What kind of person are you? Do you spend money as soon as you cash that work check, or do you put it away and save for that house you and your spouse have planned to buy? While this may seem like an odd question to pose given the nature of this blog, the truth is that baseball team’s deal with the same issue on an almost daily basis. What am I talking about? A little background first.
The Yankees currently sit in first place in the AL East, 2.5 games ahead of the Red Sox going into their matchup tonight. This is hardly enough of gap for the Yankees to do anything but plow ahead continuing to do what they have done thus far (no one is going to be taken a vacation on the bench to rest their bodies).
Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees starter on Thursday night, is 7-2 on the year with a 3.58 ERA over his 20 starts this season. Those are certainly respectable numbers, especially considering a few of the rough outings that Joba has given this year. Still, in his 20 trips to the hill he has allowed three or fewer runs 17 times which would be simply terrific if not for the fact that Joba has failed to last six innings in nine of those starts (45 percent of the time). However, Joba has pitched very well of late having won each of his last three games during which time he has 19 Ks, eight walks, a 0.83 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP. That’s dealing folks. So what did ESPN’s Buster Olney say when talking about Chamberlain today? Here is what he said (I’m paraphrasing, but it’s awfully close) – Joba is on a “hard” innings pitched count this season of 160, and he will not, under any circumstance, exceed that number.
Why is that? The team is concerned that they could blow out Joba’s arm early if they don’t allow him to build up arm strength over the years. While I think this is a preposterous position to take, there is some obvious validity to their concerns, especially since Joba has never been a big innings pitched guy. Here are his innings totals since his days at Nebraska in college.
Obviously it wouldn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to let a guy add 100-innings to his previous high in innings pitched, so I can sympathize with that line of thought. At the same time, did anyone worry about pitch or inning counts back when a guy like Roger Clemens, who Joba is often compared to, was tossing 254 innings the season he was 23 years old (the same age as Joba)? Or how about the 7-straight seasons, starting with that year, that the Rocket eclipsed 225-innings pitched? Have today’s players become “wussified” – a word I’m petitioning Webster’s to add to their dictionary by the way. I’ll leave that argument for another day.
The bottom line is this – should a club like the Yankees worry about protecting their investment, one that could pay dividends for the next decade, at the expense of the current season? What if Joba goes 5-0 in his next six starts with a 1.95 ERA? Should the Yankees still shut him down because he has reached his innings pitched limit? And don’t think this is just a Yankees situation as other youngsters like Rick Porcello, Mat Latos and Clayton Kershaw could also see their workload curtailed as the season winds down (that matters little in the case of Latos since the Padres have nothing to play for, but what about Kershaw who’s Dodgers could play well into October? He tossed 169 innings last season between Double-A and the bigs so does that mean the Dodgers let him hit 200 this season? At his current pace Kershaw might push up against that total during the regular season. Will they shut him down come playoff time if he is their best pitcher? That would certainly take some massive huevos rancheros – and yes, I know that makes no sense).
I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you this – if I’m a fan of a team, or I have that guy on my fantasy roster, I certainly don’t want his team to “wussify” him at the expense of immediate success. Damn it I want my 50-inch flat screen. I could care less about that house I’m not going to be able to afford for another eight years.
By Ray Flowers