Joba Chamberlain has sparked a debate more perplexing than determining “who framed Roger Rabbit,” “what happened to Amelia Earhart,” or “how many licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop.”
Fans, scouts, and analysts will continue to argue whether Chamberlain is best suited as a reliever or starter, with nothing short of unequaled dominance and stardom likely to quiet it.
Chamberlain has become the personification of a Rubik’s Cube—evolving into an even more confusing puzzle as you seemingly get closer to finding a solution.
In 14 starts thus far in 2009, the former phenom has struck out more than six batters just one time. He surrendered four first inning runs in that start, and the Yankees were never able to recover.
Though pitching better in the month of June, Chamberlain has been far from dominating his opponents.
He was rescued in a putrid performance against the Mets in which he walked five and threw 100 pitches in just four innings. He then followed that start by allowing 11 baserunners against the Washington Nationals—the worst team in all of MLB.
Luckily for Chamberlain, his next opponents are the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners are performing admirably in an improved American League West, but are doing much of it with smoke and mirrors—especially on the offensive end.
Seattle currently sits at 29th in MLB in runs scored, 26th in OBP at just .315, and 25th in OPS. They also rank just 19th in home runs with 72, which would be much worse if one player (Russell Branyan) did not have virtually 30-percent of them.
Ichiro Suzuki leads all of MLB in batting average at .372—managing to lift an otherwise poor team batting average up to 13th in the league at .261.
It is time for Chamberlain to show the kind of put-away fastball and slider he utilized in 2008, as well as show better location early in the count.
He needs to deliver a steady diet of 93-95 MPH fastballs and unhittable sliders—ensuring that the Mariners are left “sleeping with the fishes.”
The Mariners are a very difficult team to strike out, and a high total in tonight’s game would go a long way in showing Chamberlain’s overpowering nature has not gone the way of the dinosaur.
Similar to the Atlanta Braves lineup that Chamberlain defeated in his last start, the Mariners have just three truly dangerous hitters.
Nate McLouth, Brian McCann, and Chipper Jones have been replaced by Jose Lopez, Branyan, and Ichiro—with the rest of the batting order leaving much to be desired.
Chamberlain cannot knock the opposing pitcher out of the game with another line drive tonight, so he might actually have to out-pitch Mariners starter Brandon Morrow.
Ironically, Morrow is another stud reliever-turned-starter prospect with an electric arm, and it will be exciting to see the two face off in Yankee Stadium.
All eyes will be on Chamberlain (what a surprise) as he toes the rubber at home—a place where he is pitching to a 0-2 record, 1.55 WHIP, and 5.18 ERA in 2009. He has also walked 21 batters in just 33 IP at Yankee Stadium.
Chamberlain—as well as Wang—will need strong showings over the next few weeks in order to continue to hold off the suddenly electrifying Phil Hughes.
The quest for reacquiring respect and fear begins tonight for Chamberlain—against a team and a lineup he should do nothing but toy with.