Monday, September 22, 2008

Joba and Coke: Good as a Snack, Better as a Meal?

When Joba Chamberlain went down with his shoulder injury, all hopes of him reaching the predetermined innings limit went down with him. Once he returned from the injury, it was decided that it didn't make sense to rebuild his innings to get him to start again, and he was placed back into the bullpen. Right now, Chamberlain is at 98.2 innings on the season with 6 games left. If he played in every game, which he won't, that would put him at 104.2 innings on the season, which would project him towards 134.2 innings for next season. Too few for a starter, yet slightly more than a reliever. Thus begins the never ending debate of whether the Yankees keep Joba as a starter or as a reliever. Now, I don't think anyone would disagree that a healthy Joba as a starter would be much better than a healthy Joba as a reliever. However, Joba has had a history of injury. What? You say. Yes, Joba fell to us in the sandwich pick of the draft because of a history of injuries in his college days. If I'm not mistaken, the sandwich pick would mean that 30 teams, including the Yankees, passed on him the first time through. He was still drafted very high, but there's a reason he fell to us then and didn't get picked up earlier. Posada argued last week that Joba can't stay healthy as a starter, and thus is better off in the bullpen, and there certainly is an argument to be made about having the next Mariano in the making. Also, the Yankees middle relief has been pretty shaky over the last few years, and having a guy like Chamberlain certainly helps this. But in comes Phil Coke.

Phil Coke has pitched brilliantly out of relief since his call up. He's pitched 11.1 scoreless innings in the majors with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks. Not bad at all. Some would say that this makes the 8th inning role a little more interesting since Coke has been absolutely dominant. However, if Kennedy and Hughes taught us anything last year it was to not count your pitchers 'till they've sorted out their assorted night vision, broken rib, and general failure issues. The point is Coke could end up not being the pitcher we hoped he'd be. Honestly, for a guy who started the season in Double A as a starter, and was close to being demoted to Tampa as Trenton beat writer Mike Ashmore shared with us in this Exclusive Respect Jeter's Gangster Interview conducted in April, its a little risky to turn the 8th inning over to him. But then the same reliever vs. starter argument holds true for Coke. If he's so good as a reliever, could he take this magic into the rotation? He was after all brought up as a starter until he was moved to triple A. He made 20 starts at Trenton and relieved 3 games there, but once he moved to Scranton he only made one more start, and relieved the remaining 13 games he played in.

So the question remains, do you see what Joba and Coke can do as starters, or do you keep them in the bullpen? Would you move one and not the other? Sound off in the comments section!

7 comments:

Quinn said...

thanks for the post.. lol. im a loser who was bored in class today who listened to pete abe's video blog. he thinks that coke can become a stanton type pitcher. i completely agree. we need a good lefty. not knocking damaso marte but coke can go a couple of innings. on the joba case... bullpen bullpen bullpen. we have something. he will not be a mo. but hes pretty damn close to being that dominant. i think the selling point for me is the start in boston. he pitched a great game in a tight situation. think about his long term health. keep the kid in the pen.

Fred Trigger said...

Well, just because Joba is in the bullpen doesnt mean he cant be injured. Look at Papelbon in 06 when they had to shut him down because of shoulder fatigue. What they need to stop doing, is switching him from bullpen to starter in mid season. Thats just poor management.

DMan said...

Having 2 shut down lefties in the pen would be nice.. Coke and Marte could give the Yankees a huge advantage in the pen.

Joba I still can't decide on.

Fernando Alejandro said...

I think Coke can be good out of the bullpen, but still needs more experience. He needs to get lit up a few times so we can evaluate how he rebounds from tough performances. Chamberlain may have too much value as a starter to place in the bullpen. The health issue is certainly a concern, but as Trigg said, you can run into the same problems in the bullpen. He's been very good as a starter, and I think you try to rebuild his innings next year, and see if he can stay healthy. If not, then bullpen 2010.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com said...

I like Joba in the pen. We've needed a good setup man for Mo since the Wetteland days. The jury's still out on Coke so I say use Joba in the 8th as a bridge to Mo in the ninth. Game over.

adrian mckinty said...

Good post on Coke. He's an 8 guy. Joba can pitch 140 next year, that's 24 starts max. So rest him in April, bullpen him in April? Nobody knows.

If the ideal rotation is Sabathia, Wang, Mussina, Chamberlain, Hughes/Aceves then I say let Joba build innings in April in the bullpen and transition him in May. Ok it back fired this year, but they'll be more careful this time around and its actually a good strategy to get your ideal SP.

Fernando Alejandro said...

I agree, Adrian. I think if he can stay healthy while taking on the 130-140 innings he can pitch next season, than great, he's a starter. If not, then he'll go to the bullpen in 2010. But I think he's way more valuable as a starter than as a reliever, especially if Coke can be consistent.

I know a lot of people like Chamberlain in the bullpen because he gives us that same Mariano and Wetteland feel that Jane pointed out, but we also had some good starting pitchers on those championship teams. Those quality starters have become more difficult to find over the last few years, and you know how expensive they are.