Last night was, in some ways, a microcosm for the entire season. Amazing potential, hindered by a lack of timely hitting and inexplicable bullpen issues.
Joba Chamberlain had what was probably the best outing of his career, if we are not so naive as to simply break things down to wins and losses. Anyone who thinks Joba should be in the bullpen should be forced to watch innings 2-6 from last night on a loop until they either give in or decide not to follow baseball anymore. Joba dominated – 12 strikeouts in only 5 and 2/3 innings kind of dominated. He threw breaking pitches, fastballs, and changeups. He struck out 12 guys without relying on 99 MPH heat. He was a complete pitcher.
Perhaps best of all, he captivated a rain soaked crowd. And you know what? That he ended up being the losing pitcher of record doesn’t really matter all that much. Joba showed all Yankee fans what we’ve been waiting for. When you try to develop your own youth, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.
Joba has the potential to be great. And sure, if Dusty Baker were the manager, he would have left Joba in to try for 20 strikeouts. Which is why you have to hand it to Girardi, who came and got Chamberlain when no one wanted him to leave. That’s how you have to do it though – this is bigger than one game.
So a fanbase and a city that is known for impatience, needs to be patient. There will be many more days to root for Joba and many more to root for Phil Hughes. Heck, even David Robertson and Mark Melcancon are far too young to pass judgment on. And I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last if Ian Kennedy.
– I really don’t know what to think about the bullpen right now. This much I do know, however: being in the Yankee bullpen is like a poison. It ruins pitchers. I can’t explain it. But look back at LaTroy Hawkins: great season for Colorado, comes to the Yankees and is absolutely destroyed. Batting practice destroyed. Goes to Houston, that same year, and becomes a shut down middle reliever for them. He’s still dealing for them now, so much so that someone just picked him up in our fantasy league. I realize there is a difference between the NL and AL, but as a high leverage reliever, you still have to pitch against good hitters.
So you can’t say the Yankees should go out and “get someone” to fix the bullpen, because, once in New York, that person will likely be terrible. This problem needs to be fixed from within.
I’ve asked this question countless times because it confuses me so much: what is different about pitching for the Yankees? Can you really blame the pitching coach anymore? It happened under Stottlemyre, Guidry, and now Eiland. I do have faith, because last year, Hawkins aside, Girardi and Eiland were able to get the bullpen working pretty effectively. Hopefully they can work their magic again this year, but so far, it’s just been more of the same.
– Another reassuring thing for the Yankees: those players who you would call “question marks” coming into the year are doing well: Swisher, Matsui, Cano, Hughes, Pettitte, Melky, etc. Those who we assumed to be reliable sources of production, like Tex, Sabathia, A-Rod, etc have not been. But those players will bounce back because they’re too good not to. If Matsui were struggling, I’d be much more inclined to say he was all done. But Teixiera? I don’t think so.
– One last positive note, to continue with my theme of optimism (especially following my angry umpire rant of yesterday): if the Yankees keep running quality starting pitchers out there, they will win. That’s how baseball works. Again, patience.