When Joba Chamberlain first came on the scene in 2007, it was a revelation. He was pumped up, throwing close to 100 mph, and his name was fun to say; New York Yankees fans took to him quickly.
Then various disasters struck, from the Tommy John surgery to the trampoline accident. He has moved from reliever, to starter, back to reliever again, all to no avail. He is not the same pitcher he was when he first came up, and no one can argue with that.
This season, healthy and ready to come out of the bullpen, he has been a disappointment bordering on being a liability. In the 14.2 innings he has pitched, he has allowed nine runs, two homers, eight walks, posting a 5.52 ERA.
There are times when Chamberlain looks like his old self. He is averaging at least a strikeout per inning, and when his velocity and movement are both up, he can blow it by hitters. But more and more, he looks like a shell of the pitcher and the personality that entered the clubhouse six years ago.
What is more concerning is that Joba has no set role in the bullpen anymore. He went from being groomed to take over Mariano Rivera’s spot as the closer to being part of the starting rotation, then back to the bullpen as the seventh inning setup man, and now it seems manager Joe Girardi doesn’t know what to do with him.
In his most recent appearance, coming into the game down 3-2 in the seventh, Joba was able to pick up his teammate Boone Logan and get out of the inning with no damage done. But when he came back out for the eighth, he couldn’t retire anyone, allowing two runs that put the game out of reach for the struggling offense.
At times, Chamberlain looks confused on the mound, and that could be a reflection of the way the team feels about him. They are confused about the pitcher they built up to be the next Mariano, then almost ruined by turning him into a starter, and who now doesn’t seem to fit in at all.
He has inherent talent and good stuff; we all have seen it. It just hasn’t shown itself so far this year, and the longer we wait, the more painful it is.