Joba Chamberlain: An Elite Starting Pitcher?

On yesterday's ESPN Fantasy Focus 20080620 (click to open in your media player), hosts Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz asked each other whether the other thought New York Yankees' ace-in-the-making Joba Chamberlain was a Top 20 starting pitcher in the American League. Both equivocated on whether they would rather have Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels starting pitch Joe Saunders or Joba Chamberlain for the rest of the season. As a result, they could not declare Joba Chamberlain in the Top 20 of AL starting pitchers.

I thought the answer to that question was very easy. Yes, Chamberlain is a Top 20 starting pitcher in the AL. The question should have been Top 10. To reign in my enthusiasm, I looked at the top VORPs in the AL for starting pitchers to get an idea of who has been doing the best so far this season. FWIW, Joba' VORP ranks him 27th so far. That is ahead of C.C. Sabathia (11.5) and Gavin Floyd (11.4).

Here are the Top 14 starting pitchers in the AL by VORP along with H/9, K/9 and BABIP to add some context to the VORP stat which is cumulative.

NAME TEAM H9 SO9 BABIP VORP
Cliff Lee CLE 8.28 7.43 0.3oo 30
Shaun Marcum TOR 6.57 7.84 0.228 29.5
Roy Halladay TOR 8.16 7.3 0.291 27.2
John Danks CHA 8.52 6.85 0.293 26.1
Felix Hernandez SEA 8.27 7.93 0.306 23.8
Ervin Santana ANA 7.39 8.0 0.269 23.8
Zack Greinke KCA 8.19 6.66 0.266 23.1
Scott Kazmir TBA 5.91 9.75 0.257 22.3
Jon Lester BOS 8.41 5.79 0.283 21.8
Jose Contreras CHA 8.01 5.25 0.273 21.6
Joe Saunders ANA 7.95 4.4 0.247 21.3
Justin Duchscherer OAK 6.62 6.23 0.246 21
John Lackey ANA 6.75 6.75 0.246 20.5
Rich Harden OAK 6.86 10.98 0.292 19.8
Joba Chamberlain NYA 6.86 10.5 0.300 12.1

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