Hughes to Start, Joba to Set-Up?

February 3, 2010

Is Chamberlain Heir to the Closer Throne in NY? (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Joel Sherman of the NY Post states that the New York Yankees appear to be set on how to use their two prized young pitchers.

According to Sherman it will be Phil Hughes who will be taking the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation and not Joba Chamberlain as many were expecting. Chamberlain looks headed to the bullpen to be the set-up man for Mariano Rivera and perhaps getting him ready to take over once the future Hall of Famer finally hangs up his nasty cutter.

One thing that confused me a bit was this statement from Sherman:

Because aren’t the 2010 Yanks much better if both Joba and Hughes are in the bullpen? Think about it.

I thought about it and yes, the idea of it would be magical. But you know what? Eventually the Yankees have to decide what exactly it is they are going to do with these guys. Moving them in and out of the rotation and holding them to silly “rules” or pitch counts is only going to hurt them in the long run. Figure out what they are best fit for, make your decision and stick to it.

I analyzed the move of Joba to the rotation last June and Phil Hughes bullpen vs. starter debate last July over at BDD.

If you look based on numbers, both are best fit to be relievers. As a starter Joba loses a lot of velocity and doesn’t appear to have the stamina to get far into games (of course this could be attributed to being bounced around from the rotation to the bullpen). Then Hughes seems to lack the ability to adjust his approach as he faces hitters a second and third time through the lineup.

Either way you slice it, the Yankees need to figure these two out now before its too late and two fantastic arms are not allowed to live up to their potential and essentially wasted.

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BDD Week in Review

June 18, 2009

Im baaaaack!

I'm baaaaack!

In case anyone missed the announcement last week, I am back writing at Baseball Daily Digest again after almost a year off. I am proud and excited to be back with one of the most popular and respected baseball sites on the Internet. I couldn’t be more excited to be back writing with such big industry names as Geoff Young, Bill Chuck, Bill Baer and of course the big boss, Joe Hamrahi.

The past couple of days BDD (Baseball Daily Digest) has been changing servers and had occasional interruptions in their site. Because of this I wanted to give you a quick recap of some of the bigger articles I wrote for them over the past week. I will always let you know when there is a new BDD content up written by me on here as well as if you follow me on Twitter.

This week’s lineup was full of breaking down players, both statistically and mechanically, and seeing just why they were either succeeding or failing compared to their expectations.

The Adam Jones Diaries – This article takes a look at the sudden explosion of Adam Jones and if this is just a hot start or if he can continue on this torrid pace.

The Wright Way – This article analyzes just what is going on with David Wright and his missing power. I take a detailed look at his statistics and exactly what they mean for the third baseman.

The Mysterious Disappearing Joba – This article breaks down Joba Chamberlain with the help of PitchF/X and exactly what happened to the dominating fireballer and if he is already on the decline in his young career.

Matthew Whipps is a writer for Baseball Daily Digest and co-writes the new blog The Minnesota Sports Guys. If you would like to contact him via email you can reach him at whipps15[at]gmail.com


The Mysterious Disappearing Joba

June 14, 2009

It wasn’t too long ago that all we heard was “Joba, Joba, Joba.” You couldn’t turn on ESPN without them drooling over the thick-bodied young righty and how good he was and how much better he was going to be. Then a funny thing happened. Joba stopped being Joba.

Before we dive into looking at what is wrong with Joba Chamberlain, let’s take a look at my scouting report I wrote on him in the spring of 2008…

(click here to continue reading on Baseball Daily Digest)

Matthew Whipps is a writer for Baseball Daily Digest and co-writes the new blog The Minnesota Sports Guys. If you would like to contact him via email you can reach him at whipps15[at]gmail.com


Great Joba Debate Comes to an End

March 20, 2008

It's Joba Time! (dethtrip99/flickr)

It’s Joba time folks! (dethtrip99 / flickr)

Well Yankee fans, fantasy owners and anyone with “Joba Fever” the debate on where phenom pitcher Joba Chamberlain will start the season has finally been officially answered. New Yankee manager Joe Girardi announced Wednesday that Joba will start the year in the bullpen but did not announce that he will be Mariano Rivera’s set-up guy.

(click here to continue this article on Baseball Digest Daily)

Catch my “Diamond Cutter” major league coverage now featured on Baseball Digest Daily and my prospect coverage on Big League Futures!

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Joba Rules: Part II

February 13, 2008

Apparently last season’s strict set of pitching rules for phenom pitcher Joba Chamberlain, also known as the “Joba Rules”, have a new edition out for the 2008 season.

According to ESPN.com, the New York Post reports that the New York Yankees will begin the 2008 season with Chamberlain coming out of the bullpen as Mariano Rivera‘s set-up man as opposed to joining the rotation.

Joba RulesThe current plan (which I’m sure has its wiggle room if need be) is to have the 22-year old start the season in the bullpen and limit his innings. Then in around June he will head down to the minors to get some work in as a starter only to rejoin the club as part of the Yankee rotation. Essentially the “Joba Rules” are to limit his arm to 140 innings in the 2008 campaign.

I can’t say that this is a huge surprise as I know how protective the Yankees are about Chamberlain and his arm. Many have wondered if he has the endurance and durability to be a starter at the Major League level. This new set of rules, as disappointing as it may be to many Yankees fans, is the smartest move long term for the man who invoked “Joba Fever” on baseball last season.

Personally I think Chamberlain is an outstanding talent and whatever the Yankees have to do to protect him is the best thing to do. Regarding Chamberlain’s abilities, here is a quick scouting report I wrote on him for my “2008 Top 5 Prospects: New York Yankees” column a few weeks ago.

Chamberlain has already proven to be a big time Major League pitcher coming out of the bullpen for the Yankees last season and causing Joba-fever everywhere. He has a mid to upper-90’s fastball, a sharp moving plus slider, and an improved changeup. The righty has plus stuff and plus command with a big frame that he uses for his power pitches. Has also learned to incorporate his secondary pitches more rather than relying strictly on fastballs. Looks to be moved to the rotation in 2008.

Now as far as Chamberlain’s long term success, we will have to look at who he is as a pitcher. There’s no doubt that he has the skill set as well as the personality to be a shutdown set-up man and closer, but to truly realize his abilities you need to have him in the rotation. I discussed Chamberlain’s skill set the other day in my “Clay vs. Joba” column where I compared the two pitchers and who is better. While Chamberlain’s fastball and slider are devastating and perfect for an end of the game guy, he does need to solidify at least one more pitch to become an effective starter. Two such pitches he needs to sharpen are his change and his curveball. Here’s an excerpt from my column discussing these two pitches:

• Chamberlain has been working on improving his change-up and it is getting better with time. As of now it is sitting in the low-80’s and is lacking enough movement to make it a stand out pitch. It is effective enough of a pitch to incorporate into his game plan but it will take more work to be a solid Major League pitch.

• Chamberlain is also at a bit of a disadvantage with this pitch too as he doesn’t use his curve as much as Buchholz for a couple of reasons. For one it’s not nearly as good as his fastball or slider which he predominantly uses coming out of the bullpen. Secondly it just isn’t that effective of a pitch for him yet as he doesn’t have reliable control over it. It is more of a slow looping curve that generally sits between 79-82 mph. This approach is ok during his time in the bullpen when a dominating fastball and hard slider will work great, but he may want to fine tune it a little more before joining the Yankees rotation.

I’m sure this will be one of the top priorities of the Yankees during his seasoning process as adding two more plus type pitches is exactly what Chamberlain needs.

Once again I want to reiterate that this is the best move the Yankees can do for this youngster’s future. With so many young, talented pitchers like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy ready to insert into the rotation, there shouldn’t be any rush with Joba.

I for one can’t wait to see how this new set of “Joba Rules” plays out and just how good he can be as a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball.

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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Versus Series: Clay vs. Joba

February 8, 2008

Joba vs. Clay and Clay vs. Joba. That’s all we seem to hear in the world of prospects ever since last season when these two enigmas exploded on to the scene and helped guide their respective teams into the playoffs. Both players play on major market teams, both players play on World Series contending teams and both players play on opposite sides of the biggest rivalry in sports today: Yankees vs. Red Sox.

So is all the hype for these young guns worth it? You better believe it. If their star potential wasn’t obvious enough before they made their debuts then their dazzling work on the mound this past summer and fall shouldn’t have left any doubt in your mind.

With that being said we now have to do what we analysts do and compare and contrast these young righties to figure out who is better and why. I plan on breaking down each pitcher individually (in alphabetical order to not show favoritism) and their specific games by first looking at their arsenal of pitches and then following that up with their pitching makeup (everything else that goes into being a pitcher). Hopefully this will help give a better look at them and just why they are two of the most impressive young pitchers to hit the Majors in quite some time.

Pitch Repertoire

The Fastball

• Buchholz has a nice combination of a two and four-seam fastballs that sit anywhere in the low to mid-90’s. His two-seamer has the better movement and can bust in on lefties while the four-seamer could use a little more movement on it to make it more effective. He also works his large arsenal of pitches off of his fastball very well thanks to the great movement on his secondary pitches.

• Chamberlain on the other hand is a power pitcher with a big frame whose fastball sits in the mid to upper-90’s and occasionally hits triple digits. He also has very good control of his fastball and is able to locate it anywhere in the zone. This also helps set up his slew of secondary pitches.

Decision: Chamberlain gets the edge with his fastball due to having quite a few more mph on it as well as having better movement.

The Change-up

• Right off the bat Buchholz has a major advantage in this competition due to the fact that he has one of the best change-ups in baseball. The pitch settles in right around 80 mph which he uses as one of his two out pitches and is almost unhittable when he is on with it. What makes it so hard to hit is that he disguises it so well with his normal delivery that it becomes very deceptive.

• Chamberlain has been working on improving his change-up and it is getting better with time. As of now it is sitting in the low-80’s and is lacking enough movement to make it a stand out pitch. It is effective enough of a pitch to incorporate into his game plan but it will take more work to be a solid Major League pitch.

Decision: This one isn’t even close as Buchholz holds a MAJOR advantage over his adversary in this battle. Anytime your pitch is one of the best of its kind in the game today, it’s is very difficult to find someone to rival it.

The Curveball

• Almost as good as his change-up, Buchholz’s knee buckling curve freezes hitters in their tracks. It’s a hard breaking 12-to-6 overhand curveball that just drops right off the table. Like his change-up, he uses it as his out pitch (depending on which pitch is on that night) and will usually sit in the 76-81 mph range. With a solid fastball and one other out plus pitch, the thought of being a batter and worrying about a second can’t be easy.

• Chamberlain is also at a bit of a disadvantage with this pitch too as he doesn’t use his curve as much as Buchholz for a couple of reasons. For one it’s not nearly as good as his fastball or slider which he predominantly uses coming out of the bullpen. Secondly it just isn’t that effective of a pitch for him yet as he doesn’t have reliable control over it. It is more of a slow looping curve that generally sits between 79-82 mph. This approach is ok during his time in the bullpen when a dominating fastball and hard slider will work great, but he may want to fine tune it a little more before joining the Yankees rotation.

Decision: Buchholz wins this battle too as, like their change-ups, Chamberlain’s curveball isn’t even in the same league as Buchholz’s.

The Slider

• As Buchholz’s fourth pitch, his slider comes in somewhere in the low to mid-80’s. Right now it is an above average pitch but shows the potential to be yet another plus pitch. As scary as that sounds, his slider has continued to improve over the past few years and isn’t far off from being yet another plus pitch to add to his bag of incredible pitches.

• Chamberlain’s other dominating pitch is his plus slider. It sits in the neighborhood of 85-89 mph and is used just as much (and effectively) as his fastball. As a power pitcher, Chamberlain uses his hard slider as his strikeout pitch as he keeps it low in the zone and constantly over matches hitters as they swing and miss. When he has it working it is a simply devastating pitch that even if you know it is coming is almost impossible to hit.

Decision: While Buchholz continues to improve his slider, the edge right now has to be given to Chamberlain simply because of how nasty of a pitch it can be. Now in a few years the tables may turn on who has the better slider, but for now Chamberlain can rest assured he has locked this up.

Pitch Repertoire Results: Even though these two split the four pitches by each winning two, I have to give the edge to Clay Buchholz in the pitch repertoire category for a couple of reasons. As I mentioned, Buchholz has one of the best change-ups in all of baseball and a curveball that isn’t far behind. While Chamberlain has a fantastic fastball-slider combination working for him, the fact that Buchholz has an increasingly effective slider on the rise gives him the slight edge in this match-up.

Pitcher’s Makeup

The Delivery

• Buchholz’s delivery looks like you are watching an instant replay on a loop. He has a very repeatable motion after some great strides towards improving it over the course of the last couple of seasons. His delivery melds perfectly with his pitches as he’s able to throw his fastball and change from the same arm slot with the same motion to help make it that much more untouchable. The only concern I have with his delivery is the high arm angle that he pitches with. It could be an issue down the road with injuries so it is something they will need to keep an eye on.

• Chamberlain grades very high when it comes to his delivery despite the fact that it at times can seem a bit violent. But anytime you have a pitcher trying to hit triple digits on the gun you are going to see some sort of effort put into it. Chamberlain’s strong frame and powerful legs are used very prevalently in his delivery which is where he generates his dominating stuff.

Decision: Again, this is an extremely difficult decision between these two. I am going to give the slight edge to Chamberlain because he’s able to repeat his motion so consistently and with so much force.

The Mechanics

• Just like his delivery, Buchholz is very much under control with his pitches. He has solid mechanics from the moment he starts his movement all the way until he releases the pitch.

• While Chamberlain has a very good delivery, he does have a little room for improvement in his mechanics. The real test will be when he moves from the bullpen to the rotation and has to go 6 or 7 innings versus one or two.

Decision: Buchholz edges out Chamberlain due to his ability to stay in control at all times without showing any flaws.

The Big Game Factor

• Buchholz is built to be a big game pitcher for the blood thirsty Red Sox Nation. This kid does not rattle easily and has the presence on the mound to pitch in a very intense city like Boston.

• Like Buchholz, Chamberlain is perfect to pitch in a big time city like New York for a big time team like the Yankees. It has been said numerous times that he has ice water running through his veins and has shown it coming down the stretch run last season.

Decision: As of right now it has to be given to Chamberlain. While Buchholz had some incredible performances at the end of last season for the Red Sox (including a no hitter), Chamberlain was put in some of the most intense situations out of the bullpen at the end of games when the Yankees’ season was on the line. In my book that is proof enough for me.

FINAL GRADE

On the outside you wouldn’t think these two pitchers would have anything in common. One is a wiry 6-3, 190 pound string bean and the other is a meaty 6-2, 230 pound beast. Each have different dominating pitches yet each have an excellent make-up. So as different as they may be, they seem to be just as similar.

The best part about doing the first ever “Versus Series” column with these two is I really can’t go wrong no matter who I choose. As for my final decision, I know I am going against the grain and may have a lot of people argue with me, but I have to go with Clay Buchholz by the narrowest of margins. After the 2008 season I may sing a different tune when we get a chance to see Chamberlain start, but for now I am going to give the nod to Buchholz for his overall ability as a pitcher both now and into the future.

These are just two more stars that have been injected into the intense Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see them go head to head very soon.


2008 Top 5 Prospects: New York Yankees

January 30, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we will continue on with our journey around the American League East by checking up on the deep, rich and prospect-replenished New York Yankees organization. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Joba Chamberlain, RHP: Chamberlain has already proven to be a big time Major League pitcher coming out of the bullpen for the Yankees last season and causing Joba-fever everywhere. He has a mid to upper-90’s fastball, a sharp moving plus slider, and an improved changeup. The righty has plus stuff and plus command with a big frame that he uses for his power pitches. Has also learned to incorporate his secondary pitches more rather than relying strictly on fastballs. Looks to be moved to the rotation in 2008.

2.) Ian Kennedy, RHP: Kennedy is yet another great young pitching prospect in the Yankees organization. He has a four seam (88-94 mph) and two seam (a newer pitch at 89 mph) fastball, great command of a plus-changeup, as well as a curve and slider. Kennedy is a very intelligent pitcher choosing to set-up hitters and attack their weaknesses rather than try to overpower them. He has great mechanics and uses this and control to his advantage.

3.) Jose Tabata, OF: With some debate over who is the best Yankee outfield prospect, Tabata takes that honor thanks to his great hitting prowess. Tabata is an excellent hitter and hits the ball hard all over the field. Due to this and his great plate discipline, he looks to have the makeup to be a potential batting champion competitor someday. He has developing power that has been hampered by his lingering wrist injury so it will be interesting to see how he develops into a slugger once he heals. Is above average defensively and will round out at a corner outfield position.

4.) Austin Jackson, OF: Jackson is another shining star that the Yankees have waiting in the wings. Jackson is a good contact hitter with some good power potential. Needs a little more polishing at the plate to really establish himself (already started this by cutting down his strikeouts). He is a strong athlete who will be a very nice base stealer someday with his plus speed. Also transfers his speed well in the outfield and is also plus defensively.

5.) Alan Horne, RHP: After battling back from Tommy John surgery, Horne has now begun to regain his velocity. Horne posses a low to mid-90’s fastball (finally reaching back to about 95 mph), a hard 12-6 curve that drops out of nowhere, and a nasty hard slider all with great movement on them. Has developed nicely with his control and command but still has some bouts of inconsistency with his delivery. Due to this he can get into some ruts on the mound and can sometimes have troubling digging out. Looks to be a middle of the rotation guy someday in pinstripes.

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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