This past Friday I decided to send an e-mail to Brian Cashman. I'm not 100% certain that I have the correct e-mail address, but I think I'm close -- if nothing else, I didn't receive a bounceback.
If he does in fact receive it, whether he actually reads and/or responds to it is an entirely different story -- needless to say if he does respond, there will be multiple spontaneous parades breaking out.
While we wait for Cash to write back, I thought I'd share my e-mail with you.
By way of introduction, my name is Larry Koestler, and in addition to being a lifelong Yankee fan I also run a sabermetrically-obsessed Yankee blog called Yankeeist, which has grown into a fairly well-known entity among Internet-savvy Yankee fans since its launch in September of 2009.
I've always been a staunch advocate of yours, and have defended all of your moves throughout this offseason in spite of growing fan unrest -- I admit, even I was ready to criticize when the Rafael Soriano news came through, but then it turned out that it wasn't your move, which was satisfying (albeit somewhat troubling that ownership went ahead with it anyway despite your protests). However, the one decision that I (along with much of the online Yankee fan base) simply cannot understand is the refusal to allow Joba Chamberlain back into the rotation.
I can only imagine you're beyond tired of answering questions relating to this topic, although undoubtedly you also understand why a growing contingent of the Yankee fanbase feels strongly about this idea, given the relative question marks currently occupying the fourth and fifth spots in the team's rotation. I know no one that is excited about the prospect of Sergio Mitre taking the hill every fifth day.
If Andy ends up coming back I imagine that will allay a great deal of concern, but even that move means that there's still room for an unproven starter to snag a rotation slot. In light of the Soriano signing, it would seem there's even less of a point of having Joba in the bullpen, considering David Robertson, Pedro Feliciano and Boone Logan are more than capable of handling the 6th/7th innings. Does the team truly believe that Ivan Nova has more upside as a starter than Joba Chamberlain, or that Sergio Mitre could actually be a more effective option?
It seems crazy that Joba could have fallen this far, this fast. To go from (1) lights-out minor league starting pitcher; to (2) set-up man (and only because the team had a glaring need in the 'pen); to (3) MLB starter that put up a mighty impressive 2.76 ERA in 65.1 innings before the apparent death knell that wound up being the shoulder injury in Texas; to (4) league-average starter in 2009 who might have been even more effective had he not experienced such erratic scheduling; to (5) supposedly in the mix for a rotation spot prior to 2010 despite the slot apparently being Phil Hughes' to lose; to (6) reasonably effective reliever with excellent peripherals somewhat done in by an abnormally high BABIP; and now (7) reliever with no defined role, just seems crazy to me, not to mention a colossal waste of talent.
If you guys have been viewing Joba solely as a reliever, why even bother with the idea of a spring training "contest" last winter? Why not pull the trigger on a Dan Haren deal this past July? You say Joba's stuff "plays better in the bullpen." Of course it plays better in the bullpen; every pitcher in baseball's stuff plays better in relief when you get to air out everything you have for three or so outs of work. That kind of reasoning rings hollow to those of us who pore over reams of data and obsess over the most esoteric statistical minutiae we can find in our free time because we love the Yankees, baseball and numbers more than anything else in the world.
Ultimately, I guess what I (and every other Yankee fan) is dying to know is, why the stubborn insistence on keeping Joba chained to the bullpen, when there is a clear-cut need for him in the rotation?
In 2009, Joba put up the following stat line as a starter: 156.1 innings, 4.78 ERA, 7.60 K/9, 4.38 BB/9 (OK, so there's no sugarcoating that), 1.21 HR/9, .275 BAA, 1.55 WHIP, .321 BABIP, 71.4% LOB and a 4.84 FIP. Admittedly this is not quite the performance you and the team were hoping to get out of Joba; however, it was still good enough to be just below-average at 97 ERA+ -- no small feat in the gauntlet that is the AL East. In 2010 Phil Hughes threw 176.1 innings, had a 4.19 ERA, 7.45 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 1.28 HR/9, .246 BAA, 1.25 WHIP, .281 BABIP and a 4.25 FIP. While most of Hughes' rate stats were superior to Joba's (with the exception of K/9 and HR/9), Hughes' performance was just barely above average, at a 102 ERA+.
You are of course well-versed in this information, but it seemed worth noting. I think most Yankee fans would take a second Phil Hughes in the rotation, wouldn't you?
I also wanted to bring your attention to a comprehensive statistical analysis I performed on my blog last month -- What happened to Joba Chamberlain, starting pitcher? -- trying to figure out what happened to Joba's performance from 2008 to 2009. While there were some troubling signs regarding the deterioration in his control and performance against righthanders, one down year does not a career make, and I just don't see how you are convinced that Joba can never handle starting duty again. Even if Joba struggled here and there, one has to figure he'd at least be able to outperform what Javy Vazquez gave the team in 2010.
So what is it about Joba? The only conclusion I (and several other prominent Yankee bloggers) have been able to come to is that Joba's shoulder is a ticking time bomb, and you are convinced that healthwise he cannot hold up to the rigors of throwing 180-plus innings.
If that is indeed the case, it'd be wonderful if you could at least say that -- I understand why strategically it might not be in the team's best interest to announce to the world that Joba is damaged goods, but if he continues to (a) not get a chance to start for the Yankees, and (b) throw semi-effective low leverage bullpen innings, everyone's going to figure it out anyway if they haven't already done so.
In any event, I greatly appreciate your time, and please keep up the tremendous work.
All the best,