Bill Madden Doesn’t Understand Innings Limits

This is from Madden’s column in yesterday’s Daily News:

after this World Series is over the Yankees are going to have to decide as to just what Chamberlain is going to do – start or relieve? Judging by the limited use Girardi has made of him in this postseason, it would seem the high command is leaning toward the latter. If so, then the Joba Rules served only one useful purpose this season in that they kept his arm healthy. Their primary purpose – grooming a potential top-of-the-rotation starter – was a failure.

First off, just because Chamberlain is relieving in the playoffs doesn’t mean anything going forward. I’ll get to that later, though. Second, the primary purpose of the the “Joba Rules,” or innings limit is to do exactly what Madden said: keep is arm healthy. That is a part of “grooming a potential top-of-the-rotation starter.” How is Chamberlain supposed to grow as a starter if his arm is not kept healthy? Could the Yankees have run him out there without a limit? Yeah, probably. However, even if they did that, the results from this season probably would have been exactly the same. That also would have brought along a greater chance of injury for the 2010 season.

Madden assumed that the Yankees limited Chamberlain’s innings this season because they thought it would guarantee results. Absolutely nothing can do that for a pitcher. The Yankees limited Joba’s innings in 2009 because it gives him the best shot at being healthy moving forward, which is the most important thing.

Just because the results from Chamberlain were not pretty this year does not mean that the season was not part of the grooming process Madden discusses. Joba struggled after the 110 IP mark this year. Why? Because he’d never pitched that many innings before. Now he has and can be prepared to adjust to that in 2010. Joba didn’t mow everyone down like he did in 2008 as a starter. Why? Because he’s still just a young guy trying to figure out how to pitch in the big leagues for a full season. Remember, Chamberlain threw just 88.1 innings in the minors before being called up. The only pitcher I can think of/find with fewer innings in the minors is Tim Lincecum.

As for my first point about the playoffs hinting at Chamberlain’s future usage, I have a few rebuttals to Madden:
1. I’d like to know if he thinks Chad Billingsley will be a reliever going forward. After all, he’s relieved before and he was reliving in the bullpen so that must be the Dodger plan for him, right?
2. The Yankees aren’t starting Chamberlain in the playoffs for two reasons: one, he wasn’t greatly effective during the season. Two: it helps to limit his innings and sticks with their original plan of not extending him too much.
3. The Yankees have essentially shown that they don’t need a fourth starter in the playoffs. I’d say using just CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte has worked very well for them.
4. The Yankees have said nothing of turning Chamberlain into a reliever for the long term. They didn’t say it during the regular season and they haven’t said it during the post-season.

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