Last night, Joba Chamberlain entered the game in the seventh inning and promptly disposed of the impatient Adrian Beltre via ground out to close the frame. However, after returning to the mound to pitch the eighth inning, as well, even the most ardent Joba-to-the-pen supporter likely wondered about the young right-hander’s future. Out of the bullpen, where one would expect to see an uptick in velocity, Joba’s fastball was generally where it was as a starter a season ago, in the 92-93 mph range. He touched 94-96 three or four times – out of 33 pitches, mind you – however, when one considers that Joba used to regularly fire 95-98 mph fastballs into Jorge Posada’s glove as a reliever, the appearance was disheartening to say the least. Joba seemed to share that sentiment, avoiding his fastball in favor of his slider. Even if we attribute the lack of life to the tried and true “it’s early in the season” excuse, it appears doubtful that Joba could gain an extra 2-3 mph on his fastball with a few more outings.
So, what then is the problem’s cause? Where is Joba’s 2007-08 fastball? The issue could be explained away either by an underlying injury – rotator cuff problems from ’08 perhaps – or by poor mechanics (or even a combination of the two). I am hesitant to think that an injury is to blame for the velocity woes because the Yankees would catch that. Joba has dealt with mechanical issues throughout his short career so that seems more believable. In fact, I wonder if his delivery was tweaked following the 2008 season, maybe to prevent future injuries (so the change could have been encouraged by the Yankees). Of course, this is all speculative, yet at this point, that is all that we can do, really. If Joba never regains the pitch speed he once had, regardless of whether he is a starter or a reliever, his career will be dogged by “what if’s” and “what-happeneds.” Some may think that I might be overreacting to one disappointing outing, but, to be clear, Joba’s velocity has been an ongoing issue. Anyway, what do you think about Joba’s fastball going forward?
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