Ok, I admit it, Joba is lost right now. I thought this plan to start him every 5th day would give him the stability he needed, but I was wrong, it hasn’t and the Yankees have a big problem on their hands.
And the problem isn’t specifically limited to Joba. Let’s start with the facts. One more win or one more Texas loss and they make the playoffs. They also lead the Red Sox by five games and the Angels by 5-1/2 with their next six games against those two teams. 3-3 or better and they should win the AL East and clinch the best record in the AL and that is the key to the playoffs.
It is the key because it would allow them to pick the ALDS where you only need three starters and that brings us back to our problem. The Yankees don’t really have more than three starters right now and three might be stretching it. Andy Pettitte has a huge game tonight because he has to put the fears about his cranky arm to rest. A.J. Burnett looked a lot better last time out, but we need to see that again this week against prime competition to believe it. If those two pass their tests then the Yankees enter the playoff with a 1-2-3 that’s good enough to win. If not, well….
But that still leaves an empty hole where a fourth starter should go and if the Yankees reach the ALCS they will need a fourth starter. That’s why I think they have to remove Joba from the rotation and think outside the box.
Let’s start with Joba. He has thrown 146-2/3 innings this season. Even if he didn’t throw another pitch this year, it would be reasonable to assume he could make it to 180 next season. But he is going to throw more innings this year I just hope he does it from the bullpen. Let’s move him back to the pen and get him ready to pitch in relief in the playoffs. With a combination of Hughes and Joba in front of Rivera, the Yankees would have the ability to drastically shorten playoff games. You could ask your starter to give you five innings and then bring in Joba for two, Hughes for one and Mo for one. That is probably the Yankees best chance to win in 2009.
Moving Joba out of the rotation means you need to find a potential fourth starter for the ALCS. Chad Gaudin walks way too many guys, but he has pitched well since coming over. He is now a starter since Girardi finally realized Mitre wasn’t cutting it and he gets the first crack. But the Yankees need a contingency plan and that is where Ian Kennedy comes into the picture. The Yankees need to get Kennedy out there and see if he can get big leaguers out.
Kennedy pitched three perfect innings in AAA last week and struck out six. The Yankees have him on the roster and there is no reason why they couldn’t stretch him out over the final weeks of the season to be able to pitch five innings. As I noted above, with Joba in the bullpen that is all the Yankees need right now and if Kennedy can pitch five good innings, he becomes a candidate for the fourth starter spot in the playoffs.
All of this assumes the Yankees realize that the Joba plan isn’t working. Cashman and Girardi have done a ton of things right this season, but they still show a troubling tendency to let things that are broken stay broken for far too long. (For examples think of Mitre as a starter or Angel Berroa sitting on the 25-man roster) Admitting Joba isn’t up to starting right now isn’t a stretch. Having him pitch out of the bullpen at this point really won’t hurt his long term development and it would make the Yankees better. Isn’t that what you want heading into October?