Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There Is No Such Thing As '07 Joba

Like many fans who adamantly believe that Joba Chamberlain was born as a relief pitcher and should stay in the bullpen forever and ever, Steve S. over at TYU looks at the one inning Joba pitched last night and sees him re-emerging as a dominating force:
The first batter he faced was Scott Sizemore, and he went 96-97-97-97 and struck him out on three swings and misses. The next batter was Gerald Laird, who managed to see 6 pitches and foul off two but struck out looking. The final batter was Adam Everett, who looked completely over matched, striking out swinging on 4 pitches. All totaled Joba threw 14 pitches and hit 98 three times during Adam Everett’s at-bat.
Scott Sizemore (OPS+ of 74 this season), Gerald Laird (35) and Adam Everett (28) - talk about a Murderer's Row! They've combined to strike out 20% of the time this year and have 14 extra base hits (two homers) in 231 plate appearances.
Questions were raised on air by Kay about the radar gun, which also seemed to have every Detroit reliever throwing somewhere between 97-101 MPH. But don’t shortchange that Tigers bullpen, it’s currently the best in Baseball and the best in the AL by a wide margin. Zumaya throwing triple-digit heat should surprise no one, he’s been doing it for years. Gameday had Joba sitting at the same 96-98 MPH with little variation pitch by pitch. It was for real, and hopefully was a sign of things to come.
Just because the Tigers' bullpen is the best in baseball doesn't mean they all throw extremely hard. The wind was blowing in from center all night long so the readings - be they from PitchFX or YES's radar run - were probably accurate in a technical sense but not indicative of how hard guys were really throwing or are likely to their next time out.

Jose Valverde usually sits around 95 and was living at 97-98. Phil Coke is typically around 92-93 was up to 95. Ditto for Boone Logan. Zumaya averages about 99 and was consistently in triple digits, running it up to 102. It was 50 degrees last night, there's no way all of these pitchers just happened to be pitching with significantly more velocity than normal. Is '06 Zumaya back too?

It was not "for real", just like it wasn't after the second game of the season. Examples of confirmation bias don't come much clearer than this. Joba struck out the side, and that's great, but he did with the wind at his back against two veterans who have never been able to hit and a rookie that has struggled to thus far.

Chamberlain is who he is now - a guy that throws about 95 (sometimes a little higher, sometimes lower), gets a lot of strikeouts but has somewhat spotty control. He's not all of a sudden going to become the pitcher he was for 24 innings one shoulder injury and three years ago, no matter how much we'd love him to.


  1. I have to disagree with your conclusion, although I agree with the idea that last night does not mean "07 Joba" is back.

    First, let's be honest, Joba looked sharper than he has in a while last night, whether 96 or 98 and no matter who the hitters were. It was about the stuff, not the results, and it looked pretty sharp. Good control on his FB and breaking stuff, sharp break on the breaking stuff. It was a welcome sight.

    Second, as to your final paragraph, we just saw the exact same thing happen with Hughes. Velo was down as a starter, jumped in pen significantly, and is now back to where it was originally. I dont think we can conclusively state that Joba will never get his velocity back, or that he "is who he is."

  2. Moshe - I agree that he looked good last night, but we've seen him look sharp at times this year only to appear somewhat sloppy not long after.

    I didn't mean to suggest that he'll never get his velocity back, but I think we have to view any progression of Joba as linear and not base our analysis on what we saw over a very brief period three seasons ago. Maybe he will start throwing harder, but it's not going to happen overnight.

  3. Agreed. Basically, I agree with your overall point (07 Joba doesnt exist), but I do think there were reasons to be a bit excited about his performance last night. However, as you said, it will take time for him to turn that sort of performance into the norm rather than the exception, and the idea of '07 Joba is a myth that will simply leave Yankees fans disappointed.

    PS: As for your first sentence, I dont think Steve is one of those people. He wanted Joba in the bullpen this year, and in that link is reporting that he is likely to stay there, but Im pretty sure he wanted Joba as a starter long term (though I could be wrong).

  4. According to pitchf/x, Joba averaged 96.76 mph last night, topping out at 98.3. Regardless of what the gun said, he was throwing darts last night.