The Yankees were down 1-0 in the third inning tonight. Joba Chamberlain had the bases loaded and a 2-2 count against Miguel Cabrera, one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball.
Make a mistake and it’s 5-0.
Jorge Posada — you know, the guy who doesn’t call a good game — signaled a curveball. It was exactly what Chamberlain was thinking. After showing Cabrera his slider and getting a check swing on the previous pitch, it was the perfect choice.
“I showed it to him for a strike early,” Chamberlain said. “They see a different tilt. Jorge had the whereabouts to call it and it was great. We were right on the same page. He put it down and we went to work.”
Chamberlain threw probably the best curve of his career, Cabrera swung through it and the inning was over. The Yankees then scored seven runs in the top of the fourth inning.
“You have to give Chamberlain credit, he threw a nasty hook,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
If Chamberlain is made into a set-up man, he’ll throw that curveball once a week and in time he’ll just give it up. It’s his third-best pitch and a set-man only needs two pitches. The reason a pitcher becomes a reliever is because he only has one or two pitches.
But Joba’s curveball is a plus pitch and his change-up is getting there. You just don’t take a pitcher with that kind of ability and waste him in the bullpen.
Joba has allowed two earned runs in his last 12.1 innings. He is 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA as a starter, striking out 91 over 88.1 innings.
The Yankees will pay CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett $39.5 million this season to be front-of-the-rotation starters. Joba is going to cost them $432,575 and he could well be even better than they are. That is how good he is.
The curveball should tell you everything you need to know.