Bloggers weigh in-What's your next move with Joba?

Since he arrived in the major leagues in August of 2007, Joba Chamberlain has always been a lightning rod, eliciting a wide range opinions among hard core Yankee fans and others who follow the game of baseball.  With that in mind, I wanted to take the pulse of some prominent members of the Yankee blogging community. I shot out some e-mails last night and asked the question “What’s your next move with Joba?” On the heels of his bullpen demotion, the Yanks have some big decisions to make with him. The July 31st trade deadline is looming, and they have until August 7th if they want to send him down to AAA without clearing waivers. So the options they currently face are to 1) trade him, 2) demote him to AAA or 3) stay the course.

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to reply, and hope that I don’t get anyone upset if I didn’t use your submission. I was looking for a range of perspectives to make the post a good read for our audience, so any unused replies were simply ones where I had too many of that particular type. I also didn’t solicit any of my fellow writers here at TYU, since our readers should already be familiar with our take on the subject. That being said, here are some of the responses:

Joe Pawlikowski-Fangraphs and River Ave Blues

To my mind there are only two paths to take with Joba. The first is to do exactly what the Yankees are doing, which is to keep him in the bullpen, but in lower leverage situations. He is doing many things right this year, but can’t seem to put it all together. If he continues to work on his problems against major league hitters I think he’ll show signs of improvement. Keeping him out of high leverage situations, then, seems like a good tactic.
The only other solution, to my mind, is the Halladay route, which is to send him all the way down and bring him back up. That can get a bit dicey, though, especially since this comes with only a month left in the minor league season. He’d need more than a month’s worth of work plus Spring Training for anything maneuver like this to have an impact. Sending him to Scranton could be an option, but I’m not sure it accomplishes much. Earlier in the season maybe, but again it’s not like he has time to figure anything out down there.
The option of trading him doesn’t seem viable because his stock seems to be at its lowest right now. There is no reason to dump him for the sake of dumping him, and I’m not sure many teams would value him based on his potential rather than his current performance. Not that I exactly blame them. We’ve seen pitchers with big potential flame out before, and we’ll see it again. But if the Yankees think that he can turn it around they absolutely should not trade him for anything less than what they consider full value. It would be bad business to sell low right now.

Craig Calcaterra-NBC Sports Hardball Talk

Stay the course with Joba.  He’s striking out ten guys an inning. His ridiculously high BABIP is the problem, and that’s not going to hold up.  And really, even if you’re not sold on Joba and want to ship him out, don’t do it now while his perceived value is low.  This is much ado about nothing. He’ll be pitching late innings for the Yankees through October.

JMK-Mystique and Aura

For what it’s worth, I don’t actually think a bullpen role suits Joba best, and I mean that even in terms of temperment and a host of other factors. Working through challenges as a starter is a fact of life. Giving up a few runs is fine –you’ll make mistakes, you learn from those and you adjust in-game. Working as a reliever has such a small window that it’s difficult to carry momentum and learn as you go. For Joba, a guy who’s never had sterling control, the scenario in which he feels compelled to hit his ’07 velocity levels and the situational inability to adjust, means I don’t think the “8th inning role” suits him. Maybe in ’07 when his stuff was significantly better (something I attribute to his injury in Texas) and the league didn’t have time to adjust, but not now. He’s just not that same guy. He’s frustrated that his stuff doesn’t blow hitters by as it once did and his control (or maybe mechanics?) is a mess.

Ben Kabak-2nd Ave Sagas and River Ave Blues

Despite the media firestorm surrounding the eighth inning, the Yankees and Joba Chamberlain aren’t at a crossroads right now. What we’re seeing is a 24 year-old-pitcher with very high expectations doing what most 24-year-old pitchers do in the Major Leagues: struggle. He came up amidst unprecedented hype in 2007 and dazzled. Now that he’s run into growing pains, Yankee fans and commentators expect the world from Joba, but he can’t deliver. The stuff is there at times; the strike outs are there; but the command isn’t.

I don’t believe sending Joba down is the right message, and the Yankees seem to agree. They want him to work out his development at the Major League level. They’ve bounced him around so many times between the bullpen and the rotation that the least they can do is allow him the time to pitch against true competition. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked if they trade him either. As he’s on the brink of arbitration, he’s no longer an untouchable, and if the Yanks see they can better returns, they shouldn’t — and probably won’t — hesitate to package him in the right deal.

Mike Silva-New York Baseball Digest

I would love to trade Joba since I think he will never realize his potential. Reality is such that his value is at an all time low. At this point he couldn’t be the centerpiece of any type of quality package. The only option is to send him  down to Scranton – where he should have spent all of last season- and have him work on two things 1) ability to compose himself on the mound and most important 2) repeat his mechanics on a consistent basis. Once he does that the sky is the limit. The other night the MLB Network was showing Mariano Rivera work with Joba on his delivery before the game. If he can’t learn from the greatest closer of all time I am not sure Scott Aldred is going to make a difference. Regardless, it’s their only hope to save him.

Greg Fertel-Pending Pinstripes

I honestly don’t really know what the Yankees should do with Joba, but I do know what I want the team to do with him. I don’t know if it is because I’m stubborn, but even with this train of thought losing most of its steam, I still prefer Joba in the rotation. Now, I’d leave him in the bullpen for the rest of this season; I don’t see a transition right now going too well, but I still think that being a starter is the best long-term move for Joba.
He’s clearly had his issues this season, but his peripherals are still strong and are similar to his dominant 2008 season. I’m not nearly ready to give up on a pitcher with as much talent as Joba and I really do expect him to be a plus in the bullpen going forward. I just can’t believe that a pitcher who is striking out so many guys while limiting walks is going to continue sucking. So I’d keep Joba in the bullpen expecting him to improve as the Yanks go down the stretch, and then maybe put him in the rotation in 2011 if there’s a spot and it looks like he can handle it.

Rebecca Glass-You Can’t Predict Baseball and This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes

I’m not really sure the Yankees could do anything that would really help at this point.  The best solution might simply be a breath of fresh air, where he can work on his pitching without worrying about everyone watching him and killing him, like the media in New York.

You could come up with five billion different theories as to why Joba’s had the problems he’s having, and I think in the end that’s the biggest problem of them all.  Sometimes you need to step back and just let someone be.  And that is not going to happen in NY.

Mike Axisa-MLB Trade Rumors and River Ave Blues

I think what they’re doing, demoting to a lower leverage role, is best. His confidence has to be shot, and dumping him down in the minors right now won’t help that any. Give him a chance to work things out while still showing some confidence in him, and see what happens. If he doesn’t improve, then you can start to think about the minors. They should be the last step, not the first. I don’t think the Yanks will trade Joba, but I’m sure they’re willing to do it in the right deal. They’re not going to sell low out of frustration just to try to get rid of him. That’s ridiculous, smart organizations don’t do that.

Now that you’ve read a range of perspectives on the topic, what’s yours? What would you like to see the Yankees do with Joba Chamberlain?

0 thoughts on “Bloggers weigh in-What's your next move with Joba?

  1. Thanks again for all the thoughtful replies, I really enjoyed reading all these different different perspectives in one piece.

    To answer my own question, I would be exploring trades up to the 31st. In the meantime I’m still evaluating him for a potential demotion after the deadline, between then and August 7th. You don’t demote him now, that would kill whatever trade value he has left, which as many said is at an all-time low. But I would add this caveat, the fact his value is at an all time low could still mean that it’s higher right now than it will even be again. A $50 stock that drops to $20 could rebound, but could also plummet to zero. It’s not a move out of frustration, but an assessment you have to make as an organization.

  2. I’m not surprised by the lack of consensus among the respondents. There is no clear correct answer.

    I count myself among those who suspect Joba will never reach his potential pitching for the Yankees.

    Consider him first as a starter. I doubt they will hold a rotation slot for him, not with other young promising starters advancing through the organization. If they remain healthy, prospects such as Brackman and Betances (and perhaps Noesi, Banuelos, or others) are likely to be given a shot at the 5th starter role beginning in 2012. So if Chamberlain were to have any window, it would be next year. But I expect the Yankees to bring in Cliff Lee if possible in the upcoming off-season, to replace Vazquez. Unless Pettitte retires, there will be no rotation opening for Chamberlain in 2011. Even if there is, he may have to compete with Nova for it.

    As far as the bullpen goes, people often point to the high BABIP as though it were an anomaly and we should expect a regression to the mean. What I see when I watch the game, though, is a pitcher with limited command who tends to make fat pitches much more often than a successful major league reliever can afford to do so. It isn’t as though he’s making good pitches and “lucky” hitters just happen to get the fat part of the bat on them. I have heard various explanations for the lack of command — inconsistent delivery, effects of the old shoulder injury — but I find it hard to see why we should expect Joba to find an answer pitching irregularly in low leverage situations. I am sure his confidence has taken a beating. But remember that it was his pitches that took a beating first.

    He is more likely to learn command as a starter, the role the Yankees appear least likely to reserve for him. He would do better, then, to go to a team where he can start. Probably it will be a weak team, so as he learns his craft in the bigs the team around him can afford to be patient. Yes, the Yankees will be selling low, but at this point they cannot put him in the role that would let him increase his value. So I don’t see much choice. This situation simply is not going to end well for the Yankees.

    • people often point to the high BABIP as though it were an anomaly and we should expect a regression to the mean. What I see when I watch the game, though, is a pitcher with limited command who tends to make fat pitches much more often than a successful major league reliever can afford to do so.

      This is an important point. Lack of command means that you’re good on one pitch and lousy the next. That’s why I’m not overly swayed by his peripherals. When he’s commanding his stuff he gets his SO and other numbers. When he’s off, he gets clobbered and even his OUTS are loud. The issues of consistency with his delivery have plagued him throughout his career. When he was called up in 07, his stuff was so good (and the league was unfamiliar w/him) that he got away with it. But even at his best, the signs were there.

      Some pitchers always struggle with command. AJ does to this day. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a MLB pitcher, but you wonder about his role in the bullpen and on this team.

  3. I’ve said since last winter, if you aren’t starting him, he’s value lies in a trade. They should have pursued another bat. I’d move him for Dunn if possible, otherwise send him down. He needs to feel successful, and this is doing him no good.

    • I was just coming here to see if anyone would consider moving Joba for Dunn. I think the Yankees will feel that’s too much, but at this point I’d rather trade Joba for Dunn than Montero, Romine, etc. Maybe Joba, Nova, and one other piece (Adams? Nunez?). Is that too much?

      • Joba/Nova/Miranda?? To replace Dunn give them Miranda he has some pop in his bat.

      • thats too much to trade joba, nova, nunez for dunn.

        thinking about it again, joba should stay in the bigs. lets see how he handle the 7th inning role. maybe that might fix him

  4. “The only option is to send him down to Scranton – where he should have spent all of last season” – Mike Silva

    Really? He should have spent 2009 in AAA after striking out 118 in 100 innings in 2008 and posting a 2.60 ERA? How does that make any sense?

    • It was never and has never been about statistics or peripherals when it has come to make a decision about Joba.

      You don’t make decisions in baseball based on what a player has done, but what they will do going forward. The problem with Joba over the past 2 years has always been about projecting him to be able to continue to succeed because of his problems with his delivery and that he is just lost on the mound sometimes like last night.

      It is why Joba was never even really considered for the 5th starter spot this year even though he pitched decently for a period of time last season.

      On another note, Mike Silva’s take is interesting. I saw when Mariano was working with Joba the other day and I thought a similar thing.

      If Mo can’t get through to Joba, I am not sure anyone can.

      Interesting concept for a post btw. I’m surprised at times why this blog doesn’t get more comments.

      • You’re right. Of course decisions are made based on your expectations of a player’s future performance. At that point though, if Joba was back to being healthy, his outlook looked great and there’s no way you send a guy who pitched so well at such a young age back to Triple-A to start the 2009 season.

      • Thanks ZZ, I’ve done a few similar posts in the past. As Mo said on his Twitter last night I’m also a fan of your comments over at RAB. If I ever decide to retire from blogging (no intentions as of yet) you’d make a excellent replacement. Maybe even be an upgrade.

  5. For the rest of this year keep him where he is. Starting in ST, use him as a starter exclusively. I agree with the folks who say he’s made for starting, where he can have a bad first inning and still do well. I still believe he can be a viable MLB starter.

    • i agree. joba is starter but for this year, joba should remain in the bronx & the bullpen. depending on his performance for the rest of the year, i would consider starting him in scranton to rebuild his value next year as a starter

    • Yes, but for whom should be be starting while he learns to master his craft? It isn’t clear that the Yankees have the cushion in a very tough division to allow the luxury of Joba again taking his lumps in the starting rotation. And “viable MLB starter” is not a very high standard, either. If he is to claim a slot in the Yankee rotation, he needs to be no less than a strong, consistent #3 starter (and probably a #2), because that is what the team will want at the back end of its rotation.

  6. Colorado looks to be selling so how about a straight trade of Joba Chamberlain for Huston Street? He’s signed a 3 yr lst offseason and he’s got 9 mm player option tacked on, and i’m aware he’s only pitched 15 innings this season, but Street remains one of the best YOUNG closers in the league. The arm is rested.

    I dont think that’s selling low on Joba.

    • not big on huston street. concern how he would perform in ny. joba has more value than that.

  7. I don’t really want to hear anyone talk about Joba’s mechanics or delivery unless they have watched high-quality, high-speed film and have evidence to back up their point. If you haven’t done that and don’t have your own proof, then you’re just parroting what you’ve heard from someone else.

      • Seeing as how I have not watched any high-speed video of his delivery and as a result would have no proof to back up my assertion, no I would not.

        • Ok. You seemed quite angry as if someone stole your idea.

          I hope you know you don’t need high speed video to notice these type of things especially the basic issues. Try this. If you are ever at a Yankee game with Joba pitching try to find your way to a vantage point behind home plate. Look at where Joba’s foot lands.

          Also, for the people that can’t recognize these type of things in a delivery all you have to do is listen to Joe Girardi who has mentioned it several times.

          Unless of course you have a problem with people using Joe Girardi as a source.

          • I don’t want to speak for Stephen, but I think his problem is when people online act as if they are pro scouts and can pick up on what every pitcher/batter is doing incorrectly and fix it more easily than the hitting/pitching coaches and manager can.

          • This. I should have phrased it better the first two times through. If someone thinks they have spotted a mechanical flaw or inconsistency in the delivery (and aren’t just repeating what they read in a postgame interview with Joe Girardi) then I would really love to see some evidence.

  8. The most important thing to remember is that Joba is only 24 years old. He does indeed have very good stuff as his peripherals show and his BABIP seems to suggest his luck is very poor. As Scout discussed in the second comment, BABIP isn’t just a luck thing that will automatically regress downward. If hitters are squaring up too frequently against Joba, most likely there is a cause; e.g. too many fat pitches over the middle of the plate, poor pitch sequencing, poor pitch selection, or something else. A cursory look, however, at his batted ball data doesn’t really suggest that.

    His line drive percentage is a tad below 20%, his GB% stands around 47% (second highest of his career), His FB% at 33.3% is the lowest of his career, and his HR/FB% is commendably low at 7.0%. Overall, these numbers aren’t too far off from Roy Halladay’s numbers. The biggest batted ball difference this season with Joba is a marked decrease in IFFB which stands at the lowest of his career and, curiously, is another similarity to Halladay whose IFFB rate is the second lowest of his career. What does this really suggest? I don’t know other than except for some issue(s) big or small, Joba’s batted ball numbers could belong to a very good pitcher.

    When I watch Joba, my instincts (honed over the years sitting on a couch…LOL) suggest one area where I’d like to see improvement–command. Yes, Joba walks too many batters, but not too a crippling extent. What I don’t like is where Joba places his four seamer. It seems to me that he doesn’t work inside to righties effectively. I haven’t examined pitch f/x data to confirm this, but my large gut just tells me. A 97 mph heater up and in at the right time is among the best pitches in the game (or up and tailing away for that matter) and I don’t think Joba has mastered that fine art as of yet…a claim slightly supported by his wFB pitch value. Another pitcher who had a similar problem early in his career was Pedro Martinez and he wrecked a few batting dummies in pursuit of its mastery.

    So what do I think the Yanks should do with Joba? I would have traded him (et al.) for Haren; this would have been a similar move to trading Jackson (et al.) for Granderson, a move that suits the the Yanks yearly mission well–a very good player in his prime is superior to very good potential, or I would have sent him to the minors coming out of spring training for much needed development, but those windows are closed. Using him in low leverage situations probably remains the best option provided he gets enough work. If not, maybe a trip to the minors is still in order. I would not use him to acquire my and everybody’s favorite slowpitch softball player, Adam Dunn–whom I’d love to see on the Yanks–but not at the price of prime pitching talent. I think with further proper development and patience, Joba will one day harness his talent; hopefully it’s with the Yanks.

    John C

  9. I see Chamberlain as a starter long-term. Personally, I would like to see the Yankees send him down to the minors (AA? AAA?) at some point and stretch him out as a starter next spring. From there, he would have to either earn a spot on the team or remain in the minors as a sixth or seventh starter.