Joba Chamberlain: His Pros, Reasons to Trade Him, and Trade Value

14 10 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

So this past week Newsday’s Ken Davidoff wrote that “Joba Chamberlain has slipped down the Yankees’ food chain, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him this winter.”

I took one look at this article and decided I would write a response to it.

“Phenomenal.”

“Best pitcher in the bullpen besides Mo.”

“He’s got real potential.”

Does it sound like any pitchers you know? Well, these were the phrases used to describe the Yankees’ then-phenom Joba Chamberlain, who came up to the Yankee bullpen towards the end of 2007.

Some background information about Joba before the majors: Chamberlain was drafted 41st overall by the New York Yankees in the 2006 Draft during the compensatory round because Tom Gordon signed with the Phillies.  He didn’t pitch in the minors that season, but he pitched in the Hawaii Winter league, posting a 2.63 ERA for the WestOahu Canefires. In 2007, he ascended the minor league ladder starting at High A, and moving up to Triple-A as a starter, until he made it to the major leagues as the Yankees attempted to make it into the playoffs and win a World Series for the first time in the 2000s.

All the Yankees fans reading this remember Joba as a little something short of a Gattling gun when he first came up to the majors in 2007. The 22-year-old Chamberlain blew his 100 mph fastballs by everyone in the American League, compiling a 12.75 K/9 during his time that year. He allowed just 12 hits in the 24 IP. He compiled a 5.67 K/BB that year, compared to a 2.00 league average, although Chamberlain appeared in just 19 games. He gave up 1 ER in those 24 IP, and that came on a solo shot over the Green Monster hit by Mike Lowell(I was at

Joba

Joba had a dominant 24 innings in the bullpen during the 2007 season.

that game, it was a shot). In those 19 games he still managed to put up a 0.9 WAR, which is pretty darn good, considering he pitched for such a short time. Joba was going to be the next huge fixture in the Yankees bullpen for years to come, with ESPN proclaiming him as NEXT. Joba was a phenom in those 19 appearances, and he never failed to disappoint the fans that watched him pitch.

“He’s going to be a star.” -Chamberlain before 2008

In 2008, Joba started the year in the set-up role leaving spring training with a roster spot on the major league roster. However, due to the zero wins between pitchers Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes and the resulting stress on the bullpen, on April 21st, 2008 Hank Steinbrenner told reporters that he wanted Joba to start. “Brian knows I was upset about the switch to the bullpen last year,” Steinbrenner said. “But like he says, we probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without it, so there’s two sides to the story. We all had the same purpose starting in the offseason – we’d like to see Joba as a starter.” He also added that “we’re pleased with what some of the other guys in the pen have done…so I think it’s time to start thinking about getting him (Chamberlain) back in the rotation.” according to an article by the NY Daily News.

GM Brian Cashman said that Joba would remain in the bullpen, and would finish off the year starting, but not start off starting because of the innings limit(that would later be famously referred to the Joba Rules) that the Yankees had on the young pitcher’s arm in response to Steinbrenner. So the Yankees waited until June 3rd, 2008 for Joba to make his first start in the majors. It was one of the most highly-anticipated events of the week, a Strasburg Mania-lite. Except this was extremely anticlimactic.  Chamberlain allowed two runs (one unearned) on one hit, walking four and striking out three. He threw 62 pitches, 32 for strikes, and he struggled for most of the start during a 9-3 loss against the Blue Jays. He ended the year 4-3 starting 12 games and pitching a little bit over 100 innings as the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in the 2000s.

“He’ll bounce back.”-optimism before the 2009 season.

The Yankees returned in 2009 with the newly hired big guns CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. This year the Yankees looked ready to cruise their way to the playoffs, and it was time for Joba to be a full-time starter, no restrictions this time. Joba did end up starting 31 games, however he only got 15 decisions, probably  due to the fact he averaged 4.9 innings per game that year. His ERA was 4.75, although FIP suggests he got help from the defense because he had a 4.82 FIP. But what is REALLY bad about Joba is that he allowed a line drive for about every 2 ground balls he got. But he also had a .320 BABIP, so that could suggest that he was somewhat unlucky. His year was up and down, so he was taken out of the playoff rotation and sent to the bullpen as the Yankees won the 27th World Series for the pinstriped franchise.

“Chamberlain’s one of the most overrated guys in the majors.”-2010

This year, Joba has been sent back to the bullpen after losing the 5th starter spot to All-Star Phil Hughes who, ironically, was replaced by Chamberlain in 2008 and 2009, when he was sent to the bullpen and was dominant in both the regular and postseason in the set-up role. Joba couldn’t recapture his success during his first bullpen stint. He went 3-4 in 73 appearances, and was just downright awful the first half. He managed a 4.40 ERA, although FIP suggests it should have been a 2.98. It is uncertain what role Joba is going to have during the ALCS and World Series, but it will certainly be in the bullpen.

So, now, what are the pros of keeping Chamberlain?

There’s always a chance that he recaptures that skill in the bullpen, ex. Colby Lewis of the Rangers. If he does, he’d slot nicely with setting up Rivera’s cutter with a 97 MPH fastball the inning before.

  • His fastball is capable of reaching 100 MPH, and has a nice slider and change up, so that seems like a good reason to keep him.
  • He could figure it out and pitch his way back into the starting rotation. Remember, he was a SP coming up, so he could still be a very good #2-3 starter in the rotation in the future.
  • Pitching depth is always good to have, especially with aging pitchers like AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte.
  • He’s still just 25, so he still has time to develop as a MLB pitcher, so it would unwise to trade him because he has been durable, and he’s been a star before. And the Yankees have enough talent to keep him as a work in progress.

Joba was the #4 pitching prospect coming into the 2007 season according to BaseballProspectus.com, so that shows his potential, one that people thought he would fill when he captivated all minds with his pitching in 2007. He’s disappointed ever since then, and Davidoff, as stated before, said he fell down the Yankees’ ladder. So why would the Yankees want to trade him?

  • He’s been constantly named as one of the league’s most overrated players by both his peers and fans alike.
  • Joba hasn’t put up numbers since that first bullpen stint, and this year was no different, even though he was back in the bullpen.
  • Joba doesn’t really seem to have a defined role, although at this point, it will probably be middle relief, because he doesn’t seem good enough to pitch in the set up role.
  • Joba’s fastball doesn’t really reach 100 MPH anymore, ever since that move to the starting rotation.
  • His development has been stunted by the constant switch back and forth.

Is it time for Joba to leave the Evil Empire?

Let’s pretend that Joba does get traded to a team. What is he worth to a team? Well, to me, it’s hard to gauge. Joba was a top prospect, a future closer with fireball stuff, then a starter with a decent future, to an inconsistent guy and now a middle reliever. Good relievers are always kind of hard to come by, but Joba showed his potential to be a real closer, his potential to be an ace in the minors, a middle reliever now so its hard to see what he’ll be from this point on.

So what could the Yankees get for him? To me, they can’t get something more than a 2 low minors B prospects return on him, especially because his stock is so low based on his standing with the organization and his past 2 seasons. Teams will remember his fireballs, but unfortunately, they’ll also remember how he’s been inconsistent in both starting and now, pitching in relief. Teams that would take Joba on, in my opinion, would be both Chicago teams, Arizona(because of their absolute dearth of relievers), the Mets, or maybe even the Angels.

Joba Chamberlain was the fireballer youngster that the Yankees had struck gold on. He was ready to become the NEXT big thing, the next closer for the Yankees, the next to be among the elite. Baseball is a funny thing, star one minute, wash up the next. It is so easy to now fall into bad favor with fans, owners, and players. He was elite, for a while, and then Steinbrenner voiced his desire to move the phenom to the rotation. It was that decision that stunted Chamberlain’s growth, and now, the Yankees face a decision on what to do with the young pitcher that was supposed to be the next big thing.


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4 responses

15 10 2010
Zack

“He was elite, for a while, and then Steinbrenner voiced his desire to move the phenom to the rotation. It was that decision that stunted Chamberlain’s growth”

Moving him to the rotation stunted his growth? Starters have more value than releivers so I disagree.
The 3 IP/60 pitch limits stunted his growth, they should have just let him pitch like a starter, and when he hit his IP limit shut him down, like every other team does.

15 10 2010
Teix4MVP

I meant in the sense that it basically killed him being dominant in the bullpen, and that the Yankees tried to keep him on the team and take as much of an advantage from him as they could, instead of sending him to the minors to stretch him out and then shutting him down when he got too many innings. He got mishandled, and in my opinion, pretty much ruined something that could’ve been really good.

15 10 2010
cubs223425

It’s not that making him a starter was what stunted his growth alone. It’s the flip-flop nature they had with his role. The same thing has occurred with Jeff Samardzija in Chicago. They’ve made him a starter and a reliever so many times that he’s awful at both, it seems.

21 11 2010
Eric

I would LOVE it if the Yankees traded hiim to the Jays

Brandon Morrow 2.0

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