Joba Back to the Rotation?



Getty Images By: Nick Latham



It has not been more than a few weeks since the Yankees won the 2009 World Series but already the team well known for its off season acquisitions is making a splash in the free agent market. Rumors of pursuing John Lackey, Curtis Granderson, and Roy Halladay have permeated the rumor basins. These kinds of things are nothing new to any Yankee fan who has watched the team make major moves almost every off season this decade. The big announcement that I believe has the most impact on the team, however, is not the pursuit of big name players but Brian Cashman’s statement that Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will be starters next season (NY Daily News). My question is, why?

Hughes for the most part of the season was nothing short of spectacular in the bullpen. He became the 8th inning guy that Chamberlain was before the experiment with Joba as a starter. Hughes had a stellar 2009 campaign in the bullpen, posting an ERA of 3.03, a WHIP of 1.12, and striking out 96 while walking only 28 in 86 innings pitched. If the Yankees resign Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang returns to be at least somewhat effective then Hughes’s presence in the starting rotation would not be absolutely necessary. But, if you absolutely had to put one of them back in the rotation it would be Hughes.

Joba simply isn’t cut out to be a starter with such stringent pitching limits. When he came up in the bullpen with the Yankees he was electric, energizing, and dominant. I watched his first save as a Yankee in a meaningless game against the Blue Jays late in the season a few years ago and the crowd went wild as Joba struck out the last batter on a fastball that clocked at 100 mph. His stretch as a starter ultimately ended with him traveling back to the bullpen so the Yankees management can say what they want but he was ineffective as a starter. Their unwillingness to pitch him during the playoffs speaks to that. Mariano cannot pitch forever and Joba is a better fit for being a closer than a starter with a pitch count.

If the Yankees go and get Halladay or even John Lackey putting Joba back out in the starting rotation would not be worth it if they were still going to protect him with a pitch limit. The only way it would make sense is if they simply let him pitch until his arm got tired the way Nolan Ryan has his pitchers work for the Texas Rangers. Otherwise he needs to be left in the bullpen where he is incredibly effective.

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  1. Pete
    November 16, 2009 at 6:50 PM

    I couldn't agree with you more. Let's assume that Pettitte comes back, but Wang is let go. I still think it makes no sense to move Joba or Hughes into the rotation. Either fill the open spot from within ( Kennedy, Gaudin …), or go out and get a mid of the rotation free agent (Wolf, Garland …).It seems to all of us that Joba has proved he is a good , maybe excellent reliever, but a mediocre starter at best. Why keep messing with him? Leave him where he is best suited. a set up roll in the pen. As for Hughes, he still may develop into a good starter, but again, why not keep him where he excelled? Seems to me we won last year in great part due to the excellent bullpen, especially in the playoffs. Why diminish that by putting 2 guys in the rotation who haven't shown they can handle it.

  2. Brandon
    November 16, 2009 at 10:20 PM

    Thanks for the kind words and I agree too, but I didn't write this one so I will let Pete respond if he would like too–oh and I do think Phil Hughes should be tried out as a starter one more time

  3. Peter Menking
    November 17, 2009 at 5:08 AM

    I feel as if Hughes should get another shot because I think in the long term he is going to be a crucial part of their rotation. He certainly has the stuff to be anyway and I would like to see him fulfill that role. At least early in the season give Hughes the chance to go out there and pitch with no pitch count a couple of times. My bet is that he will preform well and earn a spot as the 5th starter and possibly the 4th if the Yankees make no big moves for pitchers.As for Joba I see no justification as to why he should be a starter again. Put him in the bullpen where he excels and tune him up to be a great reliever and possibly the next closer. Sharpen his slider and try and make his fastball less flat and he could be a great bullpen guy. He simply is not a starter.

  4. Peter Menking
    November 17, 2009 at 5:09 AM

    And Brandon feel free to respond to any and all comments on my posts haha

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