Do I know for sure what the heck is going on with Joba Chamberlain? No. Let’s get that out of the way before I pretend that I can actually predict with any strong degree of certainty, what the young man is going to throw from start to start. That being said, however, I just happen to have a crystal ball in my desk drawer here, somewhere…. ah, here it is! Actually, it’s a paperweight-snowglobey thingie, but it will have to do in a pinch. Oohh magical, snowglobey, fortune telling, future predicting, prognosticating, pretty, christmasy snowglobey thingie, will Joba Chamberlain give the Yankees solid innings if called on in the playoffs? Good news, folks, I’m getting a strong yes vibe from the erstwhile paperweight, and it’s never been wrong before (actually, I’ve never tried to predict future events by staring blankly into a snow globe before, so that piece of data doesn’t bear much weight).
I figured that I’d look on the interweb to see if I could find some actual statistics to back up Globey, and the only way I could think of doing that reliably was to go through each start that I would consider a “big start” against a top team in order to judge if he seemed to be stepping up in the big spots. I have gotten the impression throughout the year that Joba had an extra gear that he wasn’t using very often. Dave Eiland spoke earlier in the year about “smoothing out” his delivery, which may involve throwing less violently and, therefore, not as hard. This would account for his lack of velocity. If this is true, and Joba takes the gloves off in the postseason, then we could see a very different pitcher than the one who has struggled so mightily the past few weeks.
I decided that we should look at each start against the opposing division leaders, the Red Sox (of course) and the Rays because, although they slumped late and didn’t provide quite the challenge they were expected to, at the beginning through 2/3 of the way through the season, the Rays’ games were regarded as important as any game on the calendar. In the interest of keeping things as streamlined as possible, let’s just look at K’s, velocity, and earned runs to see if they represent an improvement over the mean. Joba’s stats for the year as a a whole average out to 7.61 k/9, 4.72 ERA and 92.5mph on his fastball. If he does better in his big starts, then that’s a very good sign for the post season and indicates that he may have a yet untapped reserve for big games.
|Apr 24 @BOS L 5-4||5.1||1||2||92.39|
|Apr 29 @DET W 8-6||7.0||1||6||92.76|
|May 5 BOS L 7-3||5.2||4||12||92.26|
|Jun 7 TB W 4-3||6.0||3||4||92.04|
|Jul 10 @LAA L 10-6||4.1||4||4||93.57|
|Jul 19 DET W 2-1||6.2||1||1||92.93|
|Jul 29 @TB W 6-2||8.0||0||5||92.20|
|Aug 6 BOS W 13-6||5.0||4||5||92.72|
|Sep 14 LAA W 5-3||4.0||1||2||92.16|
|Sep 25 BOS W 9-5||6.0||3||5||92.93|
I left out the last TB game because it was clearly not a big game, so therefore wouldn’t fit into my profile. I think it’s clear from looking at the table that Joba actually pitches better in the big spots, even though he’s going against better teams. They Yanks won 7 of his 10 big games, Joba allowed only 22 earned runs in thos 10 games, never allowing more than 4 earned runs in any of the outings. One datum didn’t agree with my theory, however. His stuff didn’t seem to be markedly better. His velocity was pretty much exactly the same as in other outings and he struck out 46 batters in 58 IP, a slight, but not significant improvement over his yearly averages.
These numbers indicate that, though Joba doesn’t seem to have much of an extra gear in terms of his stuff, he does bear down more in big spots, and he really battles. All indications are that, if called upon, Joba should yield a start ranging from decent to very good. You guys agree or have you lost some faith in Joba?