Bronx Baseball Daily welcomes yet another new writer to the team, Marc Perez-Santalla. Marc’s first article discusses the man that we all love to debate over — Joba Chamberlain. The starter vs. reliever debate has been mostly put to bed these days, but the result of that debate might be that he exits the Bronx when he becomes a free agent after this season. Join me in welcoming Marc to the team and enjoy his piece.
By Marc Perez-Santalla
Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain entered this year’s spring training fully healthy and ready to get back on the mound. At this time almost a year ago, Joba experienced a freak injury while he was already rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery performed in 2011.
Chamberlain was jumping on a trampoline with his son Karter and came down badly on his right foot (the foot he pushes off on). He suffered an open dislocation of the ankle and lost a significant amount of blood.
At the time, it was speculated that the injury could be career threatening. Joba was able to tough through his recovery and made it back to the team towards the end of the season, pitching twenty-two mediocre innings in middle relief with a 4.35 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. Fortunately for Chamberlain, he made it through this offseason without any freak injuries and came into camp ready to play.
Joba’s entire Yankee career has been a bit of a public spectacle. He got called up in 2007 and looked like a godsend to the organization. He overpowered hitters, only allowing one earned run in 24 innings while racking up 34 strikeouts. Chamberlain was initially under the restrictions of the infamous “Joba Rules,” where he was prevented from pitching in back-to-back days and received an extra day of rest for each inning he threw in an appearance.
In 2008, it seemed as though he would continue his ascent into becoming a dominant pitcher. While logging 100 hundred innings as both a reliever and a starter, Joba accumulated an exceptional 2.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and had 10.6 K/9. In 2009, Joba won the battle to be the fifth starter over Phil Hughes. Much to everyone’s disappointment, he regressed and was dismal in the starting rotation. He finished the regular season with a 9-6 record, while struggling to the tune of a 4.75 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. He performed admirably in a set-up role during the world season run, allowing two runs during six and a third innings.
The next season, Joba was once again in competition with Phil Hughes for the final rotation spot. This time though, he lost the battle and was relegated to the bullpen. Joba proceeded to continue his struggles during the first half of the season, posting an ERA north of 5.00. There still seemed to be hope though, as Joba righted the ship and finished out the year with a 2.38 ERA in his final 28 outings.
In 2011, he was designated to bullpen duty where he once again showed his flair and dominance, posting a 2.83 ERA and allowing just over one batter to reach base per inning. Just when things were starting to look up again for Joba, he suffered a devastating elbow injury in June that required Tommy John Surgery. It was initially predicted that Chamberlain would miss ten to fourteen months, thus putting a hold on his precarious career as a Yankee.
Joba’s future with the team is uncertain at this point. The one thing that is definite though, is that he will pitch in the bullpen, possibly setting up for David Robertson. Joba hopes to pitch well for the Yanks as his impending free agency looms at the conclusion of this season.
His chances to stay with the Yankees following 2013 are beginning to look unlikely, as he made some disconcerting comments to a reporter about a week ago. Joba was asked if he wanted to be a closer and he replied: “At some point, yes.”
He continued by also alluding to the idea of being a starter again; “It’s one of those things. Do I have four pitches I can throw for strikes? Yes. Do I have two pitches I can throw at any time? Yes. I guess I am trying to have my cake and eat it, too. I feel I am in a position to do both and I have proven I can [start or relieve]. I want to do one or the other. I found my confidence in the bullpen and if I get a chance to start — wherever that’s at — without a doubt.”
Based on those comments, it appears as though Joba views himself as either a big league starter or closer, as opposed to middle relief duty. The Yankees have essentially given up on him as a starting pitcher and there does not appear to be a closing opportunity for him with the club next season. The team will most likely choose to go with quality set-up man David Robertson, or possibly top relieving prospect Mark Montgomery.
On top of this, Joba is already making almost two million dollars this season, and with a solid season could be primed for more money elsewhere. While Joba Chamberlain’s future with the organization is ambiguous, Yankee fans are just hoping that he can pull it together and lock down the seventh inning for the team.