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Did the Yankees simply “mess up” Joba Chamberlain’s development?

Jan 20, 2011, 10:58 AM EDT

Joba chamberlain throwing

Bob Ryan has one of those stream-of-consciousness observation columns today. His last observation:

Has any team, anywhere, at any time in history, ever messed up a valued prospect as badly as the Yankees have Joba Chamberlain?

I’ve asked that question before.  And it sure seems like Chamberlain was jerked around like crazy in going back and forth between starting and relieving as well as having strange workload rules and all of that.  I have to think that the Yankees would do things differently with him if they had to do it all over again.

Still, it seems odd that they’d do what they did in the first instance. The Yankees are a lot of things, but they’re not a dumb organization.  It makes me wonder if the injury he suffered in 2008 was more serious than anyone has let on. Makes me wonder if the team doesn’t have far more serious doubts about him than “his stuff playing up better out of the pen” or however they’ve put it recently as they’ve absolutely eliminated the possibility that he will ever start for the Yankees.

I guess what I’m saying is that, while I don’t like how the Yankees have handled Chamberlain these past couple of years, I’m not prepared to say that they simply “messed him up” like Ryan says.  It has to be more complicated than that, doesn’t it?

  1. BC - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Mark Prior was mis-handled worse. At least Joba is still a mediocre-to-decent functional pitcher with a flash now and then.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      Prior, Wood and Big Z were all over-pitched early, I agree. But it is tiring hearing how Dusty ruined two of those guys’ careers. Which is your implication. Why not Big Z? Is he just built more solidly for higher inning totals? I suppose anything is possible. My thought is that Wood and Prior were injury prone and they’ve certainly proven it since, b/c arm injuries aren’t always what ails them. Wood is bouncing back a bit and prior sucks. My inclination is that Prior was going to have troubles no matter what his innings were. Same for Woody. Blaming Baker is getting old and doesn’t really tell the whole story. He’s also proven many times that he CAN handle pitchers w/o destroying arms.

      • Alex K - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:52 AM

        Mike Leake’s right shoulder doesn’t agree with you.

      • Alex K - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        I take that back…Leake actually pitched more innings his last college season than he did last year.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        Leake was most certainly limited in pitch counts. I had him on my fantasy squad and then they cut his innings in August, which destroyed his fantasy value. That was without regard to any shoulder problems.

      • spudchukar - Jan 20, 2011 at 1:57 PM

        His fastball is straight. His breaking stuff is mediocre. His command is iffy. His confidence is shot. He can no longer get strike one, without damage. The Yankees know this. The other teams know this. Until he can show the ability to get big league hitters out again, his trade value is nil. Therefore: the Yanks are in a bind. Maybe they can package him with Mitre and another mid-level prospect and get a back of the rotation guy, but my guess is they have tried that and aren’t satisfied with the feedback. So they eventually punt, dump him and get whatever they can, or they keep him hope he can prove he has the makeup to adjust, reap his benefits or find a suitor who believe he is on the right track.

  2. Joe Tetreault - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Small sample size caveats apply. In August and September, Chamberlain made 28 appearances, had a 2.36 ERA and held opponents to a .200/.245/.350 batting line, facing 106 batters. Does that say he’s fine? Of course not. But the notion that Chamberlain is a busted commodity overstates things by a damn sight. Small samples size caveats off. He’s 25 years old, has pitched 353.1 innings in the major leagues and owns an ERA of 3.77 and a K/9 of 9.2. Exactly how is it that we regard him as being messed up badly?

    • billtpa - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      Yeah, I think it’s more accurate to say they’re still messing him up, by not giving him a chance to start again. His actual performance has been fine. Better than fine, in fact.

      That is, unless, as Craig says, the injury is worse than we know and he can’t actually handle a heavier load.

  3. yankeesfanlen - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I think the Universe was grasping at straws trying to figure out what THE FAT TOAD was good at. They came up empty under the delusion that his ability could be brought up to a Farnsworth level.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:20 AM

      Grasping at straws? Actually, I see that he’s excellent at striking people out and keeping the ball on the ground and is more than serviceable at avoiding free passes.

    • phukyouk - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      C’mon Len. he was a stud and would have been a stud if not for the stupid “Joba Rules”. the Yanks broke him plain and simple. as i have said 100 tmes before on any other team he would be a stud once agian just not on the Yanks.

      • yankeesfanlen - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:50 AM

        I will be happy to monitor his progress-ON ANOTHER TEAM.

      • dilo16 - Jan 22, 2011 at 11:58 AM

        God I’m tired of the overworked excuse that the Yanks destroyed Joba. That was two years ago. He has had two years with a lot of help to get himself straightened out. His attitude in the pen when he’s not pitching leaves much to be desired. His off the field activities stink. He frequents several of the night spots when in NY, and on the road. He hasn’t admitted to himself that he has to change his ways, nor has he taken any great steps to help himself on the field. Here’s a guy having all kinds of troubles on the mound, yet he holds the team record for shaking off the catcher. More often then not when he does, he gets bombed. He and AJ have worn out their excuses as to the need to stay focused in a game and off the field. Both would be better off elsewhere, like the Red Sox. Humble is not a word in ether’s vocabulary

  4. dodger88 - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    At what point does Chamberlain becomea free agent? I bet there will be several teams who will want to try fixin him at the right price.

    • donniebb23 - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      He has two more years of arbitration after this year, so he won’t become a FA until before the 2014 season.

  5. BC - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    I don’t think he’s messed up badly, but I don’t think he’s going to strike out like 14 guys per 9 innings and have an ERA under 1.00 either. He’s a decent functional pitcher still with some upside given his age. Maybe just a little tweaking needed. And for God’s sake leave him in the bullpen.

  6. yungdaz - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    i dont understand what the yanks are thinking. he is very capable of being a huge threat as a starting pitcher. give him a chance. there willing to do so for mitre or nova and they havent proved anything.

  7. jdmcmill - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Here is a question, why does the fat a@@ get so much attention every year? Who gives a crap!

    • Old Gator - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      No one but no one screwed up a young pitcher the way the Feesh destroyed Andrew Miller. The kid had lights out stuff but just wasn’t ready for prime time when Scrooge McLoria had him shoved out there in front of fifty thousand…well…seats, anyway, to get the living whatchamacallit kicked out of him by big league hitters as part of his withering austerity program (or “market correction,” to quote the Chihuahua). You could see it in his eyes – he had about as much confidence left by the time his nightmarish first season was over as Anthony Babington did when rackmaster Topcliffe explained what was going to happen to him tomorrow morning.

      • thinman61 - Jan 20, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        Agreed. Miller and Daniel Bard were teammates at UNC — where Miller was considered the better of the two. Will be interesting to see if Curt Young can turn Miller around.

  8. uyf1950 - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    I’ve been a proponent of the Yankees trading Joba. But let’s try and put the Yankee “fan” in me aside for a minute and try and look at Joba with more objective eyes.
    … If Joba is destined to only be a middle reliever with the Yankees, even with improvement. I would seem to be to be obvious that he should be traded and the sooner the better. If for no other reason posters have pointed out he is you, is still under team control for at least 3 years (including this year) and he offers a team upside potential with a change in scenery.
    …If the Yankees actually believe he can be more then a middle reliever at some point and can be more consistent then they should keep him at least for another year to see if that is indeed the case. In any case I do not see the Yankees using him in a starting roll.
    My guess is 2011 is a telling year for Joba. If he shows improvement in the pen there is always the possibility that 2 or 3 years down the road Jobe will inherit the set up position and replace Soriano who will unless he opts out or totally bombs out will inherit Mo’s closer position. If Jobe continues his erratic pitching (some good outings, some poor outings and some very poor outings) this coming year he will be packaged as trade bait either at the trade deadline or in the off season for a starting position.
    Again, I tried to put aside the “Yankee fan” in me and take an objective look at Joba and his future with the Yankees.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      I agree with whoever says there should be an edit button.

      Let’s try my first bullet point again (sorry for the poor typing.

      ….… If Joba is destined to only be a middle reliever with the Yankees, even with improvement. I would seem to be obvious that he should be traded and the sooner the better. If for no other reason posters have pointed out he is young, is still under team control for at least 3 years (including this year) and he offers a team upside potential with a change in scenery.

      There are probably other typing errors in the post above, but hopefully everyone get my point.

      • pisano - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM

        uyf1950… As we’ve both said in the past he should be traded while he has some value. I don’t think he will be anymore than a middle of the road pitcher in any setting you put him in. The Yankee fans don’t like him and boo him everytime he comes in. An earlier poster suggested he has an problem with drinking, not uncommon with ball players, if he does it’s his problem to deal with. I firmly believe it’s time for him to move on and for the Yankees to get someone for him while they still can.

      • ulrik3 - Jan 20, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        I disagree with the idea of trading him now. As you said, he’s still young and under team control with some high upside potential. What are they going to get in return? In all likelihood they’ll get an overpaid replacement level starter to fill the #4 or #5 starter role. In 2009, as a 23 year old, he provided 31 starts and 157 IP at replacement level and earned the league minimum. Most teams would see this as a building block in the development of a young pitcher. Most Yankees fans saw this as a disappointment due to his exceptional debut in 2007 and the subsequent hype it caused.

        Last year they moved him back to the rotation because they needed him there since they already had five starters in the rotation. Yes, he was inconsistent but he was not terrible (see note from billtpa below re:defensive failure). If he can be more consistent (which can and should come with maturity and experience) he’s still a valuable, controllable asset so why would you trade him now? You only do that if you can get equal value in return which seems unlikely due to his low perceived value.

        Just plug him into the #4 or #5 role and let him repeat his 2009 performance or, perhaps, improve upon it.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 20, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        To pisano, my friend. I agree about trading him as we have discussed in the past. I don’t know nor do I believe anyone else on this board knows if he has or had a “drinking” issue.
        I do want to mention one thing that goes along with your point about him not being any more then a reliever with the Yankees. I’ve watched him over the last 2 season and even his first season with the Yankees. He doesn’t seem to me to have the mental makeup to be a starter. Simply put he is to emotional. A starting pitcher in my mind has to be able to control his emotions. He has to be able when he gets into trouble, be calm and work his way out of it. Joba hasn’t been and doesn’t seem able to do that. He let’s mistakes and a bad performance effect him to much. Maybe it’s because of expectations, maybe it’s because it’s NY, maybe it’s because it’s in his genes. But whatever the reason, in my opinion that will always limit him and limit how far he can progress as a pitcher. Just thinking out loud.

  9. woodenulykteneau - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    How is an overrated prospect finally being exposed “messing up his development?”

    • pisano - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      Amen, that says it all.

    • billtpa - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      If that were anything like what actually happened, this would be an excellent point.

      • woodenulykteneau - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        What part of overrated do you not understand?

      • billtpa - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:33 PM

        The part where it somehow applies to a guy with amazing stuff who completely dominated the minors (and, at times, the majors). He also put up excellent peripherals last year…his defense letting him down doesn’t count as “being exposed.”

    • ThatGuy - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:33 PM

      This is the truth, the simple fact is because he was a Yankee’s prospect that came up, he got all this press. Any other team he doen’st get 80% of the media attention he did. The guy played one season of minor league baseball and was touted as the next big thing instantly, over exposure led to inflated expectations.

      • billtpa - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM

        In 2008, he’s 22 years old, throws 100 innings in the majors and strikes out over 10 per 9, with a 2.60 ERA. That would get a hell of a lot of attention anywhere.

        Yankee prospects are often (almost always) overhyped. Joba was one of the few who deserved every bit of hype he got.

      • ThatGuy - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        I didn’t mean to say that he wasn’t a good prospect, he was. He did dominate his year in the minors, but the shear amount of press this guy got was unbelievable, even for a great prospect. Lincecum dominated the Minors more then him and you barely heard a peep about him until he was halfway to his Cy Young his 2nd season.

  10. Panda Claus - Jan 20, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    The names David Clyde and Todd Van Poppel first come to mind. Several other A’s pitchers got burned up like dumpster fires too, thinking about this further.

    • BC - Jan 20, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      John Candeleria, Mark Fidrych….

  11. uyf1950 - Jan 20, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Yankee fans there is a nice piece on the and the remaining alternatives for the Yankees on the market. Here is the link if anyone is interested in reading it.

  12. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 20, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    And it sure seems like Chamberlain was jerked around like crazy in going back and forth between starting and relieving as well as having strange workload rules and all of that

    No, it seems crazy because of all the press it got at the time, meanwhile other teams do the exact same thing, but with the lack of press, it’s not a big deal.

    Buccholz threw a no-hitter, but got shut down for the playoffs because he reached his innings limit. Mike Leake gets shut down because of his innings limit. Strasburg was quickly approaching his before he blew out his elbow. As for the reliever/starter thing, look at the early careers of Johan Santana and Roy Halladay to name two. Weren’t pitchers in the 60s/70s brought up via relievers as well?

  13. jfk69 - Jan 20, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Enough of this craziness. Joba has had plenty of time and chances to prove otherwise. Simply put….Too much success to soon in a large media intense market in his first brief year end run . Hell his dad was being interviewed on a daily basis during that playoff run. The best thing they can do now is trade him or hope he put the time in this off season to find himself and become a more complete pitcher. Then when he is called on this year.No matter what the situation…he delivers.
    It is his career to save and only he can do that. This country loves to play the blame game. But at the end of the day,the ball is always firmly in your hands.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 20, 2011 at 6:31 PM

      It’s not his fault the Yanks have done this to him. He’s pitched well for a pitcher his age, and in fact his first 43 starts mirror Hughes almost exactly. The “tryout” last spring training was rigged from the getgo. All he needed was a chance and we’re missing out because of it.

  14. Jonny 5 - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    Many times pitching prospects that appear to be starting rotation guys, end up proving they are only fit to be a reliever. The fact is, he’s 25 years old, he was “overused” by the Yanks while he was at the age where most starters are being used to pitch at least 100-150 innings anyway. I say, by his age in 2008 which was 23, it’s not crazy to have him in the starting rotation. Are they misusing and abusing Phil Hughes? I mean he’s been used more heavily in 2010 than Joba ever was and he’s 24. In 2006 I saw Hughes pitch in Trenton, he put up like 150 innings that season.
    My take, Joba just didn’t cut it, and never would have as a starter. And the only fault of the Yankees was Hyping him up to the NY crowd as their next generation top pitching prospect. If any of you feel Joba was abused by overuse, you better start screaming about the overuse of Hughes as well.

  15. spike036 - Jan 21, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    I would have offered Joba to SD for Mat Latos

  16. evanpenn - Jan 22, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    If a pitcher can be “messed up” mentally so easily then he didn’t have the mentality to be a successful big-league pitcher in the 1st place. I say throw them all out there in front of 50,000 fans right away…then you’ll know what you have sooner rather than later. Can you imagine a Greg Maddux or John Smoltz having there psyches damaged because of too much pressure too early on? please…

  17. mcgonnigle - Jan 22, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    You can’t discuss Joba intelligently without considering his injury and this:

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