Hughes Wins Rotation Spot

by JeffMoore

Leading the “Not Shocking News of the Day” category, the New York Yankees have announced that Phil Hughes will be the team’s 5th starter, beating out Joba Chamberlain and others for the spot, reports Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.

It seems like forever ago that Hughes was coming into his own as a starter until being pulled in the middle of a no-hitter with a hamstring injury that cost him the rest of the 2007 season.  Yes, 2007.  It was that long ago.

A lost season in 2008 and a strong season of relief in 2009, and it appears the Yankees are finally ready to let Hughes try to pick up where he left off in the rotation almost 3 seasons ago.

Chamberlain, on the other hand, never seemed to be able to consistently transfer his stuff into starting pitcher-mode in 2009.  What is unknown is if or how much the Yankees self-imposed innings limits restricted or influenced the young pitcher and his approach to starting.   It was evident, however, to anyone who watched him pitch, that the Joba who came out of the bullpen boiling-over with confidence was not the same Joba that started games for the Yankees.

This move makes sense for the Yankees, and was virtually inevitable.  Joba should be able to transition back to the bullpen, and they have nothing to lose by giving Hughes another shot.  Worst case scenario, Hughes ends up back in the pen and they have two strong set-up men.

Going strictly by the “feel-test,” this seems like the right move.  Hughes just always felt like a starter, even last season when he was having success in the bullpen.  Chamberlain always felt like a late-inning reliever, even when he had good starts.  It’s not scientific, but the game got by on instincts for over a century, and occasionally they still get one right.

24 Responses to “Hughes Wins Rotation Spot”

  1. Chuck Says:

    Joe Girardi, according to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig:

    “None of the guys who didn’t win job are guaranteed bullpen spots, Joba included.”

    I would laugh to the point of puking if the Yankees sent Joba to Scranton.

    I’ve been right about this guy since he was drafted.

    He was a bad pick. He’s built like Sidney Ponson and had arm problems in college.

    Twenty six inning out of the bullpen in September looks nice on paper, but isn’t reflective of a solid major league career, especially as a starter.

    Joba’s regressed since then. His fastball’s lost velocity and movement, he can’t command his breaking stuff to save his life and has completely lost his slider.

    He’s nothing more than a two pitch pitcher who lacks both the repetoire and stamina to throw more than 40-50 pitches in an outing.

    The Yanks decision to pitch-count him last season was to protect him for this year and forward. They believe his stuff and mind-set is ideal as a potential late inning set-up guy and even as a possible replacement for Rivera.

    The Joba-Hughes “battle” for the fifth spot made good media gossip, but there was never a battle, at least not one that included Joba.

  2. Patrick Says:

    I think Joba has always been better suit to relieve. Like Chuck says, he can’t throw much more than 40 effective pitches an outing. 20 would be better.

    I do think Joba is going to be a good reliever though. Good move…. I guess. You’re taking Hughes out of the pen and that hurts. I’d rather see a 4 man rotation averaging 6 innings an outing and Joba AND Hughes in the pen.

    I think if the Yankees went to a 4 man rotation they would win 110 games.

  3. Yu-Hsing Chen Says:

    He threw 2 7 inning games and 2 8 inning games last year, and for a guy who supposedly can’t pitch as a starter he has a 4.18 ERA over 42 starts.

    He has his issues, but I’m a little baffled by what the Yanks are doing here. Hughes only threw some 70 innings last year so they’ll probably need to go through the same crap this year with him, what’s more, if we’re going to go into Joba’s “lost velocity” why not meantion the fact that in his starts last year Hughes averaged around 90mph? while Joba averaged 94 in that same span and dropped down to around 92 at the end of the year.

    Also, he threw 10 % curveballs last year, that’s actually quiet a bit for any starting pitcher’s 3rd pitch let alone a guy that only has “2 pitch”
    (Josh beckett for example, his 3rd most used pitch is his change at 8.6%, AJ Burnett, a true 2 pitches guy used his 3rd pich about 3% of the time)

  4. Hossrex Says:

    It still cracks me up that… if we’re being tongue in cheek… he’s never recovered from “the bug game”.

  5. Richard Says:

    Joba to the bullpen makes more sense than on the surface. Hughes is the better projected starter, yes, and Chamberlain is better suited as a one-inning guy who lets it fly, a la Eric Gagne. And I love the “Body by Ponson” inference. The underlying truth to this is that Joba is just not mentally tough, as we saw in the 07 “Bug game”, and despite the great name and great story (paralyzed father), Joba doesn’t have the head to pitch to a lineup 3 times, nevermind the arm strength. This is a win-win for Yankee fans, provided Joba regains his bullpen form from 09/07, or even from the postseason last year.

    I for one would like to bury the “Joba Rules” along with the copy editor that came up with the phrase.

  6. Yu-Hsing Chen Says:

    “Joba to the bullpen makes more sense than on the surface. Hughes is the better projected starter, yes, and Chamberlain is better suited as a one-inning guy who lets it fly, a la Eric Gagne. And I love the “Body by Ponson” inference. The underlying truth to this is that Joba is just not mentally tough, as we saw in the 07 “Bug game”, and despite the great name and great story (paralyzed father), Joba doesn’t have the head to pitch to a lineup 3 times, nevermind the arm strength. This is a win-win for Yankee fans, provided Joba regains his bullpen form from 09/07, or even from the postseason last year.

    I for one would like to bury the “Joba Rules” along with the copy editor that came up with the phrase.”

    Huh? unless your going to come up with examples of guys who could pitch with bugs all over them , I don’t see how not being able to pitch while swarmed by insects is a good indication of anything.

    So far he has been too prone to walking guys and not going deep enough into games (those two are inter connect problems anyway) but the overall results for a guy 42 starts into his major league career has hardly been poor. hell it’s better than what Tom Glavine was doing 43 starts into his career (and that was the 80s! his ERA was like 25% worse than league average, where as Joba the starter is basically average.)

    Hughes is the better projected starter (if you buy into “projection systems” anyway) by a tiny margin, who has had a significantly worse track record as recent was… err last year!

    I guess Chamberlain must have raelly looked awful in ST. though I have the feeling the over and under on a ton of article begin to wonder if Hughes is a 90mph bust would be around 5 starts.

  7. Richard Says:

    If you watch Chamberlain pitch, you know what I mean…dominant for 4-5 innings, then when you get to the 3rd time through the lineup, he pitches like Neville Chamberlain.

    Talk to any scout, and the poise and mentality of Hughes grades out much better as a starter than Chamberlain.

    Glavine’s turnaround had more to do with Leo Mazzone than anything.

    BTW…he looked like a Double-A pitcher this spring.

  8. Raul Says:

    I really hope Phil Hughes can take big strides this year. I know the New York Media hypes everything up, but 3 years ago people thought Hughes was on his way to being a potential ace.

  9. brautigan Says:

    “Hughes wins rotation spot”. About time. the only “problem” with Hughes is the Yankee uniform he wears. Hughes in a different uniform, and we have a completely different scenario.

    Hughes is going to be a star. If Hughes were a Cardinal or a Diamondback (or 20 other teams), he would already be a star.

  10. Chuck Says:

    Amen, Braut.

    Girardi said today if Hughes struggles early on, Chamberlain would not be considered as a replacement, and also re-iterated the fact Chamberlain hasn’t even officially made the team yet.

  11. Jake Says:

    I fear that the Yanks have already damaged Joba, he has a fragile personality that took lots of hits after he started getting hit. when he was that dominate and I mean dominate 8th inning guy he was on top of the world, after the bug game and starting…he has been reduced to a mediocre pitcher.

    Hughes hopefully will be that starter we saw in the no-hit game where he had to leave for injury rather then the guy that looked afraid to throw the ball over the plate at times when he came back in 2008.

  12. brautigan Says:

    Raul: I think the problem with Yankees is 2 fold. You hit on the first, the Yankee media hype. And the second, when was the last time the Yankees handled a rookie or a young player in the “right” fashion? I mean, unless I go through 35 years of rosters (for the Yankees), I for the life of me cannot think of one good example.

  13. brautigan Says:

    And if Joba continues to suck, I am confident the Royals would trade Greinke for him.

  14. Raul Says:

    I really don’t know, Brautigan.

    It’s hard to say the Yankees handled Jeter the right way because the situation was dictated by Tony Fernandez’s injury (If I remember correctly).

    There are people who would argue that the Yankees have never really handled a young star the right way.

    Bobby Murcer wasn’t. Ron Guidry wasn’t. They weren’t sure what they were going to do with Mickey Mantle until Joe DiMaggio made their decision for them…etc…

  15. Richard Says:

    Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada – all homegrown kids that were handled the right way. Jeter was given 95 to season, although many thought he was ready; the plan all along was for him to start in 96. Pettitte and Posada were brought along slowly, and Bernie was given the chance to fail, mostly because Gene Michael was calling the shots, not the Boss. Once Mariano was converted to reliever in 96, they didn’t yo-yo him around, they kept him there. You could throw Soriano in there as well, although he was bought rather than drafted, but still came up through their system. They’ve bungled everyone else since then. I hope they figure it out before they ruin Montero.

  16. Raul Says:

    It’s easy to say Jeter, Bernie, Rivera and Pettitte were handled the right way…..the major league team sucked donkey dick when they were coming up. What was the rush?

    When a team is in serious contention, and patience is a bit thinner…that’s usually when you see how a team handles their players.

  17. Lefty33 Says:

    It’s easy to say Jeter, Bernie, Rivera and Pettitte were handled the right way…..the major league team sucked donkey dick when they were coming up. What was the rush?

    Raul man, you’ve got a way with obscenities.

    But seriously I agree with you that the team was terrible and with Stick Michael calling the shots he truly believed in development as opposed to trading away any decent player under the age of 30 like they seem to do now.

    If my memory serves me, those core Yankee guys were brought along very well with the exception of Posada.
    He was jerked around a bit like Joba is being jerked right now.
    Posada was good enough to catch some of the time but because he couldn’t hit lefties and couldn’t throw out runners Girardi was able to hang on until Posada finally proved himself at 28.

  18. brautigan Says:

    “Everyone has 20/20 hindsight”.

    If you told me in March of 1996 Mariano Rivera, who started 17 of 26 games in 1995, was going to be one of the greatest closers of all time, I would have seriously doubted you.

  19. Richard Says:

    The Yankees had the best record in baseball at the time of the strike in 94, won the wildcard in 95, and won it all in 96. Bernie was the only one that came up when the team sucked Burro Balls, and they were VERY patient with him, Gerald Williams, and Pat Kelly, although the latter two ended up being nothing but spare parts.

    The better argument is that it’s easy to be patient with prospects when you’re actually good, and the challenge is knowing when to integrate them into a team. There were many questions in the media asking how a championship-caliber club could trust an important position like SS to a rookie. The Mid-to-late 90’s Yankees employed several of them, including Rivera, Pettite, Posada, and Soriano, in vital roles. That challenge was mastered by the Yankee brass, mostly Joe Torre, during the era.

    I believe Robinson Cano can be thrown in the mix as a young player that was handled right. Although the Yanks were willing to give him away in the Randy Johnson deal, once he remained in the system, they handled him well.

  20. Hossrex Says:

    Raul: “It’s easy to say Jeter, Bernie, Rivera and Pettitte were handled the right way…..the major league team sucked donkey dick when they were coming up. What was the rush?

    When a team is in serious contention, and patience is a bit thinner…that’s usually when you see how a team handles their players.”

    Someone could have said the exact opposite, and it would have sounded equally correct.

    When THE FREAKING YANKEES are struggling, I think it’s entirely logical to think they’d go nuts, and start calling up the little leaguers, just to make it look like they’re doing SOMEthing.

  21. jimmy vac Says:

    I liked the way the Orioles brought along a guy… first year, mop up and some starts.. I think part of Joba’s ineffictiveness was they did not committ his role early in a season and stuck to it. You can’t have guys starting once every ten days and expect them to be effective especially a young pitcher. With Hughs, they gotta give him a chance to pitch and not yank him after 5 or hold him to 170 innings.. who the hell comes up with these numbers? if you are throwing good and loose with your body, 200 innings should be a reasonable goal. If you want Joba to pitch as a starter , work on a change up with him and he will be fine…

  22. Yu-Hsing Chen Says:

    For Cano, it helps that the alternative was Tony Womack. that and he had 2 really good season and another solid one under him before he ran into his first wall.

    I think in neutural context I’m fine with Chamberlain not winning the 5th starter spot because he looks poor basically since last August, but this isn’t neutural context, the hyperbole surronding Joba have been absurd since he first arrived, and we’ll soon hear how they should trade him for Livan Hernandez once Hughes struggles because he can’t start and they have enough efffective reliever like Chan Ho Park (face palm).

    In the pre 80s, starting the relieving pitchers were very interchangable, if your the best 3-5 starter (depending on what rotation they went with in different era) you start and the rest relieve, if this is how people view the situation then I’m just fine, the problem nowadays is that people seem to be suggesting the starting pitcher and relieve pitchers are two different order in the animal tree which is just absurd.

    You see Joba and I see Joba, I saw a guy that went through the order 3 times just fine on some starts, at times very good teams too, and other times can’t even get through AAAA teams like the Royals twice. I’m sure he’s not the most perfect mental guy for a starting pitcher in any book, but then you have Zack Grienke, a guy who literally had mental problems, or Javier Vazquez, who had the soft / can’t pitch in spot light whatever tag thrown around him all the time, and one won the Cy young and the other have carved out a fine career. (let alone a ton of other pitchers who’s had similar tags thrown around them, like say, Jeff Weaver, until he won the final game in the 2006 WS, and he’s like 1/4 of the pitcher Joba was in 08)

    To me, the main issue is that I saw a guy who was 96+ all the time while starting in 08, but was 94+ in the begining of 09, and 91+ by September last year, I don’t think that’s “mental” or “can’t go through an order 3 times” that’s obviously some combination of fatique / injury / mechanics.

    Maybe it’s the later two, which would reasonablly explain the Yanks decision . the problem is that everyone will hyperbole it to suggest that it’s the mental or some other intangible aspect and not discuss the most likely issues.

  23. Lefty33 Says:

    “To me, the main issue is that I saw a guy who was 96+ all the time while starting in 08, but was 94+ in the begining of 09, and 91+ by September last year, I don’t think that’s “mental” or “can’t go through an order 3 times” that’s obviously some combination of fatique / injury / mechanics.”

    The main problem with Joba is that he will never be an effective starter with only two pitches. And especially when he has poor command of both and feels the need to go 3-2 on every hitter.

    For him to be an effective starter he needs better command, at least a third pitch, and the knowledge that he’s not on some artificial pitch count or where he gets to start every eighth day.

    He serves the Yanks far better as the seventh/eight inning guy where he can air it out at 96 and not have to conserve his arm by only throwing 91.

    Personally, I don’t think its injury/mechanics/fatigue. I think it’s all mental. He’s a hee-haw young kid from the farm. Until the Yanks stop flip-flopping on his role he’s going to have problems.

  24. Yu-Hsing Chen Says:

    Is it really? I thought I saw a guy who threw a good curve ball most of the time too, what is all this talk about the 3rd pitch by the same guys who suggest you should “watch him” when they don’t appear to have even saw that he threw a curve ball (and looking it up he threw it 10% ish of the time, certianly around / over the average starter’s 3rd pitch mark)

    He had a ERA of 2.96 while throwing 96+ a ERA of 3.58 while he was mostly throwing 93-94 aveage in the first half last year, and then a ERA of 7.7 ish when he was throwing 91 in the second half, sure, ERA isn’t the perfect indicator of how he was pitching, but it seems like more than enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that whatever was wrong with his fastball was mostly the problem so far, and yet everyone focus on “no 3rd pitch” (when he throws a curve quiet a bit) and seem to suggest that not being mentally tough or not facing a lineup 3 times magically make him lose 5+ mph on his fastball.

    This is the whole thing that annoys me, if he suck for some obvious mechanical / body / injury issue I can accept that, but if he’s sucking for those reasons and people are saying that it’s no 3rd pitch / no mental / you should watch him because I watched him and I didn’t see him losing 5 mph in less than a year or never saw him throw a pitch he threw 10% of the time.

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