Monday, June 13, 2011

The Joba Chamberlain Experiment Has Officially Failed

( I miss these days.)

Now that I've had time to digest the Joba injury, accept that he's done for the season and some of next season, and think about his whole career as a Yankee up to this point, I think I can write this post without sounding like an angry, unintelligent fan who's just looking for someone to blame.  The bottom line is, regardless of whether people wanted him to be a starter or a reliever, regardless of what everybody thought about him as a pitcher, the Joba Era has been a complete failure.

Now I don't think there is one particular thing that can be called the reason for it being a failure.  There have been many missteps along the way, from the limited MiL experience (just 83.1 total IP through 3 levels in '07 before being called up), to the Joba Rules, to the transitioning of him and his approach back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen from 2008-2009, to the token "competition" for the 5th starter's spot that he was included in during ST 2010, to the bringing in of Kerry Wood and Rafael Soriano to hold down the setup role that had been his.  All of these things have added up to 3 years of good but not great results from Joba and the constant reminder of what could have/should have been after he burst onto the scene in 2007.

Because of the organizational mismanagement of his career, Joba has never really been given a fair shake at being a full-time starter or a full-time reliever/setup man since 2007.  The team didn't know how they wanted to use him, he didn't know how he was going to be used, and the injuries along the way only served to intensify that confusion about just where he belonged and where his skills could best be used to help the team.  And now that Joba has suffered an arm injury so severe that it requires Tommy John Surgery, it can be said with complete certainty that all the time spent vacillating on whether he should be a starter or reliever was a waste because in the end he still ended up never being able to replicate the explosiveness he had in '07 and he still ended up hurt.  Maybe he was just bound to have this injury occur eventually, and if that was the case then it would have been better to either commit fully to him being a starter or reliever, keeping him in that role, and getting the most of out him that could be gotten before the injury occurred.

It's impossible to say what kind of starter Joba would be today if the team would have stuck with their plan in '08 and given him the time to develop his secondary stuff and his approach.  It's also impossible to say if he would have been able to maintain the 11.00 K/9 rate that he held through his first 2 seasons if he would have been left in the 'pen.  Maybe we would be talking about the team's #2 starter right now or maybe we would be talking about the best reliever in the game not named Mariano Rivera.  We'll never know.  What we do know is that Joba was never given a chance to fully realize the potential he showed in either role, which was unfair to him as a player and unfair to us as fans.  The last 3 seasons spent drifting along the sea of uncertainty have essentially been a waste now that he'll spend the next year on the shelf.

For all the discussions about Joba and his role, and all the complaints about the player he's been since the beginning of 2008 (admittedly, some of those complaints coming from me), the numbers show that Joba has been a solid pitcher in his time as a Major Leaguer.  He has an ERA/FIP/xFIP tripleslash of 3.70/3.62/3.64 for his career, with 9.09 K/9 and 7.7 WAR accumulated in what equates out to about 3.5 years of baseball played.  He is still only 25 years old, and yet I can't help but feel like his best days are behind him and always will be.  As good as his numbers are, they could have been better if he would have been given a chance to live up to the expectations that the organization and the fans had for him.  I know I would feel a lot better about this upcoming TJS if I would have at least gotten to see him be fully committed to one role and watched that process play out over the last 3 seasons.  At least we would have known exactly what kind of pitcher he was and how good he would have been.  Instead, we still don't know and now we may never know.  And that's a damn shame.

1 comment:

Larry Koestler said...

Awesome post, Brad, very well said. Reminds me a lot of my opus on Joba back in the offseason.