Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Inevitable "Joba As A Starter" Post

(Don't get too stoked, Joba.  It's just a suggestion)

I tried to hold out as long as I could, I really did.  I didn't want to have to address this topic again, even as every other blog out there willingly stepped up and took this issue on.  But with the continued mention of the likes of Freddy Garcia and Kevin Millwood as options for the 2011 Yankee starting rotation, I was really left with no choice.  May God forgive me for what I'm about to write.  I can't believe it's actually had to come to this.

With where the Yankees are right now, that place being a rotation with no Cliff Lee and no Andy Pettitte, and with no viable options seemingly available anywhere, the question is worth bringing up again.

Should the Yankees make Joba a starter again?

I know that may be perfectly reasonable to many and absolutely frightening to others.  To me, it's somewhere between Norman Bates bursting through the door dressed up like his mother wielding a kitchen knife at the end of "Psycho" and Michael Myers sitting up behind Laurie Strode in the upstairs bedroom after she stabbed him in the face with the wire hanger at the end of the first "Halloween" movie level of scary.  I have never been a fan of Joba as a starter, just because I thought it was painfully obvious that the dude didn't have the mental makeup to be an effective starter.  I know that kind of thinking brings tons of eye rolls from people who pay attention to stats, and I am usually one of those people.  But it didn't take somebody with X-Ray vision to see that Joba was like night and day on the mound when he was a starter as opposed to being a reliever.  The posture, the facial expressions, the body language, the constant shaking off of signals, and the snail-like pace at which he pitched with runners on.  It all added up to somebody who wasn't comfortable being out there in a situation where he had to face batters multiple times and use his weaker secondary pitches. 

To me, Joba belongs in the bullpen, where his 2 best pitches, his fastball and his slider, can be maximized and the mental game of having to think his way through a lineup is rendered meaningless when he is only being counted on for an inning or 2 tops.  But I am also from the school that believes the Yankees and their handling of Joba are most to blame for his lack of starting success, and that it's a black mark on their management skills for the way he eroded as a potential high-end starter and has no been reduced to 6th or 7th-inning bullpen duty.  And with the other existing options currently slated to pitch in the 4th and 5th rotation slots, it does beg the question of "couldn't/wouldn't Joba be better than those guys?"

Now I'm not going to bother getting into the numbers and breaking down Joba's 'starter vs. reliever' splits because, quite frankly, they've been beaten to death by all the other Yankee blogs in a way that even the Manson family would cringe at if they saw it.  I'm just going to get straight to the point and say (and I can't actually fucking believe I'm going to say this) that YES, I think Joba should be given a shot to earn a rotation spot for the 2011 season.  The way I see it, even at the numbers he's already put up as a starter or slightly worse, he can't be worse than what they would get from a full season of Nova or Mitre, and I would take Joba in the rotation over Garcia or Millwood 25 hours a day, 8 days a fucking week.

Since I believe that Joba's past failures are mainly due to the Yankees' mismanagement of him and the rest due to his just being a mental midget, I think the Yankees owe him at least one more shot to show them that he was worth the 1st-round pick and worth the lightning-fast promotion through the Minors.  They have a new pitching coach this season in Larry Rothschild who is known for getting the most out of his staff's stuff, and Joba already has 2 quality pitches to work with.  If he can refine even one more of his secondary pitches, he could become a serviceable 4th or 5th starter, and at this point in his career innings limits go out the window, so the Yanks won't have another chance to botch that deal.

A bullpen of Mo, Soriano, Joba, D-Rob, Feliciano, Boone Logan, and "Long Reliever X" is lights out, no doubt about it.  But a bullpen of Mo, Soriano, D-Rob, Feliciano, Boone Logan, Mitre, and "Space Filler X" (who could become Andrew Brackman) is more than enough to get the job done and a rotation with Joba and Nova at the back end would give me more confidence going into the year than Nova and Mitre or Nova and anybody else off the free agent scrap heap.  If it doesn't work out, what's the worst that could happen?  Joba bombs, the Yanks move him back to the 'pen, and by then they will either be ready to promote Brackman, Noesi, or Phelps for an audition to try to catch lightning in a bottle, and trade possibilities will be starting to take shape.  And with the lineup they have, the strong bullpen, and CC as their ace, they're still going to be in good shape even if Joba flames out again as a starter.

It might not be the ideal situation, but it's the best way to handle it internally with no Lee, no Andy, and nothing else of value available at the time.

Pre-Arbitration House Cleaning

They may not have gotten Cliff Lee or Andy Pettitte to solidify the rotation, but at least the Yanks are using the extra money for something, signing Phil Hughes, Joba, and Boone Logan to new deals today to avoid arbitration.  By all indications, the deals each guy got are good for the Yanks ($2.7 mil for Hughes, $1.4 for Joba, $1.2 mil for Boone Logan) and in Hughes' and Joba's case almost certainly less than what they would have received had they gone to arbitration.

The Yanks have money to spend after their top 2 pitching targets fell through, and they certainly haven't been shy about spending it so far.  As Vinny Mac likes to say...

... and the Yankees will always have plenty of money.  And if you got it, you might as well spend it.  Especially when you're spending it to make your team better.