Sep
25

Joba Joba Joba

By

Three months ago, I would have been excited about a mid-season match-up between Jon Lester and Joba Chamberlain. After all, these two young pitchers – one a lefty, one a righty – could be the faces of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry for years to come. While most Yankee fans are down on Joba right now and many of us see a match-up with Lester as, well, a mismatch, we can still look to tonight’s game as a sign of things to come.

The Red Sox and Lester know what their plan is. Supplanting Josh Beckett as the team’s ace, Lester will start Game 1 of Boston’s ALDS series, and he deserves it. He’s 14-7 on the year with a 3.33 ERA. In 30 starts spanning 194.2 innings, he has allowed 176 hits and 60 walks while striking out 215 or 9.9 per 9 innings pitched. For the Sox, Lester has been better and more consistent than Beckett. Still, those two are a fearsome duo atop Boston’s rotation.

Against the Sox tonight, the Yanks are countering with their fourth or perhaps fifth starter. We know how bad Joba has been; we don’t need to rehash the numbers. But Joba knows that he is pitching tonight with something – pride, a postseason roster spot – on the line. In a conversation with Mark Feinsand, Joba stressed his desire to “set the tone” for the weekend matchup.

“It’s great for everybody to get that feeling, to play in that atmosphere,” Chamberlain said. “October is a little different, so it helps being able to play teams like Boston in this kind of series. Coming down the stretch, trying to finish strong and set the tone will be good. People are going to be getting excited for October, so it’s going to be crazy.”

It will be crazy, but that’s besides the point. Joba Chamberlain is pitching for more than just a crazed crowed of 49,000 fans tonight. Fair or not, he’s pitching for his reputation. The truth is that if he doesn’t throw 5 innings of two-run ball, Yankee fans will not be happy to see Joba Chamberlain enter this game or exit the game. Even though Joba will reach 150 innings tonight, even though he’s never thrown this many innings in one season, it’s still do-or-die for him in the eyes of he fans.

We won’t write off Joba. He turned 24 this week, and despite his bad end to the season, he acquitted himself nicely during this year against the American League. He will make 31 starts, and he will have stayed healthy throughout the season. As he grows up and matures, he’ll only get better. As the game starts tonight, though, look at Jon Lester and think about what another year can do. If Joba can improve as Lester has each year in the Majors, this disappointing end to 2009 will in time be forgotten.

Categories : Musings

69 Comments»

  1. Jon Lester, age 23:

    63 IP, 1.4 HR/9, 4.4 BB/9, 7.1 K/9, 4.57 ERA

    Jon Lester, age 24:

    210.1 IP, 0.6 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, 3.21 ERA

    • Accent Shallow says:

      Is it fair to make this comparison, though? Lester was coming off cancer/chemo, while Joba had a shoulder injury in August of 2008. Sure, both are debilitating, but I see Lester as a bit of a special case here.

      (Of course, all young pitchers struggle. Shit happens)

    • Jose says:

      He had that much of an innings jump? Was he in the minor leagues for a lot of that age 23 season? Otherwise, that type of innings jump seems like complete madness.

    • BklynJT says:

      Joba may be good next year or the year after, but he is pitching like crap right now, and if he doesn’t show some lights out stuff in his next 2 starts, he should forget about starting in the playoffs. I understand he has potential, but at some point, the guy has got to show you something. Pick your shit up and handle your business Joba.

    • Bo says:

      Maybe Joba should get cancer. You cant compare anyone to Lester. hes a unique case

  2. Through 110.2 IP, Chamberlain was rocking a 3.58 ERA with a .750 OPSA (.347/.403) with a 7.9 K/9 (though a “meh” 1.94 K/BB). Since then? 8.25 ERA, .932 OPSA (.409/.523), 6.75 K/9, 1.29 K/BB. It would seem that Joba’s feeling the effects of never having pitched this many innings before.

    • Ding ding ding. We have a winner.

      Who knows if it’s a cause-and-effect thing, but there’s a very strong case for the innings jump being related to Joba’s struggles.

      • Trapped In El Duque's Glove says:

        If the innings jump is the cause, then why not shut him down completely now and save him for next season?

        • Reggie C. says:

          Joba threw 100 innings last season, so the regression Joba has underwent these past 40 innings cant entirely be chalked up to the innings jump.

          Joba isn’t adjusting to hitters who are getting better as the season went along. Joba’s velocity makes sporadic appearances which kills his best pitch. The handling of the Joba Rules (though necessary) has produced some of his worst abbreviated starts.

          Joba isn’t in Lester’s league.

          • Chris says:

            It’s not just innings. Never in his life has Joba been a starter after August 4th. His rough patch started on August 1st.

          • whozat says:

            “Joba isn’t in Lester’s league.”

            Clearly, you weren’t watching Jon Lester until about this year, or maybe last. When he first came up, I lived in new england, and he was JUST like Joba. He’d go 3-2 on everybody, throw 100-110 pitches in 5 innings and walk 3-4 guys in each 5-6 inning start.

        • If he doesn’t show, in these next couple of starts, that he can compete right now the way the Yankees need him to, don’t be surprised if they do shut him down. There’s no need to shut him down today, though. There’s still time to see if he can be effective this season.

    • Riddering says:

      Thank you!

      It’s interesting how many people who recognize that CC’s postseason numbers are less than stellar because he was overworked would rather blame Joba’s work ethic for coming up empty at this point in the season when he’s hitting inning numbers he never has before.

      I’m not saying the Yankees are riding Joba or overworking him but if he’s knocked from the postseason roster I believe it’s a case of ‘he doesn’t have it’ rather than ‘he can’t find it’ or ‘he won’t give it’.

  3. JohnnyC says:

    And, to be even more fair, Jon Lester is one of the most highly touted pitching prospects in the last 5 years (more so because he gets the added Red Sox hype as a 1st rounder). A stud lefty who throws mid-90′s? Joba, honestly, was considered a reach (injury concerns notwithstanding). His development is more surprisingly positive than Lester’s (whose major obstacle was illness).

    • Accent Shallow says:

      But when Joba showed increased velocity/command, he rocketed up the prospect ladder. And if those even partially return, he’s a stud.

      • JohnnyC says:

        And that’s to the credit of Damon Oppenheimer, his staff, and Nardi Contreras.

      • Getting his control harnessed is more important than his velocity returning. He’s been running into trouble this season because he can’t establish his fastball command early and thus has to try and get guys to chase pitches that they won’t because if he can’t throw his fastball for strikes, why should they swing at his breaking pitches? And it becomes a viciously frustrating cycle. If Chamberlain can get his walks down to even the low to mid threes per nine, learn to locate his fastball a bit better, and to get a little less predictable when throwing his breaking stuff (how many of us know the 3-2 slider is coming?), he’ll improve.

        • Accent Shallow says:

          Or just throw the slider in the strike zone. It’s a nasty, nasty pitch.

          • Yeah, I feel as though he tries to throw it outside to right handed batters too often. Perhaps he would be more successful if he “front doored” it more often to try and get them looking instead of trying to get batters to chase it. Maybe instead of trying to back door it against lefties, he could drop that change on them instead. I know it’s his fourth pitch, but if he can improve it just a little bit, he’ll improve that much more. He’s still got ~10 MPH difference from his FB to his CH so it can definitely be effective. If I’m General Joe, Davey E., Nardi, Cash, etc, I tell Joba to work on control and the changeup in the offseason.

            • Accent Shallow says:

              I like his changeup a lot, he seems to be able to get swings and misses with it on a consistent basis, even if he throws it on back to back pitches.

              (Am unable to find whiff-rate on a pitch basis on Fangraphs, so anecdotal evidence is a kind of evidence)

              • pete says:

                Here’s my theory on pitching, life, and everything (mainly (only) pitching):
                As you grow up as a kid you start working on different pitches – by the end of high school you usually have FB, Ch, Cve, though many who make it to the next level only have FB and Cve because they’ve been able to dominate with those two based on pure stuff. Then as you move on, you’re encouraged first and foremost to develop a 3rd/4th pitch. Generally, if you’re a good-stuff guy, by the time you’re 22/23/24 you probably have 3-4 quality pitches in terms of velocity and movement. And if you have these, then you will, plain and simple, dominate the minors, regardless of how ready you are to handle the majors.
                But lineups full of super-talented and super-experienced hitters can hit your stuff. This is the last step of pitch development, the “learning how to pitch” step. This is not, however, as most people who use that phrase seem to indicate, a mental development. It is simply learning how to execute your pitches in particular locations to achieve particular effects. Somewhat counterintuitively, many pitchers come up with their breaking balls as their best pitches in terms of locatability, because there are basically 4 locations to throw a breaking ball: bottom right corner, bottom left corner, low (below the strike zone), at the feet. Catchers, I fear, will never understand this (I was a pitcher and it frustrated me to no end when the catcher calls for fastball after fastball when your control is off).
                The point is, in bullpen sessions and even in the minors, pitchers/pitching coaches/catchers are careful to distribute pitches well in order to develop them, but not as much attention is given to location. I think, for example, if a pitcher’s bullpen session is “throw 5 sliders/cutters breaking into the zone, 5 breaking out, 5 changeups breaking in, 5 breaking out, then 5 fastballs to each corner,” then, one would think, the pitcher will be able to more quickly develop not only the pitches, but their most effective locations. A pitcher who can spot all of his pitches like this would, I think, be much more prepared for the majors, where locations like that are crucial.

    • JGS says:

      he was a second rounder–57th overall

  4. Tampa Yankee says:

    I’ve mentioned this before but it bares repeating…

    Minor League Innings:
    Neimann – 372.0
    Wade Davis – 767.1
    Shields – 554.1
    Garza – 307.0
    Price – 144.0
    Kazmir – 251.2
    Joba – 88.1
    Hughes – 330.0
    Lincecum – 62.2 (FREAK!)
    King Felix – 306.1
    Doc – 638.0
    Verlander – 118.2
    CC – 246.2
    Beckett – 216.1
    Buchholz – 443.1
    They are all good pitchers who got the luxury of some seasoning in the minors. Joba is learning how to become a better pitcher (aka you don’t need to throw the ball thru a brick wall every time, hit your spots, work batters, develop your pitches, etc. etc.) in the majors and in the toughest division. Let’s get Joba thru the year healthy and get his innings up. This is why it is hard for me to be overly upset at his performances but if he continues like this next year it should be a major concern.

  5. JGS says:

    and Lester just started slow

    Since June 1st, he is 15-4, 2.16, with a .568 OPS against

    for reference, Zack Greinke over the same interval:

    8-12, 2.68 ERA, .656 OPS against

    • Guest says:

      Anybody else find the most striking part of this stat is that Greinke has lost 12 games since June 1 with a 2.68 ERA? I mean, how is that even possible?

      I knew the Royals were terrible, but I had no idea they were THIS terrible.

  6. miketotheg says:

    because when we want to hear about what its like playing in october we have to hear from our veteran joba right?

    shut up and pitch joba.

    • whozat says:

      It’s hard to “shut up and pitch” when you get asked 445 questions before and after every single appearance.

      • miketotheg says:

        so its hard to pitch when a bunch of reporters and bloggers hang on your sack for whatever bytes they get?

        or is it hard to pitch to major league hitters and get outs? because that’s the game. blowing the game in three innings or a three inning shutout is just a mindf*&k.

  7. currambayankees says:

    Still excited about this kid. I think he’ll do just fine tonight. I am more excited about his future and do believe he’ll be like some the young pitchers who had trouble early on as starters with innings limits. For all of those screaming to have him as a reliever just look at Wainright and King Felix just to name a few. They had their troubles early on but are finallying hitting their stride and are doing great. Can’t wait to see Joba hit his stride within the next year or so.

  8. JSquared says:

    The organization says that they don’t think Joba can return to the bullpen because of the strain on his arm. Could he possibly need another surgery so he can throw harder, it’s frustrating seeing him go out there one day and throwing 94 and 95 consistently, than the next he might only be hitting 92.

  9. croma01 says:

    I think expectations were set so high for Joba because he dominated out of the bullpen. Not to belabor the point, but we are witnessing the maturation of a young pitcher. Very few guys dominate right out of the gate. Unless your name is Tim Lincecum. Most pitchers struggle their first year or two before they start to dominate. Key takeaways this year for Joba are that he managed to make it through the year healthy and he has at times shown flashes of brilliance. Something to build on for 2010.

  10. Riddering says:

    I’m not writing Joba off until he’s 28 and posting a 6+ ERA.

    Confidence level for his future = 10.

  11. Jobber says:

    I’d be interested to see a comparison on amount of pitches Joba and his competition have thrown per year instead of innings, cause i feel like comparing innings can be decieving, especially when some innings can have 8 pitches thrown or in Joba’s case, 40.

  12. Whitey14 says:

    Ben, for what it’s worth coming from a Red Sox fan, I really enjoyed this piece. And your last paragraph really nailed it. Nice work!

    • JMK says:

      What’s the general feeling on Bucholz in RSN? Do they have the belief that he’ll be a top-flight starter or are they worried he’ll have a lot of struggles? He’s had his rough patches and he’s a bit old for a prospect but the guy has legit stuff and has been great of late.

      Just curious.

      • Whitey14 says:

        I think the HOPE is he’ll be more than a #3 starter, but the reality is probably a solid #3 guy, who with continued development at the major league level could hold down a #2 spot if absolutely necessary. I’m happy he seems to have gotten past the “deer in the headlights” look when he’s in trouble. He’s got nothing left to accomplish in the minor leagues so for me, it’s sink or swim. I’m sure there is the faction of RSN that thinks he’ll be an ace just because he pitched a no-hitter, but I’m hopeful the average Red Sox fan knows that Mike Warren and Juan Nieves pitched no-hitters too. He’s got the talent to pitch 10-12 years in the bigs, hopefully he makes good on it.

      • pete says:

        i honestly don’t understand how anyone can be down on him. It might be a couple of years but ever since he added a couple ticks to his fastball and got it up to the mid 90s, he seems like a complete package waiting to be opened to me. Kinda like joba actually, with slightly worse raw stuff

  13. Guest says:

    In all honesty, Joba’s results aren’t what worries me. It’s how he is getting to those results.

    If his poor is due to control issues, an inability to manage and control the game, or a failuire to throw the right pitch at the right time, etc., that would be one thing. Such problems would be expected for a young pitcher with such little minor league experience. The fact that Joba has indeed experienced difficulties in all these areas doesn’t concern me.

    The problem, frankly, is his raw stuff. The reduced bite on this slider. The disturbingly high percentage of curveballs that just sit in the zone. And most importantly, the maddenning inconsistency of his fastball.

    When Joba was blazing his way through the minors, he was literally blazing his way through the minors. As a starter. He sat 95-96, touched 97-98 (based on the reports I have seen). That’s why we were all so excited about him in the first place. And last year, while he wasn’t throwing the 97-99 that he was throwing out of the bullpen, he was still 94-96. And then they shut him down with a minor shoulder issue.

    And his fastball hasn’t been the same since. Now, of course, there could be many reasons for this. He could be just in a mechanics slump. He could be adjusting to throwing more innings than he ever has before. If one of these reasons is the culprit, then we can rest easy in knowing he has a very good chance at reaching his potential. Indeed, the fact that we have occasionally seen him display that “A” fastball from time to time leads me to believe that this might actually just be a mechanics/arm-strength issue.

    But I can’t get the fact that he was shut-down due to shoulder strain last year and has yet to consistently regain his form. What if something is wrong in that right arm that the Yankees just don’t see yet?

    An inconsistent young pitcher who still has his dominant stuff is one thing. A young pitcher who has lost some stuff due to arm issues is another thing entirely.

    • Totally a nitpick, I apologize in advance… But no, he wasn’t literally blazing his way through the minors.” He figuratively blazed his way through the minors. It’s the opposite of “literally.”

      Sorry… Pet peeve. I’ll go away now.

    • pete says:

      my hypothesis:
      tiredness from lots o’ innings -> reduced velocity/less bite on breaking balls, worse mechanics ->further reduced velocity, further reduced breaking ball sharpness.
      That, + shoulder went from only one offseason of rest to biggest workload he’s ever had = much worse stuff.
      My guess is that he’ll start getting it back next year, though i wouldn’t expect it to all be there right away.

      also, interestingly enough, it does seem like his changeup has gone from a very straight 82mph pitch at the beginning of the season (see: 12 K boston game) to a 78-80 mph pitch with pretty solid dive now. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep that movement up on the change because it could lead to a truly disgusting array of pitches if he can regain his 95+, nasty slider and good curve

  14. Bo says:

    Hes going thru what all young pitchers not named Lincecum go thru. People just thought he was going to blaze a trail because he was so dominant. But as Hughes is showing right now its a different world pitching 7+ a night and 1.

    What we should all be concerned more with is the lack of velocity.

  15. [...] Innings By Mike Silva ~ September 25th, 2009. Filed under: Mike Silva. Benjamin Kabek over at River Avenue Blues talks about tonight’s Joba Chamberlain start at Yankee Stadium. This topic got tons of responses, [...]

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