Who would you rather have on your team: Johan Santana or Mariano Rivera?
The debate of Joba Chamberlain's role is ironically not about Joba Chamberlain. He is such a rare breed that he has the potential to be an ace of a rotation or a lockdown closer; it’s just a matter of your overall pitching strategy for a team.
It is not an easy question, especially if your team is in need of both roles.
Why he should start:
- Career ERA as a starter: 3.06 and a K/BB ratio of 2.58
- Possesses four quality pitches: fastball, slider, curveball and changeup
- A starter in general is more valuable to a team because he pitches approximately three times the amount of innings a closer does
- Keeps the bullpen fresh if he can go deep into ballgames
He showed last night he can throw all four pitches effectively. Give him a few years as a starter, and he could attain a lot of confidence in all four pitches at any count.
Why he should close:
- Career ERA as a reliever: 1.53 and a K/BB ratio of 3.90
- Reaches 100 mph with his fastball and slings a nasty slider
- A closer in general is more valuable to a team because a great one can essentially shorten the game to eight innings
- Eludes the team from enduring heartbreaking losses
A flamethrower reliever like Joba only needs two pitches to do well, so he wouldn't need his curve or his change.
There is no doubt in my mind that Joba could be the Yankees' best chance at duplicating Rivera, but I think he also could develop into a front-of-the-line starter like Santana. I have always said a starter is more valuable to a team, and I am sticking to it.
Don't let the big difference in numbers deceive you, because they are actually fairly similar to what a good starter's and closer's ERA are. Relievers tend to have lower ERAs because they usually are pitching one inning in a night and can throw as hard as they want. That reason in particular affects Joba because he will lose 6-8 mph off his fastball when he starts.
Also, the Yankees have two 24-year-olds Andrew Brackman and Mark Melancon developing that could potentially replace Rivera. However, eventually people will realize that a guy like Rivera does not come along every year.