Thursday, April 26, 2012

Make David Robertson A Starter?

Being borrowed from our good friends over at Yankees Fans Unite

Robertson has the repertoire to succeed as a Starter
Only about a month ago we were all talking about how much pitching depth the Yankees had.  The Yanks were 7-deep at the Major League level with 5 guys ready to go in AAA.  Since then, nothing has gone right.  The starting staff is 29th in MLB with a 5.73 ERA, Michael Pineda has a labrum tear and is out for the year, and our 2 top pitching prospects have had brutal starts to their seasons in AAA.  Once a luxury, Andy Pettitte is now being depended upon to come save this staff.  But can Andy be relied on at his age  after a year off? And even if he’s effective, is it enough with both Hughes & Garcia struggling badly?
It may be time for the Yanks to think outside of the box.  I was talking to some friends last year around this time about the Yankee pitching staff and who had the best pure stuff.  We were all pretty much in agreement that the nastiest pitcher was David Robertson.  We then discussed making Robertson a starter and really couldn’t find a valid reason why it shouldn’t be attempted.  After all, you generally want to maximize ways for your better pitchers to help you and Roberston could be much more helpful throwing 200 innings a year rather than 65-70.
The Yanks need to learn from perhaps the best run team in the league - the Texas Rangers.  They have successfully turned CJ Wilson from a reliever into a top-notch starter and are doing the same with Neftali Feliz this year after getting a solid season from reliever turned starter Alexi Ogandolast year.  Boston has taken notes and is using power set-up man Daniel Bard as a starter this year.
So why not Robertson?  Since the start of last season, he’s been more effective than anyone in MLB with a 0.96 ERA.  He has the repertoire to do it with 3 plus pitches and a 4th that could be plus if he had to use it more.  In relief he generally uses the Fastball and Cutter with a few Curveballs mixed in.  DRob also throws a change-up from time to time and it could be a very effective pitch as a starter.  He has perfect mechanics – using his legs and mid-section to generate most of his power.  His mechanics are very unique but if I had to compare him to a couple of pitchers I’d say Tim Lincecum and to a lesser extent, Pedro Martinez.  Both are multi-Cy Young winning starters despite being under 6’0″.
The Questions?
The first problem is Robertson has never been a starter in his pro career so there would be a big increase in his workload.  He’s never thrown more than 85 innings in a season so it would be a big increase.  But he has perfect mechanics that don’t put a lot of stress on his arm so I think he would hold up.  The second issue is his style.  Currently as a late inning reliever he is often in full-blown strikeout mode.  With no room for error and often pitching with men on base, he goes for the K and has done it better than anyone in the A.L. with a 13.4 K/9 since last April.  This has led to him averaging 18 pitches per inning where the average starting pitcher is around 15 pitches per inning.  This would be a small adjustment in my opinion as he could afford pitching to a bit more contact with some wiggle room that he doesn’t enjoy in his current role.
The other con is how do you replace him in his current role as the best set-up man in baseball?  Well, the Yanks already have Rafael Soriano and David Aardsma should be back in the 2nd half to help as well.  But what I would do is put Phil Hughes back in that role.  Hughes was awesome in the pen in 2009, going 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA – 0.85 whip – 11.4 k/9 and  .456 OPS against.  Phil is currently struggling as a starter because he lacks the secondary pitches to start.  Robertson has those secondary pitches.
It would not be ideal to make this switch during the regular season which I brought up to YFU poster Ballpark the other day.  But as he mentioned, it is still early enough to give it a try.  Robertson could be sent down to the minors for however long it took to get lengthened out. With Pettitte on his way up, the Yanks could afford to be patient getting DRob ready.  Even if he wasn’t ready until mid-season, we really need him for the 2nd half and playoffs.  A rotation of CC, Pettitte, Nova, Robertson & Kuroda would be pretty impressive.  If Robertson doesn’t take well to starting, he can always be put back into the pen.  It really seems like low risk, potential very high reward.  So what do you guys think? Would Robertson be a good starter?

Reasons To Be Optimistic About Pineda

I was going to write-up my own article after reading about the optimism surrounding Pineda's injury, but instead I'm just going to link you to this good post from one of my favorite blogs, The Yankee Analysts.

Yankees Off Day -- Music Recommendation

I wanted to find something to do with the Yankees being off and since last time I posted about a band I saw in concert so I decided to do it again. This time instead of rock music I am going to recommend some rap music so if you are not a fan then carry on. 

Childish Gambino is one of my personal favorite rappers, mainly because he is not very well known. I do not listen to rap music much but his I do. Anyway I can talk all day but it does not matter until you hear him so here he is. 

Reaction to Pineda News

Photo is courtesy of The Yankee Analysts

At least for the 2012 season the team has lost a big piece. When Michael Pineda was acquired he was looked at as the 2nd pitcher in what would be a really strong 1-2 punch. And after adding in Ivan Nova, they would have a top 3 that was stronger than that of any other team but the Phillies. Not only did Michael show up to camp out of shape, and had apparently not done anything resembling working out during the entire offseason, but he ended up on the Disabled List with shoulder pain. And yesterday it was learned that he'd be lost until after the start of next season. Super *rolls eyes*.

One thing I took away from the news that was positive though was that at least we know there's a reason for Pineda's troubles. Sure, the actual tear may have happened during extended spring training, but from what I've read this is not something that comes out of left field (like how Raul Ibanez should be taken out of left field and DH only). Unlike last year with Phil Hughes, when nobody could come up with a solid reason for his struggles, we have something real to point at with Michael. Pineda's shoulder can be fixed, although it won't be quick and easy by any means, and there's reason to believe he could come back and be the guy me and others believed he could be.

One reason I loved the acquisition was that Pineda was under team control for five more years, which would be huge if the team does indeed make a run at getting at or under a $189 million payroll in 2014 and 2015. It's true that Michael will still be under team control for those seasons in the future, but one of those team control years is lost. I guess I can spin it that at least they are only paying him $528,475 for nothing, instead of the $33 million they paid AJ Burnett the last two seasons for next to nothing. But it still hurts.

Another bad thing about this news is that one of Freddy Garcia or Phil Hughes is going to get more starts than they deserve. Although the team could try out David Phelps as a starter, which fans all over are screaming for, or give others like DJ Mitchell a shot. Mitchell is doing pretty well in his four AAA starts, with an ERA of 3.13 and .87 WHIP. Prospect humpers would be happy with that, as they're whining all the time about minor leaguers not getting a shot with the Yankees. Maybe the team hits pay-dirt and finds another Ivan Nova that way.

It does seem as though the team has to do better at developing pitchers, though. Fans everywhere are pointing at Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes as team failures, but Ivan Nova and Chien-Ming Wang are examples of success the team has had doing so. So fans should not be 100% negative about them in that department. I don't have real numbers to put on the success rate of teams and their prospects, but I expect it to be pretty darn low. I mean Mark Teixeira batting average low. Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the team and what was done with Joba and Phil, but to say this team can't develop pitchers is incorrect. Perhaps they can do a better job at it, so some personnel changes or additions should occur, but they don't need a total overhaul.

Speaking of not overhauling team personnel, I don't believe for a second that Brian Cashman should be fired over this. I was hardly the only person defending the trade when it went down, and I'm hardly the only person saying it's not lost today. As far as how this news does affect the trade, I don't care. It's over, and it's time for people to move on and use their time and energy talking about the team. And I'm talking about the actual team, not the would-have-been team. I'm so incredibly tired of that topic. Maybe after a few more years when people can properly evaluate if the deal ended up a good or bad one, but right now it's a waste of people's breath.

It makes complete sense to be upset over things, as I'm right there with you. I'm clearly not as up-in-arms as some people within Yankee Universe (yes, I hate that term, but I couldn't resist using it), but Michael Pineda would have been a big reason the Yankees had #28 in sight. New York is not like Cleveland, where the words "maybe next year" cross the lips of their fans. But the team still has a good shot this season, so all is not lost.

Series Wrap: @ Rangers 4/23 - 4/25

Game One

Yankee starters were really going to be tested in this series, as the Rangers offense had the 2nd highest wOBA (.371), and had hit the 2nd most HRs (26), in MLB. Luckily the Yankees had the highest wOBA (.376), and the most HR (27), in MLB to cover up for their starters' woes.

The Yankee "ace", and I put that in quotes as a 5.59 ERA doesn't exactly scream "ace", didn't start this one off very well, as he gave up back-to-back singles to Kinsler and Andrus. But things were looking up right after that as Hamilton hit into a double play, and Michael Young hit a weak ground ball back to the mound. Actually, until Hamilton hit his 8th HR of the year in the bottom of the 6th inning, CC was cruising. The Rangers could only muster a couple of hits between the 2nd and 5th innings. Even in the 6th, after Hamilton's bomb, Sabathia got the next two batters to ground out. I thought Sabathia's day was over with after a rough 7th inning, and Robertson would come in to fullfil the prophesy set forth by the almight binder. But just like Girardi often tricks logic, he tricked me, and CC got through the inning without a problem. Finally, as per usual, Mariano Rivera barely broke a sweat in earning his 4th save of the season.

The Yankee bats wasted little time in getting things going, as Curtis Grandeson hit a 2-run RBI single to score Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. By the way, Derek led off with a base hit for the 10th tiem this season. Yeah, that's 1-0, TEN times. The way CC was doing between the 2nd and 4th innings I thought that would be enough, but apparently the Yankees themselves had other ideas. Nick Swisher hit a sacrifice fly to score Chris Stewart, and then ARod recorded his first hit off of a left-handed pitcher this year... a three run bomb to left-center field. That would have been enough for the win, but Derek Jeter wasn't satisfied quite yet, as he knocked home Chris Stewart for yet another run. The Captain ended up going 4/5 in the game, with 2 runs and an RBI, raising his batting average to .411. Robinson Cano was the only other Yankee to record 2 or more hits.

Game Two

Yu Darvish's MLB debut didn't go that well, as he gave up 5 ER in 5.2 innings of work. He looked better in his next two starts, giving up only 2 ER in 12 innings, but *channeling the spirt of Edward Rooney* he's walked 9 guys. I'm a big fan of K/BB ratio, and going into last night Yu's ratio was at 1.08 (14/13).

On the other side of this battle of former NPB aces, Hiroki Kuroda struggled in two of his first three starts in pinstripes. In his Yankee debut Hiro gave up 4 ER in 5.2 innings, and 11 days later the Twins roughed him up with 6 ER in only 4.1 innings. There was a great start in between, as the Angels couldn't plate any runs in Kuroda's 8 innings. So what would he do this time?

Ian Kinsler led-off the game for the Rangers in the bottom of the 1st inning. Martin called for a slider low and outside, but Kuroda threw it low and inside, and Ian hit it into the Yankee bullpen in left-center. Not the way Yankee fans wanted to see things start. But seeing as how Derek Jeter has led of 10 games with hits for the Bombers, we can't be too upset that Kinsler did this to us. Thankfully Hiroki didn't let that rattle him, as he went on to throw a pretty good game, allowing the Rangers to manufacture only one more run in a total of 6.2 innings. The bullpen gave the team 1.1 perfect innings, which would normally be more than enough, but Yu Darvish turned in a gem. Darvish scattered 7 hits in 8.1 inning, striking out 10 Yankee hitters. Yu has struggled with walks, as he had 13 walks against 14 strikeouts going into this one, but Yankee hitters... who are usually good at drawing walks (they've walked 70 times this season, tied for 3rd in MLB)... could only manage to draw two of them.

Like I said, the defense only allowing 2 runs to the opposition would normally have been more than enough to win, but a look at the box score tells you this game was not "normal" at all. Jeter (now hitting .416 on the season) and Cano were the only Yankee hitters to have more than two hits (two each), while Swisher, Chavez, and Martin had one a piece. Granderson, ARod, Teixeira, and Ibanez were a combined 0 for 15, leaving 12 men on base. The batting with RISP made a comeback, as the team went 1 for 7 in that department. What's a bit maddening is that the Rangers were only 1 for 2 with RISP.

I'd write more about this game, but it's left me as frustrated as a horny Tyrannosaurus Rex with no mate.

Game Three

Phil Hughes fooled me Wednesday night. Not for long, but he did fool me.

Phil was looking good in the first 2.1 innings. He had only given up a HR to Adrian Beltre at that point, to go with four ground outs, a strikeout to Elvis Andrus, and a line-out to Ian Kinsler. Before being taken out in the 3rd inning he was hitting 94 on the gun, and was being efficient as he had only thrown 25 pitches going into the 3rd inning. But then he gave up a single, a double, a run-scoring ground out, hit Hamilton with a pitch, another single, and another double. His line ended up being 2.2 innings, 5 hits, and 4 runs (all earned). Clay Rapada got out of the inning, and then David Phelps came in. And David did not play the part of Goliath in this one, as he went on to give up 3 runs, 5 hits, and walking 3, and gave up 2 round-trippers, in 2.1 innings.  The rest of the bullpen did a good job of holding Texas, but the damage was too much.

Derek Jeter started the Yankee offense with his 11th lead-off hit, but the other Yankee hitters didn't take it from there. Granderson and Rodriguez struck out after that lead-off single, then Cano grounded out to end things. They didn't get another hit until the 3rd inning when ... SURPRISE... Jeter hit another single to CF. Back-to-back singles by Granderson and Teixeira started the 4th , and both men ended up scoring on an Ibanez double and a sac fly by Chavez. But even a home run later by Raul wasn't enough to win this one. The team went back to their #RISPFAIL ways and only hit 1-7 in that situation, leaving 5 men in scoring position.

Series Awards

Jake Taylor Award*
Derek Jeter - 8/13, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 2B

Gentry Award*
Alex Rodrigez - 1/10, 7 LOB

Rick Vaughn Award*
CC Sabathia - Game 1: 8 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

Kelner Award*
Phil Hughes - Game 3: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Next Series
vs. Tigers 4/27 - 4/29
Click here to talk about the series at the Daily Sports Pages Yankees forum.


*The awards are named after one of the best baseball movies of all time... Major League.

Jake Taylor Award - Awarded to the most valuable position player. Named after the hard-nose veteran catcher that, despite making the league minimum, was the heart and soul of the 1989 American League East winning Cleveland Indians.

Gentry Award - Awarded to the least valuable position player. Named after the very first man cut from the 1989 Cleveland Indians, #47 Gentry. A man so insignificant he wasn't even given a first name.

Rick Vaughn - Awarded to the best pitcher in the series. This one is, of course, named after the "Wild Thing". The man that made Clu Haywood look silly in the division deciding game.

Kelner Award - Awarded to the worst pitcher in the series. Named after the Opening Day starter for the '89 Indians. Not a good game for Mr. Kelner, as Indians' announcer Harry Doyle famously quipped "thank God" after Kelner left the game. And yet another bad player without a first name.

Meet A Prospect : Joba Chamberlain Edition

Welcome back to The Greedy Pinstripes where we will be re-introducing you to Yankees reliever and fan favorite Joba Chamberlain. Joba Chamberlain is a very interesting story when you look at his successful career at Nebraska, him flying through the Yankees system, his dominance as a reliever in his young career, his mothers DUI, the "Joba Rules", Tommy John Surgery, the trampoline incident, and so much more. He has definitely had a very interesting career up to this point, especially to be so young, and hopefully this is just the beginning. Let's meet Joba Chamberlain.

Joba Chamberlain, born Justin Louis Heath, was born on September 23rd , 1985 in Lincoln Nebraska, where he grew up until he entered the MLB First Year Player draft.  Chamberlain was born to parents, Harlan Chamberlain and Jackie Standley, who were never married and ended their relationship when Joba was only 18 months old. Joba's mother began abusing drugs when Joba was a young boy, around 4 or 5 years old, and that has really hurt him and his mothers relationship as they currently rarely speak to each other. Joba has native american blood running through his veins as his father was born on the Winnebago Indian Reservation but he ultimately had to leave to be treated for polio. Joba still currently has other family members living on American Indian reservations. When Joba, then Justin, was young his two year old cousin was unable to pronounce her brothers name (Joba's other cousin) properly instead pronouncing it Justin she pronounced it Joba. Joba's dad Harlan heard the name and liked the name right away and started calling his son, Justin, the name Joba because he said the name was "dynamic." Joba obviously agreed because he eventually had his name legally changed.  

Joba served as a ball boy and bat boy for the Lincoln Northeast High School's state championship baseball team. That is unlike any of the Meet A Prospect sessions we have done so far because Joba did not really play much baseball  in High School until his senior year. That year though he was named to the second team Super State from the Lincoln Journal Star going 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA striking out 29 batters in 31.1 innings.  He eventually graduated from Northeast High school but did not go straight to college because he had to go to work to help his parents pay the bills. He , for a very short time, worked for the city of Lincoln Nebraska's maintenance department.

Over the summer of 2004 Joba played in American Legion Amateur baseball and went 4-4 with a 1,36 ERA striking out 137 batters and walked only 21 en route to all state honors. He also hit .505 with 11 home runs, 11 doubles, and 37 RBIs as a two way player. With impressive stats like that it makes you wonder why he never said anything about hitting or wanting to go to the National League to pursue being the next Babe Ruth. 

Joba started his college playing career at the University of Nebraska-Kearney before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He helped the Cornhuskers reach the 2005 College World Series and helped them win their first ever College World Series with a 10-2 record with a 2.81 ERA including 5 double digit strike out games. Tricep tendinitis slowed him down in 2006 but he still pitched to a 6-5 record with a 3.93 ERA and 102 K's in 89.1 IP and 14 games. 

Joba was drafted 41st overall by the New York Yankees in the 2006 MLB First Year Player draft when the Yanks received a compensation pick for Tom Gordon when he went to the Philadelphia Phillies. Going into the 2007 season, his first season in the Yankees system, he was ranked as the 4th best pitching prospect in the Yankees organization and 75th overall.  His fastball was easily named the best in the entire Yankees system, which was very pitching rich at the time.  He did not spend much time in the minors leagues in 2007, blowing through Single A Tampa, AA Trenton, AAA Scranton, and all the way to the majors in the same season. He also pitched in the US All Star Futures team that same season. 

When he was called up, and I hate to bring this up YET AGAIN, the "Joba Rules" were conceived to protect his arm from over use. The rules stipulated that he could not be used out of the bullpen on consecutive days and he also received an extra day of rest for every inning he pitched in the majors. Babying is what I call it but you're not here to hear my opinion you are here to learn about Joba ;). Joba made himself a special place in mine, and a lot of Yankees fans, heart when he threw over Kevin Youkilis' head twice in August of 2007 and was suspended and fined for it.... F Youk. How could we forget the swarm of bugs that attacked him in the 2007 playoffs against the Cleveland Indians? What a year for Joba Chamberlain... but it was only the beginning of a roller coaster ride. 

Joba, after coming back from a leave of absence to be with his father who fell in his Nebraska home, was made a starter in the 2008 season by the request of Hank Steinbrenner. Everything was going well, including out dueling Josh Beckett in a July start, until he landed on the DL with rotator cuff tendinitis while starting against the Texas Rangers. He was never the same that season after the injury and was never the same as a starter again, to date. In 2009 he continued to struggle as a starter and the Yankees brass even contemplated sending him down to the minor leagues and leaving him off the post season roster. Eventually they made the decision to put him in the bullpen as a set up man and he flourished in that post season en route to his first World Series ring behind the arms of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. The 2010 season saw Joba move back to the bullpen and saw Joba struggle again with an ERA north of 5 before he finally turned it on in August of that season. 

2011 started yet another roller coaster ride for Joba as he ended up on the DL in June of that season and ended up needing Tommy John surgery. This was after he lost both his set up man position, to David Robertson, and then his 7th inning spot to recently signed Rafael Soriano.  Starting 2012 he was way ahead of schedule in his rehab for Tommy John surgery but severely injured his ankle jumping on a trampoline with his son, suspending any chance of him pitching in the majors indefinitely. The diagnosis was an open ankle dislocation and did not seem life threatening, contrary to original reports of massive blood loss. 

Joba has one son, Karter Chamberlain, and has done some television appearances so he should have plenty to keep him busy on his road back to the Yankees. He made an appearance in an episode of Man Vs. Food in which he was coaching Adam Richman through an eating challenge in Brooklyn New York. Unfortunately Joba has had an equal amount of roller coaster moments off the field as well, none worse then when he got arrested on suspension of DUI in October of 2008. He also had an open container in the vehicle with him when a Nebraska State Police Officer pulled him over. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation in 2009. The injuries, the poor performances, the family problems, the Joba rules, the mental games, all that and Joba still keeps a good character, a good demeanor, and still keeps that smile on his face. Best wishes to Joba and his family and here's to coming back to the Yankees as soon as possible. Cheers to you Joba, get better soon. 

Tune in tomorrow when we continue our Meet A Prospect special edition and we meet Yankees All Star 3B, the highest paid player in baseball, the man who could potentially pass Barry Bonds on the all time home run list, Mr. Alex Rodriguez.