Joba Chamberlain has had a disappointing season thus far. After pitching well out of the rotation last season, most Yankees fans expected him to have a big year. Instead, he has pitched like the 23 year old he is, struggling with his command and doing far too much nibbling for a guy with his stuff. His starts are often excruciating to watch, as he seems to go to a full count on every hitter. While his results are solid (4.04 ERA), his process is terrible, and his peripherals suggest that he has been lucky to achieve even the results that he has to this point. The question on everyone’s mind is, what happened to the Joba Chamberlain that we saw in 2008?
One possible exception might have to do with the Yankees homer happy new ballpark. Dave Eiland has mentioned that some of the pitchers seem afraid to be around the plate at the new park, fearing the long ball at all times. Looking at Joba’s home/road splits supports the idea that Joba has fallen victim to this problem at the new Yankee Stadium.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey the movie Home: 9 starts, 42 IP, 5.36 ERA, 1.738 WHIP, 41 SO, 25BB, .291/.393/.455
Road: 7 starts, 42.2IP, 2.74ERA, 1.313 WHIP, 33 SO, 16BB, .255/.341/.414
The numbers are fairly stark. Joba is pitching as well on the road as he did as a starter last season, while pitching like a bewildered rookie at home. He is clearly staying away from home plate at home as evidenced both by his higher number of walks as well as his higher number of strikeouts. His stuff is all flying out of the zone, which leads undisciplined hitters to flail at his pitches and strike out, while more selective hitters take their base and pass the baton. He has also allowed 8 more hits at home, but that may be a function of his BABIP being more than 50 points higher at the Stadium. He is also more efficient on the road, averaging under 5 innings a game at home and more than 6 innings a start on the road.
Ultimately, this suggests to me that Joba’s problem is mental. When on the road, Joba is able to find a comfort zone and pitch as well as he ever has. At home, however, he is afraid to blow the game with one pitch, and therefore commences with the interminable nibbling and ends up with 100 pitches thrown and 4 walks in the 5th inning. Dave Eiland needs to work with Joba to get past that mental block and find a way to carry his road performance to the new ballpark in the Bronx. If they can do that, Joba will instantly revert back to the top of the rotation starter that we saw flashes of last season.
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