Alright, so it appears that Joba Chamberlain has lost the ever important eighth inning role. Frankly, it’s about time…but not for the reasons you’d think.
Obviously, Chamberlain hasn’t performed well as of late and taking him out of high leverage situations is a good idea. Until he proves different, Joba shouldn’t be used in high leverage situations. David Robertson is, apparently, getting a shot as the set up guy. I’ve always been a big fan of Robertson and I hope he flourishes in this role. However, I’d be just as fine if he didn’t get an extended shot. But, then again, I don’t know if Joba should keep getting the ball handed to him, Damaso Marte is hurt, and while Boone Logan is pitching well, I think we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Trading for bullpen help is always a risky proposition and the only reliable piece–Joakim Soria–seems to cost way too much.
So, what should Joe Girardi do? The first thing he should do is not announce anyone as the eighth inning guy. There doesn’t need to be a special pitcher to do this since most middle relievers are volatile and just because a guy is named the eighth inning guy doesn’t mean he will escape this fate; Joba is an easy example of this.
Girardi needs to do something that seems rather intuitive and something he’s seemed to be good at lately: he needs to just play the hot hand. If that’s D-Rob, go with D-Rob. If it’s Joba, go with Joba. Hell, if it’s somehow Chan Ho Park, go with CHoP. If you have to mix and match with some of those guys and Boone Logan, do it. If it means using Mo for a greater than three out save every so often, do it. The role of the eighth inning is so incredibly overrated and if the Yankees can simply avoid falling into the silly cliche of having a defined set-up guy, they could gain a little bullpen success and save us all a giant headache.
Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with bullpen usage in today’s game. While I guess we can say the pitchers like having “defined roles”, current bullpen usage is relatively inefficient. Maybe if the Yankees can un-anoint the eighth inning, a little ball will get rolling (I seriously doubt this, but a guy can dream, right?).