Joba or the Franchise?

hughes_250_022309.jpgBy Jon Lane
Two terrible starts in Spring Training suddenly put Joba Chamberlain against the ropes. Yes, the same Joba Chamberlain who burst upon the scene as an electric set-up man in 2007 and a projected front-line starter was in a bit of danger of actually losing his grip on the fifth starter’s role with the Yankees in 2009.

Chamberlain shut up the naysayers, at least for now, with a nice performance Tuesday night. But because he’s not a five- or 10-year veteran, and since the Yankees were burned by handing starting jobs to Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy last season, the message is clear that Chamberlain is not receiving a free ride. Newsday reported this morning that some teammates let him know that it was time to step up.

This job is Chamberlain’s to lose. Should he stumble again, the likely scenario is not a demotion to Triple-A, but a rehashing of a debate that just will not go away. John Harper was the latest to suggest that while Chamberlain showed why the Yankees want him to start, there’s something about having that lock-down back end of a bullpen, an idea that was actually endorsed by our own Jim Kaat in Harper’s column.

Besides Chamberlain’s poor start to the spring, the impetuous to this discussion is Hughes’ impressive camp to date. The one Peter Abraham coined “Phil Franchise” is locating his breaking curveball to perfection and looks more motivated than ever to prove he’s for real and not a 23-year-old version of Carl Pavano. This led Harper to write: “If Hughes does have a strong spring, and CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte are all healthy, you can make a strong case for putting Joba in the bullpen again.”

I’ve made my case before: Chamberlain belongs in the rotation. He’s ahead of the curve compared to Hughes and more time in the Minors for the latter is not a bad thing whatsoever. But what do you think? Would the Yankees be better off with Chamberlain back in the pen and Hughes as the fifth starter? Be sure to comment on this thread and vote on our homepage poll.

As of 12:30 p.m., Chamberlain received 53 percent of the votes. Here’s some information to help you decide:

Key Stats
Chamberlain: 2.17 ERA in 61 appearances (12 starts) and 124 1/3 innings since his 2007 debut.

Hughes: 5-7, 5.15 ERA in his career; 0-4, 6.62 in an injury plagued 2008.

Big games
Chamberlain: Recorded countless big outs as the eighth-inning reliever in 2007; out-pitched Josh Beckett at Fenway Park on July 25, 2008, by allowing three hits and striking out nine over seven shutout innings, a tell-tale sign he has the goods and the moxie to be a front line starter

Hughes: No-hit Rangers for 6 1/3 innings May 1, 2007 before pulling up lame with hamstring injury; tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Roger Clemens in Game 3 of 2007 ALCS

Injury issues
Chamberlain: Rotator cuff tendinitis forced him to the disabled list in early August before he returned the next month to work out of the bullpen.

Hughes: A torn hamstring derailed Hughes in 2007. The following year it was a fractured rib. 


  1. syankees51

    I think a lot of fans get the wrong impression because when they hear people say Joba would better in the pen they may think those people are not Joba fans. In my case, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! I really like Joba Chamberlain, but a key sentence in the beginning of this article says it all as far as I’m concerned. Chamberlain is an “electric set-up man”. Simply put, it’s not meant in any way saying Joba doesn’t have what it takes to be a starter, on the contrary there are many, many major league clubs that would kill for a guy like Chamberlain on their staff. My take on this is that I think Chamberlain would have more success as our set up man and is the only guy who I can think of who has ability and attitude to be able to fill those rather large shoes when Mariano decides to retire.

    The other aspect to this debate is Joba’s delivery. He puts a whole lot of pressure on that shoulder and as last year shown, is susceptible to a shoulder injury. Speaking from the perspective of someone who has had a torn labrum, It’s not fun. I think Joba’s will have success in any role but his true calling is to be that “electric set-up man” and eventually he would be the only guy who could ever replace Rivera. He could either have a career as a starter or be another Yankee legend as a closer.

  2. dmage

    HUGHES fo starter plase joe(giardi) Joba is a great setup man and in 2 years he can close hes much more effictive every day or every other day and the once “diamond” of prospets pitched great his first year and then good at the end of last year coming off inguries and by putting him back in AAA he’ll dominate again(i live in swb i go to the games every once in a while and i go to see him) so by haveing joba start will push his progression back a year so start phil not joba


    It amazes me to read all these “Joba should go to the pen” comments. That’s like saying Nolan Ryan should have been a setup man/closer or Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson. They would have dominated in the pen too. However, your setup man and closer can’t help you if the starter has you down by 5 runs.

    The question is simple: would you like Joba to be the next Nolan Ryan or the next Jeff Nelson. It’s a no brianer for anyone with real baseball knowledge.


    It amazes me to read all these “Joba should go to the pen” comments. That’s like saying Nolan Ryan should have been a setup man/closer or Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson. They would have dominated in the pen too. However, your setup man and closer can’t help you if the starter has you down by 5 runs.

    The question is simple: would you like Joba to be the next Nolan Ryan or the next Jeff Nelson. It’s a no brianer for anyone with real baseball knowledge.

  5. dmyankeefan

    I have much more faith in Joba. He’s proven he can handle the heat. I like Hughes, but maybe it’s the extreme pressure he can’t handle. Admittedly, he’s pitching very well right now, but I’m still not comfortable with him for the long haul. I’d go with Joba.


    You’re missing the point here. It takes Joba 110 pitches to get through 5 innings. Maybe he’s too young. Maybe he needs to figure it out. Most teams dont care what they get out of the 5th starter. They just want them to eat innings. Rest the pen. Joba is not that guy. Another point you’re missing is that he’s not “Jeff Nelson,” he’s a young Mariano Rivera. Without anyone to replace him, the Yanks will be up the river. Paplebon could start for the Sox, but they’re not stupid. He’s proven in a big spot and can get big outs. Not everyone can do that. Joba would be a closer for 97% of teams out there. The Yanks need to groom him for that role. Now when you’re asked who would you rather have, Mariano Rivera or Nolan Ryan the answer isnt so clear. How many rings did Ryan have? Yeah, exactly. The yanks have a bunch of great starters, to me its obvious. Besides, you can’t keep moving him back and fourth between the pen and the rotation. That’s how you get a guy hurt. Put him in the pen and leave him there. In 2 years he’s the closer and in 15 years we’ll be comparing him to Rivera.

  7. clev-sucks

    Joba to the BULLPEN!!!! He is unstoppable in the pen!!

    Alfredo Aceves for the #5 starter. He tore a new one for many teams in the league last year!

  8. yankee7777

    A starting pitcher is always more important than a relief pitcher. When will people realize this? You would not have put Tom Seaver or Bob Gibson in the bullpen. Chamberlain has the best stuff on the team. Of course the Yankees will ruin him with his use or should I say lack of use. The more a pitcher throws the stronger his arm gets. It is like any other muscle of the body. There is no scientific proof of limiting a pitchers innings for a year. Who dreamed this latest idea up?


    The initial argument for adding Joba to the bullpen was based around the idea that he could be the Yankees counter punch to Josh Beckett. That’s fine and well but I’d like to believe that the 250 million dollars that they spent (on AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia) can achieve the same thing. Joba is not going to be a #1, or a #2, or even a #3 starter this year. He has innings limitations, the fifth spot in the rotation gets skipped (when possible), and as it were to stand now he wouldn’t even start in the playoffs. Give me a an average starter in the back end of the rotation to eat up innings and plug Joba in the pen behind Mo. A rotation of CC, A.J., and Wang in the playoffs, backed with Joba and Mo in the pen…yowwwzaa. That’s pretty unstoppable in my opinion.


    Ok, Joba is great and Hughes will be great. Um, at least we think those two statements are true. I have a different curve. Pedro Martinez as the 5th starter. Cut down on his innings and you have a steal. Joba is no ,repeat, no Nolan Ryan and probably never will be. How many Nolan Ryans did we see in our lifetimes anyways?
    So too cut to the chase ,Joba to the bullpen ,Hughes No.6.


    Why do you suppose that a number one starter – and Joba is potentially one – is paid a lot more than an elite closer? Maybe it is because teams see them as being worth more. If it doesn’t work out, Joba can always go back to the bullpen later. You can’t let a number one, stopper kind of pitcher go to waste in the bullpen.


    Will somebody please look at Brian Bruney’s numbers..they’re actually as good as Joba’s in the 8th ! Let Joba start, it’s not just this year, it’s the next 5 plus that you have to think of, when Hughes & Joba will be starting,and a guy named Menchon will be closing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s