Thursday, September 4, 2008

Joba and the YAE

Early into this blog's life (maybe that's the name of a yet-to-be-made movie), I discussed Tom Verducci's Year After Effect and it's relevance for the coming (2008) season. Around the all-star break, I took a look at those Verducci's YAE predicted would struggle and how they were faring.

The reason for the YAE preamble is the discussion that percolated yesterday about Joba returning as a reliever this year and that he will start 2009 also as a closer, before being transitioned to a starter. As a reminder, here's a bit from Verducci on the YAE:
It's like training for a marathon. You need to build stamina incrementally. The unofficial industry standard is that no young pitcher should throw more than 30 more innings than he did the previous season. It's a general rule of thumb, and one I've been tracking for about a decade. When teams violate the incremental safeguard, it's amazing how often they pay for it.

Here's the way I track it: Find major league pitchers 25-and-under who broke the 30-inning rule.

In 2005 and '06 I found 17 pitchers I defined as at-risk of the YAE. None made it through the next year without an injury or a higher ERA. Ten of them broke down, the most seriously hurt being Francisco Liriano, Gustavo Chacin, Adam Loewen, Scott Mathieson and Anibel Sanchez. Eleven of them had worse ERAs, by an average of about a run and a half. Remember, it's a general rule; there are exceptions, the superlative Justin Verlander being one.
Joba's pitched only 90.1 IP this year. Verducci noted in February that Joba's IP ceiling should max out around 149 IP. One hundred forty nine innings is roughly 5 IP per start, assuming 30 starts. Not exactly what you want from a guy who some think is a young Clemens.

So what do the Yanks do if they want to protect Joba? Do they simply ignore the YAE guidelines and just hope he works to condition his shoulder during the off-season and during the Spring Training? Do they just turn him loose? After all, he's 23 and a big strong guy. He's not built like a young Pedro Martinez or Mariano Rivera. And judging by the maturity he showed in Texas by calling out the trainer when something didn't feel right, he seems to have a grasp on the importance of staying healthy.

Or do they keep Joba on a 6 day rotation to keep his appearance count lower?

Or do they do what they did this year, having Joba begin as reliever and then re-transition to starter? Well, I don't think that worked out too well this year.

Personally, I toss him out there as a starter from Day One and do my best to manage the IP and appearance counts, giving him an extra day whenever possible.

Blogger buddy Shyster had a typical well-said about this subject:
What's more, if the whole idea of starting him in the bullpen and then moving him to the rotation didn't work this year, what's to say it would work next year? Chamberlain himself said that he would have preferred to have one role all season for the sake of consistency, so why jerk him around again like this in 2008?I'm not suggesting that the Yankees throw Joba to the wolves.

They should be careful. The should watch his pitch counts. They should rest him the moment he shows any signs of trouble. But for God's sake, let the boy pitch.

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