The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


Some people take bullpen stints really seriously

That list today includes Jeff Passan, who normally makes sense. It also, apparently, includes Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, who normally don’t. Let’s take a look!

Just decide. Please. Put us out of our misery, New York Yankees, and pick a role for Joba Chamberlain. Start him. Relieve him. Do something with him, and make it consistent.

Huh. Wow, Jeff, you’re really worked up about Joba pitching out of the pen here in the ALDS, aren’t you. You are aware that he’s their fourth starter, and that teams really only use three during the LDS, right? So if he doesn’t come out of the pen, he just sits there on the bench?

"My hairline gets deeper and deeper every time I look in the mirror," Chamberlain said Thursday, a day after a two-pitch, one-out relief appearance in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory against Minnesota in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. "This will make you age quickly. I saw my first picture from my first year, and my hairline was strong. Feels like I’ve been here a while, huh? I have trouble believing I’m only 23."

Maybe I just don’t understand pitching, but, really, I don’t see why fourth starters would freak out when they get used from the pen in the playoffs. For fuck’s sake, Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett both pitched out of the Marlins’ ‘pen in the 2003 playoffs in the same series where they were also used as starters, and neither of them complained about it. And these men are notorious crybabies.

Bar rooms have raged with debate for three years now about Chamberlain’s best role. The emotional set favors him as a reliever, so dominant was Chamberlain in that role during 2007 that the image of his 99-mph fastball remains in their minds’ cache. The logical party prefers Chamberlain the starter, arguing that even a moderately effective pitcher who logs 200 innings brings far more value than a one-inning-and-done automaton.

For what it’s worth, BP has Joba at 12 PRAR in 2007 — when he worked out of the ‘pen — in only 24 innings pitched. That’s ridiculously, stupidly, small-sample-sizedly good. He allowed one earned run. His ERA+ was 1192. Four fucking digits. I can kind of sympathise with the theoretical "emotional" crowd here. Especially considering his 2009 PRAR, as a starter, was 11. His overall contribution to his team winning was one run less in 2009, even though he pitched 157.1 innings — which is pretty far away from 200, by the way, Jeff — instead of 24. That’s pretty crazy.

Both sides make their points with such conviction that what began as a rational examination of value has turned into a toxic pollutant, permeating the New York radio airwaves, tabloid columns and message boards with the odor of good intentions gone wrong.

That sounds like it’s almost as bad as that time all those sabermetricians yelled at Ken Rosenthal.

So imagine, then, the fervor caused Wednesday night when Chamberlain trotted out of the bullpen, like old, for the first time in the postseason since the midges attacked his poor, bug-sprayless self in Cleveland. The relief wingnuts went nuts. The starting birthers had conniptions. On went the debate, preserved for not just another day but at least a few more months – and probably longer.

"Birthers?" You’re going with "Birthers" here, Jeff, to describe people who think Joba Chamberlain is better as a starter? That’s pretty fucking harsh, man. Also — and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet — isn’t he a fourth starter? Like, a dude who wouldn’t pitch in the LDS? If you think he’s great shakes any way around, isn’t it better for him to come out of the ‘pen than not at all? At least that way he gets some work in.

"I don’t honestly think it’s ever going to change," Chamberlain said. "Maybe one day it does."

Wait, isn’t the problem that it keeps changing? More to the point, that it changed yesterday? I guess I really don’t understand pitching in New York.

The Yankees have constricted Chamberlain with pitch-count rules and eased him from the bullpen to a starting role all in the name of keeping him healthy.

Well, yeah. Because he’s kind of fragile. You haven’t noticed that, Jeff? The reason he only pitched 157.1 innings this year isn’t because he’s such an awesome starter that the other teams just keep forfeiting.

Lost in their dealings is the mental abuse dealt Chamberlain, who wants to start but also wants to help the team and reconciles the two only because the alternatives are so unappealing.

Alternatives such as going to a team so bad that his 4.77 ERA, 1.544 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9 would be first-starter material? I can see why that would be unappealing. But at least he wouldn’t be pitching in relief in the playoffs!

Chamberlain could go public with his demand to start and start only.

What, like, to the New York Post? That’s a good plan. He should do that.

He’d look like a foof, particularly since his career as a starter has been, well, whelming. Not overwhelming and not underwhelming, just whelming.

Hey Jeff, if you have to spell the joke out like that, it’s probably not working. Just a heads-up. And what’s a "foof?" Are you calling him gay? Because Carl Everett will refuse to play with him if you do.

He could, too, ask Yankees management in a discreet fashion to give him a role and not move him for any reason.

I… guess he could, yeah. And if the role management gives him isn’t the one he wants, hasn’t he sort of fucked himself over by insisting that it can’t ever change? All of which is assuming, of course, that when he makes his petulant demand, management doesn’t decide to assign him to the "trade bait" role.

This is the better option, of course, and yet approaching management in such a fashion comes off more as ultimatum than request.

Well, because it is an ultimatum. A request would be "hey guys, I’d prefer to start." Requests don’t usually contain the phrase "for any reason," for instance. A request also usually allows the other party the opportunity to decline.

Either way, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi must assuage him. One year of debate is too long. Three years is cruel. Figure it out. End it.

So, wait, now you’re telling Girardi and Cashman to end the fan debate over what Joba’s best role is? What? How can they do that?

They played him as a starter for all of 2009 except when he was hurt. They used him as a reliever in the LDS because you only need three starters. OH THE HUMANITY!

There is the possibility that this move to the bullpen is temporary, that Girardi will forget that Chad Gaudin outpitched Chamberlain in the season’s last six weeks and choose Joba to start Game 4 in the AL Championship Series, on which the Yankees have their eyes.

Perhaps I’m wrong here, but it seems to me that Chad Gaudin is another of those horribly-mistreated pitchers who sometimes start and sometimes relieve. He also looks pretty lousy. And the Yankees "have their eyes [on]" game 4 of the ALCS? Like, that’s their goal? They want to win ALCS game 4 and then go home?

It’s stark. It really is, even with the small sample size in relief. His fastball whistles a few mph higher as a reliever, his slider is of the wipeout variety and Chamberlain is simply more effective out of the bullpen.

So, assuming this is true: why is it a problem again that they’re using him from the bullpen? I mean, it’s the playoffs. It’s not like they’ve stuck him in the pen during spring training just to piss him off.

When he assesses the 2009 season that makes up the bulk of those starting statistics – a 4.75 ERA in 157 1/3 innings over 31 starts – Chamberlain asks, somewhat sheepishly, "I didn’t have a terrible year, did I?"

Terrible? Why, that ERA is only 0.01 runs higher than being very good!

"The fans want to see you where you’re successful," Hughes said. "They want to see the team win. So if you go to the bullpen and have immediate success, you should be there, the thinking goes."

I like this, because the context heavily implies that the players don’t want to be successful, or to see the team win. That’s something uncultured fans are after. The "thinking" is that players should be good? Bullshit! Fucking statheads ruining baseball, as far as I’m concerned.

That frightens Hughes.

"Oh no," stammered Philip Hughes, his knees trembling, "th-th-th-the bullpen!"

In 28 career starts, his ERA is 5.22. Since moving to the bullpen earlier this season, it’s 1.40 in 51 1/3 innings.


The Yankees intend on putting Hughes in the rotation again next season. Which sets up the possibility of him becoming Chamberlain, Part II.

Does Ian Kennedy get to be Chamberlain, Part III? Because then he’d be in 3D, and that would be sweet.

"I certainly hope not," Hughes said. "In the offseason, there’s not much to really talk about, so I’m sure it’ll come up a little bit. It’s good that fans and media don’t have a say, because it might never die."

In baseball news today, Barry Bonds spent $250,000 on renovations to a children’s hospital. He also went down to the hospital to attend a ceremony dedicating the playroom to him, and he played with the sick children, laughed and smiled, gave out free t-shirts and posed for pictures. Philip Hughes announced that it’s a good thing that the fans and the media can’t tell him what to do, because they’re all idiots anyway.

Isn’t Barry Bonds just the biggest dick in all of sports? Seriously.

Chamberlain and Hughes could pitch again tonight, as the Yankees look to run their series lead to 2-0 before flying to Minneapolis for Game 3. Chamberlain is excited for that.

Hughes isn’t.

"Maybe all this hair is gone," Chamberlain said, "because I have a 3½-year-old."

Maybe. But probably not.

You heard it here, friends: sometimes pitching out of the bullpen instead of starting is way more stressful and mentally taxing than raising a young child. Mo’fucka.

October 9th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

1 Comment »

  1. Wow.

    You know, I don’t know if you mentioned this or not, but… IT’S THE FUCKING PLAYOFFS! And Joba is the #4 starter. Fuck, he should be happy to be ON THE ROSTER for the ALDS. It’s not too terribly uncommon for clubs to leave their fifth and sometimes fourth starters off the roster entirely for the opening round if they think they have better options in the pen.

    Also, one time I saw Orel Hershiser record a save in the playoffs, the night after having started a playoff game on three days rest. I wonder if he bitched to Tommy Lasorda about it! PICK A ROLE, DAMMIT!

    Comment by Dave | 9 October 2009

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.