Let's end this unfinished Joba debate. Where does Joba really belong?
Some say he is still considered as a starting pitcher, given time Joba will rise to the occasion and will be a Yankee starter for a long time. Others say he belongs to the bullpen and should be groomed as the next closer when the great Mariano Rivera retires. Critics assert their point that the Yankees have already maximized Joba's talent and skill and it is wise to include Joba in a trade package for a starting pitcher like Roy Halladay.
But before we go into a conclusion regarding Joba's status let's look at his strength and weaknesses and the pros and cons.
- He is still young (age 24) and is still considered raw despite having major league experience for almost 3 years. Joba has a lot of room and time to be an excellent pitcher in the future no matter if he is penciled as a starter or a reliever.
- When he is on, Joba has one of the best heat in baseball which clocked at 99 mph. He also has a nasty slider which is consistently registering at 87 mph. And to confuse the opposing batters Joba mixes his pitches with occasional change-ups and curve balls.
- He is still cheap at less than half a million annually in 2009. The Yankees can raise his salary slowly like what they did to Robinson Cano.
- Diminished velocity. The Yankees were concerned about Joba's performance in 2009 particularly in the second half of the season where he can't find his pitches and his once and powerful fastball have slowed down to 90 mph (which is hittable). His increased number of innings played as a starter might have something to do with that.
- To much hype. It's been 3 years already and the Yankee fans are tired of waiting for Joba to show his "good stuff". There is no level of consistency not unlike Boston's Jon Lester who in 3 years was able to bring the Red Sox to a World Series Title, considered to be an ace with Josh Beckett behind, and once threw a no-hitter against the Royals in 2008.
- Treated as a baby. The "Joba Rules" which should have helped Joba have hindered his immediate success. Joba was confused throughout his major league career as to what position he will play. The "starter or reliever" issue also bothered Joba which is also a factor for his mediocre performance.
Based from our analysis and observation, the Yankees should still keep Joba. He has a lot to prove and he has showed some signs of greatness which could be a sign of more great things to come if we only be patient with him.
In regards to his status, once and for all the Yankees "must" keep Joba in the pen. His poor performance in 2009 just told us that he is not cut to be a starting pitcher. Joba showed some flashes of brilliance in the first half of the season but faltered in the end as his innings grew larger.
If you look at Joba's past record, he is much better coming out in the pen where his precious arm is used on 1-2 innings only. With that he will be able to throw his 97-99 mph fastball and his late and sharp breaking slider. And besides Mariano Rivera won't be playing for 8 years. The Yankees need to groom somebody who will replace Rivera someday. Joba is one possible candidate.
The Yankees must look elsewhere for a starter for their 3rd, 4th and 5th spot. Andy Pettitte should be their No. 3 guy and guys like Gaudin, Aceves and maybe Hughes can fill the back-end of the rotation. Let Joba roam in the bullpen and build a strong bridge to Rivera.
The Yankees bullpen was excellent in 2009. It will be a dominating bullpen next season if they have Joba around.