Even when the Yankees sweep an easy playoff series, controversy somehow manages to find the team. After all, baseball fans and reporters who face five and a half days without baseball have to find something to talk about during the downtime. The topic of the week, as it often is, will be Joba Chamberlain.
During the ALDS, only 18 of the Yanks’ 25 active players saw game action, and only seven pitchers — three starters, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Kerry Wood and Boone Logan — reached the mound. Absent among those was Joba Chamberlain, the once and, hopefully, future pitching stud. Of course, since Joba is Joba, that he didn’t pitch in the ALDS has elicited analysis of the moves and predictions of a Joba-less future for the Yankees.
The why of it is simple: Joba Chamberlain wasn’t in the Yanks’ plans for the ALDS, and the situation for him to pitch never arrived. In Game 1, Joe Girardi used his close-game staff. After CC Sabathia left in the 7th, Boone Logan came in for the lefties and David Robertson for the righties. For the 8th with a two-run lead, Girardi gave the ball to set-up man Kerry Wood, and Mariano got the ninth. In Game 2, Andy Pettitte went 7, and Wood and Mo closed out a three-run game. Joe Girardi’s strategy was not a mystery.
For Game 3, the circumstances changed. After Phil Hughes’ utterly dominant seven-inning outing, the Yanks had a 6-0 lead with six outs left. For the first time in the series, Girardi could have moved down the depth charts. He could have gone to Joba, but in the past, Girardi’s M.O. for playoff-clinchers has been a no-nonsense one. Mariano Rivera is always on the mound, and the top relievers get the ball before him. It’s not a surprise then that Girardi never went with Joba.
The Yankees and Joba had a difficult relationship in 2010. After he struggled as a starter at the end of 2009, Chamberlain spent the year in the bullpen, and he ended the season a 4.40 ERA but 77 strike outs in 71.2 innings. He cut his walk rates and his home run rates but seemed to meltdown at the wrong time. Still, over his final 30 appearances, Joba sported a 2.15 ERA and a 6:1 K:BB rate. He was a very good reliever down the stretch, but he hasn’t moved up on the depth charts.
Once the Yanks’ 2010 campaign is over, the team will have to address Joba’s future. As Ken Davidoff highlighted yesterday, Joba is arbitration-eligible this year and is due for a raise. As the Yanks showed with Melky Cabrera, they’re willing to trade players who are making more than the team feels they are worth, and Davidoff believes the Yanks will listen to offers on Joba and may be willing to include him in a trade.
But for now, there’s plenty of baseball left, and Joba will have his time to sink or swim. That he didn’t pitch in the ALDS simply means that the team’s other hurlers did their jobs and nothing more.