Unfortunately, it is a topic that will be discussed all season long but yesterday’s dominant performance by Chamberlain has once again sparked the Joba in the rotation vs. bullpen debate in the NY media.
Jim Baumbach of Newsday and Jack Curry of the NY Times both addressed this issue yet again this morning after watching yesterday’s game in the late innings. Baumbach’s main argument for keeping Joba in the pen is that the alternative is Kyle Farnsworth and a lot of blown leads.
While that may be true if Farnsworth is indeed handed the 8th inning role later in the season, my problem with that analysis is that Joe Girardi has at least two months to figure out who the best guy is to fill that role once Joba moves to the rotation (as the plan has been all along). Given his long track record and early returns in 2008, Farnsworth will not be handed that role by default. He’ll have to earn it and every Yankee fan reading this blog knows he won’t. The same argument can be said for LaTroy Hawkins.
Girardi is a smart guy and he’s going to go with the hot hand. He's not going to automatically hand the 8th inning keys over to a guy who hasn't proved he can pass the driving test. Not to mention, there are young arms at the minor league level who are going to get opportunities to make a splash.
Shifting focus, the main argument of Curry’s piece is that it’s no coincidence that all three Yankee wins on the young season are games that the Joba/Mo combo came in to seal the deal. My problem with his simplistic analysis is that he ignores the starting pitching performances in said games.In their 3 wins, Yankee starters are a combined 2-0, 1.89 ERA, 1.00 WHIP. In their 3 losses, Yankee starters are a combined 0-3, 8.31 ERA, 2.15 WHIP. Remove the painful Kennedy start on Friday night (2.1 IP, 6 ER) and you’re still talking about a combined 5.06 ERA, 1.87 WHIP in two starts.
Obviously, these are all small samples for either side of this debate given the team has played just six games. However, both of the authors ignore the most glaring weakness of this club since they won their last pennant in 2003 and why they have failed to win a postseason series since 2004.
Clearly, the answer is starting pitching. Of course, the Yankee offense is stacked and they will win a lot of games in the regular season by simply outslugging their opponents. Unfortunately, that strategy rarely works against the elite teams of the AL in October or they would have fared better than a 4-9 record over their last 13 postseason games.
This is why Joba needs to make that switch to the rotation in 2008 despite how dominant he can be in the pen. A strong 1-2 punch in the bullpen is hardly a useful weapon in the postseason if the starters are incapable of handing over a lead or simply keeping their team in the game.