Last summer, on a hot evening in July, Joba Chamberlain utterly dominated the Red Sox. In a game the Yanks won 1-0, Joba went seven innings, giving up three hits and a walk while striking out nine.
During that game, Joba dialed up his fastball to 99 mph twice and averaged 95.51 mph for the game. He was as on as he could be. For most of the 2008 sumer, he averaged around 95 mph on his fastball, and when this season started with Joba flashing only a low 90s fastball, pundits grew worried.
To start the season against Kansas City, his fastball averaged 92.44 mph. In his next start on April 17th against Cleveland, he sat around 91.5 mph. On Friday against the Red Sox, he was at 92.39 and threw fastballs at or over 94 mph just seven times. None went faster tan 94.6.
Rob Neyer, riffing off that same John Harper column I mentioned yesterday, wondered about the velocity and Joba’s seemingly lost penchant for missing bats. Wrote Rob:
In 16 innings as a starter this year, he has struck out 11 batters and walked 10. So, yes, if he continues on this path — say, another eight or 10 starts like this — the Yankees will be forced to consider making a move, at least if Chien-Ming Wang is back in action…
Maybe Joba’s not healthy, and maybe it’s because he’s starting. But the Yankees need to be real sure about what’s going on before doing anything rash. Because it’s rapidly becoming apparent that they won’t have a great margin for error this season.
Last night, though, Joba calmed the nerves of the velocity-watchers. He struck out six in seven innings and flashed the fastball and a dominating curve. Most comforting for the worriers about us though are the numbers. He hit 96.3 miles per hour on the Gameday gun and averaged 92.76 miles per hour on his fastball. Both figures are season highs. Around 14 of his fastballs were at or over 94 miles per hour, and he induced around eight swings-and-misses after generating just two on Friday.
As Joba builds arm strength, his speed will come. It’s the nature of the beast for a young power pitcher. It’s important to remember that Joba is coming off of a late-season shoulder strain, and while the injury was minor last year, it was still an injury. As the season grows older and the weather warmer, Joba and his fastball will continue to heat up.