(Give the guy a break, folks. He's just coming back. Courtesy of The AP)
I appreciated Joba's openness and matter-of-fact assessment of his performance yesterday. In the same vein as Eric Chavez's straightforward comments about the losing streak last week, Joba's real talk when discussing the job he did on the mound yesterday was refreshingly honest and the type of thing I would expect Joba to say. He's a professional, he wants to do well, he wants to help the team win, and he's smart enough to recognize that he hasn't been doing that since coming back from his long injury layoff. Joba has never been one to shy away from blame when he doesn't get the job done, and going just on the numbers so far it's pretty clear that he hasn't been getting the job done. 6 ER on 13 H and 4 BB in 6 IP is an ugly line for a reliever, and normally well within the parameters for determining a guy's worthiness of receiving some Bronx cheers.
But for someone in Joba's situation, it's not fair to judge based solely on the numbers, which is what makes Yankee fans booing him off the mound yesterday afternoon completely stupid and unacceptable. Has everybody forgotten that we're talking about a guy who hadn't pitched in the Majors in 14 months and was coming back from Tommy John Surgery? I know he had encouraging results when he was firing 97-98 MPH fastballs by rookie league and A-ball hitters, but that's really all he had to do to get by against that level of competition. That doesn't fly against Major League hitters. Joba needs his offspeed stuff to be successful and the command of those pitches hasn't been there, which is the norm for pitchers coming back from TJS. The velocity has been there, the command hasn't. But what did people expect?
Joba's not the pitcher he once was nor the pitcher he's capable of being at the moment. But he was never going to be that coming back from his injuries and everybody should have known that. Pitching this year was just supposed to be extended rehab innings to get his command and feel for his stuff back and to set a baseline for what he needed to do in the offseason and next spring to be prepared for 2013, and to expect anything otherwise would be stupid. Sure, he COULD have been a major contributor and helped add some middle inning depth, but the likelihood that he WOULD do that was low.
In a perfect world, Joba wouldn't be forced to work in the type of situations he is right now. He could pitch in the lowest-leverage scenarios possible where the chances of him getting hit hard and giving up runs having an impact on the outcome of the game are slim to none. Unfortunately, with CC on the DL and David Phelps taking his spot rather than being the high-leverage middle relief guy, Phelps isn't there to eat those innings and Joe has decided to use Joba in his place. When CC comes back, Joba can get bumped back down to lower-leverage work, but in the mean time people just need to deal with. And don't boo him.