The Nats are likely to make the playoffs this season and might even be one of the best teams in the National League, but they say that despite that they will shut Strasburg down at the end of the season.
It’s a story along the same lines as the Joba Rules that the Yankees came up with for Joba Chamberlain so Sherman’s column eventually came around to him asking Brian Cashman about the old Joba Rules.
Cashman didn’t sound like he likes the perception that they were unnecessary and that moving Joba back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen eventually lead to him needing Tommy John Surgery. Cash even went as far as to call fans who believed that “(explitive deleted) stupid.”
“Joba was a starter his whole amateur career and his first pro season (2007) with us,” Cashman told Sherman. “We only brought him up to relieve to finish off the innings he was allowed to throw while trying to help [the major league team]. And we probably don’t make the playoffs in ’07 if we didn’t put him in the pen. But he wasn’t bounced back and forth. And the debate only began because instead of keeping him in the minors hidden as a starter, we tried to win in the majors.”
“You have to do what you think is right,” Cashman said. “If you feel you have Secretariat, you won’t run him into the ground when you feel you have a special horse. You make sure you protect the asset. If you treat the asset like [his health] doesn’t matter in the short term, there will be no long term.”
I agree with Cashman for the most part. Fans really overreacted on moving him back and forth. That’s the way a lot of pitchers have broken into the Major Leagues and with even a brief knowledge of baseball’s past that should be fairly evident.
There certainly are things to nitpick about though. The extreme level they went through to protect his arm was just silly at some points. 2008 was misguided only because they should have put him in the rotation from the start of the season and move him to the bullpen once he reached the innings limit. They did it the other way around, he got hurt, and it wound up keeping him from reaching the limit.
Then in 2009 they did it the right way, but were so extremely overprotective that they were pulling him after three innings in various starts later in the season. Those starts probably did little to protect his arm or teach him how to pitch. They would likely have been better off just skipping him occasionally, but letting him pitch when he was actually out on the mound.
The biggest problem with the entire thing though is that the Yankees gave up on Joba as a starter way too soon. Joba was not given even one full season where he was allowed to go out and pitch every fifth day without restrictions. In the end he pitched only 43 games out of the rotation and even though his numbers were decent for such a young pitcher, 4.18 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.04 K/BB, they gave up on him way too soon.
To contrast that, Phil Hughes was given plenty of time to work though his troubles and his numbers were not as good as Joba’s, 4.88 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and a 2.3 K/BB in 83 starts so far. Why wasn’t Joba given the same leeway? The Yankees could have had a promising young starter in their rotation by simply preaching patience with him rather than going out and dealing their best prospect for Michael Pineda.
So Cashman can go out and be upset with fans who don’t understand that a lot of successful pitchers were broken in through the bullpen throughout baseball’s history. Unfortunately, he seems to miss the point that a lot of fans didn’t want to see him give up on Joba the starter so soon.