This topic is old as time, but it's never going to go away. Should Joba Chamberlain be in the starting rotation, or move back to the bullpen? This so-called controversy has raged since the day the Yankees announced Joba's move to the rotation, and it's still going strong over a year later.
Let's get this straight: this is only a controversy among the fans. Only the fans have any question about this, but the organization has never reconsidered. Seriously, it's not something on Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman's mind. Joba is a starter, and they're not even thinking about moving him back to the bullpen.
There's only one reason the fans even want this move. Joba was initially placed in the bullpen when he was called up, and he was dominant there. Since moving to the rotation, he's been simply good, and has exposed some flaws in his game.
But if Joba had been immediately inserted into the rotation, there would be no question about his role, even if he were to be shifted to the bullpen at some point. Want proof? There's a young man in the Yankees' pen named Phil Hughes. Tabbed as a future ace, Hughes has struggled as a starter, but has been simply unbelievable in the bullpen. But no one wants Hughes to stay in this role forever. In fact, after seeing how good he can be, many fans want to re-insert him into the rotation.
The problem is that Yankees fans never saw Joba as a starter. When he was first brought up, he was a reliever, so it seemed to be his natural role. Why mess with a good thing? Hughes, meanwhile, was brought up as a starter, and was only recently "demoted" to the bullpen, where he's regained his form.
But Joba was a starter, and a damn good one, in the minors. He was so good, in fact, that the Yankees felt the need to call him up despite lacking a rotation spot, and THAT is why he began his career in the bullpen. The idea that Joba is a natural reliever is ludicrous.
All young starters have growing pains. It's rare that a starter makes a smooth jump into the big leagues. Dare we forget that Joba is in his first full year as a starter? He's barely been given the cahnce to flex his muscles, and so many fans want him in the bullpen.
Truth be told, any good starter can be a great reliever. Randy Johnson came out of the bullpen in 2001 to win Game 7 of the World Series. But no one even thought for a second that he should be a reliever. In fact, as age caught up with Johnson, and he became less effective and more injury prone, no one suggested that he should move to the pen to preserve himself.
Know why? Because Randy Johnson is a starter! And you know who else is a starter? Joba Chamberlain.
Sure, he's slipped a little his past three starts, but today's start was an excellent performance against a first-place team. He's got a lot to learn, but he's extremely young, and has time to grow. His potential will be far better served as a starter than as a setup man.
The fact is, this is not even an issue for the Yankees, and it's pointless to discuss it further. Joba is a starter, and always has been. A stint in the bullpen to begin his major-league career isn't about to change that, just like it's not going to change Hughes' career track.
I know many people will throw stats my way, showing how much better Joba was in the bullpen than in the rotation. And again, I will point to Hughes' similarly-trending stats. I will also happily point out that Joba has not yet spent a full season as a starter, and it's silly to use such a small sample size to project a career.
Tim Lincecum wasn't brilliant when he first came up, but he figured it out quickly, and is now one of the best in the game. Give Joba some time, because whether you like it or not, the Yankees are giving Joba all the time in the world.
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