Archive for Joba Chamberlain
Mercifully, the All-Star break is over and Yankee baseball is back. It has been a tumultuous season so far, featuring serious injuries to several important contributors and maddening underperformance with runners in scoring position, but also plenty of pleasant surprises. Despite everything that has gone poorly for the Yankees this season, they are in great position to make a playoff run. At 53-33, the Yankees own the best record in the majors, despite playing in a division where no team is below .500, and they are eight games up on their nearest competitor. They lead the league in home runs and wRC+, though they are only 6th in runs scored. Despite injuries to Michael Pineda, Andy Pettitte, and CC Sabathia, they are 2nd in the league with a 3.71 xFIP, largely driven by the pitching staff’s 8.45 strikeouts per 9 innings. With this strong first half in the books, I figured I would take a look at some of the storylines to watch for the second half, which will play an important role in determining if the Yankees can hold on to their division lead.
MVP candidate Cano
Robinson Cano is having a monster season for the Yankees so far, and is well on pace to eclipse his career highs in a number of offensive categories. He has slugged 20 home runs with a wRC+ of 150, and his fielding is significantly improved according to UZR (small sample size warnings apply). All this combines to make Cano the 7th in the majors with 4.3 fWAR at the midway point. If the season were to end today, Cano would be a strong candidate for AL MVP, along with usual suspects Josh Hamilton and David Ortiz, and rookie phenom Mike Trout. Cano’s 2012 production has been very impressive, and it will be interesting to see if he can sustain this form going forward. Recent history suggests that it is difficult for a Yankee player to win the award unless he is far superior statistically to his competition, and right now, Cano is not in that position. Nonetheless, if Cano continues to mash and some of his competition begins to fall off (such as Trout) or get hurt (Hamilton), Robbie would be in good position to win his first MVP.
Coming into the season, significant questions abounded about Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, and whether they would be able to stick in the rotation as consistent contributors. Michael Pineda’s Spring Training shoulder injury weakened the Yankees’ rotation depth, and put increased pressure at least one of the Hughes-Nova duo to emerge as a solid mid-rotation starter. Hughes got off to a poor start to the season, and both players have had serious problems surrendering the long ball, but of late, both have settled in. They’ve shown the ability to strike batters out (8.31/9 for Hughes, 8.16 for Nova) and limit walks (2.08 for Hughes, 2.69 for Nova) a combination that limits the numbers of runners on base when the inevitable longball comes. Both have been able to pitch deep into the game, which is important for keeping the Yankee bullpen well-rested and effective. Hughes and Nova have shown that they can pitch in the low-4 ERA range, and with the Yankee offense, they will win a lot of games. However, it remains to be seen if they can improve their statistics by cutting down on the home runs. They were surrendering them at an unsustainable pace earlier in the year, but have improved in that area recently (particularly Hughes). While both have looked very good of late, Hughes in particular has teased Yankee fans throughout his career with strong performances only to regress significantly, and hopefully he can avoid that outcome.
What will Joba bring to the table?
While most of us gave up on Joba Chamberlain being a 2012 contributor after his awful trampoline-related ankle injury, his impressively quick recovery has him in position to return to the Yankees sometime in August. Chamberlain, looking noticeably svelte, was recently clocked as high as 97 in his first outing in the Gulf Coast League, a sign that his velocity has returned following Tommy John Surgery. The velocity bodes well for his ability to be a successful bullpen contributor this year, but command could be a big question. Joba never had pinpoint control to start with, and it is often said that command is the last thing that comes back to a pitcher who has had Tommy John. Joba’s willingness and ability to use his devastating slider is another question that he will have to answer. The pitch is his primary 2-strike weapon to earn strikeouts, but often pitchers who have Tommy John will cut down on their slider usage, to avoid putting additional strain on their elbow. If Joba does have to throw fewer sliders, he may need to have another offering to flash so hitters can’t just sit on the fastball. I don’t expect Joba to be back to his old self right away, but the good news is that in a bullpen with Rafael Soriano and David Robertson, he won’t be relied upon to pitch in high-leverage situations immediately. If he earns those innings with his performance, great, but if he has some struggles as expected, they will hopefully be in fairly low-pressure situations.
Is Russell Martin this bad?
Russell Martin’s offensive production has fallen off across the board compared to 2011, and he is currently batting below the Mendoza line with an anemic .181 average. After being exactly league average in 2011 (100 wRC+), Martin has fallen to being 20% worse than the average hitter (80 wRC+). Outside of a strong couple of games against the Mets, Martin really hasn’t put together a strong stretch this season that might give hope that he is starting to come out of it. The unfortunate sign is that Martin’s struggles have actually lasted longer than this season. He started strong in 2011, but his numbers dipped dramatically after the first two months. When we see a player struggle for this long, there is always concern about whether the player is in decline or injured. While the 29 year-old Martin seems too young to be over the hill, the physical toll of catching every day could accelerate this decline. I am hopeful that Martin can improve, but not optimistic that he will. If there is any consolation here, it is that his contract is up at the end of the 2012 season, and the Yankees caught a break by having Martin turn down their 3-year extension offer in the offseason. This also means that the Yankees will likely be in search of a new catcher for the 2013 season.
In his second minor league rehab outing, right-hander Joba Chamberlain struck out a pair of hitters — one swinging, one looking — in two scoreless innings for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees. He did not allow a hit or walk a batter, but one runner reached on an error by the third baseman. His four non-strikeout outs came on ground balls. No word on Joba’s velocity or pitch count, but I suspect we’ll get some numbers later this morning.
Chamberlain started his rehab stint this past Tuesday, so his 30-day clock ends on August 9th. At that point the Yankees must activate him off the DL, assuming nothing goes wrong (not a safe assumption). Joba will probably throw another two innings in his next outing, three or four days from now.
Update: Via Erik Boland, Joba was again sitting 95 and touching 97 this morning. Good to see the pre-surgery velocity back.
Update Part Two: Via Boland, Joba threw 25 pitches this morning including 19 strikes. No official announcement on the next step yet.
Update (10:55 a.m.): Thirteen months after blowing out his elbow and four months after dislocating his ankle, right-hander Joba Chamberlain appeared in his first minor league rehab game this morning. Pitching for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees, he allowed an unearned run while striking out two in a hitless and walkless inning of work. Two errors by the third baseman and a passed ball allowed the run to score. Hooray, rookie ball defense. According to reports, he threw 23 pitches and topped out at 97 with the fastball.
The appearance officially kicks off Chamberlain’s 30-day rehab clock, meaning the latest he can be activated off the DL is August 9th. That’s assuming everything goes as planned, which is hardly a safe bet. Joba will probably take the next two or three days off before making his next appearance, which could last two innings.
Injury updates? Injury updates!…
- Brett Gardner (elbow) will take dry swings at some point this weekend, his first time doing any sort of serious baseball activity since suffering his second setback. If all goes well during his latest rehab attempt, he’s expected back at the end of the month. [George King]
- Joba Chamberlain (elbow, ankle) faced six batters during a 25-pitch simulated game this morning. He struck out three, walked one, and allowed a hit. He and the team will get together to discuss the next step, which could be a minor league rehab game. [Mark Didtler]
- Austin Romine (back) caught Joba today. Two days ago we heard that he still a few weeks away from returning to game action. [Didtler]
- David Aardsma (elbow) has not resumed throwing and is still awaiting test results after feeling pain in his surgically repaired right elbow about a week ago. [Didtler]
- Pedro Feliciano (shoulder) continues to throw bullpen sessions and figures to begin facing hitters in live batting practice at some point soon. [Didtler]
- Manny Banuelos (elbow) has been throwing in Tampa for a few weeks now according to Dellin Betances. The two are close friends. Still no timetable for Manny’s return, however. [Josh Norris]
Via Erik Boland and Chad Jennings, rehabbing right-hander Joba Chamberlain said he will appear in his first minor league rehab game “definitely within two weeks.” He threw a 40-pitch live batting practice session today — in front of Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild, and others — his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab process as far as we know. He’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday.
Joba continues to make pretty remarkable progress as he comes back from Tommy John surgery and a dislocated ankle, but David Aardsma‘s recent setback is a nice little reminder that he still has a long way to go. If he’s able to begin his 30-day rehab clock two weeks from today, a mid-August return would be in the cards if everything goes well. That’s a big if, obviously.
- Joba Chamberlain (ankle, elbow) will throw live batting practice on Monday, his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab. Brian Cashman wouldn’t put an exact date on it, but he expects that the right-hander ““will help us” this season. In other news, Joba got rear-ended on the way to the Tampa complex yesterday but is fine.
- David Aardsma (elbow) will appear in his second minor league rehab game tomorrow, and Cashman confirmed that if “everything goes all right, in 31, 32 days, he’ll join us.” Aardsma’s 30-day rehab clock started earlier this week, putting him on target for a return shortly after the All-Star break.
- Austin Romine (back) has been playing catch and hitting off a tee in Tampa. “Assuming there are no setbacks,” he will play this year according to Cashman. A few weeks ago we heard that a July return was in the cards.
- Pedro Feliciano (shoulder) will throw off a half-mound today and a full mound on Tuesday. He expects to pitch this season but I wouldn’t count on it. Maybe he gets healthy in time to serve as a third lefty reliever during the expanded rosters in September, but anything they get out of him is gravy.
Via George King, right-hander Joba Chamberlain (elbow, ankle) will face hitters in nine days for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last June. He’s been throwing bullpen sessions and the next step is live batting practice. Meanwhile, David Aardsma (elbow) is likely to appear in his first minor league rehab game with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees sometimes next week. That will start his 30-day rehab clock and put him on track to return in mid-July. Hard not to be excited about the progress these two have made in recent weeks.
Via George King, right-hander David Aardsma is scheduled to throw a simulated game this Friday. He had been throwing bullpen sessions and live batting practice, but this will be his first game action in over 18 months. Aardsma missed all of last season with both hip and elbow surgery. If the simulated game goes well, a minor league rehab stint won’t be too far behind.
Meanwhile, King also says that Joba Chamberlain has had no problem with his right elbow or foot after throwing off a full mound earlier this week. He’s also been able to run sprints during his workouts. Joba’s coming back from Tommy John surgery and an ankle dislocation, though his return is further away than Aardsma’s.
Got a pair of quick injury updates…
- Brett Gardner (elbow) will play in his first minor league rehab game with Low-A Charleston tomorrow. “Brett will play tomorrow and possibly Saturday,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman in a release. “We are taking it one game at a time with him. His coming to Charleston is his first step toward getting back in left field in Yankee Stadium.”
- David Robertson (oblique) threw live batting practice at Yankee Stadium today and based on Joe Girardi‘s comments yesterday, the right-hander could appear in his first minor league rehab game this week.
- Mark Teixeira (cough) has been diagnosed with vocal cord damage after seeing yet another specialist about his continued coughing problem. He won’t miss any games or anything, but it will take some time to heal completely.
- Joba Chamberlain (ankle, elbow) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow. He threw off a half-mound last weekend and apparently things went well enough for him to get back up on a full mound. It’s been less than 12 weeks since Joba suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle, so this is kinda mind-boggling. He’s coming back way quicker than I imagined.
- David Robertson (oblique) threw a bullpen session today and everything went well. He’ll presumably throw a few more bullpens before appearing in a minor league rehab game or three.
- Brett Gardner (elbow) hit in the batting cage today. Girardi said yesterday that he could return as soon as next weekend. Gardner still needs to take batting practice on the field and get a few minor league rehab games in.
- Joba Chamberlain (elbow and ankle) threw off a half-mound today, your holy cow moment of the afternoon. We’re not even three full months out from his ankle injury, so this is pretty amazing. He still has a long way to go though, remember Joba’s coming back from a rather significant elbow procedure. Still, great news.
- David Aardsma (elbow) threw 20 fastballs in a live batting practice session today, his first time facing hitters since having Tommy John surgery last summer.