Joba’s ordinary struggles


Someone grunted and/or farted | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

In the past three games the Yankees have blown a lead in the eighth inning. On Sunday it involved Joba Chamberlain loading the bases followed by Mariano Rivera walking in a run and surrendering a grand slam. On Monday Chan Ho Park took the ball and, after a scoreless seventh, failed to record an out before losing the lead. Tuesday it was back to Chamberlain, who allowed four runs, the last of which tied the game. It hasn’t been a great few days for him, with six earned runs in two appearances, but stretches like this will happen for a reliever.

For most of the season, and especially lately, commentators have declared that 2007 Joba is back. His velocity, which averaged just 92.5 last season, is back up, averaging 94 this season while touching the upper 90s. His slider seems to have a bit more bite, too. Combine that with eight scoreless appearances in which he struck out 11, walked only two, and allowed just two hits, and its’ easy to see why people started fawning over Joba again.

In his past two appearances, though, he hasn’t been quite as impressive. His two-thirds of an inning on Sunday didn’t appear to be cause for concern. He still generated three swinging strikes, and if not for a strangely struck ball by Michael Cuddyer he might have escaped the inning with the lead in tact. His velocity sat at the levels it has for most of the season, and his slider still had some bite. Bad things can happen to anyone in relief, and this was just a bad day for the Yankees.

Last night, though, was a bit different. Joba generated no swinging strikes. He faced three-ball counts against four hitters in the inning. A-Rod‘s error hurt, but on most nights Joba can overcome that. Last night it was just bad timing. Joba’s command wasn’t at the level we had seen during his previous appearances this month. His velocity also took a bit of a dip, averaging and peaking about a mile per hour below the marks he has posted for most of the season.

No matter what commentators say, Joba is not a natural born reliever. That is, he wasn’t born with some divine purpose to grace the bullpen. Like all pitchers, he is subject to the wear and tear that comes with warming up, sitting down, warming up again, and eventually coming into a game. It’s not like starting, where you have set period to get loose and prepare for the game. The manager can call a reliever’s number at any time. After a year in the rotation, Joba just isn’t accustomed to this usage. His mind and body both must adjust.

Given the lack of velocity and command last night, we could be witnessing a simple physical adjustment. Girardi said that Joba was not available on Monday because he warmed up and sat down twice during Saturday’s game. That was in addition to his appearances on Friday and Sunday. We often judge a reliever’s usage by his appearances, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Dry humps — warming up and then sitting down a reliever without having him enter the game — also play a part in a pitcher’s usage. Those pitches in the bullpen might not exactly simulate game-style pitches, but they certainly take something out of the pitcher’s arm.

Thankfully, problems like this have an easy cure. It’s only bad timing that Joba might need a couple of days off when the Rays come to town and the rest of the bullpen is struggling. Long-term, though, it will be to the team’s benefit. Joba is still adjusting to life back in the bullpen. He’s facing physical realities that few, if any, pitchers can avoid. In a few days I have confidence that he’ll be back out there throwing 95, 96, and making commentators swoon once again.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
  • Rose

    For most of the season, and especially lately, commentators have declared that 2007 Joba is back.

    That’s refreshing. I heard they were acting all disappointed about Joba not being in his 2007 form for quite some time now.


    • Chris

      In defense of the commentators (I hate to do it), his velocity for his appearances from 5/10 – 5/14 was back up over 95. Before that, he had been sitting at around 94 and his last two appearances were around 92-93. I would guess that this is a mechanical issue and not a physical issue since he seems to also lose his control when his velocity drops.

      • Rose

        since he seems to also lose his control when his velocity drops.

        I noticed this too…you would think it would be the opposite but I guess if you’re used to throwing a certain way (with a certain velocity) and all of the sudden that unexplainably changes drastically on you – you might feel a bit awkward or not as comfortable when throwing.

        • ZZ

          It is all tied to the same thing.

          When his shoulder flies open too early he does not generate any force behind his pitches and his fastball sails (usually out of the zone)

          • Rose

            Makes sense…but you would think Dave Eiland and company would have noticed this already after so many innings pitched…

            • Joseph Pawlikowski

              I’m pretty sure that if you noticed it, the guy getting paid to notice it noticed it. It doesn’t mean that they can do anything about it, especially if the mechanical issues are fatigue related.

              • Captain Jack

                Yeah…I’ve questioned Joba’s ability to be a successful long term starter ever since his injury in 2008. Last night he blew a four run lead, meaning that his RA for that inning was a wopping 36, looked beyond dreadful. With relievers even a run in an inning is really damaging. His struggles, and successes, are well documented…so we really don’t need to go over them. However, is what’s frustrating is that he looked SOOOOOO good in 2008, when he was on then he could hang with any starter in baseball. In those 65 innings, he was flat out dominant…so dominant in fact that when you average those with his very mediocre 2009 he still looks like a pretty damn good starter. At this point it’s not just struggling, and it’s not just good hitters hitting good pitchers. His stuff isn’t where it used to be. If he was consistently lighting it up at 95-96 and showing a plus breaking ball and a couple of legit secondary pitches, I’d be fine with his struggles last year…but that’s not what his struggles were at last year and that’s not where they’re at when he’s struggling as of late.

                I realize that all young pitchers struggle to one degree or another, and some even get hurt often. I also realize that some never make it and fail to live up to their hype. Shit happens, his own organization chose the younger, less proven, more restricted (innings wise) Phil Hughes over him for the 5th starter role. Even though Chamberlain was ready for a full 200 innings, and Hughes was capped at around 150. That has to count for something, even though were just speculating and we can make statements like “Random Hall of Famer struggled in his first X amount of innings more than Joba” or “Random young starter pitched more minor league innings and was less successful in his first X amount of innings,” no one is saying he CAN’T be successful…well **I** am not saying he can’t be successful. All I’m saying is maybe it’s time to kill the optimism, if Derek Jeter gets an article about his struggles after six weeks where his plate discipline seemingly disappeared (yet he was still hitting for a solid amount of power) why doesn’t Joba get one where after six weeks and one mediocre year as a starter it still looks like he’s loving the Jekyll and Hyde act?

                I’m not saying “give up on him” nor am I saying “he needs to be in the bullpen” but if his conditioning or his mechanics are too poor to make it as a stater the bullpen may be where he eventually ends up (it’s looking that way now anyways). Is what I’m saying is that it may be time to temper the optimism, as that freak of nature in 2007 and 2008 may not come back…I hope he does. He’s a player that fans of other teams love to hate, which makes it that much more fun when he shits down their favorite team’s throat. Since when he struggles he just looks gassed, maybe he should lose some weight, build some muscle mass and perhaps his mechanics would be come more repeatable. Also, if he’s in better shape he’ll clearly be able to last longer and probably loosen up faster. I hope that, or something else works out…mainly so Mike Francessa will have to eat it, but the whole having a cost controlled homegrown frontline starter would be nice too.

            • ZZ

              Oh Dave Eiland definitely noticed it.

              Like I said below, they have Joba pitching out of the stretch now as an attempt to help him in this aspect.

              I think it is the major reason why the 5th starter competition wasn’t much of a competition.

              But, yeah the Yankees are very aware of it. It is just a matter of how to fix it.

              There is no textbook or perfect solution. And there is only so much Dave Eiland can do.

    • Rose

      By the way, this was meant as a friendly joke. I was by no means trying to start anything. Hope you understand that!

      • bexarama

        No offense taken, I chuckled.

  • Steve H

    Good post, not much to add.

  • ZZ

    I am going to have to disagree that Joba will be fine.

    It is becoming more and more evident that it was never about Joba’s role. In 2008 when he was fantastic as a starter, he was fantastic as a reliever.

    In 2009 when he was mediocre as a starter, he was mediocre as a reliever in the playoffs.

    The ordinary thing about Joba so far this season, is that this is the same exact guy as Joba the number 5 starter circa 2009.

    His inability to repeat his mechanics is not going to magically correct itself in the bullpen. Very difficult to depend on a guy like that to pitch in key situations.

    • A.D.

      His inability to repeat his mechanics is not going to magically correct itself in the bullpen.

      It’s never going to magically correct itself, it’s something that needs to be worked on, which probably regardless of the role can & will be.

      • ZZ

        The big league level is not exactly the place to work on a mechanical problem that has been around for 1.5 years.

        The Yankees have made it as simple as possible for him this year to repeat his mechanics.

        1 inning stints and strictly pitching out of the stretch. He still can’t do it.

        • Chris

          The big league level is not exactly the place to work on a mechanical problem that has been around for 1.5 years.

          I disagree. In AAA, he would just blow people away even with his sub-optimal stuff. He needs to be challenged or the old mechanics will just get more ingrained.

          • ZZ

            That’s true.

            It is really hard question how to fix this problem and what to do with Joba.

            There is no perfect place for it to be fixed.

          • Hughesus Christo

            Being “challenged” isn’t going to magically repair his mechanics. He needs to be in the minors getting one-on-one attention. Jason Hirsch and Kei Igawa can watch Scott Aldred coach Joba. That kind of thing can’t go on in New York.

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Best photo-caption ever.

  • dsss

    I was hoping the 2007 Joba would come back, but I think that person was an aberration. I know all the “reasons”, but common, when is everyone one going to stop making excuses for the guy. Yeah his velocity is up, but he looses control too often. Sort of reminds you a little of Armando Benitez?

    • The Big City of Dreams

      ppl made to much out of 07 because they were hung up on the emotion that he generated instead of what actually happened. The kid had mandatory days off, didn’t come into a game with a runner on base until september, out of the appearances he made I think a little more than half was 3 run leads or more, didn’t pitch back to back games until the last games of the season etc. He wasn’t used like a normal reliever in 07 so why do ppl expect him to do that now

  • Dave M

    I’m actually less worried about Joba and Mo than the rest of the bullpen. If not for the sloppy play in the field, the yanks would have won last nights game despite Joba and Mo not dominating.

    • Rose

      Well you can say that about anything. Had the fate of the game not been rested on Randy Winn (who can’t catch up to a 91 mph no movement fastball) we probably would have won…

      • Chris

        In Winn’s defense, even the best player is going to fail in that situation 60% of the time.

        • Steve H

          And, if he has that ab in the 1st inning, it’s a good ab. Saw a ton of pitches, fouled off some tough pitches. Just couldn’t finish it.

  • Kevin M.

    With all the madenning inconsistencies we’ve seen from Joba over his carrer and over this short season, you’re sure he’ll be fine? Really? I’m not.

  • mike c

    “They have a right to (boo),” Chamberlain said. “They spend their hard-earned money and I didn’t do my job. I made terrible pitches. That one is on me, nobody else. We don’t have to fight back if I do my job.”

    so much for “the fans have no right to boo lousy performances” crowd

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Yeah, I don’t think anyone said that fans don’t have a right to boo. I just think it’s up there with the wave in terms of tooly things fans can do at the ballpark.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi


        Fans have every right to boo, but other fans have every right to point out how stupid it is to boo.

        • Captain Jack

          Booing’s a part of sports…if it effects athletes mentally they don’t have the mental strength and emotional maturity needed to be a pro athlete. I don’t see how someone can say that someone who worked hard enough and struggle enough to get to a professional sports league and not handle getting booed. It takes guts and mental toughness (along with quite a few other things) to make it to the bigs in any sport. If you’ve made it to the bigs you’ve probably gone through enough adversity and been in enough tough situations to handle the pressure of getting booed. If someone blows a four run lead in ONE INNING to the those dirty fucking shit stains…yes I would boo, unless it’s Mo mainly because I don’t want him to smite me, the only time booing really got to me was when they booed Javy after his second bad start (way too early too boo then…but the history is the history) and when they booed LaTroy Hawkins for wearing 21 and chanted “PAUL O’NIELL.” Probably a couple of others I can’t think of. It seems that there’s some players you can boo universally (Carl Pavano, I’m sure no one would bitch if he got booed) and there’s some you just don’t boo or question. I’m still working on how I feel about that.

    • Riddering

      Joba’s taking responsibility for having a very poor outing, which is good. His viewpoint is quite different than that of the fans. He’s saying–yeah, everyone has the right to be disappointed in what I did last night. But that doesn’t make the act any less shitty when fans boo.

      • mike c

        they are called professional athletes for a reason. we’re fans because they are great players. when they cheer they get the love, when they stink they get called out. we are their fans, they work to win for our enjoyment, and if they can’t deal with that then they shouldn’t be professional. if i was pro, i’d take booing all day than people making excuses for my failures

        • Riddering

          Joba made it very clear he can handle it. I’m the one who doesn’t like it and I am not a major league baseball player.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        “But that doesn’t make the act any less shitty when fans boo.”

        especially when those same fans were cheering for him like animals a few days ago

    • Steve H

      He’s the bizarro IPK.

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        can we trade him for teh pujols?

  • larryf

    Joba’s problems are mechanics (too much reliance on the arm only) and who knows about the mental/emotional aspect? This is a big part of pitching which is not as easy to get a handle on. The guy has obviously been through alot already in his young life-not all of it good. I hope he and the Yanks get it figured out but the drama he has been giving us more often than not is something we could do with less of.

    • Frank

      I agree. Besides his inconsistant mechanics,the mental aspect is certainly an issue, be it on a personal level as you allude to, or perhaps due to some overconfidence on his part. What I don’t get is why is he absolved from going to the minors to get his act together. It’s not like he was lights out in ST and earned the 8th inning set up role. But I guess the Yanks feel they have no better option.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        many feel that him going to the minors will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You mentioned his mental state and who knows for sure if he can handle a trip to scranton. I’d be all for it because I believe the guy we saw a few yrs ago is still there but he has things to work on

  • Cnight_UP

    It is one thing to boo a lousy performance. It is another thing to irrationally boo someone for a perceived notion that he was the only reason we lost to the Red Sox in 2004.

  • Riddering

    This is a very thoughtful and reasonable post, Joe. Thanks for that.

    Joba will take the ball again in a couple days and go out to put away the opponents. He’s a lot more transparent (or self-aware) than he was last year and I think that will make it easier for him to bounce back.

  • Matt

    The fans want Joba to be Mo so badly, but no one will ever be Mo. Joba always has these outings where its an adventure to get the three 8th inning outs. He’s been tinkering with a different role in each of the past four seasons. I think the Yankees are committed to using him in the pen? If not, watch out. They are killing his psyche.

    • Jammy Jammers

      Mo isn’t even Mo.

      • RL

        Except when he is.

  • theyankeewarrior

    Joba is hot and cold. But when he is cold, he’s basically Kyle Farnsworth 2.0.

    He should never have been allowed to finish the 8th inning. Was it not obvious after the JD at-bat that he had nothing? Could anyone here not see that he would give up at least the lead, if not more considering who was coming up and what kind of stuff he had?

    Mo, once again, was not used in the biggest spot possible last night. Once Joba have up the double to JD, a run scored and there were two men in scoring position for Youk and VMart.

    I would love to see Girardi go to Mo right then and there. Let Mo’s three or four outs be the biggest outs of the game vs. the best hitters.

    Joba sis lucky that they didn’t score one or two more runs. (If Papi’s frozen rope doesn’t hit the top of the wall in right and he doesn’t make a terrible base running play)

    Mariano is the best ever. I want him to pitch in the biggest spots. I don’t care what inning they’re in.

  • nathan

    Remember when Joba Chamberlain was the darling of Yankee Stadium? When every move by the burly right-hander turned into an event marked by celebration from all parts of the House That Ruth Built?

    That was three years ago when Chamberlain could do nothing wrong coming out of the bullpen with his high-octane fastball, filthy slider and the exu berance of a naive young ster.

    Lately, Chamberlain has done little right and last night the Stadium denizens booed him during an eighth-inning meltdown that allowed the Red Sox to erase a four-run deficit on their way to a 7-6 victory in front of 47,734 soaked customers who endured a start-to-finish rain that delayed the game 59 minutes at the beginning.


    Courtesy NYPost. Amazing !!

    • Captain Jack

      That settles it. The New Stadium broke Joba.

      • Joseph Pawlikowski

        Correlation always equals causation!

  • EndLessMikeJr

    Joba is a great reliever.He’s just going thru some problems.But he looks better as a reliever then he ever did as a starter.And Joba looked much better then Hughes in the post-season.

    Joba if he stays a reliever is still 2-3 years away from ever being a closer because MO gonna be here another 3 years or so.Let him go thru some stuff.

    • bexarama

      But he looks better as a reliever then he ever did as a starter.

      Why do people never remember 2008?

      • The Big City of Dreams

        because 2008 never happened ppl don’t even mention that the yankees missed the playoffs that season

    • nathan

      Mo might be here one more year, not more than that. He has always maintained that once his stuff starts to wane, he will call it a career.

      Regarding Joba, his potential as a starter far trumps his potential as a closer. Remember Mo was a one/two trick pony. Joba has 2 plus pitches and 2 decent pitches. He has starter stuff, its criminal to waste it.

      It might be too late already.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        It would be late if they gave him some time in the minors. Joba just needs to get away for a while and work on the things that need to be fixed. He won’t be sent down because besides mo the yankees trust him more than anyone else

      • Mike HC

        I agree Joba is being wasted in the pen. He can start, and he should be starting. The Yanks are just so stacked he can’t start for this team right now. Good problem.

        And it is definitely not too late. A year in the pen is not going to kill his development.

  • Matt

    Another analysis.

  • larryf

    Thinking about Joba makes me think about when people say “If he played in NY, he’d be ten times more famou$ or whatever”. I think Joba is overvalued by being a Yankee. I don’t see him tearing it up now or in the future. I think we will find him to be replaceable even though I don’t wish for it. I do think that if he is going to pitch the 8th in high leverage situations-we need our best defense out there at all times. Doesn’t take much for a Joba implosion.

  • Slu

    Joba hangs too many sliders. Until he can correct that, he is going to occasionally get beat up badly. I don’t know enough about pitching to say if this is mechanical or what, but to me, this is the biggest problem right now. When he throws one of those “cement mixer” sliders, it almost always gets crushed.

  • yoo-boo

    If Chamberlain is your setup man then you should not have him warmed up twice at all. Chamberlain’s mechanic is not that flexible.

    I guess Melancon will take Park’s role as Park taking Chamberlain’s role as a setup man.

  • Dr Van Nostrand

    I’m not sure if I’m the only one who noticed this. I know Joba has always been a big boy but he really seemed like he put on some weight recently

    • larryf

      Watching him run in from the bullpen he does look obese. He’s no David Wells!

    • Mike HC

      His weight has fluctuated his entire career. Just another area he is inconsistent in. And it all ties in together with his performance. There is no predictably there.

  • Bronx Ralphie

    Joba’s terrible…always has been, always will be.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      was he terrible before the last two outings

  • Jammy Jammers

    Lots of pitching experts here. Wow!

  • Mike HC

    Dry Humps! Classic. Well done.

    My take of Joba. He is inconsistent. That is just who he is for his entire baseball career. Even look at his college stats. Up and down. You will get flashes of sheer brilliance, and moments of frustration. You either enjoy the ride, or jump off. I’m enjoying the ride.