Getting up to speed with Joba Chamberlain

Yanks blow two leads, but come back to beat M's
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The Pitch F/X chart of Joba’s fastball velocity over time. (Click to enlarge in a new window)

As Joba Chamberlain skyrocketed his way through the Yankee organization as a starter, the book on him was velocity. During his 2006 appearance in the Hawaiian leagues, Joba was, according to Baseball America’s 2007 prospect list, sitting at 94-97 with his fastball.

The following year, John Manuel had even more glowing praise to offer the Yanks’ youngster. “He reached 100 mph with his fastball as a reliever,” Manuel wrote as he anointed Joba as the Yanks’ top prospect in 2008, “and more impressively can sit at 96-97 mph when he starts.”

Last season, as the Yanks transitioned Joba from Major League reliever to a Major League starter, we saw the velocity and the stuff with our own eyes. Pitching out of the rotation from June until August 4, Joba lived in the upper 90s. His fastball would range from around 94 mph to 100, occasionally dipping lower but not by much. His average was always at 95 or above.

As we all know, on August 4, disaster struck. Joba had to leave a start in Texas — the same mound upon which Phil Hughes ruptured his hamstring in 2007 — with a sore shoulder. He would miss much of August and would return to the bullpen in September. Outside of one or two appearances, his velocity in September was far lower than it had been as a starter in 2008 or as a reliever in 2007 and 2008. He was sitting in the low 90s with peaks at around 97 and an average of around 92. On the season, his final fastball average was 95.2.

This year has seen Joba pick up where he left off in September. Early on in the season, I raised an eyebrow at Joba’s velocity but chalked it up to April. Power pitchers can take a few starts to warm up, and as April turned to May, Joba’s fastball creeped up past those 95- and 96-mph marks. And then it didn’t.

Two back-to-back starts at the end of May and beginning of June highlighted the velocity discrepancies. Against the Rangers in May, Joba’s fastball averaged just over 90 mph, and he peaked around 93. Against the Indians five days later, he had the best fastball of the year, averaging just under 95 and peaking at just over 97. He hasn’t really reached that level yet.

Last night, as the game wore on, Michael Kay, Kenny Singleton and Paul O’Neill noted that Joba’s velocity just wasn’t there. While Joba dialed it up to 95.3 at one point, the velocity histogram from Pitch F/X shows that he was sitting mostly below 91. On the night, his average velocity was again at 92 mph.

At this point, I don’t know what to make of this, and I don’t know why Joba has seemingly lost three miles per hour on his fastball following a shoulder injury last August. If he were hurt, the Yanks wouldn’t be sending him out there every five days, and the team has to be aware of this dip in velocity as well.

For now, it’s not hurting the Yanks. They’re 10-5 in games Joba starts, and while he’s not giving them distance, he’s still striking out better than eight men per nine innings pitched. It’s worth noting too that his breaking pitches haven’t seen a concurrent drop in velocity either. In fact, his curveball is a bit faster this year than it was last year. That’s a different topic altogether but one that could explain Joba’s problems putting hitters away.

Furthermore, moving Joba to the bullpen simply isn’t the answer. If his velocity is lower now as a starter than it was last year also as a starter, it is illogical to assume that he would magically rediscover six or eight miles per hour as a reliever.

As I said, I have no answers. I don’t even know if we should worry about it, per se. It’s something to watch as the season drags on, and if, by the end of the year, the velocity hasn’t returned, then we can start to wonder about the long-term implications of Joba Chamberlain’s Amazing Disappearing Fastball.

Yanks blow two leads, but come back to beat M's
Quick Hits: Yankee Stadium, Mariano, Halsey, IIATMS
  • donttradecano

    hasnt there been times where hes hit 95 consistently in a start this year? if so, whats the deal with that?

  • Matt ACTY/BBD

    I think we start to worry about the drop in velocity if it comes with a drop in strikeouts, or if his slider starts to get flat, or if his curveball isn’t breaking as much, etc.

    • Mike Axisa

      The thing is the usually picks up velocity later in the game. We say it in Detroit, against the Sox, in Cleveland, last night … pretty much all his starts.

      Maybe he’s just taking something off early to try to get quick outs? I don’t get it.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        Right, I agree. He tends to throw harder as the game goes along so it seems that he’s just saving himself so he has something left in the tank in the latter innings. The problem, though, is that he’s not letting himself get to the later innings (whatever, as long as he gets through five I’m alright) because of his tendency to nibble with his breaking stuff against poor hitters.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      “I think we start to worry about the drop in velocity if it comes with a drop in strikeouts…”

      Well, it has come with a drop in strikeouts.

      I don’t point that out because I think anyone needs to be freaking out about this, but his numbers have slipped, and I think it’s something to keep an eye on. Just my opinion, but I think considering his 2008 injury and relatively weird offseason, maybe he’s just not in the best shape and maybe he’s also still working back into the swing of things mechanics/conditioning-wise. But, still, the numbers have dipped, and at some point it would be nice to see him start to get back to his prior levels.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        I meant a drop this year; obviously, he’s not going to rack up the strikeouts like he did in the ‘pen. And though he’s down from the ~10.something K/9 he put up last year as a starter, the mark he’s at now, ~8.something, isn’t bad. If it dips below 8 I’d be frustrated and below 7, I’d be worried.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Yeah, but you’re trying to have it both ways right now… His strikeout rate has dropped in 2009 from the levels he reached in 2008 as a starter (don’t even bother with his numbers out of the bullpen, they’re irrelevant).

          His strikeout rate has dropped. You may think it’s not so bad right now, but that’s irrelevant to your point. You were the one who said “we should worry if his strikeout rate drops,” and it has.

          • Matt ACTY/BBD

            Then I mis-worded what I said, I should’ve specified in this, the 2009 season. I’m happy with an 8+ K/9 from Chamberlain. I’d be happier with the 10+ we saw last year, but I’m not exactly disappointed too much by what it is now.

            All in all, it would seem that maintaining good strikeout numbers for Chamberlain is not necessarily dependent on his fastball’s velocity.

            • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              “All in all, it would seem that maintaining good strikeout numbers for Chamberlain is not necessarily dependent on his fastball’s velocity.”

              Don’t you think you’re sugarcoating this a bit? Granted we only have 2 less-than-complete seasons to compare, but the only data we have available to us shows a correlation between a drop in Chamberlain’s velocity and a drop in his strikeout rate. Of course that could just be a coincidence, but it’s not reasonable to say the line quoted above based on the data available right now. It could be a coincidence, but based on the only data available to us right now, it would seem that it’s not.

              • Matt ACTY/BBD

                That’s a good point, but he’s still maintaining an above league average strikeout rate (Joba: 8.1, AL avg [note: not adjusted for SP/RP, just a raw average]: 6.8) despite sitting at “only” 92 MPH wit his fastball. I’ll definitely admit, though, that if he’s only sitting 92, he won’t strike guys out as much as he did as a starter last year unless his slider gets even better and his curveball and changeup improve drastically as well.

                • OmgZombies!

                  Who cares about his K/9 when his WHIP and ERA have shot up.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      I disagree, I think it is just about time to start worrying. He hasn’t had consistent velocity since his arm injury. To me, that means that there is something wrong. It could be simple, such as him babying the arm. It could be complex, his changed mechanics may be uncomfortable and difficult for him to repeat. Or he could be hurt and not saying anything (least likely, since he has shown flashes of his old fastball).

      Even if he’s striking out 8+ batters per 9, he’s not the same pitcher that we and the Yankees all banked on him being (and I’m not talking about the one with an ERA below 1.00). So it is time to get worried, we’re almost halfway through the season. There is time to get him figured out before he has to shut it down for the innings limit. But that time is rapidly shrinking.

      • Benjamin Kabak

        He hasn’t had consistent velocity since his arm injury.

        That’s not exactly true. He’s had consistent velocity since his arm injury. It’s been consistently three miles per hour lower on average than it was before the arm injury.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          But with the occasional spikes for the Indians and Red Sox games.

          Consistently lower with occasional upticks is probably a better way to put it.

  • Teix is the Man

    maybe he doesn’t throw eough consecutive fastballs to get to that velocity

  • jonathan

    Personally I think that he is trying to get his arm speed to be the same and comfortable with all of his pitches. If it is not a problem with is arm than it must be machanical, I just hope that its for productive reasons.

    • dan

      I agree. Out of the pen he used, what, 2 pitches? Now he’s got 4 or 5 to toy with and keep the same deliberate delivery with so as not to tip his pitches. It’s a process. I’ll worry when the results warrant trepidation.

      It’s probably way more mental than anything else. Hence the 1st inning routine, inability to accept what Jorge is putting down, and long stretches when men reach base.

  • aaron empty

    wow that is scary…

  • A.D.

    I’m really not worried about the velocity dip, he’s still effective, and his fastball velocity isn’t what’s holding him back, its throwing strikes. Pretty much what Joba has proven is even without sitting 95+ he can still be an incredible talent.

    There’s all kinds of reasons we could throw out there from recovering shoulder injury, to conditioning, to mechanics that could explain velo. Since he’s still shown he can dial it up to 95+ we know its there, so he hasn’t lost it, he’s just not able (or doesn’t want to) use it regularly.

    • Mike Axisa

      Yeah, maybe he’s just scared to air it out. I mean, we’ve seen it this year. He was in the high-90’s against Boston and Detroit and Cleveland. It was in there.

      • Klemy

        That’s how I’ve been thinking as well. I have felt like he’s laying off it early on, since he is effective regardless. It feels to me like he’s trying to save gas in the tank to go deeper, though he’s not really making it far anyway. Maybe due to the injury, he feels like he needs to not throw as hard as a starter or he just needs time to build confidence in the shoulder again?

  • Todd

    “…(The doctor) told me part of the reason my velocity dropped from my college days is because of (the ligament). It slowly just got stretched out and it’s been taking it’s toll.” –George Kontos (6/30/09) after learning he needs TJS.

    I hope this is not the case for Joba. Kontos was able to pitch for several years after college before shutting it down.

  • Rockdog

    Perhaps he is taking something off his fastball in order to locate it better. I thought that young starters often learned to not overthrow in order to “place” pitches better. Is it possible that this is part of the answer?

    • Benjamin Kabak

      He had no problems locating last year with a faster fastball.

      Maybe the Yanks never should have jerked him around by sticking him in the bullpen in the first place.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Maybe the Yanks never should have jerked him around by sticking him in the bullpen in the first place.

        I have nothing to add, I just wanted to repeat that louder to make sure everyone heard you.

      • Mark Da Rosa

        Maybe the Yankees messed with his mechanics because of the injury he suffered last season in Arlington and they do not want him to the same injury.

      • MattG

        Maybe the Yanks never should have jerked him around by sticking him in the bullpen in the first place.

        What examples/research are you going to cite for writing such a thing? There is no reason to believe that “jerking him around by placing him in the bullpen” would affect his ability to throw hard. This sentence made my blood boil a bit.

  • Mike

    After watching him throw last night, I think his mechanics are different. YES would show replays from time to time with a camera angle from the first base side. In this film you can see that he is throwing across his body instead of allowing everything to flow towards the plate. I noticed this early in the season, but never put much thought into it. It would be interesting to see 2007 film from the same angle to compare the difference. Did he change his mechanics after the injury last year? I believe he still has the 95+mph stuff as we saw in Cleveland this year. Any thoughts?

    • JohnnyC

      My 2 cents: it is a question of altered mechanics. And it’s frustrating that no one at the major league level has been able to either identify it or remedy it. Wouldn’t it make sense for Joba to consult with Nardi Conteras, the man who cleaned up his mechanics in the first place and added 5+ mph to his fastball? This is a no-brainer, Cash.

  • DontmesswiththeJesus

    I still contend it’s mental with Joba. He hasn’t fully adjusted to being a starter in the majors yet. This leads to 5 inning, nitpicky, shaking off jorge every pitch starts. When he gets comfortable and stops overthinking everything, he should start letting it go and coming into each start with the intensity he brought from the pen. He’s too lacksadasical right now. He should also see increased velo when he settles/matured from improved consistency with his mechanics. My guess is this wont happen until next year. Then, hopefully, we see Joba start the way he should.

  • Evan NYC

    I think what he is doing is basically pitching 75% on his fastball for the first couple of innings hoping he can get the fly-outs or the ground-outs. During the 3rd-5th innings we see him dial it up more to around 95. The problem with this is that during the early innings he is throwing far too many pitches and he doesn’t have the opportunity to throw the 95mph fastball because he is out of gas or at around 100 pitches by the 5th.

    I think, from watching his starts, this is Eiland’s game plan. To let him try to get the defense to get the outs for him in the first time through the order and then the second time, work on getting the K’s.

    Regardless of his plan, he needs to get the ball around the plate more. He has the stuff to reach back and throw a heater passed anyone, but I think he doesn’t have the confidence to do it. At least not yet…

    • Mike Pop

      Ya, I think part of it is wanting to get through the first 3 innings pretty quickly so he can get deeper into games.

      In a little postgame interview last night when Kim Jones asked him if it was frustrating that he didn’t get deep into games, he seemed rather annoyed by that. I mean, that is all he sees all the time from the media. No excuses, and I”m not too worried bout his velocity. But, a 97 mph fastball all game with his wicked slider would be more fun to watch ;)

      I suppose the time will come soon enough.

      • e mills

        I think that lack of the consistent 97 mph fastball has led to an awful lot of hitters sitting back and taking that devastating slider

        • Pasqua

          I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I haven’t looked at any swing ratio on Joba, but with the naked eye I would venture to guess that hitters are swinging less at that slider than in the past.

  • ledavidisrael

    I believe young pitchers go through stretches like this (exp after injury). Hughes kinda experiences it after his injury in Texas his velocity wasn’t the same till this year. Whether they are focusing on trying to lay the ball in their or a not running at 100% its because they are still growing as players. His avg fastball velocity is currently right behind Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay so he should have no excuses.

    Hopefully Joba is learning how to pitch without his best fastball.

  • ledavidisrael

    Could it be because of the mechanically changes hes under went. That lil pause he has in his wind up to help with his rushing and fool the hitters???

    Ive also never been 2 fond of how he lands.

    • Tom Zig

      Joba doesn’t have much of a back leg kick either. It looks like it kind of drags on the mound.

      • Billy

        yeah his mechanics do look a little weird to me. and even if his motion is fine, he always seems to struggle with his release at some point or another in most of his starts. in my view, there hasnt been one start this year where joba had mastery of his mechanics for the whole game. he is a young pitcher though, and his mechanics will come to him in time.

  • r.w.g.

    Well.. I mean, there were some mechanical/health concerns about him when he was drafted. He lost weight and firmed up and he’s obviously very talented, but I mean.. he had that shoulder thing towards the end of the season last year.

    It’s probably a combination of taking a bit off the fastball to save some gas and a little bit of wear and tear.

    It wouldn’t really be too shocking if Joba is great for a while, and then he isn’t. Guys who throw real hard flame out all the time. I sure don’t think he’s flaming out (not this season), but I mean.. it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he just gradually drops a tick over the next few seasons and then isn’t as good anymore. That’s just sports.

  • Billy

    i think the lack of velocity is the result of one of two things:
    A) there’s more to the shoulder injury than we know
    B) he’s not being aggressive early so he can conserve energy

    in all of joba’s starts this year, his velocity has improved later in the game. maybe he isnt using his best fastball early and its skewing his velocity average. he has been sort of timid and/or inconsistent with mechanics early in starts. i really hope that is the reason for the velocity issues,which can be fixed, as opposed to a more extensive shoulder injury that may not be fixable.

  • matthaggs

    Less fastball = less confidence = more nibbling and foul balls = high pitch counts = bullpen in the 6th inning.

    When he takes the hill without his best fastball I think it messes with his head, which is understandable.

    Bizarre how it comes and goes like it does.

  • CB

    Joba’s loss in fastball velocity hasn’t impacted the velocity on his slider. The slider is a much more stress inducing pitch. If the loss of velocity was due to injuries his slider velocity would likely have decreased in proportion – or even more – than the decrease in his fastball velocity.

    Joba’s average slider last season was 85. And that was with 25% of his innings last year coming out of the pen. This year he’s average slider is 84. When Joba shifted to the rotation last year we didn’t see too many of those 88-89 mph sliders which he was throwing not infrequently out of the pen. So that average velocity of 85 is skewed upwards. There’s likely little difference between his slider as a starter last year and this year.

    It seems unlikely for an injury to cause a greater drop in his fastball than his slider given how hard he throws his slider.

  • e mills

    is it possible he’s not throwing at 100% because he is concerned he may hurt himself, which in the long run, if he does hurt himself again, is certainly going to affect his contract and the amount of money he will earn?

  • nolan

    I think he’s throwing slower in an effort to last longer in the game. The problem is that he’s not attacking the strike zone…he’s nibbling and trying to be too fine…which increases the pitch count and the walks. How many times last night did he go 0-2 and then work himself into a full count? Until he learns how to go after the hitter he won’t truly be successful as he wont consistently last til the later innings.

    • Billy

      yeah i think that may be the reason right there. i have noticed that too. in the atlanta start i thought he did a pretty good job of establishing his fastball early.

      • Ace

        The problem is that he’s not attacking the strike zone…he’s nibbling and trying to be too fine…which increases the pitch count and the walks.

        At the risk of sounding ignorant and impatient, I am going to ask this question, which I feel is an obvious question to ask…

        If we know this..and the catcher knows this…and the pitching coach knows this…why is he doing it? Is it so simple that he is just flat-out afraid of getting knocked around?

        • Hawkins44

          Yes…ding, ding, ding… he KNOWS his fastball is slightly above pedestrian…..

    • BklynJT

      He was really efficient when he was throwing 95 that one inning. That’s the joba i wanna see.

    • matt b

      See I’d buy that, but here’s the thing–if you look at his game logs from last year as a starter, he’d sit at 95 and top out typically between 98.50-100. Now I’d completely buy,at least to an extent, his average sitting lower as a result of his wanting to converse his energy (though I don’t think it’s the most likely explanation)–but that doesn’t account for why, when he really needs to reach back, he either can’t, or won’t do it–i.e. he hasn’t hit 98 on the gun even once this year I believe. He’s touched 97 a few times and in most of his starts he’s maxed out at either 95 or 96. And while I’d buy him not wanting to go max effort too often, I find it harder to imagine that he’d never want to–yet he doesn’t seem able or willing. Maybe he’s conditioned himself not be a max effort guy to the point where he can’t do it anymore. Maybe it’s mechanical.

      I personally feel pretty confident that it’s a mechanical/psychological manifestation of the shoulder injury. As others have noted, I can’t fathom that they’d be sending him out there hurt, and his slider velocity, which is a more stressful pitch to throw, has stayed steady.

      But I am troubled by the trying to explain a signigicant–3 MPH on average–drop in velocity on his “learning how to pitch.” Because he was learning how last year too, before the shoulder injury, and this wasn’t an issue.

      So I think it’s either a mechanical change resulting from the shoulder injury; a psychological resistance to going max effort; or potentially, given his off season, he’s flat out of shape, which I also think is possible.

  • BklynJT

    What’s even more confusing is when he sits 90mph fastball one inning (struggles), then averages 95 fastball the following inning (pwns the hitters), then drops back down to 90 mph fastball the next inning (struggles).

    Is he injured? Holding back to prevent from getting injured? Obviously he can see plain and simple that at a higher velocity, he becomes much more efficient.

    • bxpd

      Maybe he is still injured or really feels pain when he throws that overpowering fastball. I’ve had a bad shoulder since high
      school. I’ve had an arthroscopy done to it and eventually had a doctor suggest a more extensive procedure. So, I just “hung them up”. I don’t state this to in any way imply that I’m an expert. By no means am I one. But, because of the injury, there were certain pitches or angles I could not throw from without feeling any pain. Maybe, that’s the reason why he’s constantly nibbling and throwing the offspeed stuff. Maybe he feels a little pain each time he reaches back for the overpowering fastball. It’s all conjecture at this point but the drop in velocity is concerning.

    • CB

      The fastball Cedeno crushed last night was on one of the fastball’s Joba threw at 95.

      Very good velocity. Terrible location.

      There wasn’t a direct correlation last night between his velocity and his level of effectiveness

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        Very good velocity. Terrible location.

        Yep. He didn’t get that ball as high as he wanted and Cedeno shat all over it.

      • BklynJT

        My mistake, I must have missed the velocity on that pitch (you were checking the gameday broadcast?). I only saw Joba hit 95 in that one inning where he shut them down 1-2-3.

  • Chris

    After his injury last year, he made two changes to his approach that could cause the drop in velocity:

    1. His mechanics were changed to take stress off of his shoulder

    2. He started throwing more 2-seam fastballs

  • zack

    So basically everyone here has no idea what so ever. Could be mechanics. Could be mental. Could be conditioning. Could be an injury. Could be the flying spaghetti monster for all we know.

    What we do know is that in 20 less innings, he’s already walked more batters than he did all of last season, his K #s have decreased, his velocity is all over the place, and he seems to be throwing a LOT more breaking balls than he used to/should be (way too lazy to actually look that up). It could be a sort of Sophomore slump, combined with a full season of starting/bad off-season etc. There probably is some mechanical issues to suggest the sudden and marked loss of control AND velocity.

    But at this point it seems that he might just sort of figure it out this season, but I wouldn’t count on things changing until next season…

  • Frank

    I don’t believe his lack of velocity, or inconsistent velocity, has anything to do with injury. As with any starting pitcher, some days they have better stuff than others. On the flip side, changing speeds is part of the art of pitching. You need to remember he’s still learning how to pitch at this level and quite frankly, he’s still got a lot to learn. My concern more than anything is that he’s a bit hard headed and isn’t willing to follow Posada’s lead.


    I just think it’s starter vs reliever. I notice Hughes is pitching 95-96 as a reliever when he pitched 91ish as a starter. I think you can’t let it go as a starter, and as a reliever you let it fly.

    -BINNER (aka -Scott)

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Except he, as a starter in the minors and the majors, always threw harder on average than he does this year.

      Just throw out the bullpen numbers, they’re irrelevant. He has a track-record as a starter.

  • leftylarry

    He was injured last year nad the story was his violent delivery which has been changed and is less violent.It also creates less velocity now and Joba is probaably satisifed to stay healthy thorw 91 nad make osme money as opposed ot blowing out his arm.
    I also think he’s under Aj Burnett’s thumb a bit nad Burnett is throwing with less anger after playing with Doc Halliday also.
    It is what it is.
    Joba saw he wasn’t going to last and get the payday throwing with everything on every pitch and he’s cut back to stay healthy and lengthen his career.
    Let’s see if he can learn how ot pitch and the low to mid 90’s will be fine.

    • matt b

      I know Burnett talks about this alot, and I’m sure he means it, and maybe he really doesn’t go max effort as often–but A.J. has never experienced the kind of drop in velocity that Joba has this year, other than in 2003, when he made 4 starts and was hurt. His average FB velocity:

      ’04: 95.4
      ’05: 95.6
      ’06: 94.9
      ’07: 95.1
      ’08: 94.3
      ’09: 94.2

      Looking at those, I’ll grant you he’s taken a nick off his average FB the last two seasons, and maybe that’s a result of working with Doc, and maybe it’s normal deviation. But even though it get talked about all the time, A.J. basically sits where he’s always sat.

      • leftylarry

        Burnett had a better delivery to begin with.Joba was getting more torque but putting a lot of pressure on his shoulder which was part of the reason he fell to Yanks in the ifrst palce.
        he just isn’t throwing with the same violence now.i tihnk it’s totally a business decision and i tihnk AJ Burnett is in part behind it nad he’s probalby correct.
        Joba might be injured often with the odler more vilent nad aggressive style.
        At least we’ll always get a big year right before a contract season.

        • matt b

          Oh and I’m not disputing that A.J. hasn’t made some changes that may have worked awfully well for him, and maybe he’s advised Joba to do the same–just that in the case of A.J., reverting to a less violent delivery didn’t result in a significant velocity decline.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Let’s see if he can learn how ot pitch and the low to mid 90’s will be fine.

      But that’s not he Joba everyone expected. Joba living in the mid-to-upper 90s is a far more attractive package than Joba living in the low 90s.

      • matt b

        Agreed–the common refrain to anyone many who raise the velocity question is “he doesn’t need to throw 97 to be great.” Which is classic straw-man–I don’t know anyone reasonable who thinks he can’t be an excellent starting pitcher sitting at 92-93–and he’s had a fine season for a 23 year old in a tough division–and none of that changes the fact that he’s simply not the same guy this year as last, for whatever the reason. And I don’t know anyone who would rationally prefer this year’s edition (with the one caveat being that I think he’s done fantastically well in fully incorporating the curve into his arsenal). With that slider and curve, you’re talking about a guy who, with last year’s fastball, would have two ++ pitches and a third + pitch and at least a decent change. I suppose the fastball is still a plus pitch, but I sure miss the ++ version.

      • leftylarry

        But a healthy Joba pitching every 5th day is better than a 98 MPH Joba on the shelf every season.
        thin kof him as a good young #3-#4 who might improve with expereince nad become a solid winner, just not a shut down #1 TYPE.

        • matt b

          I don’t generally dispute this point in general, though I I’m not prepared to say yet that one most choose between either or. It also really boils to the numbers too, i.e. what do we mean by “on the shelf”. Let’s say I can have 200 IP of Joba at 3.90 against say 170 of him at 2.50–these are just wild numebrs I’m throwing around abd frankly they don’t make much sense, in that the kind of injury that would be involved in limiting his velocity is likely to cause the dip in innings to be much greater–I’m not sure which of those profiles provides greater value. And of course it’s a sliding scale–if I have to choose between Joba as is and a Mark Prior type, I take Joba as is. If I have to choose between Joba as is and say, Rich Harden, I think I still take Joba as is. This, by the way, is really the same exact debate over Joba to the pen if one makes the assumption (and I do not) that Joba’s performance out of the pen would be superior to his performance as starter–how good does one have to be over fewer innings to provide the value of someone less productive but over more innings.

  • crs

    anyone think joba’s velocity may come back by going into the bullpen?

    • crs

      i’m also serious – i’d like to know why not if you don’t think so.

      • matt b

        Well for starters, his velocity when he returned to the pen upon returning from injury last season is commensurate with his velocity now, not that 98-99 we saw in ’07 and early ’08 out of the pen, as Ben rightfully notes in the post.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      No chance. His velocity is down from when he was a starter last year. The only reason his velocity would go all the way back is if Joba had been trying to save his bullets for later innings or later in the season, and just hasn’t been getting to those later innings (pitch count/command issues).

      Not to mention his command has been very spotty. After dealing with Edwar, Veras, Albie, and now Bruney’s control/command issues, seems like a great idea to put a pitcher with questionable command out there again….

    • Benjamin Kabak

      No. I don’t for the simple reason that Joba was moved back to the pen last September, and his velocity wasn’t there. We already saw them try that without the requisite increase in FB velocity.

      • BklynJT

        That was immediately after the injury. 1 year later a difference does make. I didn’t initially believe that moving Joba back to the pen would result in an increased velocity, but seeing stints where his velocity is up in the mid 90s for 1 inning leads me to believe that his velocity would be back in the mid to high 90s if returning to the pen.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          seeing stints where his velocity is up in the mid 90s for 1 inning leads me to believe that his velocity would be back in the mid to high 90s if returning to the pen.

          That is a mostly illogical conclusion to draw. One inning stints in the middle of six-inning outings aren’t at all indicative of what Joba can do out of the pen. He’s not going to find his velocity in the bullpen. It doesn’t work that way.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I think there’s a possibility that Joba’s velocity may come back by moving him to the bullpen, sure.

      Let’s never find out, shall we?

    • Hawkins44

      Yes, it will… he’s an emotional player and he can let it rip. The issue with him being in the bullpen is he most likely could get hurt again because of less discipline with his mechanics.

      He takes something off his fastball because he wants to make it 100 pitches, when he does that he nibbles because he knows his fastball is hittable….so does Posada. A vicious cycle of bad.

      Having said all that, he’s a better starter than I thought. <4.0 ERA in the AL east is pretty damn good.

  • Stryker

    velocity dips when you throw 100 pitches per game. you can’t throw 98 all the time or you burn out. i don’t think it’s as big of a deal as everyone is making it. this literally happens with every single flame throwing pitcher finding his way in the majors. it’s just that we’ve never had a home grown starting pitcher with such potential and talent as joba does to chronicle it.

    • MattG

      Yeah, maybe, but there are two examples on the same roster that can keep their fastball average above 95. The difference between 95 and 92 can be the difference between an ace and a number 3.

      The announcers, especially the ones that didn’t play (I’m looking at you, Sterling, Kay, and Waldman) love to say how location is much more important than velocity. But guess what? Velocity, by definition, includes location. Velocity is king.

  • pete
  • MattG

    This drop in velocity is accompanied by an increase in walks. This is probably extremely relevant, and points to mechanics. I would bet that a look at pitch f/x would bear out a theory: Joba throws more strikes at 95 MPH than he does at 92.

    People say that is because he’s nibbling, but I don’t buy that. I do buy that he intends to throw 95, but that which prevents the velocity is also preventing the control. One thing that would affect both would be his stride.

    I think that once Wang is truly straightened out, you see Joba go on the DL with a “tired arm.” Giving him 2-3 weeks off to get his legs under him might help him locate that lost velocity and control, and it will certainly help him with his innings cap. Melancon takes his place on the roster, and Hughes his spot in the rotation.

  • Rob in CT

    I have to think this goes back to the shoulder injury. Either it’s still effecting him physically (though not via pain or anything else obvious) or it’s mental (throwing a little less than max effort, trying to avoid reinjuring it).

    It’s scary, because shoulder injuries are doubleplusungood. It’s not like there is a tried & true fix for a shoulder problem.

    Hopefully this is just a phase he gets through and his velo comes back up.

  • Lou

    I guess we can debate all day but what’s ironic is that while Joba’s velocity is down to 91 92 as a starter, Phil Hughes velociy is up to 95 96 as a reliever as opposed to 90 91 when he was a starter. Maybe some people just let it go for one or two innings out of the pen. Who knows?

  • TomG

    The lower average fastball velocity could also be that he’s just mixing in a lot more 2 seamers. I don’t think he’s mastered the pitch, which could lead to an increase in walks because he’s not getting anyone to chase it outside the strike zone, which is perceived as nibbling. I think there’s some merit to the idea that he’s taking a little off of everything to get deeper into games as well.

    I have a hard time thinking that they’re running him out there every start without knowing exactly what the reason for the drop in speed is.

  • mryankee

    I was saying this all last month and getting laighed at-there is no way in hell Ronny Cedeno should take Joba out of the park on a high fastball. I was expecting Joba to be the type of pitcher that Verlander is or Josh Johnson or Josh Beckett-I personally think he is trying to be a finesse-power pitcher a la roy halladay. I dont think he is hurt or he would not be pitching. Why the hell doesnt Girardi just flat out confornt him on why he is holding back? I am sorry 5 innings an three runs against the limp- Mariners lineup does not bode well for his next start when he will get lit up by the Jays for throwing that garbage. O and I forgot last year at 22 in Boston he was thorwing 95-97 mph-I think he is holdong back for some god only knows reason and thus his fastball is average-and I am sorry average is not verlander-beckett-or whowever else we were told he would be resemble.

    • matt b

      I apologize, I think I did mis-understand you and you were just saying that variation in fastball speed is generally a good thing. Completely agree with that.

      • matt b

        total reply fail, this was meant for Simon B below–apologies.

  • Simon B.

    One thing to note is that Joba has always had a big range for his fastball last year. People keep saying he was “sitting” 95-97 last year which isn’t true. He was anywhere between 91-100 in a single game. That’s slipped to like 90-96 this year. I think this is a good thing since it keeps hitters off balance.

    It’s disappointing he’s lost a lot of velocity, but the more annoying question to me is why has he lost so much command? I can’t be sure, but if this is the organization’s doing with changing mechanics, there should be hell to pay. Sacrifice a couple of mph if you want to improve command, but it’s far far inferior to what it was last year.

    • matt b

      Maybe I’m mis-understanding, but even assuming your premise that last year Joba’s fastball ranged from 91-100, wouldn’t that keep hitters more off balance than the smaller range of 90-96?

      And again, it’s the averages and the peaks that tell the story–his average FB is down significantly–3 MPH–from where he was averaging even a starter last year. That’s not a blip. And it’s been that way the whole year. The same is true for his peaks–going by the game logs, it’s true in quite a few cases that the this year, the fastest fastball Joba threw in an entire game was basically the same speed as the average fastball he’d throw last year.

      • Simon B.

        Yeah, I didn’t write that very well.

        I meant to say that having a big fastball velocity range is good.

  • Jonas Fester

    Looking at Joba’s pitch/fx from last night, I see some things that are intriguing. To both righties and lefties, he stayed away pretty extensively, and when he missed, he missed pretty far out. Due to the fact that he wont challenge hitters inside with his fastball, I think he realizes that his velocity is down, and therefore, hes not confident in it. His fastball may be hard, and has good “rising action,” he does not through a 2-seam that sinks or tails. Therefore, when he comes in, it has to be hard due to the lack of movement, and right now, he isn’t throwing hard enough. I have also been interested in why hitters do not swing at his pitches outside of the strike zone (he is the worst in the league). As a former pro player, you make up your mind right when the pitch leaves the pitchers hand if you are going to swing or not. The goal of a pitcher is to have the hitter think about swinging almost every pitch. Looking at joba’s batter’s box vizualizations, you can tell that this is not happening. All of his pitches look different coming out of the pitchers hand, and all of his off speed stuff breaks too early. therefore, hitters are not even thinking about swinging because they realize it is a ball right away. With a slower fastball that lacks confidence, and breaking stuff that doesn’t fool hitters when it is out of the zone, there are some problems. but it all stems from his velocity on the heater. With confidence in that, he will challenge hitters once again. lets just hope he gets it back.

  • mryankee

    I think either Girardi or Eildnad should get in his face and din out what the problem is. there are plent of young pitchers who can throw consistently 95= and there is no reason joba should not-just that simple. I am tired of excuses just confrnont the guy-I would be happy with pulling him from a start if he cant get the f/b up to 94-95=consistently. Send him a message because all this AJ Burnett advice is well and good when you still throw 95-96 like AJ

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Yeah, that’s exactly how to solve this riddle: Let’s yell at him and bench him. Fuck the excuses, that little piece of shit just needs to stop being a pussy.

      Ozzie Guillen

      • mryankee

        Sometimes that is what is needed to make a point. I see Joba as either on the upside a hall of fame arm or the downside a jaret wright who tried to be a power pitcher and change to fineese. If you get in his face now maybe that will stem the inevitable collapse

    • Klemy

      But we don’t really know if they’ve confronted him, do we? Also, they may very well think or know why this is. They just aren’t going to openly share this with everyone outside of the organization if they do.

    • MattG

      I would think that confrontation happens after every start. I don’t think he and Eiland are talking about crocheting.

      And the next excuse I see attributed to Joba will be his first. He didn’t even blame a single midge. Either he and Eiland know what’s wrong, and haven’t been able to fix it, or they aren’t sure what’s wrong yet. It is frustrating to see the lack of results, but without first-hand knowledge, its not possible to know precisely with whom or what to be frustrated.

  • Stryker

    felix hernandez (who is also 23):

    and he’s having the best year of his career.

    i just wouldn’t be too worried about it unless it really starts affecting his performance. he’s still fairly young and if it really, really dips that’s something, but otherwise it might be nothing more than a conscious effort to change his approach for the sake of his career.

    • MattG

      You were going for the opposite, but comparing that graph to Joba’s just makes me worry more. The bottom of that graph is very consistent, and if you connect the green dots, F-Her goes straight across. Joba’s is only good for inner-tubing.

      It already has affected his performance. Joba’s peripherals are a lot like what you expect from a 4th starter. The sub-4 ERA and 10-5 record in his starts are a mirage.

      He gave up a home run to Ronny Cedeno yesterday. This is a man with a 28 OPS+.

  • Line of Gennari
    • Line of Gennari

      Bad link. Make sure you include the non-hypertext part in your browser so that it’ll take you to the article abstract.

      • Line of Gennari
        • Line of Gennari

          Dang. Sorry. Maybe the admins can fix the link and delete these stupid superfluous replies.

      • MattG

        Wait, so this says that you get older, the parts all work worse, but the results are the same? Due to “adaptation?”

        Where is part II?

        • Line of Gennari

          It’s interesting, isn’t it? Maybe motion tends to become more efficient over time. One of the things I’ve wondered is whether Joba could be trying to throw harder, while paradoxically losing velocity.

          The point of posting the article was that it shows pitchers do “evolve.” The typical pattern of evolution though, doesn’t seem to apply to Joba. One reading of this is that he is failing to adjust properly in order to maintain his velocity as his body goes through expected age-related changes.

  • Hova

    I know I’m stating the obvious. But why aren’t people just looking at Joba for what he is? He is a number 3 starter right now. That’s all he is. CC is 1, AJ is 2, and Joba is our 3.

    People have to eliminate from their mind his reliever role. Its like comparing apples to oranges. You just can’t do it. Look at him as a starter and nothing more. Like Ben said, he has diminished velocity, and going back to the BP isn’t going to help get the 6mph on his fastball back.

    He’s going to be a #3-type starter for us this year, and that’s what we have to live with. It would have been great to see him as dominant as Beckett or Lester, but its not happening. But we have a luxury called time. Maybe next season he’ll build up his stuff and work his way to a #2 starter. And maybe the year after that he’ll be a #1. Who knows? And if he never becomes a #1 starter, that’s OK. We have tons and tons of money. We can always use free agency to buy one. But the reliever stuff has to go away. Feel free to compare him to the other #3 starters across both the AL and NL and see what you come up with.

    Sorry for stating the obvious and making everything sound so simple. But there is so much over analyzing being done. Just use common sense and your eyes. That’s it.

  • Bo

    There has to be something wrong physically unless hes really dialing it back to try to last. Velocity just doesnt go from 96 to 91mph.

    It’ll be real interesting to see what his velocity is when he joins the pen in last Aug/Sept. I’d much rather have him be the dominating reliever with nasty stuff than a 5 inn pitcher who nibbles.

  • MikeD

    It’s not just the loss in velocity, it’s movement on the fastball, and control of the fastball. This guy could thread the outside corner at 98-100 as a reliever, and 95-96 as a starter. He rarely threw pitches at 91-92, which is where he lives now. If we saw a pitch at 91 in the past, we’d figure it was a breaking pitch or his slipped on his delivery!


    1) August injury has robbed him of several miles. He wouldn’t be the first young pitcher to lose velocity.
    2) His mechanics are off. This would explain both his inconsistent velocity and control issues.
    3) Ummm, it hasn’t been said, but let’s say it. He used to take steroids and stopped.

    I’m hoping for #2, because that can be fixed.

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