The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Pinch hitting: Pinstripes PA

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Jan 27, 2008 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

The guest blogger rotation has five spots left. Next up is Dan from Pinstripes PA.

Dan, an aspiring sportswriter, is studying English and communications at the University of Scranton. He is set to begin an internship with the Scranton Times-Tribune next month.

Here’s his post:

Amidst the debates surrounding Joba Chamberlain’s role with the Yankees next season, fans, bloggers and analysts alike seem to be forgetting a very logical option that could appease both parties and help strengthen the Yankees pitching staff.

It’s easy to understand each side of the Chamberlain argument. Those in favor of using Joba in the pen envision a strong Yankee relief corps that will help make tight games a seven-inning contest. They feel that 60-70 appearances would influence the overall record more than the 150 innings Joba would likely record as a starter, plus he would be groomed as the heir to Mariano Rivera.

Meanwhile, those in favor of using Joba in the rotation see an ace in the making and the potential for an incredibly deep Yankee rotation now, and in the future. They don’t want to see Chamberlain’s talent wasted in a relief role, and they want to maximize his development as soon as possible.

Both arguments are quite sound, but logic dictates that Chamberlain would be better suited for the rotation, even if it does weaken the bullpen. A pitching prospect with his potential and stuff belongs in the rotation, mainly because a league average relievers (4.47 ERA) are a dime a dozen; or in this case, $11 million a year.

Enter Mike Mussina.

Yankee fans watched as Moose’s effectiveness quickly diminish during the 2007 season. His fastball no longer hovered around the high 80s, and his breaking stuff seemed flat.

His endurance also became a major issue. Mussina averaged 5.6 innings per start last season, signifying a drop in the six inning average he posted from 2004-2006. Out of his 27 starts, Mussina only went more than six innings seven times.

Interestingly, Mussina averaged a 3.37 ERA in the first two innings of his first 20 starts, but after throwing 111 innings, he hit a wall. In his next seven starts, Mussina posted a 9.89 ERA during the first two innings.

Although examining only the first two innings doesn’t really indicate that he’d make an efficient bullpen arm, his deflating endurance suggests that Mussina is now better suited as a reliever.

On the surface, the move would lower Mussina’s chances of an injury and keep him fresh; but it could also increase the velocity of his fastball. Many starters encounter a slight increase in velocity after shifting to the pen, simply because they no longer have to pace themselves for six innings.

Given the context of the situation, Moose would have little to whine about. A successful move to the bullpen and stellar numbers during the season would surely help him get another contract, thus extending his career. It’ll also leave Yankee fans with a good taste in their mouth: Mussina sacrificing his needs and (or) wants for the good of the team, and the good of the future.

With three young pitchers in the rotation, and each limited to a certain number of innings, the Yankees will need a legitimate inning-eating reliever. One that can post 90 innings, make a spot start, or throw two innings in a tight game.

The key to this move is killing several birds with one giant stone. The transition would keep Moose fresh, and his durability would no longer be a major concern. He’d help create a stronger bullpen while allowing the Three Musketeers to start, and they would in turn help create a stronger rotation. Meanwhile, an extra roster spot would be opened up for a bench player.

Theoretically, moving Chamberlain to the pen would decrease his overall value, but moving Mussina to the pen would also increase his.

Either way, the hard part would probably be approaching Mussina with the idea.




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