Aug
26

Is Joba throwing too many sliders?

By

As Joba Chamberlain labored through yet another start last night, there was plenty of talk that the kid was relying way too much on his slidepiece, particularly whenever he needed to make a pitch. If he runs into a 3-2 count these days, you can bet the house on him throwing a slider down and away from righties or down and in to lefties. And if the catcher doesn’t call for it, Joba will shake him off until he gets it. The pitch is nasty enough that he can still get away with it despite the obvious pattern at times, but better hitters (like the ones the Rangers trot out there day after day) will lay off it.

It’s seems like the more that Joba struggles, the more he goes to his slider. I assume it’s his comfort pitch, the one he feels he can throw for strikes at anytime. But is he taking it too far? Let’s take a look at Joba’s pitch selection by start this year via the magic of PitchFX. Remember to click to the graph for a larger view.

Joba Chamberlain's Pitch Selection By Start, 2009

What you’re looking at is how much Joba threw each pitch in a given start. So, for example, in his first start of the year he threw 65.5% fastballs, 14.9% sliders, 12.6 curves, 3.4% changeups, and 3.4% two seamers. It grabbed the exact values out of my data table, but you can see where they come from on the chart. I didn’t bother to add a trendline for two-seamers because he doesn’t throw it anymore.

Start #8 was the one when he took that liner off his shin and left after just two-thirds of an inning. Starts #18, 19 and 20 are those three great starts Joba made immediately after the All Star Break. As you can see, since those three great starts he’s throwing more sliders each time out, peaking yesterday when he threw sliders with 29 of his 96 pitches, or 30.2%.

All those sliders are coming mostly at the expense of his curveball, but also his heater to a degree. Believe it or not, Joba actually has a really good curve when he does decide to use it, which is far too infrequently right now. Despite all that talk about decreased velocity, Joba is still averaging 92.5 mph with the pitch, which is above average velocity. It’s just 0.1 mph slower than Tim Lincecum’s average fastball, and ahead of noted flamethrowers like Rich Harden and Javy Vazquez. Joba’s fastball is good enough that he can throw it 65-70% of the time and still succeed, particularly when he needs to make a pitch.

Part of the problem is that Joba, like many young pitchers, was rushed up through the minors and didn’t have to deal with any adversity until he got to the big leagues. Hell, the first time we ever saw Joba struggle was the midge game in the 2007 playoffs. Whenever he got in the trouble in the minors, he probably just threw a slider or two and those poor kids couldn’t lay off it. Now he’s finding out that big league hitters aren’t so forgiving.

We expect instant gratification, but this is all part of the growing pains we’ll have to deal with. It’s not fun, it’s frustrating, and it’s enough to make us reconsider how good we think Joba will really become. A pennant race in the AL East is a tough place for a kid to learn to how to pitch, but Joba still needs to do a better job than what he’s been doing.

Dan Brooks’ invaluable PitchFX tool was used for his post

Categories : Analysis

117 Comments»

  1. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    Well, we can probably survive as long as CC, A.J>, and Andy don’t implode. Joba would only get like 2 to three starts come playoff time anyway.

  2. Makavelli says:

    You know? Joba does be throwin’ those sliders too much. That shit be chone figgins, man

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

      That BUCHHOLZ.

      Remember, buchholzis a curse word.

      I felt compelled to add that, but I think this ship has sailed.

        • Haha nice. I can’t hear that music without thinking of Jon Stewart doing it to Batshit Betsy McCaughey the other day while she slowly paged through her prop-binder.

          • Ok that’s the second time with that link and I’m either missing the joke or the joke sucks. Someone fill me in.

            • jsbrendog says:

              noticing a theme here?

              i’ll take the latter for 1000 alex.

              • Makavelli says:

                What’s the theme? You agreeing with whatever TSJC and the Honorable Judge Reinhold say?

                • jsbrendog says:

                  no, i’m agreeing with myself. chone figgnes thing. not funny

                  bucholz thing. also not funny. nothing personal, I’m not attacking either of you, bbut neither is funny.

                  it may just be me but usually a meme (that word eeems to be so played out ha) is something you say, someone thinks is funny, and is repeate dby others. you can’t just try to create one. it’s totally random. or not. just me.

                  but, honestly, i dont think anyopne ois being mean. its just not funny

                  wakka wakka wakka

                • Ok… The Reinhold joke was funny. More of that, less of the “stop making fun of me” stuff.

                  (Thanks for the new name-link-pic idea.)

                • Makavelli says:

                  I don’t really care if you make fun of me…just the last few posts you’ve jumped on with almost anticipation. Do what you must. It’s all in good fun. I’m not trying to get people going here that’s all. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t all worked up over it.

                • Tampa Yankee says:

                  jsb… you mean like this:

                  “repeate dby others.”

                  and drink!

                • jsbrendog says:

                  somebody get this man a beer!!

                • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

                  you’ve jumped on with almost anticipation.

                  …like a fuckin’ texas ranger bullpen fastball…

            • Makavelli says:

              You’re an angry person, aren’t you?

              • “You’re an angry person, aren’t you?”

                Dude, I’m not sure why you think that every time someone maybe disagrees with you or makes a joke at your expense, that they’re angry or mad or upset or something. I actually asked that question pretty honestly, if I’m missing the joke I’ll be happy to have it explained to me. If not, and it just doesn’t make much sense, then I think the joke probably sucks. I’m not angry at you, or at anything at the moment. I’m just not a big fan of bad jokes (or of not understanding jokes, which is why I asked if maybe I’m just not getting the joke).

                • Makavelli says:

                  I’m sure a lot of people didn’t understand the “joke” or like it…but you apparently were upset enough to comment about it.

                  Either way, it’s basically a play on the “instantcrickets” website after something “isn’t funny” to you guys. “A gust of wind” can also be used. Other honorable mentions are “tumbleweed”, etc.

                  I understand you guys have been on here for a while and have established your own system with how things are and anything different may upset you…but lighten up. It’s not that big of a deal. If you don’t understand it or like it…ignore it. You don’t have to make it a point to comment back at a weak attempt to insult the person. It’s not that big of a deal.

                • jsbrendog says:

                  ugh. let’s not get into this. mondesi doesnt think it is fyunny. you do, fair enough. no one is angry everyone is friends, i dont think it is funny either but whatever. if it was we would say IETC or hahaha or man that was funny. who cares. if you want to continue using your ez bake oven memes then go for it and we will just curse you as we ignore your comments and i bet you that if you do come up with something we thinkis funny you will know.

                  now hug it out.

                  I SAID HUG GODDAMMIT!

                • Makavelli says:

                  I’m really not all that upset about it to be honest. I’m just sort of new and didn’t want somebody to get so angry that they sought out my posts to negatively comment on them.

                  But whatever. It’s over. I don’t care. Do what you must.

                • “I’m sure a lot of people didn’t understand the “joke” or like it…but you apparently were upset enough to comment about it… I understand you guys have been on here for a while and have established your own system with how things are and anything different may upset you…but lighten up. It’s not that big of a deal. If you don’t understand it or like it…ignore it. You don’t have to make it a point to comment back at a weak attempt to insult the person. It’s not that big of a deal.”

                  Ugh… I really want to just drop this, but I really disagree with what you’re saying right now. First of all, I’m not the only person who thinks that the “gustofwind” and “Chone Figgins” jokes suck. Second, and more importantly, in an environment like this there’s really only one way to make sure people don’t make fun of your comments for sucking – don’t make comments that suck. And, if you do, roll with the reaction. You, and everyone else, has every right to make a joke or do anything within the RAB Commenting Guidelines. And you, and everyone else, has every right to respond to other people’s comments as long as it’s done within the RAB Commenting Guidelines. I’m sorry you don’t like being criticized, but that’s just kind of the nature of the beast.

                  And, dude, nobody has insulted you. People, including me pretty prominently, I’ll admit, have taken shots at a couple of your comments/jokes, but nobody has insulted you.

                • I only have one rejoinder to all of this:

                  http://www.instantcrickets.com is a real website that has an actual working sound of instant crickets.

                  http://www.gustofwind.com does not.

                  That is all.

                • It’s Axl. What do you expect?

                  Oops? Did I just unmask Makavelli?

                • jsbrendog says:

                  of course. it all makes sense now

                  the more things change the more they stay the same
                  the more they stay the same the more i go insane

                  i also enjoy the subtlety of the oops as a question…

                • Subtlety, typo, same difference.

                • jsbrendog says:

                  My pants mind = blown off.

                  fixed

                • Well, welcome back, Makavelli.

                  Bygones: bygones. Everyone gets a second chance, that’s why we let JSB back in the fantasy football league after his pathetic showing from last year.

                • jsbrendog says:

                  Bygones: bygones. Everyone gets a second chance, that’s why we let JSB back in the fantasy football league after his pathetic showing from last year. wonderful managing job to come in 4th place after being given nothing mroe than frank gore, steve smith, and tony gonzalez (with a shoutout to matt schaub.) His juggling of such scrap heap pickups like gary russel, chansi stuckey, and michael jenkins allowed him to compete even though his number 2 running back was tj duckett backed up by ahman greene. He was masterful in besting 16 other competitors who were pathetically dispensed by his managerial finesse and skill.

                  fixed

            • Salty Buggah says:

              heh I dont get it either but it’s Makevelli, who tried to make “Chone Figgins” into a meme…

    • jsbrendog says:

      oaktag.

  3. The Andrus at bat in the fourth killed me yesterday. 0-2 on a guy who’s never slugged .400 at ANY level of baseball and Joba throws him three straight sliders. You’ve gotta bring a fastball in that situation.

  4. Makavelli says:

    What percentage of the sliders he threw were for strikes though? Does that tell us anything about why he’s using it so often? You would think if he’s not successful with it…he would have stopped throwing it…

    But then again…maybe common sense shouldn’t be used here…

  5. EvoLuTioN says:

    this team hates putting batters away
    everytime they get 0-2 you always see our pitchers nibbling around the strike zone. They all have good enough stuff yet have no faith in it

  6. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    Okay, I have an idea. Hughes pitched better after coming back from a rib injury, right? Well all we have to do to get Joba to pitch well is to hit him in the ribs with a baseball bat until they break!

    The only issue is that we’ll probably lose him for the season, but no worries. He wouldn’t be making too many other starts anyway. It’s time to stop babying him. He needs to know what it’s like to feel pain so he comes back stronger. What do you say?

  7. JonG says:

    Throwing a 3-2 slider to the first batter of the game (who is going to steal 2nd almost automatically) is completely inexcusable. Doesn’t anyone say this to Joba?

  8. Chris says:

    Part of the problem is that Joba, like many young pitchers, was rushed up through the minors and didn’t have to deal with any adversity until he got to the big leagues.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s a matter of him being rushed. I doubt that he would have faced much adversity if he spent the last part of 2007 and all of 2008 in AAA. He’s just better than AAA hitters now. In fact, it’s possible that he would get into bad habits that won’t work at the major league level, but do work in AAA because his stuff is so good.

  9. Bo says:

    It’s not brain surgery. he can’t get his slider over for a strike so teams don’t swing at it. What it kill him to make an adjustment? You have to think that Eiland knows this but he doesn’t listen.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

      And why wouldn’t the professional pitching coach for the NY Yankees, the best team in baseball, listen to you? Obviously you must know better.

      It’s amazing how ARROGANT some of these ML coaches are. You’d think they were former players who lived and breathed baseball 24/7 or something, and who are experts at there jobs. Amazing how they takeno time out of their busy schedules to listen to people like Bo.

    • You have to think that Eiland knows this but he doesn’t listen.

      No, I don’t have to think that.

  10. Bob Michaels says:

    A good Fastball is still the number 1, it has to be spotted at times, but he must stop fooling around. His difficulies can be traced directly to the Joba Rules.

  11. 27 this year says:

    I also think the way the Yanks are handling Joba has to do with it. Not talking about innings limits but rather the fact that he seems to be guarenteed everything regardless of his performance. Everyone has been forced to earn everything but Joba seems to be guarenteed. While I know he has serious potential I think he needs someone to light a fire under his butt to keep him working.

    • Not talking about innings limits but rather the fact that he seems to be guarenteed everything regardless of his performance. Everyone has been forced to earn everything but Joba seems to be guarenteed.

      A) What, exactly, was he guaranteed?

      B) If he was guaranteed something, can’t I just as easily say that the security of that guarantee is what caused the comfort level that enabled Joba’s good performances? Players like knowing that they won’t be shit on when they fail. My boss telling me that I won’t be fired the first time I screw up gives me the confidence to act boldly and do well.

      • 27 this year says:

        ok fair enough I just think the way he started and there was no chance he was being taken out regardless of his performance.

        • You know, I see where you’re coming from, but it’s just kind of inapplicable in this case, isn’t it? I mean, Joba’s clearly pretty firmly entrenched in that starting rotation in 2009. Are they supposed to create a fake competition just so he feels some heat? Would he (and the rest of the world) not see right through that? He wasn’t given anything, he pitched his way through the minors and performed well in the majors before getting a shot in the MLB rotation. It just so happens that, in 2009, he’s not in the midst of a competition for his job because, well, he’s just not.

          • If Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were just chillaxing in the minors this whole time, racking up K’s and W’s left and right, I’m sure one of them would have been brought up and Joba would have been sent down.

            The only reason he’s “guaranteed” anything is because our pool of potential replacements behind him dried up.

  12. Salty Buggah says:

    Blame it on the rest, got him feeling loose
    Blame it on the Jorge, can’t catch him in the (strike) zone
    Blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol (or the DUI)

    (BTW I’m not serious)

  13. Does using the slider too much take velocity away from the fastball?

  14. Rob in CT says:

    I’ve been hoping to see more curveballs (thrown early in ABs for strikes, which he’s shown he can do) and changeups (to lefties). I have no idea, really, whether doing so would work. But I’d like to see it tried.

  15. jsbrendog says:

    growing pains sans kirk cameron and dcaprio. he is learning to pitch at the ML level because he never had the chance to od it at aaa. it is an art form and some people with great stuff figure it out and some with even better stuff never do.

    he, while being inconsistent, seems to be hopefully figuring it out. only time will tell and only good people arond him mentoring will help.

  16. Chris V. says:

    He doesn’t seem to be able to locate his fastball very well. Posada will set up on the outside and the ball will end up middle in and vice versa. I wonder if he will be someone that constantly fights his mechanics.

    I remember thinking that when Joba came up he had pretty good control and command, but many of his struggles this year seem to be because of his fastball command. He just doesnt locate it where he wants it, so it gets hit or taken for a ball and he loses confidence and then throws a ton of sliders.

    He also has a very good curve and a good if not consistent change (the two he through in the last hamilton at bat were definitely plus change ups). He should probably throw both more often instead of always going to his slider but he just doenst seem to have confidence in them.

    All in all he’s 23 and if we never saw him as a reliever in 07 all of us would be completely happy with his year, instead of feeling like he’s struggling. I look forward to his improvements next year and hope he can figure some stuff out for the rest of this season

    • He definitely needs to mix the changeup in more. While his fastball isn’t sitting 94-95, his changeup is still coming in, on average at 10 MPH less than the fastball. If/when Joba starts locating the fastball more, I’d expect the changeup to come. The same goes for Hughes when he returns to the rotation next year. Phranchise has the fastball and the curveball down, now he just needs to properly work in the cutter and the change and he’ll be set.

      • Chris V. says:

        Yeh but I would say that Chamberlain’s change is much more advanced than Hughes. Not only is there a good difference in velocity but also some good tailing action to lefties, though not consistently. It seems to have the potential to be a plus pitch though. Its amazing that he has been getting his as much as he has this year with the pure stuff he has. I think it shows how tough it is to be a young pitcher in the AL East.

  17. Joba or Hughes to the pen says:

    This is the Joba that we will always see.I can’t be happy about Red Sox,Mets and Yankees prospect until at least 4 years.We don’t get the Phenoms just High Risk High Ceiling players.

    People think Joba is gonna dominate like in the pen(which he did throw harder) but he’s not.

  18. Mike HC says:

    I thought that was an excellent article. I really appreciate the insight there. It will be interesting to see how Joba and the Yankees adjust down the stretch and in the playoffs.

  19. Drew says:

    Too many sliders, or not enough?

    BOOM!

  20. andrew33 says:

    terrific write-up, great research

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