Joba through the eyes of Pitch f/x

Fan Confidence Poll: April 13th, 2009
BA on Hughes & Kennedy

Before Joe Girardi managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory with his bullpen moves, Joba Chamberlain pitched well in his first start of the year, allowing just one earned run in six innings. He threw only 88 pitches because he hadn’t gone beyond the 75 pitch plateau during Spring Training, and predictably worked off his fastball. Here’s the breakdown:

Pitch Selection

I’m guessing that the two seamers are just four seamers that Pitch f/x did a shotty shoddy job of identifying. The percentages (~69% fastballs, ~27% breaking balls, ~4% changeups) are right in line with what he’s done the past two seasons. Here’s the pitch trajectories, remember to click for a larger view:

Bird's Eye View

Fastballs and changeups go one way, breaking balls go the other. That’s typically how it works. Here’s the look in from first:

First Base View

It’s cool to see just how much Joba’s offspeed pitches drop compared to his heater. Seeing this, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that he generates so many awkward looking swings and misses. Here’s what Jose Molina was seeing from behind the dish:

Catcher's View

I heart this view. It takes Joba’s fastball just under 0.39 seconds to go from his hand to the front of the plate, but it takes his slider about 0.45 seconds to make the same trip. Look at how similar the two pitches look until they’re about two-thirds of the way to the plate, when they split up and head in different directions. I’ll repeat what I said above: it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that he generates so many awkward looking swings and misses. Here’s a look at his release points:

Release Points

I’m going to start plotting these graphs on the same 2-foot by 2-foot grid that’s 18-inches from the center of home plate horizontally and 5-feet above the ground vertically. That way you can see where Joba’s pitches come from compared to say, Chin-Ming Wang’s or AJ Burnett’s. Joba was very consistent with his release point yesterday, fitting everything into a 9-inch tall by 10-inch wide box, except for that one extraneous fastball. He probably stood more towards the first base side of the rubber during that pitch, whether he realized it or not.

Much like Andy Pettitte on Friday, Joba released all his pitches from practically the same spot. Combine that with how similar his fastball and slider look alike until it’s too late, and … well … it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that he generates so many awkward looking swings and misses. Lastly, let’s take a quick look at his fastball velocity:

Fastball Velocity

The blue line is the velocity of the pitch out of his hand, the red line is the velocity of the same pitch when it crosses the plate. Joba sat 90-94 all day, touching 96, which isn’t the same 100 mph heat we’re used to seeing when he works out of the bullpen. He’s not going to throw that hard as a starter, he’s just not, but 90-94 touching a six is above average velocity and more than enough to be a dominant starter.

You can see that Joba’s fastball lost a little life as the game wore on, evidenced by the decrease in velocity at the plate. The ball was still coming out of his hand fine, but it just lost that little extra oomph as the game went on. No big deal, it’s actually pretty normal, but it’s just cool to see.

I’m not going to break down every start of the season like this, but I’ll check in every so often when someone puts together a great start or fires a stinker. Once we get a little more data for this season, I’ll take a look at some of the relievers, specifically Mariano Rivera and Edwar Ramirez because they’re “one trick ponies.” Oh, and if you’re every looking for one of these posts, search for the Pitch f/x tag.

Update (11:21am): A.D. asked to see the release point of the slider that Joba hung and John Buck appropriately deposited into the seats for a homer.It’s the big orange one:

Release Points with Buck Homer

Fan Confidence Poll: April 13th, 2009
BA on Hughes & Kennedy
  • Tripp

    His Change Up too comes in almost exactly the same as his slider and fastball two/thirds of the way in. Man, when he starts throwing a few more change ups consistently he’s really going to dominate.

  • Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    Somewhere, sometime, somehow, some day, I’ll actually be able to comprehend all of this =D

    (Well, I am better than I was, now I actually look at it…)

  • Hobs

    How is it possible that the velocity of the ball leaving his hand increased as the game went on (trend line) but the velocity a the plate decreased?

    Change in release point? Funky wind/conditions? Shitty technology?

    I know you didn’t make the data, just plotted it…but that’s kind of strange.

    • Slugger27

      it doesnt look like it did increase as the game went on… to me it looks like it stayed pretty much the same

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Take a look at the scale of that velo graph.

      It’s increasing by fractions of fractions of a single MPH. And, that trendline is just a mean, not an absolute progression.

      Statistically negligible.

  • Adam

    I’m not sure I understand the release point data. Are the axes in feet?

    • Mike Axisa

      Yeah, they’re in feet and each gridline is one inch. 0,0 is the center of the front of home plate (as is 0,0,0 in 3 dimensions)

      • Kilgore Trout

        Mike, you should do this analysis for every start.

        • andrew

          I think they have done it every game this year.

  • Slugger27

    i think 90-94 is actually pretty encouraging, considering he was clearly not a fan of the rain. if its a sunny day with no precipitation, i bet its more like 93-96 for most of the game

    • Rich

      Especially since it was his first start of the season. Power pitches often don’t reach max velo for at least a month.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Joba sat 90-94 all day, touching 96, which isn’t the same 100 mph heat we’re used to seeing when he works out of the bullpen.

      Since 93 with movement is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 99 with no movement, there is absolutely nothing in the world wrong with Joba eschewing going max effort to try to reach triple digits. I though Kyle Farnsworth and Armando Benitez taught us that lesson.

      We have fallen way too in love with the 99mph heat. It’s overrated.

      • andrew

        Since 93 with movement is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 99 with no movement control

        I don’t think problem was the amount of movement on Farnsworth or Benitez’s fastball, it was their inability to throw it for strikes. I think if either of them were able to spot their 99 MPH heat on the corners, they’d both be incredibly dominant relievers.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Good correction.

  • rafael

    Okay, a little off-topic, but…
    Perhaps I’m missing a joke or something, but I always thought the word was spelled “shoddy,” not with Ts…am I wrong? The curiosity has been building as I’ve seen it repeatedly over the last couple days (I know, I wonder about weird things).

    • Slugger27

      it is “shoddy”… misspelling and grammar generally arent a concern on a sports blog though

      • rafael

        Like I said, curiosity. Not criticizing.

    • Mike Axisa

      I fixed it. I fial at speling.

      • Slugger27


    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Glad I’m not the only person out there who caught that… But I think this is probably the type of thing you could privately email the author about instead of making it a public discussion.

      • steve (different one)

        that was a shod at rafael.

        • Slugger27


  • A.D.

    Do you guys know which of the slider release points was the hanger that Buck hit out?

    • Mike Axisa

      Yeah, give me a second and I’ll update the post.

    • Mike Axisa

      Updated now, at the end of the post.

      • A.D.

        Thanks, interesting nothing strange about the release point, was thinking it might be one of the outliers.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Wasn’t Coney saying during the middle innings there that Joba wasn’t breaking his hands quick enough? There’s probably several mechanical issues he could have that would take the bite off his slider where he’d still have the same release point and just be early or late in his motion…

          • A.D.

            Yeah, and thus the arm trails and don’t get the right movement.

            The hanger will be some type of mechanical problem, just not a pure physical release point one.

  • Hobs

    Woah, did you guys see Santana’s comments basically throwing Murphy under the bus for blowing yesterday’s game?

  • FL Yank

    You forgot to mention how many awkward swings and misses Joba generates.

  • Tom

    Hi, are there any physicists or people who have read that book on the physics of baseball that could explain better how a ball could lose speed at the plate compared to out of the hand over the course of the game? Could it be less spin on the ball? The wet conditions? Errors in data collection? Its interesting.

    • Hobs

      Yeah that’s what I was wondering too.

      If the data is accurate, it’s got to be that he as he was tiring the spin on his 4-seamer wasn’t as ‘tight’. This probably prevented the ball from ‘cutting’ through the air as smoothly, increasing it’s drag.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Well, I’m not a physicist nor have I read the book, but it seems fairly straightforward that every pitch naturally declines in velocity as it travels through the air and wind drag slows it down.

      Fastballs decline in speed less, since they have a tighter spin (and thus, generate less drag?), but every pitch will arrive in the catchers mitt at a slower speed than it left the pitcher’s hand.

      • Whozat

        Yes, but the magnitude of the drop on speed increased over the course of the game

        • A.D.

          My guess in this game, the weather definitely had something to do with that.

          • kunaldo

            yeah cutting through rain is sure to create some additional resistance…so that’s probably it

          • whozat

            Sure; but how? What was the mechanism? If is was harder to grip the ball, did that mean that Joba couldn’t generate as much backspin? Maybe his forearm tired, and that led to less backsping? Perhaps his whole body tired, and that meant he wasn’t driving as hard with his lower body, and it has nothing to do with backspin? Maybe he was being slightly more careful about his footing?

            Just to be clear, I am NOT concerned about Joba here…I’m just curious about what leads to this phenomenon in general, because I enjoy the understanding of things.

            • Joseph Pawlikowski

              “I’m just curious about what leads to this phenomenon in general, because I enjoy the understanding of things.”

              And that’s why we like you.

            • A.D.

              Well in terms of the mechanism for the weather as it began to rain harder the ball is going to have more resistance for it to reach home plate. Give that we’re saying the velocity out of the hang is staying the same, that means the ball is facing more resistance, thus slowing it down, before reaching home plate. It yesterdays game the rain seems to be the very obvious culprit, especially as it was raining harder as Joba’s start went on, and then eventually letting up.

              If we see something similar in a clear day, in which there doesn’t appear to be outside factors then perhaps its something with follow through, or some other pitching mechanics/fatigue phenomenon.

              • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Rain + humidity. Don’t forget that.

                More humid air causes balls to pick up more drag and thus, lose more speed inflight.

                This is why the thinner, less dense, less humid air at Coors allows balls to travel faster, and why power pitchers fare better there than breaking ball pitchers do. Fastballs are faster, breaking balls break less.

                (and mistake pitches are crushed harder, of course…)

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Meh, like Mike said, it’s common. And again, consider the scale: that’s a 1mph drop in end velo over the course of those 88 pitches. No big deal.

          Virtually every power pitcher, even the best, will have a redline with a more pronounced drop than his blueline. Halladay, Johan, CC, everybody, their lines either stay the same or drop an MPH or two over the course of their start.

          • kunaldo

            tsjc, i dont think he’s a) questioning why a starter’s velocity would drop towards the end of the start or b) that the release velocity is different than the plate velocity…

            he’s simply wondering why a lower release velocity earlier in the game led to a higher plate velocity than later in the game(ex. 93 release -> 88 plate, then later in the game, 96 release -> 86 plate)…like is it less spin on the ball, the rain…what would make it disproportionately change like that

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Ah, okay.

              Perhaps, as whozat suggested, as a pitcher tires he loses the ability to generate enough arm action to get backspin as tight as his earlier fastballs?

              I quibble with your example, though, because it’s a bit of a red herring that can lead us down the wrong path. “93 release -> 88 plate, then later in the game, 96 release -> 86 plate” isn’t really what’s happening here, IMO.

              More like: 94 release-88 plate (loss of 6mph), then later in the game 93 release-86 plate (loss of 7mph).

              Joba’s mean end velo dropped a single MPH, his mean start velo remained level. It’s not like his fastball was losing only 5mph during flight at the start of the game and then started losing 10mph at the end of the game (like you claimed in your proposed example). That’s a mischaracterization of the data.

              I’m also interested in learning more about the physics of it, but let’s not start creating bridges out of thin air for us to leap off of.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    You added a pie chart.

    Somewhere, DBHOF is rolling over in his grave.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    No Gazoo….:(

  • Steve B-BALL

    Blah, Blah Blah
    I enjoy reading all the “stuff” on River Ave Blues, but give me a break , what’s all the B.S. about release points etc.
    If you pitch a good game you Win if you pitch a shitty game you lose!
    Joba was fine…. It was Girardi and his awful handling of his Bullpen….. COke o my gawd worthless, not to mention Cody ” what am I doing in the Majors” Ransome
    It’s no wonder he never made the “Show”… he has no idea how to hit a Curveball or anything other than a dead red fastball.
    And Centerfield…… oh no What a choice Gardner or Melki
    Gardner and his power stroke… can he hit it out of the infgield on a fly?? Not to mention his fielding has (to be kind) sucked, especially his throw to home!!! or should we call it his roll to home!
    Let’s hope that Tex is back at first tonite and Wang can give us 7 good innings!

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Understanding things >>>>>>>>>>>>> knowing things

    • Mike Pop

      Good post, compelling and rich.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        That lady was going to go jump in the water at the German zoo, but they were like, “Nope, that’s a live bear in there, he will literally rip your face off.”

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        You know what else was compelling and rich?

        (Whoah, sorry… I’m kinda waiting for a fantasy football victory bragging-session to pop out of nowhere. Got a little carried away)

    • RichYF

      Well, I’m convinced. Excellent arguments. Glad to have you aboard.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Easy, there…

        When we put together our RAB B-Ball team and take on NoMaas and WasWatching in the YankeeBlog 3-on-3 halfcourt tourney, you’re gonna be glad Steve’s around.

        • Slugger27


    • whozat

      Posts like this anger me for a number of different reasons.

      A) They’re selfish. Just because you didn’t find this interesting doesn’t mean other readers did too.

      B) What are you complaining about? That it wasted your time? It cost you MORE time to come write this post.

      C) THE BLOG IS FREE. These men generate content because they love the Yankees, and they love thinking about the Yankees and baseball, and they want to bring other people who love those things here so that we can all talk about it and have interesting discourse. And yet you feel like they owe you something because you’ve graced their site with your eyeballs?

      D) MANY other sites provide the kind of content you’re looking for. “Great start by Joba; hope Tex is healthy and Wang returns to form!!” has no value. We all saw that Joba did a good job, and we all hope that the Yanks experience health and success. This site provides deep analysis and thought-provoking discussion. If you just want to read mindless claptrap, go to

      • Slugger27

        “if you pitch a good game you win if you pitch a shitty game you lose”

        why does mike bother posting release point and trajectory information for us to better understand the success of a pitcher when this golden rule is really all we need?

        we all assume steves a moron, but maybe hes just sooo genius that he just blew our minds

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          we all assume steves a moron, but maybe hes just sooo genius that he just blew our minds

          Did you ever see The Highlander?

          It won the Oscar, for best movie… ever.

        • A.D.

          “if you pitch a good game you win if you pitch a shitty game you lose”

          Tell that to Johan Santana after yesterday’s performance.

    • Rebecca-Optimist Prime

      I don’t understand it at all, but it’s not my blog. Anyway, the comments make it worthwhile.

      • Slugger27

        what is it u dont understand? i find the graphs to be pretty straight-forward

        • andrew

          It took me a few games to get a handle on the graphs, but now I understand them. Give it some time Rebecca.

  • Adam

    What exactly defines a consistent release point? How many inches deviation is considered good versus bad?

    My b if you already explained this in another post.

    • whozat

      I don’t know that you can define it like that, necessarily. In an ideal case, all pitches are released from the same point so that they all look the same to the batter for as long as possible. And, also, consistent release point is one component of consistent mechanics, which leads to better command and control.

      But then you get a guy like David Cone, who threw all kinds of pitches from all kinds of different angles later in his career. But, basically, the tighter clustered the release points, the better.

      I’d love to see some analysis of Mo. I betcha his release points are all within a 2×2 in box, and we eventually realize that he is a pitching robot who was manufactured in a secret Panamanian lab in the early 70’s.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        But then you get a guy like David Cone, who threw all kinds of pitches from all kinds of different angles later in his career. But, basically, the tighter clustered the release points, the better.

        This is a great point. A guy like Cone had so many release points it made it harder for a hitter to pick up the ball initially, changing the plane of his vision. That can be a great weapon.

        I’d guess though (without actually looking at Cone’s release point plots) that he probably still had between two to four clusters of release points, generally speaking. His “over the top” release points, his three-quarters release points, his sidearm release points, etc. It probably resembles three groupings of plots rather than a full, unbroken arc.

        Making him consistently inconsistent. Just my guess.

        • andrew

          Agreed. The idea behind that is if you can control where your arm is going, you can do a better job of controlling where the ball is going. So, it wasn’t as if Cone was flailing his arms about randomly. I’m guessing, as you said, that he chose a few different slots to throw from, and was able to hit those slots pretty consistently. If he didn’t hit those spots consistently, he probably wouldn’t have been an effective pitcher. Repeatability in a delivery is very important to being able to control your pitches.

  • Pel

    Nice work, Mike.

    Also, the stray release point furthest to the right is the John Buck error-single-error.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


      A bit ironic that the pitch that is the biggest mechanical outlier was hit fairly weakly and should have been an out.

  • UWS

    Mike, when you have a chance, do you think you could do a comparison between CC’s f/x in his first and second start? I think it might be interesting to see how he adjusted.

  • CB


    As you point out those two pitches identified as two seam fast ball could have been four seamers but I’m not sure that’s the most probable explanation.

    If you look at the pitch spin data those two pitches had a spin which would have placed them at the very extreme of the range at which Joba’s four seamer works at.

    This is particularly clear if you look at the release point corrected spin direction angle data. If they were truly four seamers they would have been at the extreme range of Joba’s typical four seam range and they would have also been comparatively low velocity for his four seamer(both pitches were around 89).

    I think it’s possible that two other pitches pitch f/x classified as 4 seamers were also two seamers.

    I bring this up because Joba had quite a bit of success last year when he used his two seamer when he was starting. I’d like to see him use it more often.

    BTW this pitch f/x section you guys have started is great. Congrats.

    • whozat

      NO! It’s TERRIBLE!!!!

      Win = good pitching, lose = bad pitching!!!!

      Only NERDS would look at it any other way!

  • Elle

    Just got into a fight with my boss about the immortal Joba-should-be-in-the-bullpen issue. Thanks for all your great posts about how stupid that is, so I could tell my boss he was being stupid. He still disagrees with me, but he has nothing to back it up.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Stab him.

      Put him out of the misery that is his life.

      • Elle

        SO TEMPTING. But I can watch more Yankee games if I stay out of jail, so for now he will remain un-stabbed.

  • donttradecano

    Just curious where do you guys find all this info? I assume you put the graphs together yourself, but where do you get the info?

    • Mike Axisa

      MLBAM makes it freely available online.

      • donttradecano

        thanks, but everything i click on seems impossible to read… am i doing something wrong?

        • Mike Axisa

          No, you have to save that info and import the XML file into a spreadsheet program. It gives you a gigantic table that you have to sort out for the info you’re looking for.

          If you google “how to abalyze pitch f/x data” or something of that nature you’ll come across some how to’s.

          • donttradecano

            cool thanks.