Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Lightning 5.30.2010

  • Live by the stats, die by the stats:

Look at the following unnamed pitcher. Let's call him "Pitcher X".

Pitcher X had a humongous splash in which he became an instant folk hero because of his personality and obvious skills; a power fastball and a joy for the game that was infectious; and he showed the ability to be a dominant force for long stretches. An engaging personal story added to the package and he wasn't simply style----he was substance.

Then he started slumping.

Shifted here and there; the subject of debate on proper utilization; and treated as a breakable object whose safety was more important than performance, he unraveled before our eyes. His numbers, impressive at the start, have fallen off the cliff and there are increasingly legitimate questions as to what his future is and whether he can regain that which he lost.

Given the news that he's just been designated for assignment, some of you may think I'm talking about Dontrelle Willis.

I'm not.

I will discuss Willis shortly, but right now I'm talking about Joba Chamberlain.

Amid all the debate of what to do with Chamberlain; how gifted he is; what a superstar he's shown the potential of being, it easily gets lost that the simplest barometer on which to judge any player is his performance.

And Chamberlain's performance over the past two seasons has not been good.

Yesterday was the first time that I watched him and thought to myself that it's quite possible that he's simply not what was advertised.

Chamberlain exploded onto the scene as a nuclear weapon out of the bullpen for the 2007 Yankees. The babyface; the enthusiasm; the power fastball that made big league hitters look inept; the sweet story of the relationship with his polio-stricken father; the nickname; and the much repeated "Joba Rules" which became a T-shirt slogan and a laudable method of protection were all components in the creation of this marketable monster.

Naturally, the "Joba Rules" became an entity unto itself. Protecting Chamberlain became more important than developing his skills and there's been a decline in his fastball; his mental acuity (never all that great to begin with) has been sabotaged by the special treatment he's received; he wasn't good as a starter; and he's pitching poorly as a reliever. The debate on what he "should" be is becoming secondary to his results.

Their plans torn asunder by cruel reality, again the Yankees are reaching a crossroads with their overpackaged and overprotected man-child. Even those that said he should be in the bullpen (and I was one) have to watch his performance and ask, "what should be done with this guy?"

2009 was a lost year in his development. Because of the way they limited his innings based on a floating set of "rules" that were instituted more as a device for self-protection to prevent criticism of the organization than a conduit to his maximization, he was unable to gain any traction as a starting pitcher, so we still don't know whether or not he can be an effective starter; we did know he could be an effective reliever based on his domination in 2007 and how well he pitched in 2008 out of the bullpen; but now? I have no idea.

The strategy in 2007 to use him out of the bullpen as a power fastballing set-up man was working; but, as life has shown us so many times, the greatest and most well-thought-out plans can be demolished by the unforeseen. In the 2007 ALDS, it was the Cleveland midges; since then, it's been the organization and the pitcher.

Of course it's easy to blame the Yankees for his dismantling----and their ridiculous usage of Chamberlain has played a major part; we'll never know what would've happened had they treated him as an athlete and let him ply his trade. But at some point, his numbers will be seen for what they are. There won't be any questions as to where and how to use him; the Joba Rules will be a distant memory and he'll just be "number 62" and "Chamberlain" rather than "Joba" and they'll stick him someplace and hope for the best.

ESPN the Magazine had a feature called "MLB Confidential" in which players were polled on a variety of subjects, it was revealed in the "Most Overrated" category that the winner was Chamberlain. Here's the quote:

In the MOST OVERRATED category, Joba rules, as the Yanks reliever edged teammate A-Rod 17% to 9%. "I'm not sure what Chamberlain has done to have people still saying he's going to be great," says one AL reliever.

So, which is it?

Is he a star in waiting who has to regain his 2007 form?

Has he been ruined by the Yankees' treatment?

Is he overrated?

Was he a product of raw talent, a catchy nickname and a crafted image like that of a talented boy band?

Or is it a combination of all of the above?

As much as Chamberlain has been bolstered by the image, eventually he has to be taken for what he is, and as of right now, what he is is mediocre at best.

It's been a rapid fall for Dontrelle Willis from what he was in 2005 when he was dominant winning 22 games and finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The Marlins penchant for dealing expensive veterans resulted in his trade to the Tigers after the 2007 season; with the Tigers, he signed a 3-year, $29 million extension to avoid arbitration.

In 2008, his downfall was precipitous; his control deserted him; his inability to deal with adversity led to his public battle with "anxiety" issues; and he wound up back in the minor leagues. After a solid spring training, Willis was serviceable early this season and even good at times, but the Tigers are a team that's trying to win and they can't continue putting Willis out on the mound if he's non-competitive. Cutting the cost and accepting the failure is better than blowing games trying to get something from a pitcher who won't help them.

Once he clears waivers, someone will take a chance on Willis. The obvious landing spot will have him heading back to Florida to rejoin the Marlins, but I believe a better option for him would be the Cardinals to come under the tutelage of the miracle-worker/pitching coach Dave Duncan.

At age 28 and with his resume, Willis is salvageable in the right situation and that is back in the National League with the Cardinals.

  • Kendry Morales's ridiculous injury:

Without sounding like a disapproving parent trying to put the kibosh on team roughhousing, I've never been a fan of the trend in which players who win a game with a walk-off hit are bonked on the head and knocked around. The only injuries I've heard of coming from the practice are a bloody nose here and there; but yesterday, the Angels' Kendry Morales hit a game-winning grand slam against the Mariners and, as he leaped onto home plate, he broke his leg.


There's no commentary needed for this.

It's just stupid. Plain and simple.

Like a parent, a manager's job to keep the children from hurting themselves and if I'm any manager with a semblance of control over his players, I say the following: "No roughhousing celebrations, period."

  • Roy Halladay is awesome:

Um. That's pretty much it.

  • Viewer Mail 5.30.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman:

The problem I have with the Cashman-Girardi partnership is the disconnect that has developed regarding injuries. One says one thing; the other another. It's hard to know what's going on sometimes.

You have to wonder if the World Series win has allowed Girardi to rattle his cage more than we know. I get the same feeling of disconnect and I don't pay nearly as close attention to the Yankees as you do. This could be a burgeoning problem between the GM and his manager.

Jennifer at The Simple Dish writes RE babying pitchers:

I played softball throughout high school and college and I play in a league now (granted, I own my position at 3b). Call me dumb, but I never once heard the term "high stress inning" until now. What exactly makes an inning high stress? To me, the term sounds incredibly subjective which means some stat zombie will come up with a nice little equation to determine a high stress inning.

Additionally, if you're brought to a team to pitch and the team places a pitch count on you (but then how does one develop experience?!), that's one thing; what Cashman is doing is essentially washing his hands of a Hughes implosion and is preemptively hanging Girardi and Eiland out to dry.

It used to be called "pitching in a pinch" back in the dead ball era where pitchers would pump up the volume on their stuff only when they got into trouble. Zack Grenike has shown the ability to increase his velocity from 93-94 to 97 when he needs it.

If a pitcher has to work harder in a particular inning, it's not only takes a physical toll, but a mental one as well. My issue with the series of rules that Cashman and the stat zombies have attached to every pitcher is that they're altering them when others----like Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux----try something different. It's not innovative and it's not management; it's mimicking and that's not how the 1990s Yankees championship teams were built under Gene Michael.

We know the corporate culture isn't about success; it's about having someone to blame in failure. Cashman has designs on being the ruthless CEO and that falls in with leaving the responsibility to others if and when things come apart.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE The Hughes Rules:

The Hughes rules? Seriously?

Didn't they learn ANYTHING?

For being the winningest franchise in the history of sports, the Yankees sure do know how to make asses of themselves in the media. Jesus christ...

It's times like this that George Steinbrenner is missed. They're not content with having demolished Chamberlain, but the limitations are being placed on the last of the three "hot prospects" along with Chamberlain, the dispatched Ian Kennedy, and now Phil Hughes.

They deserve whatever they get from this practically and publicly.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE The Hughes Rules:

Billy Connors must be somewhere in Tampa laughing his head off.

I was never on-board with the image of Connors as this "pitching guru", but he was a competent pitching coach who would never have been in line with the way the young pitchers are babied nowadays.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday. Listen here. You can't handle the truth!!!

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.



She-Fan said...

Don't know what to make of Joba. He has shown such flashes of brilliance, but looks awful lately. Is he destined for mediocrity? I'm not giving up on him yet, but he does need to turn things around - fast.

Joe said...

I actually thought you were talking about Joba all along.

And aren't people past the ARod is overrated crap? He isn't worth $30 mill, but he is a great player. At least when we used to say he is overrated, he was failing in the playoffs for a period of time. So there was some justification -- not much though :)

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

88. 88 innings of minor league experience. That's where you learn your craft. I know some just make it no matter what their minor league resume. But Juan Marichal had over 600 innings before throwing off an MLB mound. Too many teams and fast-tracking AA players is part of it.. These kids have no idea what they're doing mentally, outside of what their skill does for them on the mound.
And out of left field, I heard more than once, Joba has major entitlement and maturity issues. Just sayin...