From a pitching phenom in 2007 to an injury-plagued potential minor league pitcher in 2012, how did the Yankees Joba Chamberlain go from hero to nearly zero?
When Chamberlain came up from the Yankees farm system in 2007 he was lights out. Every time he came into a game, he was sure to get the outs he needed.
People all across the baseball world were amazed at this kid who could throw in the high 90s and strike out nearly everyone he faced. At the end of the 2007 season, he played 19 games and had an earned run average of 0.38 while striking out 34 batters in 24 innings.
Chamberlain looked to be the perfect set-up man, and in the future, the potential successor for Mariano Rivera. But what changed?
Well, in 2009, the Yankees needed a starting pitcher. They tested out Chamberlain in 2008 and figured that he was ready to be a member of the rotation.
The Yankees thought that if they set Chamberlain to a pitching limit (the "Joba Rules") that he would not burn out and become a productive member of the Yankees' rotation. They were wrong.
The high level of intensity that Chamberlain pitched at was much more suitable for an inning or two rather than an entire game. The velocity on his pitches dropped and he became much more hittable.
All of a sudden, the dazzling rookie reliever the Yankees saw in 2007 was nothing more than a below-average starter by the 2009 season. His 4.75 ERA in 31 starts in 2009 was certainly not what they expected out of the kid who was a strikeout machine back in his rookie season.
The Yankees realized their mistake and decided to put Chamberlain back into the bullpen where he flourished, but the damage was already done. Chamberlain never really had the same power that he did before he was put into the rotation by the Yankees, and saw his ERA once again above 4.00 in 2010.
In 2011 Chamberlain was back in the bullpen for the Yankees and was doing much better, posting a 2.83 ERA in 27 games, but the bad luck would continue for him.
He was put on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his elbow that would require season-ending Tommy John surgery. He was expected to make a full recovery by the start of this 2012 season.
However, the injury bug struck Chamberlain again, as a freak accident while playing with his son caused him to break his ankle and sideline him at the start of the season.
Many thought that Chamberlain would not come back this year at all, and that his career was over. However, he was progressing very well in his recovery and got himself back on the Yankees this August.
Everyone was so excited to see Chamberlain back, that is, until he pitched. He's played seven games this year and his ERA is 9.45.
There has not been a game that Chamberlain has come into that he has not given up a run in, and now there are talks that he could be sent down to the minor leagues.
Chamberlain had come back too quickly this year, but this is only one of the many things that both he and the Yankees have done to jeopardize his career.
A perfectly good reliever with a great deal of energy and power, the Yankees tried to stretch his energy and power into starting potential. That didn't work, so they tried to convert him back into a reliever, but returning to the same role he had before becoming a starter ended up hurting his arm even more.
Joba Chamberlain was a great relief pitcher, a below average starter and now who knows what he is. He does not have the same power that he did in 2007, and he may never see that again.
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