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Apr 052010

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?

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

25 Responses to “Where did Joba’s velocity go?”

  1. That has been my thinking too that they tweaked his mechanics after the bout with shoulder tendonitis. I think it could have possibly scared the Yankees off a bit.

    But lets say that it is indeed true that they changed his delivery cause of concern about injuries. And lets assume that if they let him use his old delivery that allowed him to be what we saw in 07 and 08.

    Now if you’re the Yankees would you rather have an ineffective-for the most part, inconsistent, low nineties/could touch 95, bad mechanics and lack of command. And these ‘safer’? mechanics keep him healthy.

    VS

    A pitcher with electric stuff. The one we saw late 07 and 08, who doesn’t walk many hitters, good command of the FB. Mid-upper nineties FB. But has a delivery that will make him make annual trips to the DL in his career?

    I don’t know about the Yankees but I’d take my chances with the latter.  (Quote)

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    Simon Reply:

    I think your right. I think he either needs to get his old delivery back and throw rockets but be at risk than get hammered for being cautious. But, I also think that if Joba doesn’t pull it together then at the end of this year the Yanks should use him as trade bait for another starter or a left fielder. Also another question would be, what is Joba’s actual trade value at this point after transitioning to be a starter and ending up in the bullpen.  (Quote)

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    The Bif City of Dreams Reply:

    His trade value is probably not that high. Of course none of us are in the rooms with the Gms and scouts but when ppl see joba do they still see that kid that burst on the scene or do they see the pitcher that he is now. I don’t want him to get traded. The talent is still there the yankees and him need to get it fixed for his sake and theirs.  (Quote)

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    The Bif City of Dreams Reply:

    I remember ppl saying the yankees tweaked hughes’ mechanics because of his injuries issues. I think thats one of the reasons why he no longer throws the slider or doesn’t throw it as much. They need to send him to scranton so he can get back on track physically and mentally. The kid is trying to live up to the hype and pitch at the same time….not easy.  (Quote)

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  2. From what I saw out of Joba (and have been seeing for awhile now) its completely understandable why he’s been relegated to the pen. He doesn’t have good control to make up for his slowing velocity, and I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but his slider looked pretty awful much of the time. It now seems like a change of speed pitch with little movement. He’s lost it. Prob won’t get it back. Joba the mop-up man, ugh….  (Quote)

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    The Bif City of Dreams Reply:

    nah he can get it back but he’s going to have to put some work in and the yankees need to do the same  (Quote)

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  3. I think its fairly common for a pitcher to gain 2-3 MPH a month or two into the season as arm strength grows and warm temperatures help in loosening up the arm. I fear we’ve seen the end of Joba hitting high 90′s with any regularity though. Cashman pretty much said he doesn’t expect that Joba to ever be able to throw that hard anymore and hinted at that being part of their thinking in reassessing his future. So I highly doubt it was the result of any conscious decision to trade lower velocity for smoother mechanics and greater health.  (Quote)

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  4. I wish there was somewhere that you could send a young starter who is struggling with his mechanics to work it out in a non-stressful environment. You know, some kind of magical place that could be set up for young players to help them in their development without having to worry about wins and losses.

    Duh, what am I saying. Of course there is, it’s called the Pittsburgh Pirates.  (Quote)

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  5. I hate to speculate, but why is everyone avoiding the huge PED elephant in the room? He’s healthy, he’s young and he inexplicably has lost 5 MPH off his fastball. Again I’m not saying Joba used PEDs, but I think its as good a reason as any postulated here..be it “mechanics”, being switched back and forth from SP to RP or any other explanation…here’s hoping he’s able to regain that velocity somehow.  (Quote)

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  6. Chris, I think you hit the nail on the head. Going back to last year, the argument that Joba’s velocity when he was starting was diminished BECAUSE he was starting just didn’t ring true. He had thrown harder as a starter the year before (before getting hurt), and in the minors on the way up, he would finish up his 5- or 6-inning starts throwing his hardest gas (98-100 mph) just before he was lifted. Something was different about him from the first day of spring training last year. Not only was he not lighting up the gun, but he was also unable to throw consistent, quality strikes, which had not been a problem for him in the past. My guess is the Yankees staff has tinkered with his mechanics to help him avoid further shoulder woes. In doing so, not only has he lost some giddyup on his fastball, but he has developed control issues, too.  (Quote)

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    The Bif City of Dreams Reply:

    If they have changed his mechanics can they just come out and say it. The guy is going out there with no bullets in the guns and is getting beat just about every time.  (Quote)

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  7. Chris, I think you hit the nail on the head. Going back to last year, the argument that Joba’s velocity when he was starting was diminished BECAUSE he was starting just didn’t ring true. He had thrown harder as a starter the year before (before getting hurt), and in the minors on the way up, he would finish up his 5- or 6-inning starts throwing his hardest gas (98-100 mph) just before he was lifted. Something was different about him from the first day of spring training last year. Not only was he not lighting up the gun, but he was also unable to throw consistent, quality strikes, which had not been a problem for him in the past. My guess is the Yankees staff has tinkered with his mechanics to help him avoid further shoulder woes. In doing so, not only has he lost some giddyup on his fastball, but he has developed control issues, too.  

    What we now have is a shaky product. Obviously this IS all speculation, but when you do put the pieces together it does make sense that they did change his mechanics.
    Really nothing else makes sense. They wouldn’t send him out there if he was injured.

    When you remember there were quotes from scouts saying how he doesn’t have the greatest mechanics. Not the best body either.
    And it appears IMO his work ethic is kind of lacking.
    I’m sure the Yankees when they scouted and drafted him were well aware of his questionable mechanics. Based on that after the shoulder injury late 08, I think it’s safe to say that they were scared off a bit. Hence the mechanic change.
    In that sense the Yankees have “ruined” Joba. But not in the way that the media and many fans think.

    Other then PED (WHICH IS A WHOLE OTHER CAN OF WORMS. AND THERE IS NOTHING TO BASE THAT ON. If ANYTHING JOBA HAS GOTTEN FATTER NOT SUDDEN LOST IN WEIGHT) there is nothing else that makes sense.  (Quote)

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    The Bif City of Dreams Reply:

    “But not in the way that the media and many fans think.”

    in what way then can u explain?  (Quote)

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  8. I don’t think the Yankees changed his mechanics in any way that would cost velocity. I think he’s either still hurt, or the effect of the injury is very long-lasting (maybe permanent.) I don’t think there’s any need to blame anyone. Nobody ‘ruined’ him. Stuff happens.
    I’m also not convinced his velocity will never be high-end again. I’m also not convinced he’ll ever be consistent even if he did.  (Quote)

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  9. I don’t think the Yankees changed his mechanics in any way that would cost velocity. I think he’s either still hurt, or the effect of the injury is very long-lasting (maybe permanent.) I don’t think there’s any need to blame anyone. Nobody ‘ruined’ him. Stuff happens.
    I’m also not convinced his velocity will never be high-end again. I’m also not convinced he’ll ever be consistent even if he did.

    I think he would be consistent if he did because everything goes off his fastball. His best starts of last yr was when he had a good or great fastball. The kid had pin point control and devastating stuff this was what 2 yrs ago. I know things can change quickly but damn just like that  (Quote)

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  10. I remember hearing that the Giants considered changing Tim Lincecum’s mechanics in order to prevent injuries. His father talked them out of it, though. I’m just saying…  (Quote)

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  11. “But not in the way that the media and many fans think.”in what way then can u explain?  

    I’m referring to everyone claiming the Yankees “ruined” him because they had innings limit on him. Which is silly cause young minor league pitchers too have innings limit. Are they “ruined’ too?
    It’s also been said that they mentally messed with him. Paraphrasing- ‘ He’s conscious of his innings limit therefore he can’t perform well.’ ‘the Yankees ruined him mentally’ etc…..

    And not once last year had I read or heard from the media, talk show host and some fans, how out of shape he was. All blame went to the Yankees and none of it went on Joba.  (Quote)

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  12. I’m referring to everyone claiming the Yankees “ruined” him because they had innings limit on him. Which is silly cause young minor league pitchers too have innings limit. Are they “ruined’ too?
    It’s also been said that they mentally messed with him. Paraphrasing- ‘ He’s conscious of his innings limit therefore he can’t perform well.’ ‘the Yankees ruined him mentally’ etc…..
    And not once last year had I read or heard from the media, talk show host and some fans, how out of shape he was. All blame went to the Yankees and none of it went on Joba.

    well in a way they did ruin him. Not in terms of having limits but they way they limited him. I’m sure they had good intentions but their execution was wrong. And it’s evident because this season the yanks are taking a different tact with hughes’ innings limit. Him being consicous of the innings could have played a role in his season last yr but who knows for sure because none of us are in his head.

    In terms of his weight he’s always been a big guy and the coaches, michael kay, and players always comment on how he gets his work in. But if you feel he needs better condition I can’t say you’re completely wrong.

    Now does joba take some of the blame yes of course he does. There are things that he needs to work on such as: being open to teaching, not being as stubborn as he can be, forget about living up to the hype, focus on being a good/great pitcher, focus while on the mound, etc.  (Quote)

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  13. I think Hughes has a higher innings count cause he’s thrown over 100 innings before. Although it being 4 years ago when he threw 146.
    But also I think the Yankees feel little to no injury concerns with Hughes that they could throw him out there for 170-175. His injuries have been freak injuries not pitching injuries.
    Where as Joba they are way more cautious cause of injury history and potential for injuries due to his awful mechanics.
    I think that’s the reason for the “rules” being different with both.  (Quote)

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    The Bif City of Dreams Reply:

    True hughes injuries have been freak injuries but the end of the day they are still injuries sustained while he was starting. I maybe be wrong but didn’t he have a few injuries in the minors too? I’m not sure so thats why i’m asking.

    True the rules are different because no two guys are the same but I’m referring to the execution of the rules. Hughes is in extended spring still working on his craft. Joba started right out of the gate.  (Quote)

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  14. There it is! Found it in Boston, at a critical time, along with a snapping slider, Tuesday night!  (Quote)

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