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Mar 092010


Last week, Steve throughly and cogently argued the case for Alfredo Aceves winning the competition for the Yankees’ lone available rotation slot. Today, I present 5 reasons why I believe that Joba Chamberlain is the only logical choice for that role.

1) Joba has the highest upside: Quite simply, Joba Chamberlain has the highest ceiling of the five options. While Aceves or even Gaudin might provide more predictable performance, only Joba (and to a lesser extent, Hughes) has the capability to turn into something much greater than a 5th starter type. For a team with 4 starters that have thrown at least 200 innings more than a few times over recent years, it makes sense to go with upside over stability in that 5th starter role.
2) There is more to lose if Joba is not in the rotation: Starting Aceves rather than Joba carries a much greater risk than allowing Joba to start. If Joba is put into the rotation and fails, he can simply be replaced with one of the other options, with no real long-term repercussions to follow. There is no real negative consequence to moving Aceves back and forth between roles. Conversely, if Joba starts the season in the bullpen, he is unlikely to pitch enough innings to allow him to properly continue his development, even if he was returned to the rotation mid-season. He would likely finish with a maximum of 100-110 innings, and would almost certainly be on an innings limit in 2011, which leads me to my next point.
3) The Yankees will likely be searching for starters next offseason: The only Yankee starters that are locked in to the 2011 rotation are CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Depending on the performance and contract demands of Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez, the Yankees will be looking for anywhere from 1-3 starters next offseason. Having Joba Chamberlain established as a starter would go a long way towards allowing the Yankees to efficiently fill those empty slots. If the Yankees could have Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes providing quality innings at a low cost, it would allow them to invest in a player such as Cliff Lee. A rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Vazquez or Lee, Chamberlain, and Hughes (on an innings limit) would be expensive but dominant at the top and cost efficient and effective at the bottom.
4) He may be the best of the five right now: While Joba was inconsistent and occasionally awful last season, his overall body of work as a starter suggests that even if you ignore upside, he may be the best option of the five right now. Matt looked at the projections for Chamberlain, and found that the average projection has him notching a 4.10 ERA, 1.4332 WHIP, and 3.95 FIP in 2010. I have a hard time believing that any of the others would beat that line. Of course, some might argue that putting Joba in the bullpen will also improve that area of the team, but I think that it really would not make for an appreciable difference. Having Joba and Hughes in the bullpen at the expense of the rotation seems to be a bit of overkill. A bullpen with Rivera, Hughes, Marte, Park, Robertson, and Aceves should be excellent, and throwing Joba in there at the expense of his development is uneccessary.
5) What Were The Joba Rules For?: The Yankees have carefully managed Chamberlain’s workload for three seasons to reach the moment where he can freely pitch as many innings as the club needs from him. Now that they have reached that moment, it seems silly to stick him back in the bullpen or send the minors. I am not suggesting that the Yankees stick with their plan for Joba blindly. Rather, I believe that the fact that 1) Joba still has the greatest upside and 2) might actually be the best pitcher for the job in 2010, makes sticking with the development plan the most logical and prudent choice. It is time to see whether Joba Chamberlain can be a long-term answer in the Yankees rotation.

Do you agree?

15 Responses to “My #5 Choice: Joba Chamberlain”

  1. Excellent summary of all the relevant reasons why Joba should be the 5th starter. While I as well want him to “win” the 5th spot, I worry that we will never see the Joba that was consistently in the mid 90s as a starter before that shoulder injury in ’08. Has he never completely healed from that injury? Was he using some sort of PEDs? Probably no to both, but his drop in velocity doesn’t add up. Granted command/control are more important than velocity, but to see him just peak at the high velocity now when he comes out of the bullpen is just bizarre. In his first spring training start( granted he was sick and needs to build arm strength) he was consistently at 89-90 MPH…this bares watching moving forward.  (Quote)

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  2. What I love is that nobody ever mentions how good Aceves is when coming out of the bullpen. The guy threw 84 innings of 3.5 ERA last season. Plus, he can spot start when needed, come to get one guy out or play set-up man. I actually think he’s a better bullpen piece than Joba because right now Joba is less consistent than him.

    And as for all the other reasons, they’re all correct. No way Aceves starts this season as the #5 guy unless there is a minimum of one starter injured and it’ll probably take two  (Quote)

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  3. Great post. You got right down to the point on 5 reasons Joba should be a starter, and you touched on how it is just common sense to put Joba in the 5th spot. It would make no sense to put him back in the bullpen. Joba is simply the most logical choice for the 5th starter (although my obsession with Phil Hughes sometimes blurs my vision).  (Quote)

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  4. The problem with Aceves needed more in the bullpen argument is that yes he won 10 games there but if he starts and gives you 6 good innings most games, you don’t need a long man as much and none are going to win 10 games probably, so by starting him, you take away the need for him in the bullpen.Joba, Hughes and Mariano can follow and it’s easy. and Melancon is going ot be a top pitcher also and he can start off a long man if needed, he seems to have a rubber arm. post injury.
    Joba needs to regain his power on the fastball.If he can’t he’s a pretty mediocre starting pitcher.Almost in the Gaudin, Mitre class.Let’s face it, he pretty much stunk as a starter last season.Hope he finds the heat.  (Quote)

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    Chip Reply:

    Melancon seems to have a rubber arm because they basically had his appearances scheduled so he wasn’t hardly ever pitching on short rest and he constantly would get through innings with less than 10 pitches so they’d just send him back out there the next inning. Don’t plan on that happening in the big leagues  (Quote)

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  5. Nice logical post, but a couple of points can be refuted.

    Point #5 suggests trying to capitalize on sunk costs. This is a common mistake in poker and in business. See The Sunk Cost Fallacy Throwing Good money after Bad
    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/09/08/the-sunk-cost-fallacy-good-money-after-bad/

    Regarding point #4, Aceves might well do better than Joba’s forcast 4.10 ERA, since his actual ERA has been considerably better than this (althougjh based on a smallish numbdr of innings.)

    I think any of the 5 could be the best decision as 5th starter and am happy to see this competition progress.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I get the sunk cost concept, which is why I noted that I dont want them to simply follow the plan because it exists. Rather, the other factors combine to suggest it makes sense to see the plan through.  (Quote)

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  6. Good post Mo, let me weigh in one by one:

    1) Joba has the highest upside
    A) No argument there, but my argument for Ace was based on maturity and polish. He has more than Joba does at this point. Most pitchers never reach their ceilings, but we know what Ace is right now. A bird in the hand, if you will.

    2) There is more to lose if Joba is not in the rotation
    A) If Joba fails as a starter, then why are you worried about his development as a starter? Not sure where you’re going there.

    3) The Yankees will likely be searching for starters next offseason
    A) No doubt, but they could easily sign Vasquez and re-up with Andy for one more year, and were back to square one.

    5) What Were The Joba Rules For?
    A) To protect his arm, so that we can talk about pitching in either the bullpen or rotation, and not be discussing his surgery date.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Im not sure I get your answer to #2. Do you mean failing in spring training? Because that doesnt count much for me. If Aceves wins the job based on a few innings in March, Joba will not build up enough innings to continue his development properly.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    No, I thought you were saying that if he fails as starter this year, you can shift him to the pen mid-season and he’ll have 100-odd innings for next year. But if he fails as a starter this year, who cares how many innings he has? I think at that point, the move to the pen would be permanent going into 2011.  (Quote)

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  7. Right on target with this post. I’ll take point #5 one step further. If Joba doesn’t win the 5th starter for the Yankees, I completely expect that he’ll open the year at AAA in THEIR rotation. I don’t think he’s ever started a game at AAA, and, to be perfectly honest, I think he would benefit from riding the buses.  (Quote)

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  8. 1- I think Hughes has the best upside of the group because he displays that mound intelligence and the ability to adjust to the game. He develops more pitches like his cutter and now focuses on his change. Phil responds better to adversity as well. When he has pitched poorly, he calmly admits to it. He is more intelligent and more mature than Joba…and the arms is just as talented even if he doesn’t hit 100 MPH. His fastball has more movement as well and he can manage his innings right now better than Joba.
    The difference in speeds between his fastball and his other pitches are equally deceptive.
    Hughes is a year younger than Joba and was rushed up a year too early. As a result got injured trying to do too much too soon.
    It is close…but I give the nod to Hughes.  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    You wanna talk about rushed up too early? Chamberlain had fewer than 90 innings pitched in the minor leagues. As for the pitches, Hughes basically became a two pitch pitcher in the bullpen last year. Yes, the cutter is a different pitch than a fastball, but at the end of the day, it’s just a variant. While it’s a small sample size, we saw in the playoffs what happened to Hughes when he wasn’t able to work on his curveball (it was rather flat in the post-season). Chamberlain, on the other hand, features four different pitches, two of which are very good–fastball and slider–one of which is average–his changeup (difference is still ~10 MPH which is where you want it to be–and one of which is workable–his curveball.

    And, what proof do you have that he can “manage his innings” more skillfully than Chamberlain? Hughes has never had a full season as a starter at the Major League level to do that.  (Quote)

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  9. No way will Hughes or Joba spend time in triple A this season unless both are just horrible in Spring training.No way.
    Let’s stop worrying so much about innings and Joba rules if they’re in the bullpen this season.They can still be starters in the future.There are 100′s of cases where that has happened in the past.Guys were relievers and then were moved in the rotation and nothing bad happened ot their arms.Other guys pitched 150 inninngs in the minors a few years and still blew out arms.
    I doubt Nolan RYan would lose much sleep over it.  (Quote)

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    DaveinMD Reply:

    There is a ton of research from people like Dr. Andrews that huge jumps in innings greatly increases the injury risk. This is also the likely reason that Cole Hamels went from all word to mediocre last year. Its not a good practice.  (Quote)

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