Can We All Just Let Joba Chamberlain Pitch?

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Can We All Just Let Joba Chamberlain Pitch?
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain has be ridiculed over the airwaves and in the printed press regarding his recent performances on the mound, and his discussion of them afterwards.

 

His last performance against the Toronto Blue Jays (3.2 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 HR’s) was not good and despite Joba’s pleadings, it wasn’t his best start mechanics-wise or he would have not given up nine hits. Giving up that many hard hits balls (not all of them were bloops and bleeders), tells me that his location was not very good.

 

Location is a result of mechanics and concentration, something else Joba needs work on.

 

Many pundits want Joba back in the bullpen. They say that his temperament is more suited to come in for an inning or two, and gas the ball up to the plate on every pitch. They point to Phil Hughes who is now hitting 95-96 on the radar gun as proof that Joba will be able to dial up the gun if moved to the pen.

 

If Joba were in the pen, would his control be better? Would he challenge hitters with his “good stuff?” Maybe he would, but if he doesn’t improve his location, then velocity is moot.

 

Back when he was the stud bridge to Mariano*, Joba used to bring it up to 100 MPH, and was very dominating to the tune of a 0.38 ERA in 2007, allowing only one earned run. That run was the result of a home run. (Quick: who hit the first home run off of Joba? Answer below)

 

*That entire bridge to Mariano, or bridge to anybody, might be the most ridiculous new baseball term going right now. What is “the bridge?” It’s baseball, not wartime and the players are not running supply lines to the front. Some people get so wrapped up in bullpen and roles that many feel the bullpen is more important than the starting pitcher! Just get people out, no matter when it is. Why don’t we then have CC Sabathia be a lefty specialist or the new 8th inning guy for the Yankees? I am sure he could “dial it up” if he only had to go one inning per appearance.

 

Anyway, despite his inability to consistently throw strikes, many people still want him in the pen. However, the bullpen is THE PLACE where a pitcher needs to throw strikes. A reliever will give up hits, all pitchers do, just don’t walk anybody! You can give up hits or walk guys...you can’t do both.

 

So, Joba stays in the rotation, where he has been his entire pitching career, except for the absolute need the Yankees had back in 2007. Also, while he was in the pen last year, he was only a reliever last season to keep him under this ridiculous innings limitation.

 

Bottom line is that Joba is still only 23 years old. I wrote last season how young pitchers need time to develop, and very few come into the league and win right away like Sabathia, Tim Hudson, Roy Oswalt, and Andy Pettitte had done.

 

You could likely add Tim Lincecum to that list, but I like to get him a few more seasons under his belt. Look what happened to Justin Verlander, after a really good couple of seasons. Although he has righted his ship this season, in 2008 he collapsed with an 11-17 record and 4.84 ERA.

 

Joba could even do that! In fact, Joba is not that bad this season at 4-2, 4.04 ERA, and he is even better on the road with a 4-0 record, 2.74 ERA. Also, Joba’s last seven starts have seen him go 2-1, 4.12 ERA and the Yankees are 6-1 in those seven starts.

 

How is that not doing well for a 23 year old pitcher, basically in his first full season as a starter? He is helping his team win games. Could Joba be a victim of the new, new Yankee Stadium (it's really the third one), as his home/road splits testify?

 

He is figuring out how to be a starting pitcher. Were we so mesmerized by his awesome 2007 season, that we think he should be like that all the time? It is not possible to be that good. No pitcher can be like that all the time, and I have yet to see a pitcher win every start he makes.

 

Even Sandy Koufax got shelled during his great run from 1962-1966. And his first couple years in the majors were horrendous. Even Addie Joss wasn’t that good compared to Joba’s first season.

 

With the role he was given at the beginning of his career, and when you have the type of stuff Joba has, it is very difficult for other teams to hit him very well. In that scenario, the pitcher will usually dominate—and dominate Joba did. But this is the major leagues, and major league hitters adjust to pitchers (see J. Verlander in 2008), but it is then the pitchers job to adjust back (see again J. Verlander in 2009).

 

We said above that the Yankees are 6-1 in Joba’s last seven starts, but the recent terrible game against the Toronto Blue Jays is causing such alarm. Lets compare Joba’s last seven starts to another starting pitcher in the majors:

 

 

JOBA CHAMBERLAIN     (2-1, 4.12 ERA, 1.48 WHP)    Team record 6-1 

   W/L

1P

H

ER

BB

SO

HR

 

3.2

9

3

1

1

2

 

5.1

9

3

3

4

1

W

6.1

7

2

0

5

1

L

6

7

3

4

6

0

 

4

1

2

5

3

0

 

6

5

3

1

4

0

W

8

4

2

2

5

1

 

39.1

42

18

16

28

5

 

JOHAN SANTANA    (2-5, 5.61 ERA, 1.43 WHP)   Team Record   2-5

   W/L

1P

H

ER

BB

K

    HR

L

7

3

2

2

3

2

L

6

9

5

4

4

1

W

7

7

1

3

3

0

L

7.1

3

2

3

3

1

L

3

9

9

2

3

1

W

7

8

5

1

 
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