Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Joba in His Element

Joba in His Element

By Paul Catalano ~ May 11th, 2010. Filed under: Digest Contributors.

Google “Joba Chamberlain” & “velocity” and you’ll find a whole slew of articles pontificating where and why did Joba’s velocity go? One recent one from theYankeeU.com states that it could be poor mechanics or rotator cuff problems and admits, “Some may think that I might be overreacting to one disappointing outing, but, to be clear, Joba’s velocity has been an ongoing issue.”

Well, to anyone watching last night’s game, Joba Chamberlain, and his velocity, are just fine.

Hitting 98 mph on the radar gun last night, Chamberlain struck out the side in the 9th on 14 pitches, 10 of them strikes. He pounded the zone and seemed to just dial it up and chuck.

And the results speak for themselves. Chamberlain, far more comfortable on the mound as when compared to last year, has got his velocity and his killer instinct back. Despite what the Yankees and some feel, it seems Joba was made for the gun slinging closer role.

According to Fangraphs, Chamberlain was throwing his fastball (two- and four-seam), and especially his slider—his best pitch —much more this year than last year and to better effect. As a starter last year, Chamberlain threw his curve and change—not his best pitches—more and the result wasn’t what he or the Yankees wanted. His arm velocity dropped as a starter and he seemed tentative on the mound—thinking instead of chucking. This year, without a pitch count, without the burden of mixing up his pitches and showing batters different looks, Joba is free to do what he was born to do; throw really, really hard. And he has, with great success. All of his stats have reverted back to the pre-starter experiment, and he looks like a legitimate closer, right now.

The White Sox, in 1976 tried to make a starter out of Goose Gossage—his ERA jumped over 2 runs, and, in 80 more IP than the previous year, Goose only struck out 5 more batters. John Wetteland was a terrible starter, but became one of the better relievers in the nineties. Same for Eric Gagne and Joba’s mentor, Mariano Rivera. In the minors, Lee Smith was a starter and a fairly terrible one at that. However, when he came to the majors, he was converted to a reliever and to everybody’s common sense, they left him there.

The point is trying to turn Joba into a starter is like trying to turn a donkey into a unicorn. It’s just not who he is and you won’t get the best out of him. Watching Joba last night, you could see that he was in his element and that he was tapped into all of his talent. The Yankees might be able to convert Chamberlain into a starter…eventually. But really, would that be the best use of him? Which would you take: A slower-armed, self-doubting, commonplace starter, or a dominant lights-out reliever?

After watching him last night. I would go with the dominant reliever.

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Paul Catalano is an aspiring sportswriter who’s day job is as Production Manager for Field & Stream, Outdoor Life & Shot Business magazines. He has written often for his own blog at And a Player to be Named Later since 2007. His articles have been picked up by Dugout Central, Foxsports.com, Lindys.com among others. Before that, Paul got married to the lovely Elizabeth Ryan, got his Master’s in Writing from Emerson College, attended his first Yankee game at 9 years old, got his first base hit at 5 years old and was born.

3 Responses to Joba in His Element

  1. Yankee1010

    For the last time, the Yanks weren’t turning him into a starter. He WAS a starter.

    You act like he never dominated as a starter or struggled as a reliever.

  2. Keaton

    Joba hit 98 mph all the time as a starter back in 08.

  3. Mike Silva

    So did Doc Gooden in 1985, not sure if he, or Joba, could do that as a starter today.

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