The proper evaluation of Joba Chamberlain

Succeeding Andy Pettitte
The RAB Fantasy Baseball League (Part Seven)

This one is a few weeks old, but highly appropriate to our current discourse. (With thanks to Jamal for the pointer.) At Full Count Pitch, Gary Armida discusses the over-analysis of Joba Chamberlain. Everyone’s guilty of it, from the mainstream media right down to the lowest-trafficked blog. Yes, this includes RAB. The whole article is a good read, but this is the big takeaway:

If he continues to show the Yankees signs of being a good starter, he should be given the opportunity to continue in that role. If he shows he can’t, he should be sent to the bullpen. But, a proper evaluation is all about patience and seeing the big picture.

A proper evaluation involves more than one season, especially when that season wasn’t exactly a full one. Joba did go wire-to-wire, but 1) he faced innings restrictions which changed his schedule in August and September, and 2) his worst performances came when he cross his previous innings threshold. Considering his performances from April through July, and the age at which he performed, he should certainly get another look.

Only 161 pitchers since 1980 managed even 140 innings in their age-23 season. Only 98 of those posted an ERA+ over 100. Joba’s struggles in this early stage of his career are not surprising. He deserves more than just one restricted year to prove his value to the Yankees.

This isn’t to say that he should win the fifth starter battle or that he should never go to the bullpen. Circumstances dictate the situation, and right now the Yankees have two promising young starters vying for one open rotation spot. To relegate Joba to the bullpen permanently, at this stage of his career, would be a mistake. There’s plenty more time for a more thorough evaluation.

Oh, and in case you didn’t see, Joba’s line from today’s intrasquad game: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1K. The best part was that of his 74 pitches, 48 were strikes.

Succeeding Andy Pettitte
The RAB Fantasy Baseball League (Part Seven)
  • Tom Zig

    Just give the guy a chance. A REAL chance. That’s all I want.

    • Zack

      You mean do the same thing that every other team does? Let their young starters develop as starting pitchers? You could take the list of the Top 20 pitchers in the league and probably 15 of them would have never made is a starter because they werent lights out as a rookie.

  • Ivan

    I didn’t get to see the game, so I just looked at the stat line. Overall how did Hughes looked today?

    • bexarama

      When he was good, he looked unhittable. When he was bad, he gave up bombs everywhere.

      • bexarama

        I should add that he got guys like Utley and Ibanez out but then got killed by some guy named Sardinha.

        • Tom Zig

          Bronson Kiheimahanaomauiakeo Sardinha?

          • Dirty Pena

            His brother, Dane. And as was noted by the announcers, 2 of 3 HR he gave up were wind aided.

            • Darrelle Edwards

              Wind-aided, but very well hit none the less. Gardner also made a nice play on another well-hit ball as well.

              But overall, he looked alright. No walks and 6 K’s were nice.

            • pete

              hahaha i love how his brother’s name is dane.

  • CS Yankee

    A chance should equal another 50-70 starts (yep, 2 years worth)

    forget all the grunts-n-farts BS…he is designed to be a starting power pitcher…he has 4 pitches, gas and is young and cheap.

    Likely to crank out 200+ IP per year with a ERA of 2.50 (best case)to 4.50. This is better than 50-75 innings of a 2.00-3.00 ERA, isn’t it???

    • Steve H

      forget all the grunts-n-farts BS

      How can you just ignore grunts and farts?

      /B-jobbers everywhere

  • Jake H

    I think Joba should be given the shot to start for a few years. I do wonder about his velocity. If he is 92-95 with a decent CH that is huge.

  • Renny Baseball


  • FMV

    honestly…i do want joba to get a fair chance to start on the major league level…for a whole season..with no “rules”.

    but part of me wants him to go the pen just to watch the fun unfold on this site and others.

    • bexarama

      Oh hell no.

  • BigBlueAL

    Why is there not a post talking about the proper evaluation of Phil Hughes??

    Everyone here wants Joba to start and not go to the bullpen because it would be a waste but why is there not the same strong sentiment for Phil Hughes??

    • Tom Zig

      Oh no there is that same strong sentiment. It’s just not as heavily discussed for several reasons:

      1. His first name is Phil. A very common name. Unlike Joba.
      2. There are far more people proclaiming Joba as the next heir to Mo than there are people proclaiming the same for Hughes
      3. Phil’s arsenal didn’t get the oooooos and ahhhhs that Joba did when he first arrived.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        And I’ll add to that… That there is only one available spot in the MLB rotation, so while I, for example, want them both to be starters, that’s just not going to happen in 2010, at least to start the season. Starting with the premise that only one of them is going to get a rotation spot, we then move to which one we’d prefer and, as has been stated many times here and elsewhere, many people (including the “everyone here” I assume you’re talking about) want that one starter to be Joba because he’s finally past his innings limits issues.

        Now, the question about what should be done with the one of them who does not wind up in the MLB rotation to start the season is another conversation altogether… But that’s why you see a lot of people talking about Joba more than they’re talking about Hughes. It’s not that people don’t feel just as strongly that Hughes should be a starter and not a reliever, it’s that the sentiment is being filtered through the context of the current situation in which the Yankees, and these two young starters, find themselves.

        • JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

          All sorts of THIS (and I see no need for us to discuss where Hughes should go if he doesn’t make the 5th spot—we’ve probably had the same argument multiple times already).

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Totally agreed, that was why I just said it was a different conversation altogether… I agree with your prediction (below) by the way, I think it’ll be Joba in the rotation and Phil in the ‘pen. I’m still very much on the fence about where the loser of the rotation competition should work, though. But you’re right… It’s enough, it’s been discussed ad nauseum.

    • Dirty Pena

      Because if Joba goes to the bullpen, it is far more likely to be a permanent move than if Hughes does. The Yankees spent so much time on the “Joba Rules” shit that if they send him to the bullpen, they’d seriously be screwing with his progress (as a starter.) Hughes wouldn’t have as much of the back and forth if he spent this year in the pen and then moved into the rotation. Not to mention Hughes will be on a limit this year, Joba won’t.

    • Do Not Feed The Trolls!

      No innings limit. Had more success as a starter than Hughes.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      …Because the two are in different circumstances. Phil didn’t pitch through a full season of starting in the majors. Joba did. That season would be a waste if he were to let his innings be built up for a return trip to the bullpen.

      We’ve seen Phil in the bullpen for the majority of the season last year and since he’s a year + younger than Joba it’ll be better if he out of the two were sent to the bullpen.

  • Andrew what?

    If you read the tea leafs it really looks like Joba is going back to the pen this year. All the beat writers sense it and even Girardi kind of hinted it when he spoke about Hughes’ outing. It’s a shame that they’re probably giving up on Joba based on one full year of starting, because to me if they are moving him back to the pen, it’s probably permanent.

    • BigBlueAL

      It would be just as big a shame to move Hughes to the pen. With the way the staff is set up this year either Joba or Hughes will have to go to the pen at the start of the season and while yes it would be a shame for Joba to go to the pen to me it would be just a big a shame if Hughes has to go to the pen too.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        It sounds like you should be a card-carrying member of the Scranton ‘Til the Stretch Club. (Meaning you would prefer whichever of Hughes/Joba isn’t in the MLB rotation to be working as a starter down in SWB instead of in the MLB bullpen.)

      • Do Not Feed The Trolls!

        Its a shame you cant use any other word except shame

        Main Entry: shame
        Part of Speech: noun
        Definition: disgrace, embarrassment
        Synonyms: abashment, bad conscience, blot, chagrin, compunction, confusion, contempt, contrition, degradation, derision, discomposure, discredit, disesteem, dishonor, disrepute, guilt, humiliation, ignominy, ill repute, infamy, irritation, loss of face, mortification, obloquy, odium, opprobrium, pang, pudency, remorse, reproach, scandal, self-disgust, self-reproach, self-reproof, shamefacedness, skeleton in the cupboard, smear, stigma, stupefaction, treachery

    • LI Kevin

      Nothings permanent. Jeeze. Say it’s Joba to the pen.
      Next year he starts. Last year’s innings aren’t wasted. The 5th spot isn’t do, or bullpen forever.

  • JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

    Still hoping for Joba as the 5th starter, Hughes sent to SWB to develop innings and pitches. Sadly, I’ve all but resigned myself to the fact that this is not likely to happen.

    Prediction (albeit, not a very bold one): Joba is #5, Hughes as a set-up man.

    • bexarama

      Yeah, that’s not bold at all. =P

      I want Joba to be the #5 starter for reasons said above (why have they spent all this time on him just to put him in the bullpen, he’s had more success than Hughes), but I think I’d be okay with Hughes as the #5 starter this year. I might freak out if one of the other guys is the fifth starter.


    It’s an effect of the 24 hr news cycle, which is itself a reflection of a culture of immediate results. Everything today requires a spontaneous evaluation. However, baseball requires the ability to balance both short-term and long-term thinking. The problem is that increasingly the culture as a whole is premised on the idea that only the short-term matters.

    The point, of course, is not that it is not fun or productive to discuss these things, but that it becomes tiring when the constant refrain to any kind of patient or complex approach is some version of “Yeah, well, what about what is happening RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?” as if “now” and “later” are mutually exclusive options. As if whether or not Joba and Hughes are given the opportunity to develop as starters doesn’t impact what the team will have to do next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…

    (Just imagine: Hughes and/or Joba ends up in the pen, next year you could have two-three spots in the rotation to fill. CC opts out the following year and you potentially have another two-three spots to fill…You can’t sign every available free agent, nor would you want to. It’s short-term thinking like that which caused the rotation problems of the past.)

    If nothing else comes from the Joba/Hughes to the pen debate, it would be useful if it could teach people to have a more long-term, complex view of things. Of course, at a time when shouting “death panels” at someone is considered sophisticated political discourse, that is probably unlikely.

  • Renny Baseball

    Here is a side-b-side comparison of Joba and Phil:

    as Starter

    12 7 .632 4.18 43 43 0 0 0 0 221.2 227 117 103 25 101 4 206 14 4 8 980 1.480 8.4 2.04

    as Reliever
    3 2 .600 1.50 50 0 8 0 0 1 60.0 39 11 10 2 20 1 79 1 0 2 237 0.983 11.9 3.95

    as Starter

    8 9 .471 5.22 28 28 0 0 0 0 141.1 144 87 82 17 59 0 112 8 0 7 621 1.436 7.1 1.90
    as Reliever

    5 1 .833 1.40 44 0 6 0 0 3 51.1 31 9 8 2 13 1 65 0 2 3 193 0.857 11.4 5.00

    Ironically, they show that Phil was better or comparable to Joba in relief, and that Joba had more success (full point lower ERA, better K ratio) than Phil as a starter.

    Also, as I recall, Phil was always more prone to the “big inning” by opposing batters than Joba, who battled with control, which could use work, but still kept the team in the game.

  • Renny Baseball

    …I guess this is slightly late on the discourse and response to why Joba is getting more support as the 5th SP than Phil

    • Joe D.

      It’s all good, Renny.

      I continue to be dumbfounded by how this easy decision is being made into a complex bunch of nonsense.

      As a starter, Joba has had better numbers over a larger sample size when compared to all Hughes/Aceves. That is even true if you **include** his horrendous late season numbers from 2009, which should (arguably) be chucked in the trash since the Yankees were jerking him around so much.

      If you agree we should chuck those, then Starter Joba has obviously and sharply outperformed Hughes, Aceves, Gaudin.

      If you disagree about chucking ’em, then Joba has merely outperformed them.

      In either case, he’s been better, longer. So, why the hell is this decision so difficult, again?

      I expect teams like the Royals and Twins to go out of their way to avoid the obvious and correct solution. I’ll be very disappointed if the Yankees wind up doing so.

      • Yages

        Actually the Twinkies are one of the better run ball clubs out there. They can’t afford to miss obvious solutions. The Royals, on the other hand…

      • The Big City of Dreams

        “I continue to be dumbfounded by how this easy decision is being made into a complex bunch of nonsense.

        As a starter, Joba has had better numbers over a larger sample size when compared to all Hughes/Aceves. That is even true if you **include** his horrendous late season numbers from 2009, which should (arguably) be chucked in the trash since the Yankees were jerking him around so much.”

        couldn’t have said it better myself. No one is saying hughes should be the heir to mo but would it have been bad if he was a reliever this yr. Joba already has the innings and started for the entire yr minus the PS season. I’m not saying he should have just been given the job but according the everyone the battle was not a battle at all. It was hughes’ job all along