Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Joba: Back to the Future

Well folks, according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post in this article, Phil Hughes gets the nod as the Yankees #5 starter, Joba Chamberlain becomes Mo’s heir apparent, and Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves are both now in the long relief/emergency starter role.

As I commented in this earlier post, this move should have come 2 years ago. Joba has never had the mental make-up of a MLB starter, and it’s doubtful he could successfully grow into that role. Yogi said it best, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” Joba has never lacked the physical stuff to be dominant and certainly has succeeded in the late innings reliever role. But he’s never looked comfortable as a starter.

Just think back to last year. One of the “Joba Rules” that rarely gets discussed anymore is how the Yankees coaching staff had Joba warming up in the bullpen whenever the Yanks were at home. I can’t think of another pitcher who has had to resort to such zaniness to try and mentally prepare for an outing. And despite all of that, he still had trouble throwing strikes as a starter.

Consider: according to Baseball Reference, Joba has pitched to a .759 OPS, .266 OBA, and 1.480 WHIP in 221 career innings as a starter. He has also pitched to a .512 OPS, .182 OBA and 0.983 WHIP is 60 relief innings. The experiment was tried, and it failed.

So Hughes moves into the 5 hole. If he continues to progress (and assuming his change-up is as improved as has looked this spring, no reason he won’t), then the Yankees have somebody pitching out of that spot who would be better than most teams #3. In fact, he might well be as a good as most team’s number 2. Joba moves into the 8th inning, where he can prep to one day take over from Mariano as the closer. Aceves demonstrated his value last year, by being a rubber-armed guy who can pitch multiple innings on consecutive days.

The guy I most worry about in this alignment is Mitre. His best pitch is a sinker, and I don’t know too many sinkerballers who are effective relievers. Especially when they’re not going to get very much work, as will be his case, being the 12th arm in the pen. He has gotten rave reviews from scouts and opposing hitters this spring – it’s always possible the Yankees trade him at some point for an outfielder, I guess.

Anyway, see the poll and chime in!

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