I’m not going to make too much of this just yet, but many fans and some sportswriters were wondering why Girardi didn’t call on Joba Chamberlain last night with a 6-0 lead in the 8th inning. On the surface, it looked like the perfect spot to use him. We all understand that Joba lost his role as the primary set up man for Mariano Rivera, but this was a low-leverage, late inning spot where you would typically see him, one where you hope he gets you a few outs and Wood and Mo are backing him up if he gets in any trouble.
It’s not the first time we’ve asked this question this post season. You could have called on Joba to bail out CC against Hardy and Valencia in the 7th inning of Game 1, or to face Delmon Young and Jim Thome the following inning where Girardi called on Robertson. In Game 2 Andy took you to the 8th inning, so there was really no issue there. Girardi’s pat answer for choosing one reliever over the other is “I liked the match up”. But last night you had the bottom of the Twins order coming up in Valencia and JJ Hardy as the first two batters. Both are right handed, so it’s not as if there was a righty-lefty issue. What I think it really comes down to is trust, and Girardi simply trusts Wood more than Joba. You have the ALDS clincher within your grasp, you look to lock it down and not mess around.
But Joe’s post season usage tells you something about what Girardi thinks of Joba and how far he’s fallen in the eyes of the Yankee brass. Last year he was still viewed as a potential heir to Mariano and was given opportunities to come up big in the post season. His performances were shaky at best. Now Dave Robertson regularly gets the nod in the 6th or 7th, Logan is the LOOGY and Wood is the unquestioned primary set up man. If Joe still thinks the game is within reach, he’s clearly shown that he will opt for one of them over Mr Chamberlain.
Fans still hold on to 07 Joba, thinking that’s still within him. But it was a unique circumstance for a variety of reasons. It was his first time through the league, when pitchers always have an advantage before the scouting reports catch up with them. He was given regular usage and regular rest with the ‘Joba Rules’ so he was always sharp and always strong. He had built up his arm as a starter that year, so relief work was a breeze for him. But the past two seasons, the Yanks have tried him as both a starter and reliever and he’s been mediocre and inconsistent. After an awful first half this year, where his ERA topped out at an ugly 5.95 on July 26th, he lost his bullpen role and was much better in the 2nd half. Over his last 30 appearances he pitched to a 2.15 ERA in the obscurity of his low leverage role. To be sure he’s still young (25) and many pitchers struggle to find a routine that works for them early in their career. But if he continues to pitch like he has the past two seasons, the Yanks will have some decisions to make with him.