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The Yankees are making a mistake with Joba Chamberlain

Feb 3, 2010, 8:00 AM EDT

Joel Sherman says that while the Yankees may be talking about how the fifth starter’s job is shaping up as a battle between Job Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, it’s all but Hughes’ job already:

The Yankees never would admit it publicly, but if the season were to
begin today, Hughes would be in the rotation and Joba would be Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man — and, perhaps, heir apparent . . .

. . . This is not easy for the Yanks. They truly have believed
Chamberlain’s pitch inventory was that of a starter. Plus, they have
endured the criticism of the Joba Rules to navigate to this moment when
he would have few restrictions as a starter.

But by morphing
back into a confident, dart-throwing reliever in the postseason,
Chamberlain has pushed the Yanks to more seriously consider that he
might not have been suffering rotation growing pains and, instead,
simply is more temperamentally built to work out of the pen.

If this is true, and the Yankees have already decided that Chamberlain will be a setup man going forward, then they have all but killed a promising starter’s career before it ever truly began.

The Yankees have never given Chamberlain a true chance in my opinion. Sure, he had 31 starts last year, but that number is deceiving. At the end of July he had an ERA of 3.58 and put together a couple of promising starts. By the end of August, however, the Yankees were limiting his innings, messing
with his rest and generally treating him like some special case.

Sherman’s piece claims that Chamberlain was pitching tentatively and without confidence.  Of course he was! He was being asked to pitch in a way that was foreign to him and anyone else in the game. He had been turned into a four-inning pitcher. He knew going in to every game that
he was going to be yanked early. Such a thing had to mess with his preparation and approach. I believe that to the extent Chamberlain had problems in the second half they were due in large part to being
jerked around.  And really, he’s been jerked around for three years.

Sherman may be right, and it may be inevitable that the Yankees are going to permanently turn Chamberlain into a reliever. I can’t help but think, however, that if they had simply given the guy a
slot in the rotation, left him alone, and allowed him to pitch without putting him under the
microscope, they would be entering spring training with a guy poised to become a top of the rotation starter, not an eighth inning guy.

  1. moreflagsmorefun - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    35 innings and poof your done, well you should check out a guy name Pedro Martinez, how did he do 35 innings in, I’m not saying Hughes is a HOF pitcher, just comparing your stats.

  2. moreflagsmorefun - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    God forbid he do a fist pump, nobody in baseball does that.
    who is your team, do they have these problems ?
    Write back and let me know.
    Buh Bye

  3. YANKEES1996 - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    The culture and thinking of the Yankees is changing if you watch close enough. Joba has been confused by the Yankees not really hurt or damaged. Joba is the last casualty of a poor pitching rotation from 2 or 3 years ago. I think Joba has good enough stuff to be the fifth starter, but I would rather seem him be tutored by Mo and be Mo’s eventual replacement. Joba has overpowering stuff and I think could do great work out of the bullpen but he needs to wrap his head around that type of role and who better to help him adjust than Mo.
    I believe that Phil Hughes is the Yankees fifth starter, he will need time to adjust to the role. I don’t want to see the Yanks pressure him if things get a little rough, let him find his way. Letting him struggle a little and get out of some trouble here and there will boost his confidence and teach him to trust his stuff.

  4. david nystuen - Feb 3, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    Trade him. Stop messing around and get cliff lee. If he is confused then let it be elsewhere.

  5. Jonny5 - Feb 3, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    Yes!!! This is sure proof they don’t visualize him as a starter. If they did he’d still be in AAA imo. This doesn’t equal mishandling though…. it just means they aren’t spilling all the beans about their hopes for this young kid. Typically high heat pitchers like he is don’t do well for more than 6 innings anyway as it wears them down, he’d have to back off his velocity to go a whole game, when he backs off is he easier to hit off of?? More than likely. The yankees are using him to the best of his abilities (right now, as opposed to grooming him into a starter) is my bet.

  6. Adam - Feb 3, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    If Joba is the better pitcher in the spring, it is unlikely that he will be thrown into the bullpen. Alternatively, it would be unwise for the Yankees to eschew their rotation depth…
    From everything we know about Cashman, Girardi, and Hal Steinbrenner, are they knee-jerk reaction type guys, or more thoughtful, long-term planners?

  7. BTfromVT - Feb 3, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    All i was trying to point out is that Hughes has done nothing more than Joba. In fact they are almost mirror images, both had up’s and down’s as starters and both were lights out as relievers, im just saying with Joba finally stretched out they should give him another shot at the rotation because they dont have the pressing need of an eighth inning guy with hughes all ready there.

  8. Bernie - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    Hughes last start was a 4 hit 8 inning shutout of Texas. As a reward, Girarde yanked him even though he was under 95 pitches and also as a reward, he never started another game last year. The obvious solution at the time was put Joba in the pen to limit his innings and keep Hughes as a starter. So what do the Yanks brain trust do, they put Hughes in the pen and put Joba as a starter. Fortunately for them, Hughes’ talent made them look like geniuses while in fact they screwed the pooch. Keep Joba in the pen & let Hughes start,

  9. MountainBear - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    I still remember Joba being dominate in the reliever’s role when he broke into the league. I loved him in that role. He could afford to expend all of his energy in one or two innings. His fastball velocity was way up, as was his confidence. I think there are worse things than setting up for Mariano Rivera for a few years and then becoming the closer for the Yankees. Relievers can have nice long careers, so relax and enjoy the ride Joba. Yankee fans love you man, enjoy it, revel in it.

  10. BTfromVT - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Hughes last start was 5 innings giving up 4 ER in a loss to Cleveland

  11. tank74 - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    I have to agree with you on this Craig. Joba is a young man and still learning to cope with the bright lights of NYC and major league baseball. Plus, his personal life has to have an unsettling affect. It is public knowledge that Joba’s mother has had a rough life, and while his father has done a commendable job, it has to be a distraction. The Yankees, his new “daddy,” would be better off to “raise” him consistently in one role or the other.

  12. JOhn - Feb 3, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Joba, Schmoba! ;-)

  13. Joshua Stein - Feb 3, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    He’s a Yankee. Who cares?

  14. bh0673 - Feb 3, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    All I know is as a set up man he is lights out, as a starter he has that deer in headlights look. Have we all forgotten that Rivera was not effective as a starter. Imagine if the case for Joba had been applied to Mariano Rivera and they tried to keep him as a starter. Joba could very well be the future closer the Yankees will need at some point but as a starter I don’t think he will ever be as effective.

  15. Ben - Feb 3, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    There is two sides to the Joba story: The Media, which can be taken into 15,000 parts because everyone has an ‘expert’ opinion, and the Yankees. Last year, the Yankees stretched Joba out as far and as safely as possible. After 3 good starts after the All Star Break, Joba, was pretty ineffective. This had to do probably with the way he was used. The Yankees did this because they wanted to limit his innings enough so he didn’t overdo his work load and would be available to pitch a few more innings in the post season to help the team win. Going into this year, the Yankees see him as a starter. Unless he has a Wang-like meltdown to start the season, you are going to see him given the chance to perform. Those who expect a sub-4 ERA with a great K/BB ratio are out of their minds. He should be expected to compete with comparable 5th starters in the league and should be able to eat up innings. At the end of this year, a lot more judgments can be made as to what Joba’s role will be going forward. Perhaps he flames out and the Yanks move him to the bullpen. Or maybe he puts up a solid year, showing that there is a framework for him to be a reliable member of the rotation going forward. Any media reports that say he should be moved to the bullpen and that the Yankees are messing with Joba’s true destiny do not know what Joba always was; a starter. People love to rewrite history and recall in the late summer of 2007 that Joba made his debut as a reliever and the Yankees messed with his projection and made him a starter. This is the furthest from the truth, just look at the fact that he started in the minors that year as well as in college. The worst thing that Joba pretty much did for himself and the Yankees was succeed in the setup role, to create a debate. Idiots like Sherman and Francesa need to stop telling what the Yankees to do and let them enact their plan. The fact that he has show effectiveness out of the bullpen is a great fallback option, but the Yankees rightfully believe that they have a starter in Chamberlain. Sherman needs to create some type of controversy because the Yankees are so good, they’re boring.

  16. San Diego Yank - Feb 3, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    It wasn’t too long ago they had a similar problem with a young starter. They turned him into a setup man and later into their closer. He’s still their closer. How’d that work out?

  17. Jimmy - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    I agree with most of what you said, but wasn’t one of the reasons he went lower in the draft because of rumors about the health of his knees? Wouldn’t the workload of a reliever better ensure that he stays healthy?

  18. Rob S. - Feb 4, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    I don’t agree with Sherman that this decision has already been made. I agree that Joba does seem better suited to relieving but I still think he’s the best choice for fifth starter in 2010. That’s because Joba no longer has any innings limit. He can go out there, let it all hang out and really see what he’s made of as a starter. If Hughes was to be fifth starter in ’10 he would have the same limitations Joba had last year.

  19. J - Feb 4, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    The bottom line is Joba can’t get it done. He gets yanked because his first four are the reason the yankees get in 6-0 hole from the start. They need to trade him.

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