Let me start this off by saying I am a Yankee fan. I’ve been a Yankee fan all my life, and it’s gonna stay that way. I feel like I need to say that since I know it will mostly be New Englanders reading this blog. The Yankees have certainly made some moves over the past few years that have annoyed me. That being said, I have never been this angry at the Yanks.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? Well, apparently the New York Yankees like to play by a different set of rules. If a player is excelling at a very important position, switch it! Joba Chamberlain has been in the Majors since last August, and has taken the league by storm. As a setup man down the stretch for the Yankees last season, he was as close to unhittable as a pitcher can get. It is safe to say without him pitching like he did, the Yanks would have missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Late into the season, the bullpen was struggling to keep late leads, and even keep the Yankees in games. If the pen could just keep them in games, sometimes the explosive offense of the Bronx Bombers would be enough to get them over the edge. The pitchers they had weren’t doing the trick though. Luckily for Yankees fans, Joba was a savior of sorts. He stepped into the role and jolted the Yanks into the postseason.
Proving just how important the setup role is, the Yankees have lost games over Joba’s “transition period” because the bullpen would crumble under pressure in tight situations late in the game. Chamberlain would have been pitching in these situations instead of one of the other knuckleheads who are supposed to be coming into the game before Rivera. Let’s take a look at the great Yankee teams of the late 90’s. Those teams had solid hitting, and more importantly, would make outs that were productive in some way (for example, grounding out to the right side with a runner on 2nd and 0 out). The starting pitching was good. It was not lights out by any means, but it was good enough. What made these teams so great though was the trustworthy bullpen. All Yankee fans knew that if they got to the 6th or 7th inning with a lead, the game was pretty safe. If the game was tied or even if they were losing that late, they still had a chance because the bullpen was that solid. With guys like Jeff Nelson, Graeme Lloyd and Mike Stanton (Note there are 2 (!!) lefty relievers there. Currently how many are there? Zero would be the correct answer) to lead up to the greatest closer in the history of baseball, you better believe that a team with that kind of bullpen would find success. Hell, even in 2000, the Yanks had the 6th best batting average in the AL out of 14 teams, and still found their way to a World Series victory. Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins, Jonathan Albaladejaleodelo, and Edwar Ramirez (who by the way will not keep this up – trust me) just cannot get the job done. Not even Denzel Washington can say he trusts Kyle Farnsworth with a straight face. The point is that Joba is much more valuable as a setup man to Rivera. Plus, when Hughes gets fully healed, the rotation will look pretty solid: Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Hughes, and Rasner. Is it completely necessary to force Joba into a rotation like that? Of course not. What’s probably gonna happen is Rasner, even though he’s doing the best out of the bunch, will get sent down to AAA.
Not only is Joba a phenomenal pitcher who is more valuable as a setup man, but he is better in that role just because of the pitcher he is. He is proven to be great in that role. As I have witnessed in person, he is a 15-20 pitch injection of unhittableness. After that, he can get shaky. Since it is known he is very good like that, shouldn’t it just be kept that way. That would maximize the value a team can get out of him too.
At the end of the day, Joba Chamberlain is still a great pitcher. I’m sure in the long run Joba will become a good starter. Will he become a Santana or a Beckett? No, he probably won’t become one of the best starting pitchers around – the odds are just too high against him. However, he was already proven to be the best setup man in baseball, and that role is simply very important. Someone once said pitching is 2/3 of the game. I forget who, but whoever said it is right. Good pitching, especially in tough situations, can make or break a season for a team.
Now, since this blog is mostly about fantasy advice, what can you get out of this for your fantasy teams? Great middle relievers/setup men can be dangerous weapons. Personally, in the league I’m in, you just need a minimum of 18 innings per week. Once you get to those 18 innings, you can do whatever you want. Of course, if there’s no minimum, you can do whatever the hell you want. Having a middle reliever who helps out with a few innings per week can be a boost, especially to the ERA, WHIP, K/9, and K/BB categories. It might be worth it to drop a starting pitcher who you don’t really trust, or is struggling and doesn’t exactly have a great track record, and pick up a shutdown reliever. Here are some guys you might wanna pick up if they’re available in your league:
Carlos Marmol: The Cubs reliever has a 2.43 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 4.23 K/BB, and 13.38 K/9 in 37 innings so far this year. It also doesn’t hurt that he plays on a good team, which might lead to some wins along the line (Remember Pat Neshek in ’07? Grabbing all those lucky wins before the all star break? Yeah, think that, but with better overall stats.)
Taylor Buchholz: Reliever for the Rockies is having a great season, posting a 1.78 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 2.88 K/BB, and a 6.82 K/9 in 30.1 innings. Also (in the Yahoo! game, at least) has eligibility as a starting pitcher. So depending on your league settings, if you only have SP and RP, and you have a SP slot open, might as well put this hurler in there.
John Grabow: 1.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 3.57 K/BB, 7.94 K/9, and 4 wins so far in 28.1 innings for the Pirates. He is another one of those guys posting great numbers, and can help any team. Sucks he plays in Pittsburgh though. Good luck getting out of there, John.
Brandon Morrow: Mariners reliver, and happens to be my personal favorite of the bunch. The 5th overall pick in the 2006 Draft has only thrown 15 innings this year, but has posted a 1.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.14 K/BB, and 13.20 K/9. This guy looks the best to me because he kinda reminds me of Joba. Like Joba-lite. Mini Joba. Joba 2. I don’t know. He’s young, can throw gas, and I won’t quite say he has electric stuff, but it’s damn good.
note: all stats are as of Monday, June 2, when this post was originally written.
I won’t put Santiago Casilla, Oakland reliever, on this list not because he went on the DL, but because he went on the DL thanks to an elbow injury. Elbow injuries usually affect pitchers for the rest of their careers, and Casilla isn’t exactly proven, so I wouldn’t trust him as much as the guys mentioned above.