By Jon Lane
George King has coined the newest Yankees catch phrase: Phi Sigma Joba Starter (PSJS) nation. Here’s hoping the loyal order of the Joba-to-the-bullpen army was served with a reality check with Joba Chamberlain’s finest start since that 1-0 win over Josh Beckett and the Red Sox in Boston on July 25, 2007.
Yeah, right. This debate will never go away. Though I am guilty of adding kindling to the fire by only presenting the other side of the story, Chamberlain has to stay in the rotation. This won’t be an issue until (if) Chien-Ming Wang returns healthy and back in form, but people won’t stop talking about it. To be fair, this is indeed a tasty storyline and an excellent problem worth discussing, not those “revelations” from that new book coming out on some (in)famous baseball player.
Here’s why Chamberlain is a starting pitcher, case closed:
Imagine a rotation with Chamberlain and Phil Hughes pitching brilliantly? The jury will still be out on Hughes for awhile, but best-case scenario is you have two outstanding homegrown starters pitching well in a group that includes CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Remember, Andy Pettitte probably isn’t coming back after this season, so the long-range forecast includes Chamberlain, Hughes, Wang (he’s down, but not out) and Ian Kennedy if he can finally scale the roadblocks that have prevented him from pitching in the Major Leagues. Not too bad of a future for a win-now franchise, eh?
Everyone makes a fuss about how Chamberlain threw 97 MPH as an unhittable, intimidating reliever. Here’s something few actually talk about: He’s 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 career starts and has allowed 82 hits and struck out 91 in 88 1/3 innings – and he’s still getting warmed up. The next time anyone brings up how he’s only throwing 92-93 instead of 97 must be re-told the story on how Burnett has matured from setting speed records to a pitcher that locates and changes speeds.
Out-of-the-box storytelling from Peter Abraham on how Chamberlain’s approach against Miguel Cabrera and one pitch decided the game. This eliminates any doubt about Chamberlain’s capabilities as a starter. This sequence started a run of 10 straight Tigers batters retired by Chamberlain, five by strikeout.
One of my readers summed it up best: For years the story has been the Yankees’ lack of quality pitching. At this rate they will have a lot of rounds to spare. Too many arms are never – EVER – enough. Want proof? See last season.
Abraham compiled a report from Alex Rodriguez’s extended spring game in Tampa: 1-for-6 with a homer and two walks.
Another bad April for Mark Teixeira, his worst since 2003. Here’s a breakdown of his batting average, and on-base and slugging percentages for each April the past seven seasons:
2003 .188 .288 .344
2004 .276 .432 .552
2005 .262 .321 .485
2006 .293 .391 .495
2007 .231 .346 .341
2008 .290 .355 .490
2009 .197 .365 .364
Worried? You need not be.
Mariano Rivera has allowed a home run in his last two appearances, notes Kat O’Brien. He gave up four all of last year and hasn’t surrendered more than four since 2001 and five since 1995, when he began his career as a starting pitcher. Reason to worry? Uh, no.
For those who care (I don’t), the book on A-Rod says he may have been taking steroids since high school. I quote Al Davis, “Just win, baby.” Do that and nobody will talk about this stuff.