Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Joba Debate

Michael, to answer your question below about feeling uneasy about facing Boston without Joba, I have to agree with you. I am very uneasy, because I think the Yanks would have a much better chance of winning if they had Joba STARTING vs. Beckett than Moose, who is likely to leave the game with a 3 run deficit.

As to the raging debate going on in the comments section of an earlier Joba post, I've taken the liberty of directly responding to your claims:

Michael: Actually, every inning doesn't count.

Counterpoint: You are wrong. Runs scored in the first count just as much as those in the 7th or 8th. I checked the rule book on this just to make sure.

Michael: Personal stats and ERAs and a pitcher's individual win-loss record bore me and are meaningless. The only stat that matters is GAMES WON. Period. A shut-em-down bridge can bring the hammer down on three games a week.

Counterpoint: I agree that the only thing that matters is games won. But if you have a crappy starting pitcher, a bridge doesn't do you any good since you're LOSING when the pitcher leaves the game.

Michael: A top starter can only win one game a week. And without a strong bridge and closer, even a top starter can't guarantee a win except for the 10-15 games a yar they pitch a complete game.

Counterpoint: NO ONE can guarantee a win, least of all a set up man. They are still reliant on the offense, the defense, the starter, and the closer. It is a TEAM game, and to act as if the setup man can guarantee a win is laughable.

Michael: Even going seven full innings and leaving with a lead is meaningless without the bridge.


Michael: Who cares about how many innings we squeeze out of a pitcher?

Counterpoint: Well since there are 162 games that tend to be 9 innings, I'd say EVERYONE cares how many QUALITY innings you can get out of pitchers. Hence the propensity for putting the very best pitchers in the rotation where they will have the greatest impact on the success or failure of the team, the pitchers with 1 or 2 good pitches at the back end of the bullpen for the pressure packed outs, and the guys who stink in the middle of the bullpen.

Michael: A starter can throw six innings every five days and contribute to one win.

Counterpoint: Yes, but he is much much much more vital to that one win than anyone else that participated in that particular game.

Michael: A bridge can throw six innings every five days and lock in two or three wins.

Counterpoint: That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. You realize that would lead to a relief pitcher throwing something like 150 innings, when in reality only the most overused of all relievers throw more than 70. Besides, the best reliever in the world isn't locking in anything unless there is a good starting pitcher that leaves the game with a lead.

Michael: Which stat matters? The number of games the team wins. Nothing else.

Counterpoint: Exactly. We just disagree as to how to go about winning those games. Any insinuation otherwise is frankly insulting, not to mention it hampers the credibility of your argument. Do you think we give a crap about anything else? NO!

Now let me add two thoughts.
1. Pete and I are both on record as saying Joba can help the team more this year in the bullpen (as the team is presently constructed) because we do not have a reliable setup man and we have 5 capable starters already, not to mention the innings limits on the youngsters. We just think that next year, without Moose or Andy, the need for Joba will be such that we can't afford to keep him out of the rotation.

2. If you think Joba's confidence and intensity is so well suited to being the future closer, then why do you act like the possibility of him not succeeding in the rotation would be such a huge dent to his self-confidence from which he could never recover? I don't think you can argue this both ways...pick one side.

Bottom line...I hope he's the next Josh Beckett. But if it turns out he's more Eric Gagne (LA Version) -- that's ok too. I just want him to be healthy, successful, and a World Champion.


Michael in New York said...

Well, at least we're consistent :)

Michael in New York said...

Funny, smart rejoinders. Here are my rejoinders to your rejoinders with the caveat that of course all any of us want is for the Yankees to win and we'd do a much better job as team owners than Hank et al.

Every inning does count -- Ok, you got me there. And yes, if you've got a great player you use them as much as possible without damaging their health. My point was simply that it's quite possible the most effective use of a pitcher might be 80 innings in a role they're suited for, rather than 160 innings for one less vital and that the 80 innings might secure more wins. If innings total matters, which it doesn't, we are foolishly wasting Mo by not using him as a starter. We could get more innings out of him and more innings = more success by your standard. Obviously not true and not quite what you were saying but I exploited that reference to total innings and rammed my way through it. But my argument remains -- the total number of innings a pitcher delivers is meaningless. That would imply Mo is underutilized. But of course he has a different role. What's the best role for a pitcher? That's what matters. More innings in the wrong role helps no one.

Michael in New York said...

Crapp starting pitching means the bridge is uselss.

Au contraire, if you have a weak rotation, it's all the more vital that when an opportunity t lock down a win arises that you have the bullpen, the bridge and closer, available to secure it. Every chance to win -- because it is rarer with weak starting pitching -- is precious and can't be squandered. If you've got the strongest rotation in baseball because that's where you spent your money, you'll have a lot more opportunities to get wins and therefore can overcome a weak bullpen...during the regular season. We all know the bullpen is even more vital in the post-season.

Michael in New York said...

NO ONE can guarantee a win.

Absolutely right on that one, it IS a team effort, which is why you need good defense, good offense, good starting pitching, good bridge and a good closer. Finding someone who can be THE BEST IN BASEBALL at any of those tasks is a rare, rare thing. hence my desire to keep Joba as the bridge/closer (two extremely similar roles) assuming he continues to perform at this extraordinary level. Since it takes EVERYONE, why is a starter more important than a bridge? In an era where even the BEST starting pitching virtually never delivers a complete game or even eight innings, you need a solid bridge every single game. I know people go on and on about how this position is harder to play than that position, but I just don't care how much "easier" left field is compared to, say, shortstop. If I've found someone who has the strongest arm and best glove in baseball in left field, I'm leaving them there. First, third, short, center, catcher -- if you're the best in the game at your position, I'm not moving you.

Michael in New York said...

It's much harder to find someone to go seven strong innings than someone to pitch the eighth inning.

I disagree. At best, it's equally hard to find people to fulfill either of those roles. And frankly, seven strong innings is an outstanding start in this day and age; it's more likely to be 5+ or 6+ than 7 full innings and everyone will call that a quality start. But what has been the reality in the past eight seasons? We've had plenty of pitches, including the best pitcher in baseball for the past two seasons (hey, Wang has more wins, what else matters?), we've had plenty of other solid starters. What we have notably lacked IS A BULLPEN. We've found those so-called harder to find starters and we've BEEN INCAPABLE OF FINDING a bridge to Mo. That's a fact. But I won't belabor the point and insist finding someone to pitch the eighth is harder, even though the facts of the last eight seasons back me up. All I ask is that we agree that finding a solid starter and a solid bridge is about equally as hard. Ad now we've found someone to be the bridge. So leave him there.

Michael in New York said...

A starter is more vital to a win thanks to pitching six innings than a reliever.

I disagree. As we've agreed before, it takes an entire team to win. A starter can pitch a complete game and give up one run and lose. A starter can give up five runs in four innings and the team can get nine runs and the bullpen shuts the other team down and we win. Every role matters. Every day versus starting pitchers is a classic apples vs oranges debate. They all matter. I won't downplay the starters the way others do who insist an every day player is always more important in a season. (Hence, the prejudice against naming pitchers MVPs for example and their own lesser but equal Cy Young award.) But I won't upgrade starters and say they're more important than every day (or many day players like the bridge). You need everyone. And even on that day where a starter pitches six quality innings, it is MEANINGLESS if the bullpen blows it. So you can say the starter is more important to setting up a potential win that day (assuming the defense and bats do their job too) but there will be NO WIN WHATSOEVER if the bullpen fails. No wins. None. Zero. Also, no wins if the bats don't score a run. No wins if the closer blows a lead. No wins unless everyone does their job. The starting pitcher does their job once every five days. The bridge two or three timss every five days. The shortstop every day. They all matter. They are all essential or there will be no wins. So no -- if you want to win a season, the starting pitcher does NOT contribute to the wins over that five day period any more than the bridge, the closer, the second baseman, etc. I will not argue they contribute less, but it's certainly not more.

Michael in New York said...

Saying a reliever would throw six innings a week is ridiculous.

You're right. I was wrong. I overstated dramatically the number of innings relivers typically throw.

priv8pete said...

"Since it takes EVERYONE, why is a starter more important than a bridge?"

I think what Joe and I are saying is that if Joba can be equally as dominant as a starter as he is as the bridge (and obviously his ERA won't be 0.38 as a starter), then he would be more valuable to the team as a starter.

Consider Joe's comment from April 8th:

"I can never ever ever be convinced that a great setup man is more important to a team than a great starter. The only thing I will concede is that if Joba is not a GREAT starting pitcher...if he's merely good (like 15-10, 3.50 ERA)...then he should go back to the bullpen. Aside from injury, I cannot think of a single reason why he should not be in the rotation next season."

What Joe and I are suggesting is that we find out if Joba can be a great starter just like he's been a great reliever. If he can only be good, then it stands to reason he should be in the bullpen.

That's exactly what the Yanks did with Mo who came up as a starter in 1995, started 10 games and was crap. So, when he was a revelation in relief in 1996 it made complete sense to use him as a great reliever instead of a mediocre starter.

I'm willing to concede that a great reliever is more valuable than a good starter, but someone who is great in both roles should be utilized to the maximum by the team. All we're saying is let's wait and find out next year.

Michael in New York said...

Joba's not a fragile little doll.

Agreed. I think he has the intensity and temperment to succeed as a bridge and closer. That doesn't mean it's wise to move him again and again into different roles. That belief and confidence can be undermined by putting someone into another role, watching them fail dramatically and then putting them back into the role they were good at and wondering why that same pitcher is now struggling. It's just psychology. However tough they may act, they're ego-driven, fear muffins and they can crumble in an instant. Don't ask me why but its true -- failure in another role can undermine a player's success in a role they were previously good at. That's just the way it is. People who heard Jeter was injured and immediately said A-Rod should be switched to short are complete morons. You can't just mix and match players like pieces on a board. They'r real people and chemistry and practice and knowing your role on the team and performing that task day after day without interruption matters greatly. So yes, even though Joba has a fiery attitude perfect for the bridge/closer, I worry that moving him around can damage him. I thought it was idiotic during spring training when EVERYONE knew he would be going into the bullpen to "test" him as a starter. Joba basically begged to be told as early as possible what his role would be. They ignored that pleas and screwed with him. Happily, he survived but that desire to know your role and have that role be consistent is dominant throughout baseball.

joe said...

This is therapeutic. I feel much better now.

dasnootz said...

Off topic... I think someone needs to buy Farnsworth a new cup. After every pitch last night, his first motion is to adjust himself... even before getting in a defensive position. I'm affraid one day he's going to take a line drive to the forehead while gripping his manhood.

dasnootz said...

Back to the Joba debate....

Can't we break this down to simple math?

Assumption 1: Joba and Mo convert 90% of leads after 7 innings...(this includes leads of more than 2 runs when they don't pitch).

Assumption 2: The 1-4 starters of the Yankees give Joba and Mo 85 leads by the 7th inning.

Assumption 3: Moose is the low man on the totem poll, and would be replaced by Joba:

Assumption 4: Moose would give the Yankees 12 leads after 7 innings this season.

Assumption 5: Joba as a starter would give the Yankees 24 leads for a win after 7 innings (30 starts x .80). This is a high number but I think Joba would have to be dominant to take him out of his set up position.

Assumption 6: Whoever replaces Joba in the pen converts 80% of the leads with Mo.

With Joba in the pen, the Yankees convert 90% of the 97 leads they have after 7 innings for 87 wins.

With Joba as a starter, Mo and "X" converth 80% of the 109 leads for 87 wins.

We can try the math with different figures, but I think the logic is correct.

It comes down to how many more oppurtunities for a win does Joba give us over our worst starter or midseason signing, and how much worse will our bullpen be without him.

Michael in New York said...

Given our bullpen for the past eight seasons, I would assume they'd be much worse than 90% to 80% but surely blowing one out of every five potential wins would mean no post-season, regardless of who the starting pitching is including Johan Santana. But my head hurts from these equations. I'll look at them again later.