Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Joba will reward Yankees' patience
Bloomberg Sports on the eighth-inning guy with the 5.77 ERA on the first-place team:
On the surface, it isn't hard to see why both Yankees fans and fantasy owners have found Chamberlain frustrating in 2010. The big right-hander's ERA stands at 5.77, his WHIP's at 1.51, with opponents now hitting a robust .290 against him. He has not had more than three consecutive scoreless appearances since the middle of May. Of the 11 appearances in which he has allowed a run this year, he has allowed either 3 or 4 runs in five of them, a trend that makes it all but impossible for him to consistently lower his ERA.
In reality, Chamberlain's luck has been the biggest difference this year from years past. Chamberlain's FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching--a version of ERA that strips away all luck-related variables) stands at 2.66, more than three runs lower than his ERA. He is not walking his way into trouble, as his 3.23 walk rate is his lowest since 2007 and about league-average. His line drive rate is up a little bit, but a 21.7% line drive rate--compared to a career rate of 19.4%--doesn't account for more than three runs of difference between ERA and FIP.Jose Lopez's grand slam a couple of weeks ago is still fresh in our minds, and with that single pitch Chamberlain's ERA jumped from 4.91 to 5.89.
Relief pitching is exciting.
What's easy to miss is that Chamberlain has given up just two home runs all season. (Mariano Rivera has given up just one, but that doesn't really count, because of course Rivera's a supernatural being.)
Remember 2008, when Joba finished the season with a 2.60 ERA? This year he's throwing just as hard as then. He's got the same strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he's just as stingy with the homers. He's just not catching the same breaks. I know we've been using the word "luck" so much in recent years that it's become an easy way to avoid a real conversation, and I'm sorry about that. But while it's often not the only explanation for something like Joba chamberlain's ERA, it's often the best explanation.
I will add one discouraging word ... I don't know that we'll ever see the Joba Chamberlain we saw in 2007. That Joba Chamberlain routinely pushed triple digits on the speed gun. But as we've seen with so many young pitchers, this one might have peaked early. Doesn't mean he won't enjoy a long and productive career as a hard-throwing reliever. It just means he's not supernatural.