Mike Francesa Really Wants Joba in Da Pen

2009 May 28
by CajoleJuice

Both guys are in the wrong here (6th or 7th best ERA in baseball over the past two years?), but nonetheless, Francesa totally loses his shit, and it is glorious. I’m squarely on the side of the caller (even if I don’t agree with some of his points), but I have the funny feeling that the fat cornhusker will be soon relegated to the bullpen due to Yankee desperation. And I hope Joba continues to be mediocre after that happens, so we can have the people on Francesa’s side argue that putting him in the rotation led to his ruin. It’s funny that Francesa yells at the top of his lungs, “HUGHES IS A STARTING PITCHER! ANDY PETTITTE IS A STARTING PITCHER!” when Joba was also a starting pitcher his entire life. He just happened to throw 24 innings of amazing ball out of the bullpen in 2007. 24 innings. (Let’s not count the playoffs, considering he was attacked by bugs.) And the only reason he was in the bullpen? He had used up most of his innings limit in the minors starting.

I can’t deny that Joba has been less than stellar so far this year, but should we just ignore how great he was during his run in the rotation last year? Thanks to the glory of Baseball-Reference.com, I can look at game logs and even add up a certain run of games. I can utilize my own small sample size to justify keeping Joba in the rotation! Joba was a starter for 12 games, but the bookends of that stint were the only subpar outings. Let’s arbitrarily kick out the first and second games due to him getting accustomed to being back in the rotation, and the last game because he was possibly hurt. The middle 9 games: 3-1, 2.00 ERA, .232/.301/.273 BA/OBP/SLG against, 6 IP/start. The Yankees went 7-2 in those 9 games. Not too shabby. And that’s 54 IP! More than double his folkhero-esque 2007 season!

Maybe what should be looked at is what happened between this season and last, not what happened when he transitioned back to the rotation. His fastball velocity is down a shocking amount (down 3 mph from last year), although it seems like it never quite got back to the same level pre-injury. Maybe 2007 Joba is the best he’ll ever be. And even if he goes back to the bullpen, what guarantee is there that he’ll be the same dominating force? He’s not going to be Mariano Rivera for the next 15 years. I’d argue we won’t see anyone duplicate Rivera’s career in the next few decades. And you know what? He still wasn’t as valuable as a great starting pitcher. I will concede the point, though, that he was definitely perfect for the Yankees, a team with a reserved spot in the playoffs for a dozen years. In October, Rivera was used to his maximum potential and he deserves all the praise he receives for his inhuman performance. Other than 1997, even when he blew saves or lost games, it was always seemingly due to errors or bloop hits. The dude is fucking incredible.

…and I’ve veered completely off-topic due to the awesomeness of Mariano Rivera. Let me just state my one point from the previous paragraph: A STARTING PITCHER IS MORE VALUABLE THAN A RELIEF PITCHER. 200 IP > 70 IP. I could digress once again and whine about how closers should be utilized differently and more frequently, but I’m no Bill James. The bottom line is that Joba Chamberlain needs to be kept in the rotation for the Yankees to extract as much value out of him as possible. Pettitte might not be around next year. A.J. Burnett is liable to get hurt at any moment. There will be starting spots to fill. Do the Yankees want to fuck around with their stud and shuffle him back and forth between roles? Conversely, I know Rivera is also near the end of his rope, and I know people continuously bring up Jonathon Papelbon as the perfect example as to why Joba should be groomed to be the next closer, but simple math is on my side. His performance this season isn’t due to him being in the rotation, it’s due to him just not being 100% for whatever reason. Putting him BACK IN DA PEN isn’t going to magically fix him.

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  3. Because I Haven’t Made a Baseball Post in a While…