Taking A Look At Joba Chamberlain's Velocity

Throughout the debate on whether or not Joba Chamberlain should be starting or relieving one thing that keeps coming up is this idea that his velocity suffers in his starts which supposedly means he should be coming out of the bullpen.

While watching games, I have noticed this to some extent, but I am the type of person who doesn’t trust his own eyes. I like to have data to backup my observations otherwise I end up doubting myself. To remove some of the doubt I have this morning I went through Pitch FX and pulled out some of the velocity numbers of Joba’s appearances last season and I put together a couple helpful charts.

Here are the numbers during Joba’s 2009 starts:

Date – Opp.

Top Speed

Fastball Avg.

Apr 12 – Royals

95.9 MPH

92.49 MPH

Apr 17 – Indians

95.4 MPH

91.50 MPH

Apr 24 – Red Sox

94.6 MPH

92.39 MPH

Apr 29 – Tigers

96.3 MPH

92.76 MPH

May 5 – Red Sox

95.8 MPH

92.26 MPH

May 10 – Orioles

97.1 MPH

93.40 MPH

May 16 – Twins

97.1 MPH

93.43 MPH

May 21 – Orioles

94.5 MPH

91.97 MPH

May 26 – Rangers

93.3 MPH

90.36 MPH

June 1 – Indians

97.6 MPH

93.91 MPH

June 7 – Rays

95.4 MPH

92.03 MPH

June 12 – Mets

94.8 MPH

91.87 MPH

June 18 – Nats

95.6 MPH

92.17 MPH

June 24 – Braves

95.6 MPH

92.33 MPH

June 29 – Rays

95.3 MPH

92.02 MPH

July 5 – Blue Jays

95.8 MPH

92.40 MPH

July 10 – Angels

96.9 MPH

93.57 MPH

July 19 – Tigers

96.9 MPH

92.93 MPH

July 24 – A’s

96.2 MPH

92.61 MPH

July 29 – Rays

95.3 MPH

92.20 MPH

Reaches 110.2 innings,

Previous career high

118.2 in 2005, 112.1 in 2007

Aug 6 – Red Sox

96.2 MPH

92.72 MPH

Aug 11 – Blue Jays

96.0 MPH

92.31 MPH

Aug 16 – Mariners

96.9 MPH

93.02 MPH

Aug 25 – Rangers

96.3 MPH

92.70 MPH

Aug 30 – White Sox

94.4 MPH

91.73 MPH

Sept 4 – Blue Jays

95.2 MPH

92.68 MPH

Sept 9 – Rays

95.1 MPH

92.86 MPH

Sept 14 – Angels

95.0 MPH

92.16 MPH

Sept 20 – Mariners

95.6 MPH

93.02 MPH

Sept 25 – Red Sox

95.4 MPH

92.93 MPH

Sept 30 - Royals

94.8 MPH

91.77 MPH

Avg pre-Aug

95.77

92.43

Avg post-Aug

95.55

92.53

Avg tot

95.69

92.47

I split it up after July because that was the point of the season where his numbers took a nose dive. From the beginning of the season until July 29 he pitched 20 games, all starts, 110.2 innings, a 3.58 ERA, 97 strikeouts and 50 walks. After that he pitched in 11 games, 45.2 innings, a 7.69 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 26 walks, not counting one relief appearance.

His velocity pre and post July 29 drops, but only slightly. This means that the velocity he had out there was not the main factor for the drop in his numbers. Instead it is probably a loss in command as his walk total went up slightly compared to his innings pitched.

Let’s now compare these numbers to his numbers coming out of the bullpen:

Date – Opp.

Top Speed

Fastball Avg.

Oct 4 – Rays

95.7 MPH

94.22 MPH

Oct 7 – Twins

94.8 MPH

94.80 MPH

Oct 9 – Twins

96.9 MPH

95.66 MPH

Oct 11 – Twins

96.2 MPH

95.11 MPH

Oct 17 – Angels

95.9 MPH

94.85 MPH

Oct 19 – Angels

96.7 MPH

96.18 MPH

Oct 22 – Angels

98.6 MPH

95.84 MPH

Oct 25 – Angels

96.2 MPH

94.96 MPH

Oct 31 – Phillies

96.2 MPH

94.73 MPH

Nov 1 – Phillies

97.1 MPH

96.00 MPH

Nov 4 – Phillies

96.8 MPH

94.77 MPH

Avg per game

96.46

95.19

Here is where we see the first real difference. In his starts Joba averages 92.47 MPH with the ability to ramp it up to about 95.69 MPH at times. In his bullpen appearances his average jumps to 95.19 MPH hitting up to 96.46. So not only was his average velocity higher in 2009 when he was relieving vs. starting, but he was able to consistently reach higher one-time speeds.

So where does this difference in speed come from? Well the obvious answer is the difference in stamina. Notice the average difference in his fastest pitch during his appearance is only one-MPH, but the average overall difference is slightly more than 2.5 MPH difference.

Conclusion: What this shows me is that it’s not all about velocity when it comes to Joba’s success on the mound. Yes, he absolutely has a higher average velocity out of the pen by about 2.5 miles per hour, but I think the numbers pre and post July 29th tell me more than the difference than between starting vs. relieving numbers. Like I said before, there was hardly a difference in his velocity after he reached 110 innings, but the stark difference in the numbers means that it is probably much more about command and ability to use his other pitches for him than fastball velocity.

It took a little while to pull all of these numbers and I’m hardly a statistician so there is probably something I’m overlooking here. I just wanted to pull the numbers and see if anything jumped out at me. I also wanted to try to get an idea of what the actual difference in his velocity was and not just the perceived difference. Hopefully I can have some other people look at these numbers and point out anything important that I might have overlooked.

Date – Opp.

Top Speed

Fastball Avg.

Apr 12 – Royals

95.9 MPH

92.49 MPH

Apr 17 – Indians

95.4 MPH

91.50 MPH

Apr 24 – Red Sox

94.6 MPH

92.39 MPH

Apr 29 – Tigers

96.3 MPH

92.76 MPH

May 5 – Red Sox

95.8 MPH

92.26 MPH

May 10 – Orioles

97.1 MPH

93.40 MPH

May 16 – Twins

97.1 MPH

93.43 MPH

May 21 – Orioles

94.5 MPH

91.97 MPH

May 26 – Rangers

93.3 MPH

90.36 MPH

June 1 – Indians

97.6 MPH

93.91 MPH

June 7 – Rays

95.4 MPH

92.03 MPH

June 12 – Mets

94.8 MPH

91.87 MPH

June 18 – Nats

95.6 MPH

92.17 MPH

June 24 – Braves

95.6 MPH

92.33 MPH

June 29 – Rays

95.3 MPH

92.02 MPH

July 5 – Blue Jays

95.8 MPH

92.40 MPH

July 10 – Angels

96.9 MPH

93.57 MPH

July 19 – Tigers

96.9 MPH

92.93 MPH

July 24 – A’s

96.2 MPH

92.61 MPH

July 29 – Rays

95.3 MPH

92.20 MPH

Reaches 110.2 innings,

Previous career high

118.2 in 2005, 112.1 in 2007

Aug 6 – Red Sox

96.2 MPH

92.72 MPH

Aug 11 – Blue Jays

96.0 MPH

92.31 MPH

Aug 16 – Mariners

96.9 MPH

93.02 MPH

Aug 25 – Rangers

96.3 MPH

92.70 MPH

Aug 30 – White Sox

94.4 MPH

91.73 MPH

Sept 4 – Blue Jays

95.2 MPH

92.68 MPH

Sept 9 – Rays

95.1 MPH

92.86 MPH

Sept 14 – Angels

95.0 MPH

92.16 MPH

Sept 20 – Mariners

95.6 MPH

93.02 MPH

Sept 25 – Red Sox

95.4 MPH

92.93 MPH

Sept 30 - Royals

94.8 MPH

91.77 MPH

Avg pre-Aug

95.77

92.43

Avg post-Aug

95.55

92.53

Avg tot

95.69

92.47

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7 Responses to Taking A Look At Joba Chamberlain's Velocity

  1. nyyank55 says:

    What everybody fails to realize and what you are overlooking is that a starter and a reliever have two different mindsets and therein lies the answer to the difference in velocity. As a starter he has to pace himself over 6+ innings where as a reliever he can come in and let it all hang out because he's only in there for an inning or so. There is no mystery here.

    • I think you are kind of missing the point of this. See, it's not a fact that there are two different mindsets, even though that might be true, it's your perception. The entire point of this was to try to remove perception and stick with numbers.

      Besides, what you're talking about has more to do with stamina than mindset.

      • Davey50 says:

        Thanks for the effort. I agree that it is a control thing, and a confidence thing. If he starts, and if the training wheels are off, his test will be if he can stay consistent and if the Yankees trust him to make every 5th start . If so good things should happen. We can only hope so.

      • nyyank55 says:

        So you're going to tell me that a starter and a reliever don't pace themselves differently and that it is only my perception? Come on!!! It's not perception, it is a fact. You get too caught up in numbers and don't see what's in front of your face. Let's get real.

        • No, I'm saying two different things. First, that it's not a mentality thing when it comes to pacing. That's a stamina thing. The more he works on his stamina, the less the difference will be. So if he sticks with the rotation this year, next year, beyond he'll naturally build up stamina and the difference between him needing to pace himself as a starter vs. reliever should diminish.

          Second, the idea that he's got the mentality of a reliever is your perception. You just think that, there is no proof anywhere that you could use to back that up with short of being Joba's shrink.

  2. eddieperez23 says:

    Great research..my perception was he was throwing slower as a SP, so this is encouraging. I just hope Joba does his part in spring training and wins the 5th spot in rotation. IMO Joba has a better chance to be an effective starter than Hughes. Make Joba the starter and let Hughes set up for Mo.

  3. I think you're right to focus on control and command, Rob. Good stats, too.