Joba Chamberlain: The Ace, The Debate, Injury Prevention & The Year Ahead.

Patrick ReadSenior Writer IJanuary 4, 2009

          Those who can - start. Those who can’t - relieve.

Jan. 4, 2009

Washington, DC

Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Doc Gooden, or Nolan Ryan (all power pitchers) could have each gone to the pen and dominated too but they were too well suited as Starters.

It seems as though the second lowest ERA of the 2008 season in the American League is not good enough for some to admit that Joba Chamberlain is an ace's ace and should be one of the staples of the Yankee rotation.

Nor does the fact that he took down Josh Beckett in his rookie year during a nail biter of a game and won 1-0, sway some to the light that good pitchers shoudl start. If they can start. 

See the recap here where it was said that, "(Joba) is what (the Yankees) have been waiting for as a starter." 

Joba has a crippling combination of pitches; including a blazing heater clocked as high as 100 (at 22 years old), the best slider in ball and a "nose to toes" curve ball scary enough to make grown men look like little girls half swatting and half avoiding a scary bug. You know the move. Finally he has a change up, just to keep opponents more confused.

Here is some refresher information: In 2008, Joba went 3-1 as a starter with a 2.76 ERA. As a reliever, he went 1-2 with a 2.63. 

  • IN case you are a little confused, its a bad thing for a reliever to get a win or a loss.

So, where would you say that he has more success or is more effective for a team?

As a reliever, Joba is only used when the Yankees have a lead; and the Yankee's poor offense (who scored 200 fewer runs in '08 than in '07) rarely afforded them the typical lead going into late innings.

In April, the Yankees suffered through nine games (nine!) without using Joba and he earned two out of three losses by the end of May, when he was "the best reliever in the game." 

It seems as though the mass media outlets need to stir up a little controversy for circulation and thus they're at Joba Chamberlain once again, despite the Yankees already stating that Joba WILL start 2009 in the rotation.

And way too many vulnerable fans listen to ESPN.  "He would be the best reliever in the business," they cry.

Talk about overkill and exploiting one's talent. But I'll play along: since Joba is going to the pen, then we can also make A-Rod a leadoff hitter.  He would be the best in the business after all.

Joba Chamberlain is too good to be a relief pitcher.  Those that can - start.                              

               Techniques to keep Joba injury free and hurling fire...

As Nolan Ryan had just finalized his four year contract as the Texas Ranger's Team President this off season, he gave the baseball world food for thought, especially regarding pampered pitchers.

"To me, it's a matter of physical conditioning, and then you get into the area of mental toughness. That's what we're trying to address now."

This is a man who has thrown more than 200 complete games and once threw six complete games at the age of 42.  His entire team threw six complete games last year. 

As of right now, Ryan is seeking to do away with the pitch count in its entirety saying, "the only time I was on a pitch count was when I was injured."

1.) Ryan's answer?  Work out harder and then when you're out there a long time, it doesn't feel as though your tired at all.  His new motto is to have his pitchers out last the other teams starter.  A little bit of the 1980s flare would be sound advice nowadays.

Joba is already on a work-out routine, as he described it given him by Clemens.  He lost weight last year as result of just beginning his new work out program.  He should have a stronger arm in 2009 as result.

2.) Joba could learn to control the urge of overthrowing the pill, just like most young pitchers do too. Take it easy for the first half of the serason--remember, Joba skipped the Minor Leagues and is not looking back. *He got injured in August after throwing 100% until going on the DL.

Just like in golf when one tries to juice the ball off the tees, eventually he will tire of looking in the woods and then learn how to be consistently in the fairway. 

Don't over-swing, instead let it be natural; the result is surprising.  The ball still goes as far as when the golfer swings out of his shoes at it; but by keeping the mechanics under control (and weight on the heals) with proper torque, the ball is a lot easier to consistently find.

Or take steps to avoid injuries by way of mechanics, like was suggested last April.  It's only a matter of proper arm position during the wind-up. It requires a proper set up too.

Joba slumps forward in his set up.

It makes his head whip back and forth during his wind-up. It's hard to throw strikes when your head is all over the place. Imagine the catcher trying to catch the ball while moving his head.

His set-up makes it very hard for the arm to be in the same slot time and time again. The result of too many (or too drastically) moving parts is a lack of consistency. Keep the spine in line and wrap the body around it for torque.

3.) Dr. Mike Marshall, who holds major-league records for games pitched in one season (106!!), relief innings pitched (208 1/3) and consecutive games for a pitcher (13!!), all set with the LA Dodgers in his 1974 Cy Young season, helped diagnose Tommy John with the torn ligament.

He got his doctorates after baseball, and now says he has perfected a technique called the Maxline Delivery. 

Read about it here. Joba's 2008 injury is not anything to panic over. It's merely a concern - primarily as result of his arm not getting into the proper slot and too many sliders.

Joba's stuff is scary enough without him having to overthrow, look at Pedroia - the league MVP - fall out of the box scared as Joba throws a slider after his heat. 

4) Joba Could End the season in the Set-Up Role as part of inning management. 

That means post season play too! Unless someone else has earned the spot, then it would be the best of both worlds. In series-type play Joba can play in more games as a reliever, and the Yanks would save innings pitched on his arm too.

5) Joba should ditch the change up and learn the sinker

Just like Wang, Joba had a shoulder injury, though Wang's more serious.  The Yankees answer for Wang to avoid injury was to stop Wang from throwing the slider and learn the sinker - which went onto become his best pitch of all and it only took him one off-season to learn it.

6.) The Yankees Could Go with a 6 Man Rotation in 2009.  This would take the strain of the season off of each of the Yankee pitchers and promote less stress leading to less injuries.  Anything it takes to keep the rotation healthy ought ot be considered - a lesson hard learned in 2008.

          Joba & the Set Up Role - The New Mo?  Say it ain't so ...

At issue is the comparison of Mo to Joba.  But what's being left out of the discussion is the success that the Yankee bullpen had after John Wetteland,  with the likes of Jeff Nelson and Ramiro Mendoza - who invented the term "BRIDGE."

Are we suggesting that Nellie and Mendoza are power pitchers? They're weren't.

The other piece of information not being said is that if Mariano Rivera could pitch more than four innings and handle the impact of being a starter, then he would be in the rotation and not in the pen. But, his body frame demands that he be a reliever. 

Mariano started off in the Minor Leagues as a starting pitcher; true, but in his second year, he blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. 

In 1995, when Mo was first called up to the bigs, he was a starter and he went 5-3, with a 5.5 ERA. Does that sound like Joba's first year as a starter at all?

Anyone with a brain can see the difference between Mo and Joba right off the bat.  Mo is skinny and short, and to get mustard on the ball, he has to overthrow; thus the Tommy John Surgery and the move to the set-up role.

Joba is over 6 foot tall and 200-plus pounds and has a smooth arm--it doesn't look like he is throwing the ball fast until you hear it go by.

                                A Starter from The Start.

Joba's college coach at Nebraska saw him warming up and throwing heat to the tune of 96 mph. He said that he thought Joba was throwing about 85 and then looked at the radar gun and was shocked to see 96. Joba led the Huskers to their first ever College World Series as a sophmore with a 2.8 ERA.

After earning his job as a starter for the Cornhuskers, Joba never played another position outside of Team Ace, which is where he is headed on the Yankees as long as they want a perennial ace of the league in their rotation.

Of seeing Joba for the first time as a starter, Vin Scully said, "Wow. The hype following this kid is for real.  He throws the first one at 99 high and inside and then the second one is a curve ball thrown at your ear.  It's not even fair."

If the Yankees absolutely need a power pitcher as the set up man, then they should find someone who may not be able to go the distance that is required to be a starter.  Where can they find one? 

With Joba the Heat in the rotation, the Yankees are four deep right now and don't have the best rotation in the league, not even in the AL; the Red Sox are five deep and maybe seeking out a sixth for their rotation. 

So the answer cannot be to move the low ERA on the team to the bullpen.


                                   Replacement for the Set Up Role?

                                        Two words: Phil Hughes. 

He came in relief of Clemens during the 2007 playoffs against Cleveland and threw five shutout innings on the biggest stage of his life: post-season play in the American League. 

I said it last year and will say it again: Phil Hughes can start the year in the bull Pen as the potential set up guy.  As a matter of fact, he throws 96 and could be considered a power type pitcher too.  Given his injuries, the pen may suit Phil perfectly.

Phil should start off in the majors learning as much as he can as a reliever and then when someone goes down to injury, Phil can slide into the starter role.

Outside of him, the Yankees already have a great bullpen.  They picked up Marte last year and signed him to three years this off-season, a solid lefty who will figure out the AL hitters.

New York also has Jose Veras, there is also Edwar Ramirez, a computer engineer looking guy who has a change up (palm ball) that would make even Fred Astaire do a stutter step.  Finally, the Yanks have Aceves, Roberston & Danny Giese as well. 

Joba cometh to start; he is big, he is fast, and he has the most scary stuff in all the bigs; just ask Yuke how he feels about facing off against Joba for seven innings in a row. 

The truthful answer would be, "not good. I'll have to wear pads when I go to the plate whenever he pitches, just in case."

Joba may just be the No. 1 in the rotation, especially if the Yanks get Andy Pettitte back, which would give them two lefties and the last time they had two lefties they were in the middle of the rotation and the Yanks won the World Series.  The lefties were Wells and Pettitte. 

The rotation should turn out to be:

Joba, CC, Wang, Pettitte, AJ - plus maybe a trade for Peavy or Halladay too.

So come now, children of the Yankee Universe. Be strong and shout: LET'S GO YANKEES...what a warm up song too!


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