A couple more points off for the mustache. - USA TODAY Sports
Let's assign a grade to one of the worst relievers in all of baseball in 2013.
For the first part of the offseason the Pinstriped Bible staff will be grading 35 of the Yankees' main contributors to the 2013 roster. Their entire season will be taken into account, even if part of it came at the minor league level. We continue this series with Joba Chamberlain.
2013 Statistics: 45 games, 42 IP, 4.93 ERA, 83 ERA+, 5.64 FIP, 19.2 K%, 13.1 BB%, 1.71 HR/9, -0.6 fWAR
2014 Contract Status: Free Agent
"The human white flag". That's how bad it got in 2013 for Joba Chamberlain. His appearance in games came with a sense of impending doom: if the Yankees were ahead, the lead was in critical condition. If they were behind, you might as well turn the television off because the game was about to be completely out of reach. He was absolutely terrible in 2013, and throw in the bizarre "shushing incident" he had with Mariano Rivera as an added bonus, and that's about as definitive a failing grade as you are going to find. Actually, an "F" seems a little kind all things considered.
It started from Game One for Chamberlain. Brought in in the ninth with the Yankees down 5-2, Chamberlain allowed three runs on three hits and two walks and had to be bailed out by Cody Eppley to finish the inning, a guy who was off of the roster by June 5th. And it never got any better for Chamberlain. But Joe Girardi kept going back to Joba, hoping to get some signs of life from the formerly exceptional reliever. Whether it was because of Girardi's insistence on playing guys who once were good players or due to pressure from the front office to increase Chamberlain's trade value, it seemed no matter how spectacular the failure it was inevitable that Girardi was going to tab Joba to come in for an appearance. Getting into 45 games with that stat line for a team that was in contention for the wild card up until the final two weeks of the season is inexcusable.
The postmortem on Joba Chamberlain's Yankee career is going to focus on where it all went wrong. When a pitcher allows one earned run in his first 24 MLB innings and posts 3.2 fWAR in his first full season (in only 100 innings) it's assumed that he is destined for greatness. But there are so many potential suspects involved in Chamberlain's career turning out this way. The "Joba Rules", his reliever to starter to reliever yoyo-ing, his elective Tommy John surgery, his horrific trampoline injury. He's also had some personal issues and his conditioning has always been questionable. So what's the reason that Joba Chamberlain transformed into one of the worst pitchers in MLB in 2013?
I'd like to think when it all boils down, the answer is pretty simple: Chamberlain has no idea where his pitches are going. His fastball, while still possessing good velocity, is as straight as an arrow and generally located poorly. And his slider still was used as his out pitch, but it seemed to hang right in the strike zone more often than not. Perhaps Chamberlain is overthrowing in an effort to compensate for his past injuries, but if he's going to stay at the major league level he needs to learn how to command his pitches better.
There's no doubt that a team is going to take a flier on Joba Chamberlain in 2014. And really, there's no reason not to. He throws hard, is still young and has a history of past success. It will be interesting to see what another team can wring out of him and how much of Joba's failings in New York will fall at the feet of the Yankees organization. But he's someone else's headache now.
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