September: Only the cruelest month for Baltimore

…Although “Waiting for Melky Cabrera’s Next Hot Streak” would have made for a very good Johnny Cash song, something along the lines of “Big River”:

Now, I taught the weeping willow how to cry
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky
And I’m still waiting for Melky to start hitting again, Big River
Or I’m gonna sit right here until I die

This is hardly worth a complaint or cavil; with the Yankees having just swept the White Sox, there’s little to complain about. Well, we could always spend more time first-guessing the Joba Rules 3.0, or whatever version Joe Girardi is up to now. The experiment is fascinating in the completely blind way it is being conducted; there is no hope of ever knowing if the Yankees are helping or just sort of messing around. If Joba doesn’t get hurt, it isn’t necessarily because of anything the Yankees did or did not do, and the same thing is true if he does get hurt. Being careful to avoid too large a year-over-year increase in innings pitched seems correct both from an intuitive and anecdotal perspective, but in the final analysis, the only foolproof way to avoid pitching injuries is not pitching.

Simultaneously, if the Joba Rules are in conflict with the goal of developing Chamberlain into a consistently successful Major League pitcher, then it isn’t clear what the Yankees are accomplishing. To paraphrase a tragic Vietnam-era concoction, what if the only way to save the pitcher is to destroy him? Yet another thing we don’t know is if Joba’s recent stretch of weak pitching is due to the rules or just coincidental with their implementation. The righty made 11 starts with a 3.31 ERA in June and July. In August, the month all the messing around really took hold, his ERA was 8.22. If he’s miserable in the playoffs, if he’s miserable next year, then it will be difficult to argue that this was a goal worth pursuing, or that it was pursued correctly.

There is another imperative, one which is in conflict with the Joba Rules, and that is winning ballgames and championships. Had the Yankees been in a tighter race in the middle of this month, they would have faced a fascinating choice between holding to their principles and trying to get back to the postseason. Fortunately for them, and perhaps for Joba, we will never know what would have happened in that situation.

                W-L   RS/G   RA/G   AVG   OBP  SLG   AB/HR   SB  CS  HR/9  BB/9    K/9
Yankees   14-6   6.3     4.5    .298   .357  .513   20        9     2     1.2    2.9     8.6
Orioles     8-12   4.9     5.2    .281   .343  .465   31        11   5     1.3    3.3     5.9

Another August comes to a close, another series against an Orioles team that has packed it in for the year. The Orioles franchise goes back to the founding of the American League in 1901, when it came into existence as the St. Louis Browns. The Browns, as you can probably infer from the fact that they now play in Baltimore, were generally not too successful, their two high points being a terrific but losing race with the Yankees in 1922 and a random pennant in 1944. Much of the rest of the time, including the early Baltimore period, the club was hopeless, twice going more than 10 years without even putting up a .500 record. The first stretch, from 1930-1941, lasted 12 seasons. The second, from 1946-1956, lasted 11. When this season ends, the club will have equaled the former futile run, having not posted a winning record since 1997.

The Yankees have good timing in this series, in that they won’t see the two top pitching prospects the Orioles now have up, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz. Instead, they get the vet Jeremy Guthrie (hot lately, with consecutive seven inning/one run starts), the rookie David Hernandez, who they have handled before — he remains wild and prone to the home run — and another rookie, Jason Berken, who they battered back in July. This is not something to be boasted of, because pretty much everyone else who has seen Berken has basted him. He has pitched a little better of late, going 10.2 innings and allowing five runs in his last two starts.

The hottest hitter the O’s have won’t play against Andy Pettitte. Outfielder Felix Pie has been a bust in both Chicago and Baltimore, but the 24-year-old got a chance to play with Adam Jones nursing injuries and he made the most of it, batting .333/.394/.651 in August. This aside, the sights to see remain the same: veteran keystoner Brian Roberts, the three young outfielders, and rookie catcher Matt Wieters. If it sounds like I’m not too excited by this series, it’s because there isn’t much reason to be. The Orioles hit at about the same level of productivity as the White Sox, but their pitching is far worse. Given how the Yankees just handled the White Sox, there isn’t much suspense here. Or, at least, there shouldn’t be.

The Yankees still haven’t said who is coming, nor have they designated all of their Arizona Fall League attendees, so the immediate future of Yankees prospect-dom remains murky. One would hope that Austin Jackson is coming. As miserable as he has been lately (.236/.281/.299 since the break and largely pointless since May), the Yankees still need to get a look at him in big league situations to see what they have. There is some interesting slack in his numbers, including a homerless .302/.346/.414 against left-handed pitching, an oddity for a right-handed hitter. This is not something you would expect to continue, unless Jackson has become such a pronounced ground ball hitter this year that his power is going to stagnate from now on. With a big lead, Brett Gardner hurt, and Cabrera endlessly slumping (.212/.225/.333 in August, .239/.308/.380 since May), veterans in need of rest, and all the leverage in the world on Johnny Damon’s side in upcoming free agent negotiations, giving Jackson a cup of coffee in spite of his weak performance would seem the correct thing to do.



    How true is Joba’s ERA though? How many baserunners has he left on that were left stranded by a reliever? How many innings have been burned up by the pen to caddy him?

    And what is with the inning count? Innings are not an accurate judgment of how much a pitcher has worked. Pitch count is. Take for example his last outing. After two innings he had thrown 16. While he had a tough 3rd his pitch count was still low. But they killed his outing because he reached the magical inning. Is innings pitched that much more important than the pitch count?

  2. yankee7777

    The Yankees continue the ruination of Joba. To limit his innings for a year to a number that was picked out of the air is insanity. There is No scientific or medical reason to support this. To paraphrase what Tim McCarver said ?show me the doctor that confirms this idea.?
    Maybe some of the fans new to baseball think this is a sound idea. Well check the history of baseball and this is a very new idea. But it is an idea with no positive results. Arm injuries have not been eliminated. In fact the number seems to have increased. And pitchers for their careers have not been helped by this? extra care?.
    A muscle must be worked harder to get stronger. And the arm is made of muscles. This is not an 11 year old kid we are talking about but a grown man. My father tells of Bob Feller coming to the big leagues at 17 years old and he had a long and great career. And he threw at least as hard as Joba.
    Chamberlain has been abused since he came up. Insanity.

  3. jeff1112

    I don’t think the Yankee’s know what they are doing. The just have an idea of innings they don’t want Joba to pass during the regular season. As long as he doesn’t wind up like Liriano of the Twins or Carmona of the Indians I’ll be happy.

    The Yankee’s should have limited Joba’s innings in a more consistent method. They could have cut him to 5 inning outings throughout the year, that would have given them 18 extra innings to currently work with. The other option would have been to have Joba start the season late, in the beginning of May. Then he wouldn’t have needed many restrictions. Hindsight tells me that wouldn’t have worked given Wang’s failure, but no one could have predicted that.

  4. dachshund4

    The bottom line is they need Gardner to get back as soon as possible. It will take time for him to get his timing & feel comfortable with his grip on the bat. With that being said, come playoff time we will need him in the lineup. On the good side It could have been his wrist!


    Just to nitpick – the team that is now the Orioles started in the American League in 1901 in Milwaukee before moving to St Louis for 1902 (and the next 50+ seasons).


    Does anyone know the story on why Shelly Duncan isn’t brought up to the Major League club? I just read that he won the International League MVP leading them in home runs and RBI’s. I would think that this is a nice right handed batter available on the bench or to give someone in the outfield or first base a break.

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