Did the New York Yankees' "Joba Rules" Ruin Joba Chamberlain?

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That Joba bravado has been replaced by inconsistent relief pitching.

It’s clear the New York Yankees' constant juggling of roles, responsibilities, and pitch counts have messed with Joba Chamberlain’s head.

Today’s Joba isn’t the same Joba who, at the age of 21, made his MLB debut in 2007 throwing fire out of the Yankee bullpen.

Joba set the American League on its ear that year, with a 2-0 record and a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances. If not for a swarm of midges in Cleveland, he would have been a playoff hero as well.

The Yankees instituted the ill-famed "Joba Rules" that year and made Chamberlain a starter in 2008. And his career has gone in reverse ever since.

Chamberlain failed to win a starting spot in spring training this year and was moved back to the bullpen, presumably to re-inherit his dominant eighth inning setup role of 2007.

More than halfway through the season, it hasn’t happened.

This season began well enough for Joba, who had a 1-1 record and a 2.16 ERA as late as May 14. That night, he struck out the side and earned his only win of the season, against Minnesota.

Joba’s Blowups :

Since then, he’s been highly unreliable, to be kind. Here’s a litany of Joba’s recent blowups:

  • May 16: Gives up three runs to the Twins and takes the loss.
  • May 18: Surrenders four runs; Yanks blow lead and lose to the Red Sox 7-6.
  • May 29: Pitches a third of an inning against the Indians, gives up four runs and suffers his third loss.
  • June 17: Fails to retire a batter, gives up three runs to the Phillies in 7-1 loss.
  • July 10: In a disastrous eighth inning in Seattle, gives up three hits, including a grand slam, and falls to 1-4 as Mariners win 4-1.

“I have to limit the damage,” Joba said. “It’s either been really good, or given up three or four runs. (In the second half of the season) I want to limit the damage and continue to get better to do things that are going to help this team win.”

Chamberlain’s ERA is now 5.77. In fact, his ERA has gone up every year since 2007; it was 2.60 in 2008 and 4.75 in 2009. That’s a striking indicator of Joba’s decline.

And as if they haven’t messed with Joba’s head enough these past three seasons, the Yankees have now put him on notice.

“I’m not saying on a daily basis we’re going to change our eighth inning guy, but you have to earn your rules here,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said recently. “And we evaluate on a regular basis.”

Translation: Start pitching better in the second half Joba, or you’ll slip down in the bullpen pecking order. The bridge to closer Mariano Rivera needs to be better than what you’ve given us so far.

MLB players don’t think Joba is all that good either. In a recent anonymous poll in Sports Illustrated , 12 percent of all players said Joba was the most overrated player in the game.

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