Is Joba Really Messed Up?

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:

ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 LOB%
Mo 2.09 1.88 10.87 2.84 0.08 78.10%
Joba 0.38 1.82 12.75 2.25 0.38 99.60%

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”

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

17 thoughts on “Is Joba Really Messed Up?

  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but before that ridiculous 2007 spree, wasn't Joba a solid but not major prospect? I seem to remember him as #3 in the organization at best, behind Hughes and Kennedy. That being the case (if it's even true), then the numbers we saw last year line up fairly reasonably.

    Maybe some new pitching coaching will make a difference.

  2. The thing that really irritates me is that Joba has 4 pitches, 3 of them "plus" pitches and was thought of as a top end of the rotation guy coming up in the Minors, yet here we sit without any "quality" back-end pitchers and the Yanks management is refusing to even consider giving him a shot at the rotation. I wish someone from Yankee management could explain that as it makes no sense. What is the harm is giving him another shot? Can anyone explain why not?

  3. Dang. I hate it when you're reasonable and logical, Brien. Was all ready to disagree with you, but sadly, I can't.

    Only reason for not starting Joba I can see is Craig (and other's) question about his injury/health/stamina. Because if there ARE doubts about the sustainability of his pitching skills, then I'd much rather have him as an acceptable and trustworthy middle reliever for an entire season, than to have him start 10 games, win 6, and then blow out his shoulder, missing the rest of the season.

    As obvious as the need to have his Start is to the entire Blogosphere, as obvious as the Yankee's need for another starter (or two) is – unless the entire Yankees management team has suddenly become braindead (tho they did try to sign Pavano) – then one must admit that there is more to the picture than we currently know.

  4. I agree that he should get the shot as a starter if for no other reason then he is already here and needed but I have always subscribed to the theory that no teams management ever tells us the whole truth or even all the full injury reports…

  5. I don't think its so much of comparing his stat line to his 2007 numbers, it is comparing the type of pitcher he was in 2007 to the type of pitcher he is now.

    In 2007, he displayed an aura of confidence that resonated in the minds of the hitters. His stuff was simply better. His mind is in a different spot than it was three years ago, and I believe that is one of the huge keys to Joba.

  6. Joba needs to continue to develop his command, secondary pitches, etc. In short, he needs experience and innings. But he's not going to get that in short relief. He should be starting.

    The short attention span of New York fans, writers, etc. really irritates me. God forbid a young pitcher is given time to develop. Ian Kennedy is going to be every bit the pitcher he was projected to be, but of course not for us. We gave him a half year and dubbed him a flop.

    Joba is 25 friggin years old, for Pete's sake. I wish they would just leave him alone and let him develop.