 IP or so. Chamberlain will (if he’s capable) be a full time starter next year.
    I wonder how many on either side of this debate took the time to look at what was done routinely and successfully for many years in MLB history. Whitey Ford pitched a lot of relief as well as starting when he arrived, and nobody said a word. Guidry had 26 starts and 22 relief appearances at the beginning of his career. Cone had 41 starts and 26 relief appearances. etc. etc.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    1. I hope you’re right. I fear that you aren’t.
    2. Bullpen usage, even just 21-22 years ago when Cone was starting out, was incredibly different than it is now. If teams still used multi inning relievers now like they did in the past, it’d make more sense to break young guys in that way. This is part of the reason I hope that the single-inning closer gets phased out over time (I’m so not holding my breath on this one).  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Ken (OR) Reply:

    Sorry ’bout that Matt, must have been a brain lock to forget which of you guys wrote the blog.

    Here is hoping the Yankees let him throw more than one inning, every once in a while.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  6. I have a feeling they’re going to give him a chance to be the 8th inning guy. As the above articles indicate, he may even prefer that role. Even given that, I agree about giving him 2+ inning outings-hopefully they do, but not if he’s the main set-up guy. I’d prefer that role and the long-man role be more of a rotation. They did give Hughes some multi-inning outings late last year if memory serves, but I think we all were hoping they’d give him more.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  7. “Doing this now makes the 2011 Yankees a little weaker (discounting a huge FA pitcher contract that I don’t think is coming)”

    very good job at looking ahead because many thought this FA class would be the best in yrs but every few months another name gets taken off the list. Even pitchers that could have have been traded for had signed extensions. It will be interesting to see what happens with vasquez, hughes, and andy because they play a role in what happens with joba  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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