More than anything, Joba is a victim of a narrative, or multiple narratives, that are just completely impervious to fact. Look at the widespread belief that he had such a bad year last season, despite the fact that his final numbers were quite good; striking out over 9 batters per nine innings and posting an FIP of 2.98. Yeah his ERA was high, but so was his BABIP at .342. But he did start the season out horribly, and after that no one noticed that he finished strong, the narrative was already cast. The Yankees had “screwed him up,” and he was never going to be the pitcher he was in 2007 ever again.
And you know what? There’s some truth to that. Joba Chamberlain will never be the pitcher he was in 2007 ever again, and if I had to bet money on it, the safe bet is that no one will. Because the numbers Joba put up in his brief Major League stint in 2007 are just mind boggling. If they had been over a full season instead of a mere 24 innings, it would have easily been better than any season in the career of Mariano Rivera himself. Don’t believe me? Here’s a side by side comparison of Joba’s 2007 numbers to Mo’s spectacular 1996 season:
And that was the only season Mo ever cracked a double digit strikeout rate.
Look, we all remember what Joba was like in 2007, and we all remember the Great Joba Debate. There was a not unsubstantial number of people, who were probably overrepresented in the MSM, who watched Joba pitch 24 innings in 2007 and decided he was “made for the bullpen,” even though he was a starting pitcher, and starters are more valuable than relievers. Well now Joba is in the bullpen, and predictably, he isn’t as dominant as he was in 2007. So someone just must have messed him up, and it’s easy to blame the Yankees for it, given the unusual pattern Joba has followed over the past 3 seasons.
But that simply doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Joba, his 2007 performance simply wasn’t sustainable. For anyone. If he had been able to repeat that dominance, you can forget any talk about being the “heir apparent,” we’d be arguing over whether Mo even deserved to keep his job.
And the follow-up on Joba: More on the “messed up Joba”