In one sense, Joba Chamberlain did Joe Girardi a favor yesterday. The young pitcher would have been allowed to throw five whole innings against the Mariners, but Joba went just three, keeping his innings count even lower than expected. Of course, his abbreviated outing was thanks mostly to the seven earned runs and three walks he allowed, but still, what flexibility it gives Girardi during his next start! Joba's last outing — one run over four innings against the Angels — offered a glimmer of hope that perhaps he was regaining his form as October approached, which had been the plan all along. But nope, he's still bad.
The sample size is now large enough to say that the Joba Rules 2009 have screwed the kid up, for this year at least. Their stated goal was to keep his innings count down, which they did, and which in the long term is smart. But they never looked at it as sacrificing this season for the sake of the next ten. They thought that they could have their cake and eat it, too, and he'd be just as good as he was in July, except in fewer innings. They were wrong.
The question now is: How bad does he have to be to lose the fourth spot in the rotation? All along, the tweaks to the Joba Rules have been geared toward allowing him to hit his stride just in time for the playoffs. Those are now two weeks away, and he's barely standing, let alone striding. Let's say he pitches poorly in his final two starts — and that's not a very wild assumption at this point — the Yankees have to at least consider replacing him with Chad Gaudin, right? Not that Gaudin's been lights-out, but he's been better than Chamberlain lately. (For what it's worth, Gaudin pitched 3.1 scoreless postseason innings for Oakland in 2006.) Who would have thought that Joba would indeed move back to the bullpen, but because of a demotion?