Done and Done: Joba Should be the 5th Starter

Joba Chamberlain had his best start of Spring Training yesterday, tossing 4 solid innings against the Phillies and striking out 5.  The NY papers have been taking the temperature of the 5th starter competition pretty much daily, but in some ways that just goes to show that things are pretty good for the Yankees this year; there isn’t really all that much stuff to write about.  For reasons that I will never entirely understand though, the mainstream media, and particularly the NY papers, seem to assume that Joba will never be able to cut it as a starter.

Well after yesterday’s performance, I’m calling this fight now: Joba should be the 5th starter.  It’s over.

What about Phil Hughes‘ good performance the day before you ask?  What about Joba’s previous struggles?

While I could argue that Joba’s performance against the Phillies’ starters is much more meaningful than Hughes’ performance against the Astros’ backups (which is true), but that’s not the point.  The point is this: spring training numbers aren’t that important.  If Joba is no longer a starter, then what was the point of all the time the Yankees have spent developing him, and last season in particular?

As long as Joba shows he’s ready – which he did yesterday – the job should be his.  He has no innings limit this year and it is critical that he gets in at least as many innings as he did last year.  Hughes has an innings limit and is a year younger than Joba and has fewer career starts.  He should go to the bullpen and pitch 2-3 innings per appearance until he’s needed to start (and perhaps throw a start or two in the minors if necessary).

Really, you have to figure the Yankees have had a plan with Joba all along and the competition is more of a storyline to keep all parties involved motivated (and one that the media has decided to run with).

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10 Responses to Done and Done: Joba Should be the 5th Starter

  1. it is indeed hard to picture cashman throwing out his carefully laid plans with Joba – and there is no indication that he will. this isn't gonna be decided by girardi- I think that unless Joba completely bombed the entire month of March he will join the rotation.

  2. Brandon says:

    Brian, I usually love your work, but this time I have to disagree. One good start from Joba doesn't negate his two poor performances. Hughes' performance against the Astros was not his first good performance and if this is a fair competition Joba should be in third.

    I understand fully that you are saying the Joba rules are why he should get the job if he is capable, but personally I want it to go to the best pitcher, not to Joba because he's been at it the longest. Teams won't hit worse because Brian Cashman informs them that Joba has had rules and the other candidates didn't. If Joba keeps it up he can get the job, but there's alot more work to be done.

    • Brian Burkhart says:

      Brandon – First, thanks for the kind words. But I don't think Joba's performance really "negated" anything. Before that start, Girardi pretty much had said both Joba and Hughes were working on things and the results weren't that important. When they asked Joba to turn it up, he got the job done – and perhaps most importantly racked up some Ks, showing his stuff is there.

      In my mind it doesn't really matter what Hughes has done; as long as Joba shows that he's prepared and capable, he should get the first shot. Spring Training numbers are pretty meaningless. Let's not forget that Tony Womack batted over .500 in 2005 during ST and everyone was clamoring for him to bat leadoff.

      If Joba struggles after the first month of the season and they want to make a move, fine. Like you suggest, Joba needs to actually perform, no matter what the plans for him are. I just think the way we evaluate performance during Spring Training is different.

  3. Brandon says:

    I agree that Spring Training is amazingly difficult to actually judge by. The Yankees may have to decide Joba's career by the end of Spring Training based upon really only a few main appearances….that's tough and that's the reality. If they make the wrong choice it's bad, really bad. Do you suggest Hughes to the pen, then ?

  4. Rob Abruzzese says:

    Wow? what do you mean that it would be bad, really bad if they make the wrong choice? If they put Joba in the rotation and it doesn't work out, they could just take put him in the bullpen down the road. If they put him in the bullpen now, it doesn't mean that Joba is permanently out of the rotation. Another starter can get hurt in his first start of the season and Joba is right back in the rotation.

    This is a good problem to have. There are by no means any huge dire implications if they make the wrong choice. Ultimately Joba and Hughes should both be in the rotation and the Yankees seem like they are working towards that.

  5. Eric @ THTGB says:

    Couldn't agree with you more, Brian. There's no way in hell that a handful of spring training starts should ever trump what Joba has done in the majors as a starting pitcher.

    If Joba does stumble out of the gate and has a rough start to the season then, like any other Yankee regular, should be reevaluated and perhaps then it's in the Yankees best interest to switch Joba and Hughes' roles.

    I do, however, believe that such a rash decision can't possibly be made until sometime in the middle of May, which gives Joba more than enough time to prove his worth. For comparisons sake, Sabathia posted a record of 1-2 and a 4.73 ERA through the month of April, then got the ball rolling and went 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in May.

  6. Brandon says:

    I misworded that one Rob…if they mishandle Joba and Hughes then it is a problem. I completely agree that it is a good problem but if they give them both the wrong roles and they keep doing that eventually it is going to be a problem. They need to cement roles eventually, probably not now, but eventually.

    • They've already mishandled both pitchers.

      • Rob Abruzzese says:

        I would agree that they could have done things better with Joba and Hughes was probably brought along faster than he should have been, but I don't think they've done anything with either pitcher that is going to have longterm negative implications.

  7. smurfy says:

    Joe Girardi said tonight that they want to make their decision by March 26. They want to keep the workload light on the big three who carried the big workload, but prior teams have always preferred to keep the main starters on as regular a five-day schedule as they could, with rain usually an interference in April.

    With early season hiccups, there are usually many opportunities for bullpen innings, so the competition may just go on.