The other day, I said Joba Chamberlain makes headlines even when he doesn’t pitch. Well, he pitched in a simulated game yesterday and still got some headlines. Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York penned a piece after Joba’s “outing” yesterday and the piece came off as a bit foreboding. I’m sure Marchand wasn’t trying to do this when he typed the piece out, but the tone made it seem as if he was getting ready to write the obit for Joba’s career–maybe not quite a “this is over” tone but a “this could soon be over” tone.
From center stage to a Yankees extra in what seems like a New York minute. It has been four years in the making or unmaking, whichever way you want to look at it. The one-time wunderkind is just 25, and the question is: What is next for Joba Chamberlain
I assume some innings in the upcoming ALCS. The Yankees won’t be able to use just Mariano Rivera, Kerry Wood, Boone Logan, and David Robertson in a seven game series. Yeah, I know he didn’t pitch in the ALDS, but given his relative shakiness, can you blame Joe Girardi for not using Joba? The games were all tight and Wood and Robertson have outperformed Joba in 2010. Why is this hard to grasp?
Chamberlain has gone from eighth inning-man to a man without an inning, relegated with the “stay ready” crowd, waiting for a chance.
Sure, he wasn’t the eighth inning guy all year, but he did pitch the most innings of any Yankee reliever. It’s not like he was a ghost out there all season.
Before we all fully count Chamberlain out, let’s remember this is Joba — with a personality that is magnetized to the spotlight — which makes you wonder if there is still a playoff moment out there for him to grab and to pump his fist at again.
Yeah, that makes sense. I’m pretty confident that Joba will have a chance to get big outs in the ALCS. Maybe this will be a piece about possible redemption after all.
After not pitching in the ALDS sweep over the Minnesota Twins, when does Yankees manager Joe Girardi foresee using Chamberlain in the next round?
“Anytime,” Girardi said. “I have talked about when you have guys in the bullpen that are starters you usually want to use a reliever to get out of an inning before you maybe bring in a long man. That could be at any point. I told our guys don’t assume that you are not going to be used until the sixth inning.”
Look at that, Marchand. Joe Girardi just pretty much confirmed that Joba will be pitching in the ALCS. Now you can keep going with the positive theme, right?
While no one with the Yankees outwardly admits it, everyone knows that Chamberlain’s Yankees career is a runaway train going the wrong way right now.
Or not. And isn’t “runaway train” a little bit strong here? Maybe he didn’t have the season we envisioned him having in the bullpen, but it wasn’t as awful as it’s been made out to be (more on this later).
He has gone from the summer of 2007 setup savior to future ace to the Joba Rules to fifth-starter-competition loser to the eighth-inning man to … now what?
At least two of these things were out of Chamberlain’s control.
He was 3-4 with a 4.40 ERA this season
Win-loss record is a bad judge of how a starter performed; it’s an even worse gauge of relievers. ERA is a little better, but for relievers it, too, can be inaccurate. They pitch relatively few innings and one blow up or one great stretch (but more so the former) can skew the results. Aside from ERA, Joba had a good season. His H/9 was a little high at 8.7, but he walked 2.8 per nine and struck out 9.7 per nine. He also had a 3.50 K/BB which was the best non-Mariano K/BB (4.09) on the team. Joba kept the ball in the park, 0.8 HR/9, and had a 2.98 FIP and 3.34 xFIP. So, if we broaden our focus from just two stats, we can see that Joba wasn’t as awful as people want to make him look.
Let’s snip to my least favorite part of the article:
Chamberlain’s greatest problem has been his 2007 success. He is like a band that starts out with a No. 1 hit and then is asked to be The Beatles.
I see what Marchand is getting at here: Joba did really well and raised his expectations to ridiculously high levels. I do not blame Chamberlain for this. At all. I blame writers like Marchand and all those who clamored for Joba to be in the bullpen forever after his 2007 debut. I blame the Yankee organization for botching his development. Joba’s “greatest problem,” as Marchand puts it, is completely out of his hands. It’s not his fault people were dumb enough not to temper their expectations and realize that his 2007 level of dominance was unsustainable.
But he is not The Man. He is just a guy on the team. It is pretty easy to imagine that the best days of his Yankees career may have occurred when he was 22.
That’s a bit much, isn’t it? Again, part of this is Joba’s fault as he didn’t pitch incredibly this season–on the surface, at least. But part of the blame rests with the Yankees for not letting him properly develop and essentially flying by the seat of their pants with Joba and his development path.
At 25, it is surely not over yet. But as you watched Chamberlain throw in October with not a soul in the seats, it sure felt like it is getting late.
And Marchand ends his piece with a bit of an overreaction. Why’s he throwing with no one in the seats? Because it was a simulated game. Why’s he throwing in a simulated game? Because he didn’t throw in the ALDS and needs the work before pitching in the ALCS. Marchand is trying to make it seem like this “outing” by Joba means he’s somehow a lesser pitcher and already a retread and I think we all know that’s not true. While he may have been passed this year, I’d be shocked if Joba wasn’t the second best non-Mariano reliever (assuming Kerry Wood is gone, and Joba’s behind David Robertson) in 2011.
Joba’s future may not be entirely clear, but it is definitely not as gloomy as Andrew Marchand made it out to be.