Hold His Joba: Why Chamberlain Should Be the Heir Apparent to Mariano Rivera

Jason BurkeCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2009

The presidential debates have been over for quite some time now. However, there are still some ongoing debates in New York regarding playoff potential and the future of others upcoming seasons.

The debate on whether the Knicks are a playoff team or not ended with six straight losses to begin February. The debate on whether the Mets can put two straight collapses behind them is just that until September. 

However, there is one debate which pops up from time-to-time, and causes opinions to rage like forest fires out west. 

It is a fascinating debate because this person's pure talent and tendency to dominate whatever role his team sees fit. That debate is the great Joba Chamberlain debate.

For Chamberlain, success has come quickly. Those achievements have been predicated on a fastball, which registers at 100 miles per hour at times followed by a devastating slider as his out pitch. That can make pitching in the majors look pretty easy.

Yet, what makes the Chamberlain debate an interesting one is the fact that he has shown a propensity towards success in both roles as starter and reliever. What the Yankees need to figure out is where he is best suited and why.

Looking at his stats last year is telling.  As a starter, Chamberlain posted a 3-1 win-loss record, allowing 20 earned runs in 65.1 innings worked, which garnered him a 2.76 earned run average.

As a reliever, he was 1-2, surrendering nine earned runs in 35 innings. That is good for a 2.31 ERA. 

However, if you factor in his stellar 2007 season, which he pitched 24 innings and allowed one earned run, it paints a different picture.

His cumulative stats as a reliever are as such, a 3-2 record and only 10 earned runs in 59 innings. That is an anemic 1.52 ERA.

Also noteworthy, is the fact that Chamberlain will strike out batters at a much higher pace out of the pen. Not really surprising since he does not have to hold back his fastball for the later innings. As a reliever, he has fanned an outstanding 78 in only 59 innings, compared to 74 in 65 as a starter.

Maybe stats alone are not as compelling, especially since he seems to have success in both roles. But placing Chamberlain as the bridge to Mariano opens up new possibilities for Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.

It is understandable that most Yankees have written them off after their less than stellar 2008 season. But people need to realize that they had an enormous amount of pressure on them. Especially, after Brian Cashman refused to part with either one of them for Johan Santana. 

Also, after importing C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the burden of making the playoffs lies squarely on their mighty shoulders or golden arms. Wang is probably the best No. 3 in the game, and Petitte is still a serviceable No. 4.

That leaves the Hughes, 22, and Kennedy, 24, to duke it out for the five slot.  Both have also made improvements in the fall leagues.

Placing Chamberlain in the pen, which also shortens the game to seven innings for the starters. Something which may come in handy for those expensive arms come playoff time.

It will also help the back end of the rotation should they struggle, and need a quick hook. Nothing helps keep tams in games more than fresh arms for middle relief.

Finally, I know most Yankees fans don't see it, but Mariano has less days ahead of him than behind him. He acknowledges jokingly, "The end is near."

No one can come in and fill the shoes of the greatest closer of all-time. Think about the next man who comes in.

Not only will they have to deal with the scrutiny of New York, but basically that will end an era for the Yankees. The last remnants of an all-time team.

Who better than a home grown talent like Chamberlain? He has the mental make-up and the goods to do it. 

Still not convinced? What if I were to ask who the Yankees have to counter Jonathan Papelbon in the A.L. East once Mariano is gone? 

My answer would be Joba Chamberlain.