The Yankee Pen Situation

by PaulCatalano

Earlier this year, I defended Joba Chamberlain, saying his poor pitching was just a slump. Something he could work through and that he was due to come out of it soon. I was wrong.

The entirety of the Yankee Universe—including this site— the past few days have been buzzing calling Joba broke, a mess, lost, and that he should be removed from the 8th inning role. They are right.

The Yankees this offseason completely rebuilt their bullpen to the detriment of their team. Gone are Phil Coke, Phil Hughes and Brian Bruney. Throw in the injured Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre and you have a completely new pen. One that, outside of Rivera and occasionally Marte, cannot be relied upon for much.

I mean, replacing Phil Hughes with Chan Ho Park? What was Cashman thinking?

But the main problem, still, is Joba. So what’s wrong? Well according to Fangraphs.com, his fastball velocity has dropped from 2007 when it was at 97.4. Now it sits at 94.3. Also, his slider, which is at the same speed it was in 2007, doesn’t slide nearly as much as it did back then. Neither does his change-up. In essence, Chamberlain doesn’t have the speed he once did, or the movement on his pitches.

Is this permanent? Who knows? But unfortunately, if history is any sort of teacher, Chamberlain, trying to fix his problems in the bright hot lights of Yankee Stadium will need a lot of luck.

So who takes the 8th inning? Well, one candidate is David Robertson. Yes, his era is still high. But after an awful start where it ballooned up to 14.21, his ERA has dropped down to 5.01. In his last 16.1 IP, he has given up 4 runs—all in one terrible game against Toronto—and he hasn’t given up a home run since May 5th, a span of 23.2 IP.

Robertson was lights out last fall for the Yankees, tossing 5.1 innings of shutout ball in the postseason, including coming in the 11th inning against the Twins after Damoso Marte had let the first 2 guys single. He is somebody, if given the chance might be able to grow into the role. He’s not a guarantee, but name a 8th inning man who is. And if last fall is any indication, he can handle the pressure.

Another person could be Jonathan Albaladejo. Scoff if you must, but the guy is dominating at AAA. His ERA is 0.96 ERA—not too shabby. There’s more. From 2009 till today, his WHIP in AAA is about a 0.78. In 82.2 innings, he’s given up 13 earned runs. Again, he’s not a guarantee to do the same up in the Bronx, but he deserves a shot with those numbers.

Some blogs around the net would have the Yankees go out and trade for a reliever, like Kevin Gregg or Kerry Wood (Really?) I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with a move like that, but I would caution those who would think that whoever comes in will be a savior. Pitchers pitching well who come into Yankee Stadium often crumble under the pressure. Ask Randy Johnson.

Still, the real pickle is Chamberlain. The once-heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera now can’t seem to head out to the mound with a black cloud of potential disaster over his head. According to Baseball Reference, Chamberlain is not only one of the worst relievers in the game this year, he is behind guys like Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez, and barely ahead of Mister Baseball himself, Randy Choate.

Recent whispers have Chamberlain keeping his 8th inning role in the second half. I may be wrong, but I think this is a mistake. Chamberlain has issues, both mechanical and mental. Figuring both of those out will be nigh impossible up in the Bronx. Sending him to Scranton and having daily up close tutoring might smooth out his mechanics and build his confidence back—which in turn might be what he needs to be successful in the Bronx. Mike Silva wrote about this recently and it absolutely the right call—except capping it at 2 weeks might not be enough. I would do it until he seems to be somewhat closer to his old self. Seeing Joba come back later this year and pitch well would be a great sight. A nice story to feel good about.

But, for all practical purposes, no matter how well he may pitch, Yankee fans need to realize, the Joba of 2007 is gone. And most likely forever.

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26 Responses to “The Yankee Pen Situation”

  1. Lefty33 Says:

    “Another person could be Jonathan Albaladejo”

    Perchance you missed his totally awful 2009 stint with the Yanks?

    You know the one with the plus five ERA and the 10.7 H/9.

    “but the guy is dominating at AAA.”

    Dan Johnson has got a chance at a AAA triple crown with Durham and at 31 with a few failed ML chances already under his belt I doubt that he’s on Tampa’s speed dial for a call up.

    “but he deserves a shot with those numbers.”

    He’s a AAA caliber pitcher. He doesn’t deserve anything.

    If the Yankees seriously go to him it is a sheer sign of desperation and you might as well hope that Sergio Post-Game Meat Tray and the rest can go eight every start.

  2. JohnBowen Says:

    “Sergio Post-Game Meat Tray”

    That’s awesome.

  3. Lefty33 Says:

    Thanks John.

    I would love to take credit for that but someone on ESPN radio called him that back in April and it stuck in my head.

  4. Bob Says:

    I wonder how much of his demise is due to his father’s illness. Although please do not misinterpret that as a belief the Yankees should give him a free pass. As Chuck said recently, he should go to the minors and start. Perhaps the Yankees will be forced to sell low and trade him for one of the middle infielders they want for depth. Willie Bloomquist for Joba anyone?

    Bob O

  5. Raul Says:

    Velocity has nothing to do with Joba’s results.

    94 MPH is PLENTY fast enough to get major league hitters out.

  6. Cameron Says:

    I thought the main reason that anybody gets shelled like that is leaving stuff over the plate. I don’t care if it’s going triple digits, if you leave down broadway, you’re asking for trouble.

  7. Brautigan Says:

    Look at the Yankees, bullpen troubles, just like 23 other major league teams. Good thing to know money can’t buy you the Nasty Boys.

  8. Patrick Says:

    Middle relief and set up guys are the most inconsistent commodity in all of sports.

    There’s been a lot of talk on this site about relievers being failed starters. I think that’s true but in addition to being failed starters, rarely do they even put up consecutive good years as relievers. It’s like one great year in the pen burns them out for the next 2 years, or in a lot of cases, forever.

  9. Chuck Says:

    To clarify,

    My point of sending Joba to AAA to start wasn’t so he could return to the Yankees and possibly replace Pettitte, etc, it was to increase his trade value.

    I believe the Yanks have pretty much thrown in the white towel on him and if they get any type of reasonable offer for him, he’s gone.

    They might get rid of him for an unreasonable offer.

  10. Hossrex Says:

    Paul Catalano: “Earlier this year, I defended Joba Chamberlain, saying his poor pitching was just a slump. Something he could work through and that he was due to come out of it soon. I was wrong.”

    With all due respect (and I mean that this time), that’s what happens when you look at the numbers for a young pitcher and ignore (or at least aren’t mindful enough of) his mechanics.

    Chuck: “They might get rid of him for an unreasonable offer.”

    While I was digging around my parents garage last week looking for my catchers glove, I ran across an old bat bag with about half a dozen pairs of softball cleats, and a bunch of raggedy old softballs.

    I’d be willing to trade that for Joba to come over and help me clean out the garage… but I’d want at least the softballs back if he can’t help me find that damn glove (the Yankees can keep the cleats though, I don’t think they fit anymore).

    If they would throw in Burnett, I might be convinced to throw in an old glove re-lacer I found (we have two)… but that’s only if Burnett would organize my DVD’s (alphabetically by genre).

  11. Patrick Says:

    I don’t get the impression that Burnett could sort the CD’s alphabetically, much less by genre.

    As far as Joba, that seems reasonable.

    I’m still rooting for Joba to straighten out though……not too hopeful.

  12. Chuck Says:

    Wow, Patrick, the Rays signed Rocco Baldelli today?

  13. Chuck Says:

    Eric Byrnes, on MLBNetwork, just said the three best players in baseball are Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and..

    Buster Posey.

    Seriously.

  14. Raul Says:

    Posey is playing well.
    But he’s got what? 6 weeks in the bigs? In fact, I’m pretty sure the hazing is only 30% complete.

  15. brautigan Says:

    I’ve seen Posey play in Salem, San Jose, Modesto, Fresno (twice), Portland and a couple of times on Giant baseball (FSN)….he’s the real deal……but to say the third best in baseball? Eric, step away from the Hookah.

  16. Patrick Says:

    Yeah Chuck. I’m glad for Rocco. He’s been assigned to Class A Charlotte, about an hour south of me. Real nice minor league park. It has a huge party deck that spans the RF line all the way to left center.

    They think he’ll be ready by the end of August for some part time play for the Rays. The buzz is he’s increased his power but lost a step or more.

    I would have to say that I root for this guy more than any other major league player. I had him pegged for greatness but that ship sailed when he came down with his medical condition. Still, he’s a great character guy that still has some big time skills. Hard to imagine carying both Kapler and Baldelli though. Kapler seems like a Maddon favorite. It will be interesting. Maybe this is a prelude to trading BJ?

    There will definitley be a standing ovation for Rocco’s first Trop at bat if he makes it back.

    I think Rocco will become a coach for the Rays in the next few years.

  17. Chuck Says:

    “Maybe this is a prelude to trading BJ”

    Or a prelude to Maddon’s eventual firing.

  18. Patrick Says:

    Even if Maddon deserves to be fired someday, I doubt he ever will be. Tampa loves this guy and if the Rays turn into a 72-90 team in the near future, it will most likely be blamed on lack of financial resources instead of managerial skills. Just my opinion.

    The Rays want to be under $60M in salary next year and they’re already committed to about 10 players for about $32M. That means the other 15 have to be bargain basement guys. They’re going to find it hard to compete with the Yanks and Redsox sooner rather than later.

  19. Bob Says:

    Sorry to turn this into a hockey discussion, but how do you defend a 17 year contract to any athlete, especially a hockey player? Are there any die-hard hockey fans in this group? And if I am out-of-line for starting a hockey issue in a baseball site, feel free to tell me to shut the puck up. I am just flaberghasted about this deal.

    Bob O

  20. Kerry Says:

    Apparently the contract is very front-loaded, paying only $3.6M in the last six years. So it’s really $98.5M over 11 years — still big, but the big money only goes out to age 38.

    The NHL has a salary cap, but it is calculated using the AVERAGE annual salary for any given contract — thus this deal counts as a $6M hit to the cap, even though he gets over $10M in years 3 through 8. (How NOT to implement a salary cap…)

  21. Bob Says:

    Kerry, thank you for the explanation. Boy, salary caps are nothing more than bureaucratic appeasements.

    Bob O

  22. Raul Says:

    If you have a 38 year old baseball player and his slash stats are .317/.409/.516, I think you’d be thrilled.

    But playing only 186 at-bats and earning 20M…

    You gotta hand it to Scott Boras sometimes. He hooked Manny Ramirez up.

  23. Chuck Says:

    Sternburg’s backhanded way of telling the city we’re going to suck until you build us a new stadium.

    “Really, we’ve had two 90 win seasons, three counting this year, and a World Series appearance and you’re not going to fund a new stadium? Ok, assholes, it’s back to last place until you do. Have a nice day and kiss my ass.”

  24. Bob Says:

    Just wondering how many people have read the book “Field of Schemes?” It’s a worthwhile read.

    Bob O

  25. Raul Says:

    I haven’t @ Bob.

    But as soon as I finish “Tears in the Darkness” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman, I’ll check it out.

    Not to get all serious but that book is about American and Philippine POWs during WW2.

  26. Hossrex Says:

    I remember when Manny was in Boston, and the Sox fans would always gripe about Manny, phantom injuries, and just an obvious lack of interest on his part.

    All I could think back then was “shut the fuck up you whiny little cry-babies, you have one of the greatest right handed batters of all time, and that outweighs any off-field shenanigans.”

    Whoops.

    Boy was I wrong.

    The rub of it though, is that Ned Colletti and Joe Torre really should have known better than me, and explained that to Frank (i.e. Jaime) McCourt.

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