As we're all aware, the "Chronicles of Joba" saga has turned out to be quite onerous during the last two seasons. Fortunately it appears that the Joba we all wistfully glorify returned last night.
Girardi decided to summon Joba Chamberlain to the mound with one out to replace the-totally-effective-and-by-effective-I-mean-not-effective, Javier Vazquez. With Dan Johnson (certified Yankee Destroyer™) on second, and Matt Joyce occupying first, Chamberlain delivered a fastball down the heart of the plate allowing B.J. Upton to get wood on the ball. Chamberlain managed to deflect the hit resulting in a one-out bases loaded opportunity for Brad Hawpe. I was really impressed with how Joba responded to the circumstance.
The very first pitch was low and away. That’s a hard pitch to hold back on for most hitters (although Hawpe did) in high-leverage situations, but it was still good for a called strike. The second pitch was a high fastball up and away. Although it was called a ball, that’s exactly the kind of pitch Joba should be testing the waters with. Anything high in the zone is typically deemed one of the tougher locations for batters. The third pitch was another perfectly located, outside fastball called strike. Joba then went to his bread and butter, the slider, and threw it in the dirt on the 1-2 count. No qualms here. Let bad hitters knock themselves out. Unfortunately, Hawpe didn’t bite.
The fifth and sixth pitches were both fastballs (the first called for a ball and the second fouled off, respectively). The sixth pitch was probably Joba’s worst pitch of the exchange and it's fortunate Hawpe didn’t capitalize on the opportunity. However, the series of fastballs did serve their purpose. Joba returned to the slider and delivered low and inside resulting in the whiff. Chamberlain would return in the ninth to retire the side in 11 pitches. Game over. Thhhheee Yankees win!
It’s hard to trust Joba completely given his sporadic performances over the course of this year. However, one of the storylines many of us have been enamored with pertains to his peripherals. Its evident his “stuff” is (and has been) there; it’s more of a matter of him just putting it together. With that being said, he looked very capable last night and he’s actually been quite effective during the past two months:
Check out his splits in August and September. What really grabs one’s attention (or at least mine) aside from the improving ERA are the last three columns. In September, Joba’s WHIP is absurdly low which is fantastic considering he had a quality WHIP in August. Similarly, his SO/9 rate has regressed to where we’d expect them to be -- to double digits. Most importantly, his walk rate has dropped, which has improved his SO/BB rate.
Back in 2007, Chamberlain was Torre’s weapon of choice in the eighth inning and the surest member on the pitching staff not named Mariano Rivera. Perhaps some of that same magic will be available for Joe Girardi during this year's October run. Given the stiff competition, it’d certainly be welcome. Until then, here's to the Joba Kool-Aid. Cheers.