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Joba Chamberlain was throwing a 96 m.p.h. fastball yesterday

Mar 23, 2011, 3:00 PM EDT

New York Yankees pitcher Chamberlain poses during media photo day at the team's spring training camp

Whether it’s mechanical changes, good health after a long break or just because he got a good night’s sleep the night before, Yankees fans have to like this: Joba Chamberlain was throwing the ball 96 m.p.h yesterday, and was hitting his spots as he did it.

“This is the best I’ve felt in spring training,” Chamberlain said. “Usually, it’s halfway through the season when I’m throwing this hard. That’s a plus. Physically, I feel great, and mentally, I feel awesome. Those are two battles that are tough in spring training.”

There’s so much talk about the Yankees’ bullpen, and Chamberlain tends to be the fourth guy mentioned if he’s mentioned at all.  If he’s on point like this once the season gets going, however, what is already being viewed as a strength for the Bombers will be an even greater one than a lot of people think.

And if you think that about 60% of the reason I posted this item was so that I could have an excuse to use this silly picture of Chamberlain, well, that’s where you’re right.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Oh, yeah, I LOVED that 96mph fastball that THE FAT TOAD pitched yesteray…..went right out of the park for JJ Hardy.
    What??? Civility, I thought that was this mornings class.

    • uyf1950 - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:34 PM

      Relax my friend. It’s only spring training and if I’m not mistaken yesterday was his first appearance after the strain he sustained. There is a famous Chinese proverb and there are variation of it but basically it’s “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Hopefully, Joba has begun his journey back to respectability, let’s give him a chance. If I can para-phase a comment David Stern made on Letterman several years back about watching hockey – “what are you going to do root for the Red Sox.”

    • Professor Longnose - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:39 PM

      You’ve been on Chamberlain’s butt for a long time. Let me ask you: What would you consider a valuable season out of him this year? How many innings does he have to pitch, and what does he have to accomplish for you to say you were wrong?

      • kellyb9 - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        I won’t stop criticizing him until he wins a batting title.

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:58 PM

        Thanks UFY and Prof, I’ll address that now even after admitting that I gave Jeff Weaver and Kevin Brown second chances in the day.
        Very concretely: 60 to 80 innings in the sixth or seventh, maintaining a lead in 90% of games pitched. He certainly didn’t blow yesterday’s game but a 9.00 ERA is not acceptable.
        Going from there I don’t think he concentrates enough. A lot of people advance the argument that he was “wound too tight” by the Joba rules, and thus ruined. He needs to be settled down, work on keeping pitches low, and perhaps keep his fastball to 92mph to improve control. We don’t need another Farnsworth.
        Look, we’ve got a great bullpen and it may have to be used more often than we’d like with some starter questions to be worked out. I’m comfortable with the bullpen with this one exception. Work it out and I’ll be as happy as any Univ erse fan.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        yankeesfanlen – I like the bullpen as well a lot actually. Although my main concern right now isn’t Joba it’s Mitre. I did not like his outing yesterday at all. In fact it’s got me thinking that the Yankees might want to take a second look at Ayala or maybe even the prospect Pope for the long relief roll. I know Mitre is a favorite of Girardi but right now I think he’s a bigger issue for the Yankees then Joba. Mitre right now is the only guy in the pen that is slotted for long relief that is unless they keep both Colon and Garcia and use one of the in that roll. Just my opinion.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:40 PM

        He needs to be settled down, work on keeping pitches low, and perhaps keep his fastball to 92mph to improve control. We don’t need another Farnsworth.

        Quibbling, but I assume you mean command here and not control. Of the 10 pitchers who pitched at least 50IP with the Yanks last year, Joba had the third lowest BB/9 at 2.8, just behind Mitre at 2.7. He also had the second highest K/99 behind Robertson.

        He tended to get hit, and hit hard when he missed his spot (command). He had a 2.98 FIP (2.81) and 3.34xFIP (3.81). The numbers in parentheses are Soriano’s. He’s only 24, give the kid some time.

    • Professor Longnose - Mar 23, 2011 at 5:50 PM

      I don’t even know where to look up how many leads he held or didn’t hold. Pick some real stats.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 23, 2011 at 6:30 PM

        73 Appearances
        19 times he left, the Yanks had a worse win probability than before he entered
        17 of those times he gave up runs.
        12 of the 19 the Yanks lost.

        Nice real stats comment though, should have went with the mother’s basement.

      • Professor Longnose - Mar 23, 2011 at 6:53 PM

        Hey, church–I think your sniping is misplaced.First, I haven’t argued anywhere–this thread or elsewhere–that Chamberlain had a good season last year. We weren’t even discussing that. We were discussing what kind of stats he would need to have to have a good season this coming year. And “not giving up the lead” is not one I can look up.

        Your stats are real stats, but because they’re unusual, I don’t know how bad (or, conceivably, good) they are. What’s the league average for middle relievers leaving with worse win probability than they started with? And isn’t that also based somewhat on how many runs the Yankees score if Chamberlain pitches through the end of an inning (which would probably tend to help Chamberlain more than others)?

        Is this a stat that correlates with other stats that we trust involving relievers? Is there a good case that it’s a reliable stat for judging relievers? Not rhetorical questions–i don’t know.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:39 PM

        Apologies, didn’t mean to come off as much of an ass as I did. The kid is just 24 years old, had almost the same exact peripherals as Hughes through 45 starts and has been shoehorned into a relief role by morons like Wally Matthews, Mike Francesca, and Mike Lupica.

        To answer your questions:

        What’s the league average for middle relievers leaving with worse win probability than they started with?

        There’s no league average stat available, and I don’t have the Access skills to run a query for everyone based off Retrosheet data. However, to hear some people talk, it’s like Joba came into a game with a lead and gave it up every time he pitched.

        And isn’t that also based somewhat on how many runs the Yankees score if Chamberlain pitches through the end of an inning (which would probably tend to help Chamberlain more than others)?

        No, it’s based off the Expected Runs Matrix at that time. So if Joba comes in with a 4-3 lead in the 8th and gives up 2 runs, the WPA let’s you know how many times a team has won losing 5-4 in the 9th. Basically it’s before Joba came in the Yanks had X% chance to win, after he came in they have Y. Negative is bad, positive is good (although the closer to 0 the worse it gets).

        Is this a stat that correlates with other stats that we trust involving relievers? Is there a good case that it’s a reliable stat for judging relievers? Not rhetorical questions–i don’t know.

        Well ERA is terrible. If you have a reliever with a great LOB% (Left on Base Percentage), he could perform terribly (walk a bunch of guys, not strike anyone out), but have a great ERA because the guys after him don’t let anyone score. Or vice versa, he could have a terrible LOB% where even if he struck out 2/3 batters, but the one reached and scored, he’d have a terrible ERA since they pitch such short innings. To look at it another way, say Joba came in and gave up a bunch of hits and then a Grand Slam and was removed so we charge him with 4 Runs. To get his ERA at 1.00, he’d have to pitch 36 consecutive scoreless innings.

        The best two stats are the ones I mentioned, FIP and xFIP. FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching (BBs and Ks and HRs) that eliminate defense. Lots of arguing back and forth about how much pitchers are responsible for what happens whenever a ball is put in play, so this stat tries to just show what a reliever is responsible for. And his numbers are similar to Soriano’s last year. xFIP normalizes HR rates to a league average (generally 10% HR/FB). If you’re a Yanks fan, you remember the terrible Chan Ho Park experience last year. Two years prior, he had a low ratio of about 6% with the Phillies. With the Yanks, it doubled to 12%. Is it luck, or is it something the pitchers can control, we have no concrete evidence either way so far unfortunately.

      • Professor Longnose - Mar 24, 2011 at 8:33 AM

        Thanks, Church. I’m actually up on stuff like FIP and xFIP. I know Chamberlain had decent peripherals last year, and like you I’m frustrated that the Yankees haven’t managed to get a decent starter out of Chamberlain. I think at this point there’s basically nothing Chamberlain can do to get back to the rotation. If he pitches great, they’ll say that he’spitching great because he belongs in the pen.

        I was just reading on Joe Posnanski’s site last week about WPA, which I’ve been familiar with before anyway. It doesn’t have much predictability. It only measures what happened.

        Anyway, here’s my prediction for Chamberlain this year: K/9 >9, WHIP <1.1.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 24, 2011 at 8:49 AM

        I think at this point there’s basically nothing Chamberlain can do to get back to the rotation. If he pitches great, they’ll say that he’spitching great because he belongs in the pen.

        I blame the latter sentence on guys like Francesca who harped for years about how his stuff plays up better in the pen (forgetting that everyone’s does, but I digress). It’s a real shame the kid won’t be a starter on the Yanks. It would have solved a huge rotation issue this year, and going into next year with Banuelos up the Yanks would have had 3 starters under 26, CC at 31 and then AJ with 2 years left on his contract.

  2. Jonny 5 - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    That’s “toadalicious”

    Toadalicious definition
    Make them bats go loco
    They want my treasure
    So they get their pleasures from my fastball

    You can see me, you can squeeze me
    It is easy, And I’m sleazy
    I got reasons why I tease ‘em
    Batters just come and go like seasons

    Toadalicious
    (So delicious)
    But I ain’t Tippin’
    And if you was suspicious
    All that **** is fictitious

    I blow HUGE leads
    (Mwah)
    That puts them boys on clock, clock
    And they be cleaning up my clock
    with their bats, don’t be shocked
    (Four, tres, two, uno)

    So delicious
    (It’s hot, hot)
    So delicious
    (I put them boys on Base, unlike Doc)
    So delicious
    (They want a taste of what I got)
    I’m Toadalicious
    (T-t-tasty, tasty)

    Todalicious def-
    Todalicious def-
    Todalicious def-

    Toadalicious definition
    Make them boys Hit homers
    They always claim they know me
    Comin’ to me call me Stoner
    (Hey Stoner)

    I’m the T to the O, A, to the D
    And can’t no other pitcher cough up hits like me

    TOADALICIOUS!

    Muah!

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:13 PM

      heehee nah GUFFAW

      • Jonny 5 - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM

        That was for you Len.

  3. lmno7 - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    It would be awesome to see Joba return to pitching up to his potential as he did when he first showed up… I loved his energy…

    I think one of the big problems he developed (which for most pitchers is a benefit) is slowing down the game… He used to attack, attack, attack… throw the ball almost as soon as he got it back… not letting the batter settle in… Then somewhere along the line he started pausing… thinking too much… letting the batter get comfortable… he started second guessing pitch selection… and losing his location… and… getting hit like crazy… which shattered his confidence… The Joba rules were also a seriously stupid idea…

    My 2 cents…

  4. purnellmeagrejr - Mar 23, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Guy looks like my 18 year old son’s friends.

  5. Kevin S. - Mar 23, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    But yeah, he totally wouldn’t be better than Big Fat Bartolo Colon in the rotation.

  6. randomdigits - Mar 23, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    So? Zach Britton was hitting 96 in that game as well and Zach wasn’t just dialing it up for one inning. (Zach has given up one ER this spring in 14 MLB and 5 MiLB innings)

    But lets keep talking about Yankee middle relievers cause thats what folks really care about.

  7. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 23, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    Let’s look at the first three seasons of 2 pitchers:

    Pitcher A: 231.0 IP, 139K, 272H, 35HR, 1.710 WHIP, 5.77 ERA, 86 ERA+, 13-14 record
    Pitcher B: 281.2 IP, 285K, 266H, 27HR, 1.374 WHIP, 3.61 ERA, 126 ERA+, 15-9 record

    Pitcher B is Joba, and Pitcher A is Roy freakin’ Halladay. They were each in they age 21, 22, 23 seasons. You can pick any stats you want, and Joba is better by a lot. Let’s not give up on the kid quite yet.

    He was having a great year in 2008, got hurt, was rushed back and wasn’t effective (see also Wang, Chien Ming). I think that has more to do with it than any head game bulls*** people talk about.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:46 PM

      I was posting about this a year ago. Chamberlain’s numbers through 45 starts were almost identical to Hughes, and close to guys like Santana and Halladay. Unfortunately Cashman admitted that his shoulder is borked so they don’t view him as a starter. Shame, I remember that Boston game* in ’09 where he gives up 4 runs in the first, then strikes out 12 over the next 4 2/3 IP.

      *http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200905050.shtml

    • purnellmeagrejr - Mar 27, 2011 at 9:11 AM

      You guys are delusional – your comparisons remind me of Scott Boras comparing Ollie Perez to Sandy Koufax at the same stage in their careers.

  8. marinersnate - Mar 24, 2011 at 4:05 AM

    Jober was seen consuming a 96 oz. pizza later today. Ok, now correlate.

  9. baseballstars - Mar 24, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Good. Build up his trade value for a mid-rotation starter. Keep the propaganda coming! :)

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