Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Yankees FINALLY Return Joba Chamberlain to an Eighth Inning Role

The great Joba Chamberlain debate has raged on for years, rivaling other conundrums of past and present history.

Coke or Pepsi? Boxers or briefs? Paper or plastic? To be or not to be?

The “bullpen or starting rotation” question may never be settled with regards to Chamberlain’s ultimate future, but last night’s effort may have helped New York arrive at a temporary decision.

Chamberlain was sent out to pitch the eighth inning of a close game on Monday night, trying to preserve a victory for a Yankees starter who pitched magnificently over the first seven.

Haunting nightmares of a 2007 ALDS gone bad were revisited by the arrival of the same midges that once shook the confidence of the Yankees reliever.

This time the bugs did not travel alone, as a flock of seagulls blanketed the outfield grass like an eerie sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Chamberlain was able to maintain his composure this time around, determined to not repeat his October meltdown.

He proceeded to effortlessly coast through the inning 1-2-3, like he had done so many times before in setting up for Mariano Rivera. Does this sound familiar?

The eighth inning has always been Chamberlain’s personal sanctuary—a place as comfortable and relaxing to him as a Tempur-Pedic mattress.

The Yankees had finally seen all that they needed to see.

Their talented young hurler was best cut out for a setup role, especially if the team could get such rock-solid pitching out of its starters.

The starter who put New York in a winning position on this day, however, was in fact Chamberlain himself.

Will Chamberlain be a starter or setup man for the Yankees in 2009? The answer that manager Joe Girardi would like to hear is “both.”

In going eight innings while allowing just two runs on four hits, Chamberlain was able to perform admirably in early innings, while also preventing the underbelly of the Yankees bullpen from being exposed.

The most impressive statistic of the evening shows that he recorded 20 of his 24 outs via a groundball or strikeout.

For a power pitcher who likes to throw fastballs up in the zone, allowing just four balls to be caught outside of the infield truly epitomizes his dominance.

Chamberlain followed up two very disappointing starts with possibly his best of the season, which has inevitably caused the emergence of yet another pitching query.

Which two of Phil Hughes, Chien-Ming Wang, and Chamberlain will occupy the final two rotation spots once we reach the All-Star break?

This question may not be answered for quite some time, but the Yankees thoroughly enjoy having to address it.

After all, wouldn’t every team love to have the “problem” of having to choose between three successful young starters?

Chamberlain looked calm and collected in his return to the eighth inning on Monday.

However, it appears that he will only get there again in the near future if he also pitches the first seven.


  1. Good post. Where do you think the Yankees should put Joba/Wang/Hughes? I keep going back and forth...if Wang and Hughes can hold it down I think Joba still might be more valuable in the pen. Unless he keeps going 8 and giving up 2.

  2. Thanks a lot for reading and commenting Yanks Go Yard, and I am glad that you enjoyed the article.

    I think that Wang needs to get a chance to start and prove himself. He has won 19 games twice at this level, and appears to be pitching much better recently.

    Joba pitched fantastically on Monday, and Hughes has been pretty decent of late, but Wang should have the seniority of the 3.

    If both Wang and Hughes could pitch consistently, Joba would be better off in the 8th in 2009, but I am a firm believer that Joba can be a SOLID #2 starter in the future for NY.

    Thanks again for stopping by, and I look forward to talking to you again soon. Take care.

  3. I love that Joba pitched the eighth. He was both a starter and a setup man!

  4. Joba is a starter. He has 4 quality pitches and he can dominate as a starter. I maintain a starter of his caliber is harder to find than a set up man of his caliber. The only thing with Joba is getting his innings up which will not happen this year.

    The truth of the matter is they need Wang, Hughes and Joba for 2 spots. By September I expect to see Joba in the bullpen and Hughes finish out his starts. Joba will have hit his innings limit by then which is estimated at around 150 innings because he only pitched 100 last year.

    Things are shaping up nicely. Also it's inevitable that at any given time 1 of the 5 starters will be injured and you won't have 6 guys for 5 spots all that often.

    Good post. Go Yanks!

  5. Haha I know Jane, that is the absolutely PERFECT scenario. Great starting pitching and his own setting up. If only he could do taht every start...then we would be all set. Talk to you soon!

  6. @ Anthony

    I can't agree with your post any more strongly. Your insight is spot on, and I am glad to see that you enjoyed the article.

    The only Wild Card here is how long it is before the Yankees need a closer. If Rivera was injured this year or retired after 2009, Joba would be virtually forced into a 9th inning role.

    Otherwise, I completely agree that it is easier to find a setup man (prospects, Huston Street trade) than a #2 or ace starter.

    Teams can NEVER have too much pitching depth, and an injury is virtually inevitable before the end of the season. The Yankees will need all 6 starters, and should keep them all prepared and fresh accordingly.

    If we can trade for a player like Street, a playoff bullpen of Mo, Joba, and Street would suddenly go from a liability to an absolute strength.

    Thanks again, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.


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