Pros and Cons of Joba Chamberlain Getting One More Shot in Yankees' Rotation

Doug MeadCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2013

Pros and Cons of Joba Chamberlain Getting One More Shot in Yankees' Rotation

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    New York Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain was asked a seemingly innocuous question on Tuesday following his one-inning outing against the Philadelphia Phillies in a Grapefruit League game.

    His answer sparked a series of sarcastic comments and created fodder for the local papers.

    Chamberlain worked a relatively clean fourth inning against the Phillies, striking out both Ben Revere and Kevin Frandsen before giving up a single to Ryan Howard. Michael Young grounded out to end the inning.

    After the game, Chamberlain was asked if he would someday like to close games.

    Chamberlain's response is what sparked the resulting debates and sarcasm.

    Via Newsday.com:

    "At some point, yeah," Chamberlain said. "This is probably going to spark a bunch of stuff but it's one of those things where it's like, do you think you have the capability of starting? Yes. Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes. Do I have two plus-pitches in the bullpen that I can throw at any time? Yes. So I guess I'm trying to have my cake and eat it, too, because I feel I'm good enough to do both. I've proved that I can do both.

    "I've been in the bullpen a while but am I confident that if I got a chance to start again somewhere, wherever that's at, do I think I could do it? Without a doubt."

    Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman responded with comments of their own when asked about what Chamberlain said.

    "First I've heard of it," Girardi said. "I'd like to catch one more game, too."

    Cashman was also not enamored with the idea.

    "We're down an outfield bat right now, too," Cashman said. "We'll see if he can play center or not."

    Obviously, their tongue-in-cheek responses gives the impression that transitioning Chamberlain back to the starting rotation is simply not an option.

    But is it really that far-fetched of an idea?

    Here are some pros and cons.

Con: Chamberlain Is Far More Effective in Relief

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    Joba Chamberlain was a starter throughout his high school and college career, leading the University of Nebraska to their first-ever College World Series championship in 2005.

    Chamberlain began his professional career as a starter as well, quickly ascending through the minors in 2007 with a 9-2 record, a 2.45 ERA and a 13.8 K/9 rate.

    As a starter for the Yankees, Chamberlain's numbers aren't horrible—a 4.18 ERA and 8.4 K/9 rate in 43 starts.

    However, as a reliever, Chamberlain has a career 3.18 ERA, a 10.0 K/9 rate and a 1.182 WHIP, far lower than the 1.48 WHIP he posted as a starter.

    Back in December 2010, Yankees general manager quickly quashed the idea of Chamberlain as a starter.

    Via Newsday.com:

    "His stuff plays so much significantly [better] out of the 'pen," Cashman said. "We had given him an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, and the velocity dropped. It's just not the same stuff."

    Chamberlain was effective in 2008, posting a 3-1 record and 2.76 ERA in 12 starts. In 2009, however, Chamberlain wasn't nearly as sharp, with a 4.78 ERA, a 7.6 K/9 rate and 1.55 WHIP in 31 starts. The starting experiment essentially ended at that point.

Con: Previous Injury History

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    During his career, Joba Chamberlain has endured a spate of injuries to his throwing arm, most notably a rotator cuff injury and elbow ligament replacement.

    Yankees GM Brian Cashman said back in January 2011 that the shoulder injury sustained by Chamberlain in 2008 was a big deal and that the Yankees felt he wasn't the same pitcher after he returned.

    Chamberlain returned last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011 as well. At this point, the Yankees will do everything they can to protect their investment. As far as Yankees management is concerned, that means starting is out of the question.

Pro: Chamberlain Adds Depth for Aging Rotation

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    The New York Yankees starting rotation features one pitcher (Andy Pettitte) in their 40s and another (Hiroki Kuroda) approaching their 40s.

    They also have a pitcher (Phil Hughes) who has his own injury history and is currently shut down with a bulging disc in his lower back.

    Manager Joe Girardi has other options. David Phelps made 11 starts last season, and Adam Warren is on the depth chart as well.

    But beyond that, the cupboard is bare. The Yankees have several prospects, but none of them are close to major-league ready at this point.

    Joba Chamberlain could be used in a pinch. The bullpen is solid with Mariano Rivera, David Robertson and Boone Logan at the back end. Moving Chamberlain to the rotation wouldn't necessarily cripple them in the later innings.

Con: Chamberlain's Repertoire Better Suited for Bullpen

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    When Joba Chamberlain sparked debate on Tuesday with his comments about starting, he talked about his repertoire.

    Via Newsday.com:

    "Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes. Do I have two plus-pitches in the bullpen that I can throw at any time? Yes."

    That in itself is debatable.

    A rival talent evaluator scoffed at the suggestion that Chamberlain has four effective pitches, telling Newsday, "I'd like to see two, first."

    Chamberlain does possess two solid pitches—a fastball that still has some life and a wicked slider.

    But the curveball and changeup are hardly what anyone would call plus pitches. Throw them for strikes? Sure. But using them effectively is another matter entirely.

    Chamberlain's current makeup clearly suggests that he is absolutely better suited for the role he's in right now.

Conclusion

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    Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman made their position very clear with their pointed remarks on Tuesday.

    Translation: Forget the idea of Joba Chamberlain ever starting for the Yankees.

    When both men respond in a humorous manner to a serious question, there shouldn't be any doubt in anyone's mind that Chamberlain will never start another game in a Yankees' uniform.

    Chamberlain will be a free agent at the end of the season, so it very well could be he was sending a message to other teams about his future.

    However, for the present at least, Chamberlain can expect to see time in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

    But never the first.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.