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Joba Still the Best Option for Eighth



By Jed Weisberger ~ July 13th, 2010. Filed under: New York Yankees.

Joba Chamberlain’s performance as the Yankees’ primary eighth-inning reliever has been unacceptable.

Look, I know the man and am in his corner as much as anyone.  However, the fact remains his 1-4, 5.79 mark with three blown saves in 39 appearances is not what is needed in this role.

So what should  the Yankees do.  Some are talking about Octavio Dotel or Kerry Wood as additions. Frankly, Dotel’s performance in Pittsburgh has been uneven at best.  He is 2-2, 4.89 with 19 saves in 24 opportunities, but just registered a pair of blown saves in the Pirates’ latest debacle in Milwaukee.

Wood? I just can’t get comfortable with his overall health.  With a 1-4, 6.30 mark in 23 appearances, converting 8-of-11 save opportunities, is he really worth giving up even a low- to mid-level prospect for?

So if anyone is considering Dotel or Wood seriously, please delete that thought from your mind. I’ll take Joba, just the way he is, over those two.

There are two relievers on losing clubs I really like, but I would guess both are unobtainable.

Kansas City’s Joakim Soria is 0-1, 2.31 with 25 saves. His strikeout/walk ratio is 43-9. The Royals would want somebody like Joba and a prospect for him.  I also doubt they’d move him.  Pittsburgh’s Evan Meek is 4-3, 1.11, but has blown 6-of-7 save opportunities in situations not all his fault.  He has tons of potential, but would cost too much for what he would provide.

So when the situation is surveyed, Chamberlain is the best option among all that appears to be available in the majors.  We do have Jonathan Albaladejo at Triple-A Scranton.  This enigma is 1-1, 1.09 with 29 saves in the Poconos.  He’s had chances with the Yankees at sea level and failed.

Ivan Nova, who is 7-2, 3.21 in 17 starts at Scranton, had a brief shot with the Yanks and, with his stuff, could be a reliever.  Mark Melancon, who is 5-1, 3.81 with six saves also has dominated in the minors, but been unimpressive with the Yankees.

Again, the conclusion is to make another attempt to get Joba on the right track. He has the All-Star Break to get away from it, which may be good.

Some blame his problems on the way he was handled, shuttling from starter to bullpen to starter to bullpen. It’s time to get past all that. He is a reliever, and a very good one at times.

Before Saturday’s failure, he was solid in three straight performances vs. Toronto and Oakland. Prior to that, he stumbled against both the Blue Jays and Dodgers. When he’s good, he’s good. When he’s not, that’s when everyone gets frustrated.

Others have surmised too much rest gets Joba out of rhythm.  Aside from the fact he has allowed too many hits (42) for innings pitched (37.1), which has led to 24 earned runs allowed. His stats are not horrendous by any means.

His strikeout/walk ratio is 40-14. He has one wild pitch and has allowed two home runs.  His main problem is that he has faltered more dramatically at home (1-2, 8.04) than on the road (0-2, 4.15). When a pitcher is working the eighth inning and has things go awry, everything is magnified.

I suggest this. After the All-Star Break, the Yankees should use Joba three times in five games and four in six. See if the command and concentration improves over a stretch with less rest. Also stress the need to work off your fastball more and throw first-pitch strikes. Chamberlain often nibbles, then misses his spots, gets in trouble and allows a big hit like Jose Lopez’s grand slam the other night.

I’ve watched Joba from almost the moment the Yankees signed him. He can be great as the eighth-inning guy and a future closer. But he needs to regain consistent effectiveness.

You could send him to the minors. Maybe Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred can take a different approach, but who do the Yankees have to replace him besides Phil Hughes, who needs to be in the rotation until the playoffs?

Get Chamberlain squared away. Dotel or Wood do not provide the answer.

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With the All-Star Break under way at several levels, the Yankees and Mets farm system reviews will resume next week.

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Jed spent 35 years in the newspaper business working as both a writer and editor, in both sports and news under tight deadline pressure. As both sports editor at the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette and a copy editor/columnist at The Times of Trenton, he made daily decisions on overall coverage and designed and produced thousands of pages and special sections. Since accepting a buyout from The Times, he has concentrated on broadening his writing and editing horizons to the medical, academic and business fields. Anyone is welcome to Google Jed to see the different places in print, on the Web and in front of the camera his professional expertise has spread to.

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2 Responses to Joba Still the Best Option for Eighth

  1. Dave

    Of course, given the team’s lack of alternatives, that’s not saying much…

  2. KRM

    Alby had a creditable 2008 (115 ERA+) and a not great 2009.

    But that 83 ERA+ for 2009 is better than Joba’s currently is — he’s at 71.

    You’re being way too hard on him.

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