Apr
30

Building starts, building velocity

By

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.

Categories : Pitching

76 Comments»

  1. jsbrendog says:

    he’s heating up!

    nba jaaaaaaaaaaam

    there is nothing to see here folks. seriously, he iwll b fine. why does everyone try to find something wrong with anything? can’t the media focus on the good stuff? like how dirty zack greinke and edinson volquez are?

  2. steve (different one) says:

    here is my BS amateur opinion: Joba has been holding back out of fear of re-injury. once he gains more confidence, he will start popping off 95-97 MPH fastballs again.

    from the 4th inning on last night, he was a totally different pitcher than we have seen all season. why? i’m guessing it’s just because he relaxed with a 6 run lead. he relaxed, his delivery became free and easy, and the velocity started climbing.

    • I agree. It took Phil Hughes ~1.5 years to get over what happened in Texas (and later), so it’s not surprising to see Joba do the same when it happened to him.

    • Joe R says:

      I noticed this as well. He kind of could pitch without worrying of trying to be perfect. As Hughes learned and Joba is learning, you dont always have to paint the black and try to nibble. Pitching to contact isnt always a bad thing so long as you put the ball where its called for. Hopefully we get this ball rolling now.

    • Chris says:

      I thought they mentioned (on radio or YES) that Eiland worked with him to modify his mechanics to prevent shoulder injuries, and that may have taken a little bit off his fastball.

  3. Mattingly's Love Child says:

    I wanted to make a sarcastic B-Jobber comment, but I’ll refrain.

    We can do without the hysterical morons. How many starters have averaged around 95mph for an entire season? It seems to be a very difficult thing to do. My guess is that most big time power pitchers have swings in velocity over the course of a season, starting slow, building up, then maybe a dead arm period, then back to throwing thunder and lightening, etc… And as important as velocity is, what matters is getting batters out right?

    Thank you Ben for continuing to be a voice of reason amid the noise of the B-Jobbers!

  4. kunaldo says:

    this is why neyer is great, he’s rational:

    “Here’s the thing, though — why would we assume that moving to the bullpen will magically cure whatever is ailing Chamberlain? Isn’t it likely that the same qualities that made him a dominant starter contributed to him being a blow-’em-away reliever?”

  5. Expired Milk says:

    Dosent how “lower” velocity have alot to do with him throwing two seamers lately? I was only concerned that he was holding back. You can tell he can sit 95 but was trying to nibble around in previous starts.

    • Chris says:

      I think the 2-seamers may be a part of the answer. That’s a pitch that he didn’t throw much last season, and generally comes in a couple MPH slower.

      • huuz says:

        chris, you are correct.

        Joba commented at the end of last year about taking a bit off his FB to improve control. furthermore, many reports from PeteAbe and others this spring have noted that Joba has been watching CC and others–noting how they are trying to achieve economy of pitches instead of a K each batter.

        last night was good evidence of this. even in the inning where he walked 3 guys he only threw 21 pitches. he had 5 pitches in another inning.

        i confess to some concerns about his apparent drop in speed, but there is evidence that he’s pitching to contact on purpose in order to last more innings…

        • Interesting that Burnett is now here and he’s spoken of this strategy as well (stop throwing max effort/max velocity in order to maintain better control/command and reduce injury).

          Perhaps that’s the unintentional benefit of choosing Burnett over Lowe (or Sheets)… he can be a good mentor to our young, injury risk power pitchers.

          (Yes, Mike Pop, feel free to resume gloating.)

  6. El Generalissimo says:

    This is a non-issue… He is clearly just building arm strength early in the season and listening to AJ Burnett’s dont throw as hard as possible all game approach. Combined he has been conserving himself and once he gets to his spot he will be money.

  7. A.D. says:

    Joba also could be feeling a little pressure from Hughes and the expected future rotation crunch.

    • Chris C. says:

      Good……these guys need a little pressure. The worst thing the Yankees did was hand these guys jobs last year.
      Competitive pressure is a good thing.

      • steve (different one) says:

        except everyone forgets that the plan was always to move Joba into the rotation last year, meaning Hughes and Kennedy were always competing for that last rotation spot from day one.

      • The worst thing the Yankees did was hand these guys jobs last year.

        While it may have been the worst thing for 2008, it’s probably paying benefits for 2009 and beyond. Their struggles last year probably make them better pitchers going forward, and had we taken a different approach and brought in established veterans last year and forced the kids to sit, we’d probably have a larger, more difficult pitching logjam to deal with and Joba/Hughes/Kennedy would be buried in Scranton for the foreseeable future.

        2008′s cloud = 2009′s silver lining.

        • Chris says:

          If they pitch well this year, then how can you really say it was such a bad decision last year? It’s basically impossible to predict which year they will make a jump from struggling young pitcher to solid MLB pitcher. In hindsight it obviously didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision at the time.

          • Exactly.

            I’m disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs in 2008, but going with the youngsters is something I do not regret, even though they struggled.

            • Chris C. says:

              Oh, I don’t regret giving the youngsters a chance. But they were given spots in the rotation, and this came off an offseason where they were mentioned in trade rumors for the best pitcher on the planet.

              If all the pressure they felt last season prepared them for this season, than that’s great.

        • Chris C. says:

          Good point……they learned the hard way.

  8. Count Zero says:

    It was nice to see the “blow-you-away” stuff last night.

    But even more than that, I was impressed by his ability to do it while conserving pitches and energy. I know there was no reason to do it, but he looked like he could’ve thrown a CG last night if he had needed to. He’s getting smarter as a pitcher.

    If he can do that and still bring the extra-nasty when he needs it, beware AL. I <3 teh Joba.

  9. A.D. says:

    I certainly hope the last two nights is something we can hope to watch for the next 10+ years with those 2 going out and giving back to back top performances.

  10. tarik says:

    We all wan’t Joba to pitch the 8th inning. Some of us just want him to pitch 1-7 also.

  11. tarik says:

    Sorry, want*.

  12. Nice to know that the baseball writers who should know that it takes time to build velocity…don’t.

  13. Stuckey says:

    Anyone who “worries” about Chamberlain or even Phil Hughes for that matter should take a gander at Zack Greike’s major league career.

    Well under .500 (yeah, for the Royals, which is a factor) and rocking a plus-4 ERA up until this year.

    Sometimes it a takes a few years to put it all together.

    Personally, considering his off-season, I think Chamberlain was putting a enormous amount of pressure on himself to be lights out.

    Getting a six-run lead seems to have nearly instantly allowed him to release the deep breath he’s been carrying around and just throw free and easy.

    • jsbrendog says:

      and edinson volquez.

      that hamilton for vilquez trade was a swap of “faileD” prospects to get them a change of scenery. BANG look what happened.

      • Stuckey says:

        Ummm, I don’t think Hamilton was a failed prospect trade. He had a really good year for the Reds his first year. Think it was more a matter can he stay healthy/can he do it consistently/Reds needed pitching.

        I worry somewhat about Hamilton, though. Since his magical All-Star game, he’s been somewhat ordinary.

        I think he needs to stop being an inspirational story and just be a baseball player for a while.

        • Matt ACTY says:

          You think Cincy would wanna re-do that trade? I know Volquez was solid for them last year but their OF is just anemic and a half right now.

          • jsbrendog says:

            yes, i do. a pitcher of volquez’s quality >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> an of power bat.

            thinking long term

            • Agreed. Volquez is younger than Hamilton, and while Hamilton is a good hitter, he’s not as good as he seems. Arlington inflates his numbers quite a bit.

              Moreover, the Reds outfield is crappy, but they’ve got some decent prospects enroute. I think they do the Volquez swap again if given the chance, he’s got a chance to be their stud ace.

    • andrew says:

      Exactly, this is where the MSM comes into play. If Greinke were on the Yankees or Sox, his development may have been handled differently. Instead, the Royals now have one of the best starters in the league.

    • Stuckey says:

      Its dangerous to over-analyze 3 innings, but after the Cabrera K and the 7 run outburst, Chamberlain went

      swinging k
      swinging k
      opposite field flyout

      swinging k
      swinging k
      opposite field groundout

      3 groundouts on 5 pitches. One a bunt, the other two opposite field.

      Then cleaned up his own messs in the 7th.

      • Am I the only Kevin? says:

        He clearly just started throwing and challenging hitters after the runs came in, and, lo and behold, not only did his stuff improve, but so did his command. The YES commentators even noted how fast he was working in between pitches and batters.

        Joba should take that mentality to the mound in inning 1 every night. He appears to guide his pitches early in games as opposed to throwing with conviction (his follow-through appears abbreviated almost). Hope Eiland and Co. show him before and after video of last night’s performance.

        • whozat says:

          It really did seem like night and day. Perhaps the difference is not so much between Joba as a starter and Joba as a reliever, but Joba with a lead and Joba without a lead. When it’s tied or he’s losing, he seems to pitch more cautiously. Fortunately, that’s a lesson that young guys can learn. Jon Lester’s first two seasons, he was basically a 5 inning pitcher because he’d nibble and walk guys and use 100 pitches before you knew it. After he grew up a bit, he turned into the guy we see now.

          The people who point to Joba’s inefficiency at age 23 as a reason he needs to be in the pen annoy me. PLENTY of guys who’ve gone on to be successful have been like that early on.

          • The people who point to Joba’s inefficiency at age 23 as a reason he needs to be in the pen annoy me. PLENTY of guys who’ve gone on to be successful have been like that early on.

            That’s something completely ignored in many of these debates and early assessments of Hughes and Joba (and Kennedy to a degree). Hughes is still 22; Joba is 23. These kids are younger than I am, and they’re still learning how to succeed in the Bigs. For all that, they’re not doing a bad job of it, but patience with youngsters is a virtue.

          • Am I the only Kevin? says:

            I agree about lead vs. no lead being the mental trigger to Joba’s tentativeness in the early going. Joba also (IMO), however, steps up the intensity a bit when he gets runners on. See how he pitched differently once he got himself into the bases loaded jam.

            Don’t get me wrong. I want Joba in the rotation, not the pen. I think, however, he may have bought into the media hype about having a reliever mentality vs. a starter mentality. Eiland needs to kill that crap quickly and tell him to pitch like innings 5-7 last night all the time.

            What is the common element? Whether pitching with a significant lead or pitching in the eighth protect a lead, Joba should come straight at the hitters. He will economize pitches by not pussy footing around and getting hitters out early, not by pitching at 80% effort and trying to paint the black by guiding every pitch (as he appears to do at times, including early last night).

            Regardless of whether he is pitching as a starter or reliever, Joba needs to be aggressive and throw early strikes to be at his most effective.

            • “I think, however, he may have bought into the media hype about having a reliever mentality vs. a starter mentality.”

              This is one of my favorite MSM memes. Reliever mentality. Bulldog. Hungry. Emotional.

              Yet the greatest reliever in the history of the game is downright Stoic out there. The concept of reliever mentality, along with dozens of other popular baseball memes, is largely bullshit.

  14. Rob in CT says:

    Last night definitely calmed me. I had become a little concerned about Joba’s stuff.

    The one bad inning (3BBs is bad, though happily Joba got out of it with little damage) aside, he was great.

  15. jsbrendog says:

    for the first 4 innings i was yelling at the tv the same thing i did for phil’s start. “Too many pitches Joba/Philly!!!!”

    but where Phil couldnt reign it in joba did a great job of maximizing it and hitting a groove. he threw too many pitches his first 3/4 innings and then the light went on and bang. unhittable. its amazing to watch. God I cant even begin to picture a week where burnett, joba, cc are all on. like, ON. itd make a complete game shutout by pettitte look pedestrian cause he’d prob only have 3-5 ks haha. so dirty

  16. Ok, guys, question:

    Who was better: Joba or Phil?

    • Nady Nation says:

      Joba. More innings, more economical with his pitches. Phil was no slouch, though.

      • jsbrendog says:

        agreed, you’d take both starts in a heartbeat no question, but you’d rather see mroe of joba’s start than phil’s in a perfect world.

    • steve (different one) says:

      Joba, but i think Hughes could have been more efficient with a better strike zone.

      he wasn’t getting anything, whereas Porcello threw a pitch 6 inches outside to Jeter and it was strike 3. different umps, i know…

      but if Phil saves about 5 pitches, he could pitch 7 innings on about 110 pitches. not bad at all.

    • gxpanos says:

      Joba, for sure. Loved Phil, obviously, but Molina moved the glove quite a bit, even for a young pitcher. It also seems like the cutter doesn’t cut the same way every time, which is a little troubling. He got outs because of the novelty of the pitch, but I think we’re going to go through a few bad Phranchise starts until he can really get the pitch where he wants it to go, and not fattening out or darting to unexpected places.

      I echo the sentiment in this thread about how Joba got better when he started throwing in the late innings, not aiming or guiding. His ball-strike ratio got better as the game went on, AND he missed more bats. I guarantee that wasn’t lost on Joba, Jorgie, or Long Eiland.

      • Talk about finding negativity in a good start.

        • gxpanos says:

          Do you disagree with me?

          I loved it overall, I even like Phranchise more than Joba (maybe that’s why I scrutinize him like I do). I especially like the harder curve, it’s nastier than the old one, and I don’t think the hangers will get hit as hard as the slow curve hangers.

          • dudes says:

            i happy that phil was missing his spots. he missed a lot with fastball and cutter, i agree.

            despite missing a lot, he pitched six shutout innings.

            this is encouraging–what will we see when he’s on.

  17. Kayp says:

    Did you guys see how BBTN only showed clips of joba’s fastball clocking around 91-92 but not of those hitting 94-95, what a bunch of biased (********)you know what.

  18. dkidd says:

    “rapidly becoming apparent they wont have a great margin for error”

    i’ll enjoy looking back on this quote when were absolutely dominating in july

  19. Rich says:

    If Joba and Phil continue to pitch the way they did this week, I wouldn’t take them out of the rotation, no matter what.

  20. [...] Building starts, building velocity / Meanwhile, back in the Bronx … [...]

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