Last night Jon Heyman tweeted “Joba is out of the Yanks rotation debry.” The basis for this? The news that Chamberlain will pitch an intra-squad game today while Phil Hughes will pitch against the Phillies in Clearwater. Left out of this is the fact that the intra-squad game and the need to get both pitchers work today were necessitated by yesterday’s rainout. Rather than some exile or demotion, the intra-squad game will include Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera who I think we can assume aren’t fighting for jobs. Nothing in any story I could find suggests that the Yankees have made any decisions about the fifth starter yet.
I’ll give Heyman a bit of the benefit of the doubt based on the fact that you can’t fit in a ton of context in a 140-character tweet, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be anything to support this claim that Joba has lost the job already. Steve at TYU says that Heyman has been squarely in the anti-Joba camp for some time and thinks that his tweet is an exercise in sensationalism.
I’m a bit removed from all the Kremlinology that surrounds Yankees’ personnel decisions, but it does seem like there are a lot of people who think about the fifth starters’ race in terms of politics rather than baseball and simply believe on some primal level that Chamberlain is a relief pitcher and shouldn’t be considered for the job. Which makes little sense considering that Joba was a starter throughout high school, college and the minors prior to his callup in 2007 and that he throws four pitches.
As I said last week, this all seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. I have a mild preference for Chamberlain as the starter simply because I think he stands a chance to be a better pitcher than Hughes in the long run, but the fact of the matter is that no matter what happens this spring both of these guys are likely to start games for New York this year and both will probably be starters if someone gets injured, if Javier Vazquez leaves after this year or whenever it is that Andy Pettitte decides to retire. Which is probably going to be after this year.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.