This upcoming season the Yankees are going to have some starting rotation questions. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes are locked down under contract. If Andy Pettitte is willing to come back, great. The Yankees will undoubtedly be looking to add a starter to their arsenal.
But if there is one guy that the Yankees need to make a final decision on, it's Joba Chamberlain.
Joba came up into the league in 2007 and became an instant fan favorite and superstar. Joba's lights out relief work helped get the 2007 Yankees into the postseason.
In 2008, Joba had another great season, starting out of the bullpen and then in the rotation he was excellent once he got into rhythm, highlighted by an outstanding outing against the Red Sox, outpitching Josh Beckett, striking out 9 and getting the 1-0 win. Injuries slowed him the rest of the year, but overall the season was a success for Joba.
In 2009 the Yankees were ready to give Joba a chance to be a member of the starting rotation right out of the gate. He was actually pretty good for a while. I remember my first visit to Yankee Stadium that year, it was against the Red Sox and he struck out 12 Red Sox hitters after struggling in the first. A hot streak in July left him with the best ERA for Yankee starters at the end of July. Then the Joba Rules kicked in and he struggled the rest of the way. Obviously the rules had a negative effect on him. For the postseason he was moved back to the bullpen and pitched OK, and helped the Yankees win a championship.
And then in 2010, while I can't complain about Phil Hughes, I think the Yankees made a big mistake. 2010 was supposed to be Joba Chamberlain's first full season as a starting pitcher. It was supposed to be the opportunity for Chamberlain to go out there and pitch out of the rotation with not limits. Just let him go out and pitch and see what happens. Let him let his stuff take over. But of course, based on like 3 spring training starts, Phil Hughes was chosen and Joba despite all the innings limitations and babying him, was banished to the bullpen again for the season.
An now we are coming up to 2011, and the question once again is, what will Joba Chamberlain's role be? I think they did him a real disservice this season. The whole point of limiting his innings and hurting his 2009 season was to get him ready to start this year, and they took that chance away from him over a rough couple of games in spring training (one of which I believe he was sick with the flu). Hughes did a great job, not denying that, and he's solidified his spot in the rotation next season.
However, it's time for Joba Chamberlain to join him and join the Yankees rotation next year. The Yankees have been preaching that he should be a starter for years. Why would they go back on that because of a bad spring training? Joba should be a starter because...
1. It is very difficult to grow good starting pitchers out of your system, and signing them out of the market year after year can be even more difficult.
2. Joba has shutdown stuff that he can use for multiple innings. This was evident in his 12 strikeout game against the Red Sox. When he's on he has the ability to put the team on his shoulders and carry them. I want someone capable of doing that in the starting rotation.
3. Joba has a world of potential. The Yankees get the most value out of him as a starter. Not a setup man. And especially not as a middle reliever, which is the role Joba was banished to during August and September. In the playoffs Girardi didn't trust him in big spots. If they just want him to be a mid-reliever they are wasting his talent.
4. Starting pitchers are more valuable than relievers. Lets look at the 2009 offseason. The top starter (Sabathia) earned a 161 million dollar contract. The top reliever (K-Rod) earned less than 1/4 of that. And that was following a season where he set a saves record. Which role do you think is most important?
The Yankees are in need of starting pitching. I do agree that they need to add a starter especially if Pettitte doesn't come back. But I'm not against the idea of not signing anybody if Andy comes back in order for Joba Chamberlain to be inserted into the rotation. It's time for the Yankees to make a choice with Chamberlain and stick with it. He's going to be 25 next season and entering his 5th season in the major leagues. And he's still not sure of his future role. Doesn't there seem something wrong with that?
It's time for the Yankees to insert Joba into the rotation, take off the leash and see what he can do. I think he'll surprise some people if they do that.