Last December, the Detroit Tigers signed 28-year-old Joba Chamberlain to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, and fans truly had no idea of what to expect from him. Although he was once a promising young fireballer in his days with the New York Yankees, he never blossomed into what they had hoped he would be, which was due in part to injuries. Through the first seven weeks of the 2014 season, though, Chamberlain has been a very pleasant surprise for the Tigers.
In Spring Training, it became clear that the Tigers were going to need Chamberlain to step up after it was announced that Bruce Rondon, a 23-year-old flamethrower who was a prime candidate to be the Tigers’ eighth inning man, would be undergoing Tommy John surgery and therefore missing the entire season. Chamberlain has risen to the occasion and been a lifesaver for the Tigers.
Chamberlain currently holds a 1-2 record with an overall ERA of 3.38, but he has an ERA of just 2.84 in his 12.2 innings of work in the eighth inning. He also has 24 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched and a solid WHIP of 1.29. It appears that the change of scenery combined with the fact that Chamberlain now gets to rub elbows with Joe Nathan, one of the greatest closers of the past decade, has done him a world of good.
Last night, in the first game of a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians, Chamberlain was called upon to pitch the bottom half of the ninth after J.D. Martinez heroically tied the game with a pinch-hit home run in the top half of the inning. Chamberlain gave up two hits, but he pitched a scoreless inning nevertheless. The Tigers would, however, go on to lose the game in the bottom of the tenth, when Michael Brantley hit a walk-off home run off of Al Alburquerque.
At any rate, Chamberlain has done a fantastic job for the Tigers up to this point, and it is hard to imagine where they might be if he had not solidified the eighth inning role. He has also brought a lot of fun to the Tigers’ clubhouse as he was reportedly the mastermind behind the Tigers’ Zubaz phenomenon, and rumor has it that he does a fine job helping his teammates stay loose. Detroit has surely appreciated Chamberlain’s presence, and his terrific start has the makings of a great comeback story should it continue.