Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Joba Project

At various places around teh interwebz today and yesterday, you probably have heard about Wallace Mathews being dumb. These people, who are flaying Matthews and his argument alive as The Common Man types this, are entirely right. Matthews is either a cynical writer making a disingenuous argument solely designed to generate buzz, an idiot, or both. The Common Man’s favorite part of Matthews’ column comes when he laments, “Greater baseball minds than mine have analyzed this situation at great length and determined that Joba for the first six innings every five days is better than Joba out of the bullpen five times a week."

As The Common Man has noted elsewhere, this is hilarious. If Chamberlain pitched five times a week, he would end up with somewhere around 135 appearances. This is obviously not an ideal usage pattern for a 23 year old coming off an arm injury. But again, that’s painfully obvious, and no right-thinking GM (let alone sportswriter) would actually advocate something so ridiculous.

So The Common Man refuses to use his lunch hour to continue excoriating Matthews. Instead, he wants to indulge the man’s fantasy. Indeed, if by some miracle Joba was able to pitch 135 games with little to no additional risk to his long-term health, wouldn’t this be an incredibly efficient use of his talents? Wouldn’t this usage pattern, in which Chamberlain pitches a high number of innings in extremely high-leverage situations, make it worth the Yankees while to scrap their plans to put Joba in the rotation? And if, against all logic, Joba managed to survive a season in this role, what would his stats look like? The Common Man thought it would be fun to do a small extrapolation.

In a little more than a season at the big league level, Joba Chamberlain has appeared in 61 games, and started 12 of them. Since he won’t be used in a starting role, we’ll scrap his stats from those games. After all, we want a realistic approximation of how Chamberlain would throw on a day-to-day (-to-day-to-day-to-day) basis. His stats in relief are eye-popping. In 49 appearances, Job has thrown 59 innings, given up 39 hits, 20 walks, 2 homers, and 10 earned runs. Batters have “hit” .185/.259/.261 off of him, and struck out 78 times.

Amazingly, on one or two days rest, Joba has been even more dominant, pitching 34.7 innings (in 28 appearances), giving up 18 hits, 2 runs, 6 BB, and striking out 45. But since we want to keep this relatively uncomplicated (this is a quick and dirty look at something that would never ever happen, after all), let’s just take his overall numbers. Just be aware that, to maintain the pace necessary to pitch 135 times, Joba would be limited to 1-2 days rest much of the time (and zero days rest as well).

OK, so in 49 games, Joba has thrown 59 innings, or 1.2 IP/appearance. If he kept up a similar pace, Joba would have approximately 162 innings pitched by the end of the season (hey, he’d qualify for the ERA title!). Assuming his hits/9, BB/9, HR/9, and K/9 stayed constant (though that’s obviously not likely, given how often he’d be pitching), here’s an approximation of what Joba’s pitching line might look like:


How many games would Joba win in this scenario? Could he win 20? And what would the result be on the ERAs of the Yankees’ other staff members? Presumably, having Joba around as a dominant security blanket would allow them to throw fewer innings, meaning they’d get into less trouble at the end of their outings. If this were possible, wouldn’t this be the perfect deployment for a pitcher of Joba’s dominant abilities? Perhaps some enterprising whipper-snapper could look into the effect that noted workhorses Mike Marshall, Kent Tekulve, and others had on their team’s performance, both directly and indirectly.

The Common Man would be legitimately excited by this prospect. Of course, reality would set in around mid-May when, after enduring 2-3 weeks of decreased effectiveness, the Yankees shut down Joba with a sore elbow, which would turn into a torn ligament as he rehabs it. But still, The Common Man can dream, can’t he? Or at least, Wallace Matthews can.


Jason @ IIATMS said...

FYI: I passed this along to Neyer. Good stuff!

Ron Rollins said...

I coudl't get the e-mail to work, so I'll pass the link along.

I know you woud have seen it some time, but what the heck.

Ron Rollins said...

Sorry, this is the one I meant.