The Yankees are making a mistake with Joba Chamberlain

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Joel Sherman says that while the Yankees may be talking about how the fifth starter’s job is shaping up as a battle between Job Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, it’s all but Hughes’ job already:

The Yankees never would admit it publicly, but if the season were to
begin today, Hughes would be in the rotation and Joba would be Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man — and, perhaps, heir apparent . . .

. . . This is not easy for the Yanks. They truly have believed
Chamberlain’s pitch inventory was that of a starter. Plus, they have
endured the criticism of the Joba Rules to navigate to this moment when
he would have few restrictions as a starter.

But by morphing
back into a confident, dart-throwing reliever in the postseason,
Chamberlain has pushed the Yanks to more seriously consider that he
might not have been suffering rotation growing pains and, instead,
simply is more temperamentally built to work out of the pen.

If this is true, and the Yankees have already decided that Chamberlain will be a setup man going forward, then they have all but killed a promising starter’s career before it ever truly began.

The Yankees have never given Chamberlain a true chance in my opinion. Sure, he had 31 starts last year, but that number is deceiving. At the end of July he had an ERA of 3.58 and put together a couple of promising starts. By the end of August, however, the Yankees were limiting his innings, messing
with his rest and generally treating him like some special case.

Sherman’s piece claims that Chamberlain was pitching tentatively and without confidence.  Of course he was! He was being asked to pitch in a way that was foreign to him and anyone else in the game. He had been turned into a four-inning pitcher. He knew going in to every game that
he was going to be yanked early. Such a thing had to mess with his preparation and approach. I believe that to the extent Chamberlain had problems in the second half they were due in large part to being
jerked around.  And really, he’s been jerked around for three years.

Sherman may be right, and it may be inevitable that the Yankees are going to permanently turn Chamberlain into a reliever. I can’t help but think, however, that if they had simply given the guy a
slot in the rotation, left him alone, and allowed him to pitch without putting him under the
microscope, they would be entering spring training with a guy poised to become a top of the rotation starter, not an eighth inning guy.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.