The Yanks might not have a good record against the Angels and the Red Sox, but they’ve done just fine against other contenders, like the Twins, the Rangers, the Rays, the Mariners, and yes, the Tigers. They’ll go for the sweep today. It’s a big game not only because of that, but because Joba Chamberlain takes the mound. It’s always a big game with Joba.
We know Joba has struggled mightily over his last few appearances. As we saw in the Joba Lane series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), his struggles aren’t surprising. It’s all about throwing strikes, and for the most part he has failed at that this season. His velocity is a concern, but not nearly a much as his control. He’ll get a chance to redeem himself after a bit of a layoff.
His opponent is Edwin Jackson, to whom we can point (along with yesterday’s starter, Justin Verlander) as an example of what can happen when you have patience with a young pitcher. A sixth-round pick of the Dodgers in 2001, Jackson shot up the minor league ranks, dominating the rookie league and A ball in his first two seasons. In 2003 he pitched very well at AA, striking out more than a batter an inning and keeping his walks at a decent clip. This led to a September call-up, in which Jackson continued pitching well.
Jackson was up and down in 2004, picking up a win on June 2, then coming back in July for a couple of starts. He bombed in his September redux, however. He went back to the minors to start the 2005 season and didn’t get a call-up until August 22. Considering how poorly he pitched at AAA — an 8.62 ERA over 55.1 innings — this is not a surprise. Again, Jackson pitched poorly at the major league level, though he closed out the season with a couple of decent performances.
The Dodgers, however, had seen enough. That off-season they dished him and Chuck Tiffany to the Rays for Danys Baez and Lance Carter. At the time, Baez was coming off a good season as Tampa Bay’s closer, so the Dodgers thought they were dishing a busted prospect for a solid reliever. While Jackson wouldn’t come to maturity right away, the Dodgers got little use out of Baez, who allowed 24 runs over 49.2 innings before the Braves traded Wilson Betemit for him.
It took two seasons of struggles before Jackson finally caught on. His problem throughout his latter major league stints was a way-too-high walk rate. He brought that down significantly in 2008, to 3.8 per nine. He didn’t strike out a ton of guys last year, 5.3 per nine, but just bringing down the walks (and hits) pushed his ERA below the 4.50 mark to 4.42. The Rays thought they were selling high by dishing him to the Tigers for Matt Joyce, but it’s clear now that the Tigers got exactly what they wanted in the deal.
Jackson has thrown 121.2 innings this season, and they’re the best 121.2 of his life. His ERA sits at 2.42. He’s struck out 7.2 hitters per nine innings. He has the lowest WHIP in the league, owing to his new fangled walk rate — 2.6 per nine. He’s also allowed just seven hits per nine, a category in which he leads the league. He pitched well against the Yankees earlier this year, allowing no runs through six innings. The Yanks bats were patient, though, running his pitch count up to 117. The bullpen promptly blew the game in the seventh, as the Yanks rallied for 10 runs.
Hope y’all enjoyed the Old Timers’ ceremonies. Now it’s time for some young dudes to square off.
And on the mound, number sixty-two, Joba Chamberlain.