Rediscovering Joba

This season, we all know the Yankee bullpen has not been that great. Yankee relievers have been very inconsistent and unreliable this year (aside from Mariano Rivera), but they’ve been covered up by outstanding starting pitching. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the Yankee bullpen has been 24-year-old Joba Chamberlain. At quick glance, Joba Chamberlain has been awful this season. We as fans watch his outings which end in bad results and then look at his ERA which has now risen to 5.95 and we conclude that he has been awful this year. While that may very well be the case, let’s analyze Joba a bit more. Before I say anything let’s take a look at some statistics and compare Joba’s seasons.

Taken from Fangraphs (Click to see larger)

As you can see, Joba’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) has generally been similar to his ERA throughout his career, except for 2010 when his ERA has been 5.95 but his FIP has been 3.01. This could be indicative of bad luck, but let’s not assume that yet. When we look at Joba’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in play) we see that it has generally been about .320-.330 throughout his career, but this season it has jumped to .399. This could indicate that Joba is getting unlucky breaks in the form of bloop singles, seeing-eye grounders, etc… However, it could also mean that batters are just making much better contact against Joba this year. I’d say it’s a bit of both. Joba’s GB%, LD%, and FB% are pretty much in line with his career averages, so I don’t think that is a concern. Let’s take a look at pitch types.

Taken from Fangraphs (click to see larger)

The first thing that jumps out at me here is how worthless Joba’s fastball has been this season and last season. In 2007, the year Chamberlain stole Yankee fans’ hearts, his fastball was worth 3.2 runs above average. Then in 2008, it jumped to being worth 8.2 runs above average. In 2009, however, Joba’s fastball’s value fell of a cliff. Joba’s fastball in 2009 was worth -20.2 runs above average (or you could say 20.2 runs below average). That is awful. In 2010, Joba has regained some value on his fastball, but it still below average at -2.4. For someone who has averaged a velocity of 94.4 mph on his fastball this year, -2.4 runs above average is not very good at all. I would imagine that the reason behinds Joba’s sub-par fastball is that he isn’t necessarily throwing it for balls, but he is missing within the strike zone. The drop in runs above average in Joba’s slider this year is also noteworthy.

So what should the Yankees do with Joba?

The Yankees could leave Joba in the role his is in now and hope some luck goes his way the rest of the year, they could demote him within the bullpen, or they could send him to AAA. I vote for sending Joba to AAA where he can straighten himself out in a no pressure zone and regain his confidence by blowing away measly AAA hitters. However, if the Yankees want to send Joba to AAA, they will have to act fast. Joba made his major league debut 3 years ago on August 7th, and if the Yankees don’t send him down before August 7th this year, he would have to pass through waivers in order to be sent down. Despite Joba’s struggles this year the first team which would get a shot to claim Joba would do so in a heartbeat. So if Joba is going to be sent down, it will happen soon. What do you think the Yankees should do with Joba?

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