Well I jinxed it. I stopped writing about the Yankees and they win 10 of 11. I come back and they lose a heartbreaker, 7-6. I’m a jinx.
Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. The game was a heartbreaker only because the Toronto pitchers lost the strike zone and allowed the Yankees to come within one run. New York shouldn’t have been in the game at all, but as John Sterling said after the game, “Hey, it’s baseball, you lose a couple games.”
It’s hard to complain about a 10-1 stretch, but I do have one grievance: Joba. He continues to baffle me by pitching just well enough to be effective, but poor enough to long for the days when he came out of the pen. Joba only gave up three earned runs in his start on Sunday, but thanks to two errors he allowed eight runs on nine hits and threw 86 pitches in 3.2 innings.
I intended to write a scathing criticism of Joba, lamenting Girardi’s refusal to put him back into the 8th inning role and wondering how many mediocre starts Yankee fans have to endure before Hank and Hal and Cashman wake up and decide to do something about it. However, as I looked into the numbers you can make the case that Joba flat out DESERVES to be part of the starting rotation. With this in mind, I give you the fair and balanced arguments for and against Joba’s future in the starting rotation. Eat your heart out Fox News.
THE CASE FOR JOBA
Any pitcher who can keep his ERA under 4 in today’s American League is a valuable commodity; only 22 American league starters currently fit the bill. Joba has the 23rd best AL ERA with a 4.04 mark. Ranking 23rd in any statistical category isn’t going to turn heads, but think about what 23rd best really means. There are 14 teams in the AL. If we used ERA as a guide Joba would be the 2nd starter on Baltimore, Boston, Minnesota, Cleveland, Oakland, and Los Angeles. As it is he projects to be a third starter on his own team behind AJ and CC. That’s pretty damn good.
I should also point out that pitching in the AL East is different than pitching in the Central or West. Three of the top four and four of the top seven run producing offenses in the MLB reside in the AL East, and the pitchers’ ERAs reflect that. Roy Halladay is the only Al East starter in the top 10 of American League ERA. Joba has the eighth best ERA of any AL East starter. He also has the ninth best K/9 ratio in the entire American League, striking out nearly eight batter per nine innings. When you look at Joba in the light of these numbers, he should be in the starting rotation, right?
THE CASE AGAINST JOBA
Joba may have a nice ERA, but the peripheral numbers say his ERA is ready to start climbing. Let’s take a look at the 40 pitchers with the best ERA in the American League. This sample ranges from #1 Zach Greinke’s 2.00 ERA to #40 Carl Pavano’s 5.36. Of those 40 pitchers, only Vincente Padilla and Brett Anderson have thrown fewer than Joba’s 84.2 innings. What’s worse is that Joba has one more start than Anderson and two more than Padilla. Per start, Chamberlain throws the fewest innings among the top 40, averaging less than 5.1 innings. Joba may be a decent starter when he’s out there, but he isn’t out there for long, which means the Yankees bullpen has to pick up the slack.
Looking at the same list of 40, Joba has the worst WHIP of them all (1.53). Chamberlain is allowing over a runner and a half per inning. No wonder he can’t get out of the fifth inning.
SHOULD HE START?
I say no. I would love to see a CC, AJ, Wang, Pettitte, Hughes rotation, with Joba available for the 7th and 8th innings out of the pen. Although now that Hughes is excelling in relief, he’s made the situation a little more complicated. Still, based on Joba’s body of work as a reliever, I’d rather see him on the hill in the eighth than Hughes.
Again, it’s not that I don’t want Joba to start eventually, or that he doesn’t deserve to start. I just want what’s best for the Yankees, and what’s best is for Joba to be a reliever. Besides, that’s what he’s going to do in October anyway.
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