Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Joba Can't Pitch

Joba Chamberlain is a Gifted-From-God, remarkably talented baseball player. His slider absolutely submarines down and away from flailing righties. His fastball, when clocked at 94, seems to burst out of his hand and be 4 mph faster. And his 12-6 hard curveball freezes batters in their socks.

Unfortunately, he doesn't know how to pitch yet.

Throwing and pitching are two different things. And Joba still doesn't do the little things to get batters out—the “pitcher” things he needs to do win.

Like throwing first pitch strikes.

Or staying focused and finishing innings, especially when he already has two outs.

Last night Joba struggled to finish four innings in 96 pitches. Of the 22 batters he faced in those four innings, he threw a first pitch strike to 13 of them, meaning in almost half the batters he faced, he pitched from behind. He walked three batters and gave up 9 hits in those 4 innings.

Of all the runs Joba gave up—and he gave up 7—all were scored with two outs on the scoreboard. Of the 12 men Joba put on base, 6 of them got on base with 2 strikes on them.

It's not that Joba doesn't have good stuff. He has 3 plus pitches with his slider being a plus, plus pitch. His fastball is electric and his breaking and offspeed stuff is improving. So if he has all this electric stuff, why is he pitching so poorly?

Simple, he doesn't know how to pitch yet. He doesn’t utilize his talents to put batters, and innings away. He loses focus. All the typical signs of a young pitcher.

Joba Chamberlain doesn't turn 24 until September 23rd. And being young and prodigiously talented, he is quite understandably erratic. And its interesting to note, that Chamberlain's numbers up this point in his career, are actually equal to, or better, than the man he is almost always compared to, Josh Beckett. His numbers are also better than Pedro Martinez who didn’t begin to dominate until he was 25. And Chamberlain completely blows away Sandy Koufax, who didn’t turn it on until he was 26.

The wild inconsistency you see from Chamberlain, (as you did from Hughes earlier this season when he was in the rotation and who turned 23 a mere 2 months ago), is just them being young—a lack of focus, consistency and erratic mechanics on pitches. When asked to pitch only one inning—and to "let it fly"—both Hughes and Chamberlain are magnificent. Asked, however, to maintain it for 7 innings, and to pitch to the same guys 3 times, and the outcomes is erratic to say the least.

Patience is the only prophecy I have here. That Chamberlain is hugely talented is obvious—just watch the kid and see some of his pitches. What is equally obvious is that he's not in control of his pitching just yet. And Yankee fans have to be a little more patient and let Chamberlain grow into his role as eventual ace.


Brandon said...

Very, very good job on this one!

blmeanie said...

while I'm not a fan of Chamberlain, I would suggest the erratic methods that the Yankees are using to handle him cannot help.

Setup man last year, starter this year...for a while, now go sit for 9 days...I believe in being careful after early injuries but I also believe pitchers in the last 20+ years have become way too pampered. Injuries happen and happen whether you burn out the guy or stop him at 90 pitches every time out. There can't be any statistical proof that pitchers are injured less then 30 years ago, at least I have never seen anything.