Why Veras, and why not Joba the starter?

joba_250.jpgOPENING PUNCH
Is Jose Veras still on the roster? If so, why? Please answer in complete sentences, then exchange papers with your seatmate and discuss.

As Joba pitches tonight, and the Joba to the Bullpenites sharpen their runcible spoons, whether the lad pitches a no-hitter or gets torched, please keep in mind that Rome (famed Three-I pitcher Jimmy-Bob Rome) was not built in a day. At 23, Chamberlain is allowed some inconsistency before he finds himself, and the long-term gain is worth the short-term pain. The Yankees can find solid eighth-inning relief without sacrificing such a useful starting asset. In fact, though a great deal has been made of Joba’s shortened outings, I would argue that a dominant five-inning starter is worth the added strain on the bullpen — Joba’s not there yet, but I wanted to throw that out there. Very few starting pitchers, even the Hall of Famers, achieved instantaneous consistency in the Majors. This is an obvious point, but one that bears repeating (and repeating).

As for Sunday’s loss, which some have wanted to attribute to the lack of a Joba type in the pen, allow me to do them the service of pinning the Medal of Failure where it belongs: on the manager and conventional thinking. You know the culprit: the resistance to using Mariano Rivera in a tie game on the road, saving him for a save opportunity that the other pitchers and the offense may never create. The fallacy is in thinking there is no save opportunity in such situations.

That is a complete misreading. The “save” is in allowing the game to keep going. On the road from the ninth inning on, every time the home team bats you’re in a sudden death situation. You want your best arm out there to keep the game alive, not the worst. If Rivera pitches an inning on Sunday and holds the Indians scoreless, the Yankees get to bat in the top of the 10th. Maybe they score one run and then they have to think about keeping Rivera in or going for another pitcher. If that pitcher blows the lead, at least you got to play that long. Alternatively, maybe you score 10 runs in the top of the 10th and a closer is no longer relevant. With the Indians’ messy bullpen, that outcome is a realistic possibility, and now you’re up by so many runs that even Nick Swisher could finish out the game for you.

The loss on Sunday wasn’t about the wildness of Dave Robertson and Phil Coke, but about the fact that they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, not when the Yankees had a better option. Yanking Joba out of the rotation to cover for a failure of thinking makes very little sense.

In our next sermon, we’ll explore why Chien-Ming Wang the reliever may be a completely different animal from Chien-Ming Wang the starter, and how equating the two could lead one to misinterpret his strong relief pitching as an argument for a return to the starting rotation.

Made the mistake of listening to sports talk radio on my way to the dentist today. One topic was the comparison of Juan Marichal and Mike Mussina, the former a Hall of Famer who never won a Cy Young award. This comp was made out to be a terrible insult to Marichal, but (1) this was overly concerned with the pitcher’s won-lost totals, which are external to the pitcher and a function of when Marichal pitched — if you don’t acknowledge that it was easier for a good pitcher to win 20 games in Marichal’s time than it was for Mussina in his then you’re not being fair; you might as well ding Marichal for the fact that he never won 30 games, but Lefty Grove and Dizzy Dean did, and (2) misses other differences between the 1960s and the 1990s — adjusted for context, Marichal and Mussina had almost exactly the same ERA.

Wholesome Reading has lots of additions from over the weekend, with more coming throughout the day.


  1. yankeexx

    Wearing Joba Rules tees brings smirks. Why? Joba the starter is not that hot. When Joba Rules tee’s were hot was when he truly shined as that lights out bridge. That bridge was pretty solid and the crossover to Mo was more than not a certainty.
    Now that bridge looks the complete opposite. Put Joba back where he really dominated. Then my Joba Rules tee will be a cool thing again.

  2. rich@richandcandy.com

    Okay, yankeexx let’s say Joba is in the bullpen, pitches lights out all the time, an insane 1.00 ERA, better than Mo. Great, so that means he pitches about 3 innings per 5 days. Meanwhile, his roster spot is taken up by Phil Hughes, who puts up a 5.45 ERA. Phil pitches 6 innings per 5 days, giving up 3.63 runs, whereas Joba gives up 0.333 runs, for a grand total of pretty much exactly 4 runs between them given up over their average 9 innings. Now, flip it around. Take Joba starting, going only 6 innings every 5 days, giving us his 3.71 ERA. That’s 2.47 runs he gives up. Now, in order to get the same production as the Phil/Joba combination above, you can throw any Joe Average reliever out there who can at least post a 4.59 ERA. Do the math, it works. And who can you get to post a 4.59 ERA? Bruney, Aceves, Robertson, and Brett Frickin’ Tomko all currently fit that description. Plus, with relievers you get to mix and match, meaning that if Joba gets in trouble as a starter, you’d be much more comfortable with Joba getting out of it than Phil at this point. That means less work on the bullpen, etc, etc, etc. Plus, 8 innings of dominant ball once in a while, like we saw from Joba tonight, is good too.

  3. cc878

    Can someone please explain to me what this ball clubs fascination with Berroa is? Why didn’t Pena start at third? Is it a the coaches, manager or front office that hear his siren song?

  4. yankeexx

    Rich…no one doubts Joba has good stuff but his inconsistency lends to my feelings. Whereas his consistency as a 8th inning bridge goes without saying. To me Phil has more of his wits about him on the mound. Phil makes four…Wang makes 5. Joba Rules the relievers barring Mo as the 8th inning bridge.

  5. midcoaster@gwi.net

    perhaps as a homework assignment you could assign that we look up the career stats of 20 very good to great players – both pitchers and position – and see what they did in their first 2 or 3 years. Not too many dominated, in fact most were mediocre.

  6. jeff1112

    Gotta agree on Veras, he should be gone from the bullpen. Girardi can have all the confidence in the guy hey wants, but there comes a time when Joe has to realize Veras just can’t get the job done anymore. The fact that Veras is tied for the lead in appearances out of the pen (22) with Coke makes you wonder what Girardi is thinking. The guy has an ERA of just under 7 and the second highest BB/IP rate of active relievers on the team. It’s tough to give up on a guy like Veras, but at this point maybe they should DL him with a fake injury like arm fatigue to try and get him to the minors and straighten him out.

    Wang’s situation is a tough one. We all know he is a top notch starter. At what point do they try him in the rotation again? At the same time do you take Hughes out of the rotation who is trying to put things together at the major league level but has shown flashes of brilliance. Wang has pitched 5 consecutive scoreless inning out of the bullpen, maybe he can perform out of the pen like Joba did. It might be time to give Wang more innings and appearances out of the bullpen to see if he can help the club that way.

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