Joba, Swisher make their cases

joba_250.jpgINSTANT KARMA’S GONNA GET YOU
It was a very strange ballgame last night. It began with the Yankees looking like they were going to lose a perfect game, or at least get shut out, and ended with Mariano Rivera striking out four straight batters for the save, eight runs on the scoreboard. It was the first Rivera appearance in about a year, and it was vintage stuff, one you’ll want to remember if you prize the career of this future Hall of Famer. It didn’t come in a playoff game, but it doesn’t matter–the cutter was really darting in on the lefty hitters, perhaps as much as we’ve seen all year. For one night (and hopefully many more), the Lone Ranger rode again.

As was pointed out on last night’s broadcast, Joba Chamberlain has now made 14 starts, seven at home and seven on the road. At Yankee Stadium: the Musical, Joba is 0-2 with a 5.18 ERA. Intriguingly, he’s striking out more batters at home, 9.8 per nine innings, than he is on the road (7.0). But he’s also walking six batters per nine innings in the House that Ruth Didn’t Build but Would Have Really Loved to Hit In, and it was speculated by the YES-men that he’s just a bit scared of allowing balls in play at home. This seems like a reasonable explanation given the results on the road–4-0 with a 2.74 ERA (3.59 runs allowed). He’s struck out fewer batters, just seven per nine innings, but perhaps he’s not trying nearly so hard to do so. This more restrained approach has resulted in fewer walks, including none last night, and longer outings.

I’m not certain how the Yankees solve this problem, but I do know this: Chamberlain’s road record is yet another nail in the “Joba-to-the-bullpen” argument. If this is what he can do in a neutral environment, average six innings a start and allow fewer than three runs–that’s more than good enough. Few pitchers can do that, and if Joba can just smooth out his home-park problems, he’s going to contend for a Cy Young Award some day. Sure, the strikeout rate is lower than it was in the pen, but still healthy enough that you don’t have to worry about his health, and beyond that, arguing about the number of strikeouts, seven or nine, is just quibbling. The average AL starter averages 6.4 Ks per start. Joba is fine.

Nick Swisher answered yesterday’s discussion about him here with another home run, and it’s tempting to let that be the final word for now. The guy is second on the Yankees in on-base percentage (to Mark Teixeira), fourth in slugging, but he leads the club in road slugging, road doubles, and road home runs by a wide, wide margin–he and Hideki Matsui are the only hitters on the team that haven’t seen their numbers grossly distorted by the House that Ruth Didn’t etc. He leads the team in walks, and the only reason that hasn’t resulted in a higher number of runs scored by Swisher personally is that he’s been buried in the bottom half of the order. There has been an awful lot of Ransom and Molina up behind Swisher.

Some in the comments for yesterday keep talking about how these are “just” numbers. They’re right. They’re “just” numbers, which means they are “just” a record of WHAT HAPPENED. If you want to deny that Swisher has been on base all those times, fine. You want to deny he’s the team’s leading hitter on the road, that’s fine too. You could go further and deny that getting on base leads to runs, which leads to winning. People deny all kinds of things that seem like settled science. Heck, the Flat Earth Society was active until quite recently.

Unfortunately, there is a payback for stubborn ignorance, and it comes in the form of lost baserunners. That means more outs with fewer runs scoring, and that means more losses– although you can deny that outs without runs leads to losses if you want to. You can deny anything, including the fact that you’re breathing, or thinking.

And once you bench Swisher, you can even deny the slipping place in the standings. You’re mad at the wrong Yankee.

FUTURE YANKEES TO LOVE AND/OR DISTRUST
The rosters for the annual Futures Game prospects showcase were announced today, and the Yankees have two representatives on the World Team, catcher Jesus Montero of the Trenton Thunder and lefty Manny Banuelos of the Charleston RiverDogs. I know you’ve heard plenty about the former, the too-young-to-drink slugger who might be less than a year from a big-league call-up, but Banuelos has yet to get much press (and for good reason–Montero is a special hitter, while Banuelos is a good prospect, but one potential pitcher among many). In 12 starts this year he’s put up a 2.51 ERA, walking just 14 in 61 innings while striking 58. Going into the season, Baseball America ranked his as the team’s 14th-best prospect, right behind Brett Gardner, commending his mechanics and solid fastball while noting his offspeed pitches still have awhile to go. He’s three levels away from the bigs, so this is probably your one chance to see him for awhile if you don’t happen to live nearby. The chance to see Montero speaks for itself. 

3 Comments

We all know Swishy could get hot and start hitting, and I’m glad he did. He is an extremely useful player. But I WAS right that he was cold; they mentioned an avg. in the 100’s the past nine games or so. And Girardi knew it; he only played because Melky had the flu or something.

Mr. Goldman,
I agree that Nick Swisher has many positive qualities as a player. It was very nice to see you point out the positives about a Yankee player, rather than putting your usual negative spin on things. I wish you would treat all players with the same respect by pointing out their strengths.

In this article you referred to a comment by a reader that implied that “numbers” were not that important. You went on to chastise the reader by saying, “Unfortunately, there is a payback for stubborn ignorance, and it comes in the form of lost baserunners. That means more outs with fewer runs scoring, and that means more losses….” You mentioned that Swisher would have many more runs scored if not for the hitters behind him. While that may be true, don?t forget to mention the number of runs he would have scored if not for his poor decision making on the basepaths. Your “stubborn ignorance” quote would be a perfect way to describe Swisher’s baserunning skills. I can think of two huge baserunning blunders in the last Boston series that were extremely costly. They both cost the Yankees outs, runs, and momentum. There have been several other instances of Swisher?s baserunning mistakes, but these two really stick out. Are there any stats that point out baserunning deficiencies?

You seem to take pride in the fact that you have a lot of negative things to say about Yankee players. You don’t want to look like a homer, you want to tell it like you see it. That’s all well and good. But while stats are wonderful tools and give a great deal of valuable information, they do not tell the whole story. They can be used to support both sides of a story, and every story has two sides. Unfortunately, you use them to support only your point of view.
Steve Book

The longer we debate over Joba as starter vs. Joba as reliever, the less we’re able to focus on just enjoying his evolution as a ballplayer and entertainer. Guys like this don’t come along every day. Let him out there every five days, and let us enjoy the show –

http://thepitchbaseballlife.blogspot.com/

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