Does Joba Belong in the Pen?

April 17, 2009

jobaThe New York Yankees pulled out a late inning victory today with a lot of help from the Captain’s first homer at his new digs.  The win was the first at the stadium 2.0, and was the first win that showed the 2009 Yanks won’t necessarily roll over and die in tight games.  One major cause for concern, though, was the performance by Joba Chamberlain.

Joba was only able to go 4 2/3 innings and struggled to get that far.  Joba had 5 walks and just 4 strikeouts.  Even scarier, of 93 pitches, he only threw 46 for strikes.  He’s throwing on 56% of his pitches for strikes in his first two starts, and batters aren’t swinging and missing at the rate they had in the last two years.

He’s averaging 5 walks and 8 hits per nine innings, and opponents are hitting .250 off him, but more importantly, they are reaching base 37% of the time.

But who cares?  We are two starts in, he’s kept the Yanks close in two starts and his breaking stuff still dives and darts.  The problem with Joba is that the New York media is stupid, and there will be murmurs saying move Joba to the pen.  By these standards, move Chien Ming Wang to the pen.  Joba’s past success as a setup man will doom him at this point, and only further pressure him to perform as a starter.

The Yankee’s pen has struggled a little, but not in the role that Joba would take over.  Brian Bruney has been filthy in his last few outings.  If you discount Bruney’s first outing, he has pitched 5 2/3 innings, walked none, allowed no hits, and struck out 12.  All this on 66 pitches.  The Steinbrenners will be begging to make him a starter soon.

Also, Joba’s velocity has been down in the low 90’s early this year.  It has been slowly climbing since the spring, but if he can’t hit 95, he won’t be effective out of the pen.  If he doesn’t figure out his control as well, he would be a complete headache in late innings.

Joba should stay a starter.  He will figure his control out, and velocity will slowly come back.  With Chien Ming Wang as yet, ineffective, it would be too costly to lose another starter.  Would fans really rather have Phil Hughes in there?  One of the starters will get injured and that’s when Hughes will make his presence known(or fail miserably like he has in the past).

So Yankees fans, relax.  Old Joba will be back soon, and order will be restored to the Holy Yankee Empire.  The real concern should be in the right arm of Wang, who has given up more than 3 hits per inning and whose sinker has shown little, if any life.