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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gibson’

With the recent acquisition of Rafael Soriano, the seemingly ageless question of whether Joba Chamberlain should be moved back into the starting rotation has resurfaced. It’s a question that has plagued the Yankees ever since Joba exploded on the scene as Mariano’s set-up man in the second half of the 2007 season.

Really, nobody thought the question would be a topic of discussion heading into this season. Joba was given a shot at the #5 spot last spring and lost to Phil Hughes. Going into this offseason, he seemed destined to be given a legitimate chance at earning the 8th inning role, despite his erratic pitching in 2010. After all, the Yankees were the consensus pick to land Cliff LeeAndy Pettitte wasn’t supposed to semi-retire. There wasn’t any room for Joba in the rotation and 8th inning duties looked to be a battle between him and David Robertson.

My, what a difference a few months and one type A free agent signing can bring. Now the 8th inning role is filled and the 7th inning features Joba, Robertson, Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano, while the rotation features world-beaters Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Given the way the pitching staff has suddenly been reshuffled, it’s no wonder the question of Joba’s proper role has resurfaced.

There are plenty of statistical reasons for making Joba a starter again. Mike Axisa of RAB has the usual arguments listed here. There’s also another reason moving Joba to the rotation makes sense: as currently constucted, the ‘pen doesn’t have a long man – the guy you bring in when the starter blows up in the 3rd or 4th inning. Last year, that role was filled by Mitre and Chad Gaudin. The rotation as currently set, with three guys who have a history of falling apart early in starts (not only Nova and Mitre, but the volatile and erratic AJ Burnett), that role looks to be more important than ever this year. After all, the back end of the pen is solid. The middle looks solid – but all six of the guys the team is counting on will wilt in the second half if they’re logging 1/2 of the teams innings.

The argument against Joba starting boils down to two problems: first, how healthy is his shoulder? Second, will he ever display the consistency to be effective over 7+ innings every five days – or is he more of an AJ-lite?

As to the question of health, we’ll never know unless Joba is returned to the rotation, it seems. Last year, his average fastball clocked in around 94-95mph, ending a three year decline in velocity. But, Joba also threw fewer pitches than in any full-season – 30% fewer. Was the increased velocity the result of a lighter workload not taxing that injured shoulder? If returned to the rotation, how will tripling his pitch count affect his velocity and control? (Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs)

The maturity question is another one that’s hard to gauge at this point. If it’s true that being bounced around from one role to another makes a pitcher great, then Joba should be ready to become the next Bob Gibson. But all the evidence thus far points to pitcher who has difficulty controlling his emotions, which is the principle reason he was relegated to the pen in the first place.

Of course, the Yankees could sign a back-of-the-rotation type over the next 4 weeks (Justin Duchsherer, perhaps?), relegating Mitre back to the pen or Nova back to the minors and rendering the whole question moot.

For now.

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31 days until pitchers and catchers report, and Andy Pettitte has yet to decide whether he wants to pitch in 2011. He announced he may sort of, maybe, pitch for half of 2011. In my humble effort to help the Yankees’ 3rd winningest pitcher of all-time make up his mind, I offer 5 reasons he should stop hanging out in his pj’s and get on a plane to Tampa.

  1. You stand to make one final, massive payday. If reports are true, the Yanks had penciled in $22 million for Cliff Lee. We all know that Lee walked away from that and headed to the land of cheese steaks instead, and the Yanks haven’t even begun to spend any of that money. My guess is you can safely tell Cashman & Company to fork over $17 million or so for one final season.
  2. New York loves a winner. There’s absolutely no way coming back can ruin your career reputation. If the team stays in contention, you’ll be the man who saved the season in many eyes. If the team falters and you have a great season, you’ll get to retire with your adoring fans thanking you for one final hurrah. Even if everything goes horribly wrong (team misses playoffs and you don’t play particularly well), everyone will remember you as a great pitcher who came back one final time and gave it your all, but couldn’t outrun Father Time any more.
  3. The Yankees need you! This might be stating the obvious, but they really do. Right now, the rotation projects to CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. It may not be the worst rotation in history, but it certainly comes close. Injecting an Andy Pettitte gives the Yankees two proven starters and gets Mitre back into the bullpen.
  4. Solidify those HOF credentials. Your regular season numbers are probably close to being good enough to getting you into the Hall of Fame, and your post-season pitching should get you over the top (hey, you’re mentioned in the same breath with Whitey Ford and Catfish Hunter when it comes to big game pitching!). But another 15 regular season wins and you’ll pass Herb Pennock, Amos Rusie, Joe McGinty, Vic WillisJuan Marichal, Carl Hubbell, and Bob Gibson – all of whom are already enshrined. Another 150 strikeouts gets you past Marichal, Early Wynn, Rube WaddellRobin Roberts and Sandy Koufax. I know you’ve never been the type to worry about how baseball history views you, but a plaque in Cooperstown is a fitting way to cap off a great career.
  5. Nobody wants their last year to be an injury plagued one. If 2010 is your final season, I can’t imagine it’s the way you envisioned closing your career. Spending 2 1/2 months on the DL and then still not healthy enough to pitch at 100% in the playoffs. (Although, that 80% you gave us was better than the other 3 starters combined). Come on back and show everyone what Andy Pettitte at 100% for a full season can do.

Well, there you go. Just let me know when to send the limo around for you – I’ve got the jet all warmed up and the auto-pilot set for Yankee Stadium.

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