Joba Chamberlain will never, ever, be as dominant, per inning, as a starter, than he was as a reliever. If that is what you are searching for, a reliever that can throw 98-100 MPH for an inning or two at a time, while striking out 12.75 batters per nine innings, then fine. If you are searching for those same numbers as a starter, then, Good Luck! But there is a reason that Joba appears more dominant in the pen, it’s because he can max out and increase his velocity to its fullest, because its easier to do that over a shorter period of time. It doesn’t mean that he is “better,” or more “valuable” in the bullpen.
This is a debate that the media salivates over. Bloggers all over, experts everywhere, analysts around, they all debate this. Joba Chamberlain HAS ALWAYS BEEN A STARTER. Why not give him a shot at the Major League level? It isn’t as though Joba started 12 games, and had an ERA over 5.00. Or that Joba struggled some in the minors in the beginning games. Joba has had success starting at every level, that he has ever played at, ever, ever, ever. His Minor League numbers indicate pure dominance: 88 innings, 135 K’s, 27 walks, 2.45 ERA. Ok, that is the minors. So what about the Majors? 65 Innings, 74 K’s, 25 walks, 2.76 ERA. Pretty good, right? It is a small sample, Joba did give up sixty hits, so it wasn’t as though he was “unhittable.” But do you remember this past season when Joba dominated the Red Sox and threw a shutout against Josh Beckett? Well, that is an indicator of what he is capable of. Learning to throw in the Big Leagues is a process, there is time that it takes to make the transisition, especially since the Yankees placed him in the bullpen first.
Believe me, I understand when people consider him to be a better option as a dominant reliever, because they have seen him do it at the Major League level. But what I saw last season, and what I see in the numbers, Majors and Minors, is that Joba can be a good starter, maybe even great, although I don’t want to label anyone great, those expectations are ,well, great. He just needs the chance to prove it. If he gets the chance, pitches well, everyone will forget about Joba the reliever. And as far as I am concerned, Joba the starter is > Joba the reliever.
An absolute GEM of a pitchers duel last night. Two arms that light up the radar guns with great fastballs, while mixing in pretty darn good secondary stuff as well. Joba is going to be a legitimate front end starter, if he is not there already. And rather than leaving it somewhat broad at “front end starter” I would declare him to be a future ace. However, “Ace” isn’t exactly an easy status to earn, and it is difficult to come by for any pitcher, no matter the talent, at such a young age. But we already knew this, right? I listen to the scouts for this sort of thing, Keith Law in particular, and they have been saying all along that he will become a number one starter, or at least close to it. But Chamberlain is coming along quite nicely. And all those naysayers who believe that a set up man/reliever has as much value as a dominant starter, where are you now? Joba dominated for seven innings last night. Don’t expect seven innings of shutout ball each night, but it is just an indication of his worth, and what could take place on any given night.
As for Beckett, he was great too. There was trouble on the basepaths throughout the game, but other than a few hard hit singles up the middle, he controlled the Yankees bats nearly as well as a pitcher can. There was not a single extra base hit, and he let only one scamper to first base without nudging the ball into play. There were weakly hit balls that fell in. And as Remy noted, the cutter was the “cause” of three hits. But none of those three singles were hit well at all, one being Giambi’s slowly hit grounder opposite the shift. Beckett threw a GEM as well, Joba was just a little better.