Jockbeat: Yankees Looking at a Tough Joba Ahead

If Yankee fans thought the team's post All-Star game run -- 27-10, best in the major leagues -- and overall performance -- .624 W-L, best in the majors -- is too good to be true, they might be right.  As every Yankee fan and front office executive knows, none of this matters unless they at least make it to the World Series, and yesterday's baffling 10-9 loss to the Texas Rangers at the Stadium put the biggest stumbling block to that goal in bas relief: Joba Chamberlain.

First off, it isn't just Joba, it's the whole starting rotation after C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Burnett ought to be doing his own apologizing after last Saturday's thrashing at the hands of the Red Sox, but if he hasn't been quite the bargain the Yankees hoped for -- 10-7, 4.06 ERA -- he leads the Yankees in quality starts (17) and his scoreless duel with Josh Beckett a couple of weeks ago proved that he's a big game pitcher.

As much can't be said for anyone else in the Yankees rotation. Three other Yankee starters -- Andy Pettitte, Chamberlain, and Sergio Mitre -- have taken up 55 starts, and though they have a collective record of 20-11, that statistic reflects the run support they've been given more than it does their effectiveness. Pettitte and Chamberlain have pitched 283 innings and given up 291 hits with 111 walks; their aggregate ERA is just 4.30. Mitre is a non-entity, having pitched 30.1 innings and given up 49 hits, striking out just 18.

Simply put, the Yanks can pretty much be expected to be outpitched in at least the third and fourth spots in the rotation in any postseason series.
That is, unless Chamberlain suddenly reverts to the form of a month ago. He's the wild card on which the Yankees' World Series hopes rest. According to Filip Bondy in today's Daily News, "Girardi says he may go to an extended six-man rotation whether or not the Yankees clinch the division title early. He still wants Chamberlain out there. The problem is that Girardi and Brian Cashman don't want him out there as often as Chamberlain would like."

A six-man rotation? To give more stats to Chad Gaduin, Mitre, or perhaps Nick Swisher?? When, oh when, are the Yankees going to stop coddling Joba with rules? The break down against the Rangers came after eight days of rest, which might be taken as an indication that Joba isn't going to get better by sitting in the dugout or bullpen and watching. (No matter how energetic his cheering is.) What Chamberlain apparently needs is better rhythm and increased arm strength, and the only way to get that is to pitch. (And obviously not in simulated games in the bullpen.)

Right now, taken as a whole, the Yankees pitching isn't much better, if at all, than it was in several postseasons under Torre -- though in Sabathia they now have the big game ace they've lacked for years. The potential difference, the one capable of changing all that around, is the man with the best arm on the team. The arm and the man should be on the mound in games that matter. Life the rules, take off the bridle and bit, let Joba pitch.

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