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Phil Hughes is the new A.J. Burnett and the search for offense

*The title for this post sounds like a weird sports/fantasy/adventure 80s movie, doesn’t it?

I know, I know, I keep harping on Phil Hughes, but can you blame me? Look at his game log – look! He’s only effective against anemic offenses and just about anybody with a bat and a pulse crushes him. The dude has a 5 ERA for a reason and his WHIP is abysmal. And speaking of WHIP, take a look at Joba Chamberlain’s game log. It is FUGLY. Both Hughes and Chamberlain will be free agents after the season is over, but they’re still around right now, stinking up the joint… Is there any way to turn them into a positive?

The answer is probably a resounding ‘no.’ Does any contender need pitching this badly? (Or, maybe the question is, "Does any contender want pitchers this bad?") But, if the Yankees could somehow find another team that has a surplus of bats, then maybe they could find someone who is either going to be a Free Agent or has some money left on their contract the Yankees could eat. 1st and 3rd base seems like a logical place to start as Mark Teixeira’s season ending surgery seems to be only a matter of time and Lyle Overbay is… well, Lyle Overbay. A-Rod could easily be ineffective, suspended or just never even make it back – who knows. And there’s probably too much of a log game in the corner outfield spots what with Ichiro and Vernon Wells, who we’re stuck with until at least the 2014 All Star break.

Why anyone would agree to take Hughes and Chamberlain for anything is beyond me, but I can’t help but try to think positively. Maybe Hughes could flourish in a bigger ballpark – maybe Chamberlain just needs a change of scenery. Who knows… if there’s anyone who has pitching problems the way the 2004 thru 2008 Yankees did, maybe Hughes and Chamberlain could fill a hole. I wouldn’t count on it, but the Yankees need to add a bat – and I think some addition by subtraction via an exit for Hughes from the rotation would be another positive step.

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Take Phil Hughes – PLEASE

I am really tired of A.J. Burnett – I mean Phil Hughes. Tired of the inconsistency. Tired of the location issues. Tired of the home runs. Enough is enough.

I’m not the sort of guy that spends a lot of time looking at numbers, never mind advanced stats, but you’d have to be blind or not paying attention for the last five or so years to think Phil Hughes can ever be better than a fifth starter – especially pitching in Yankee Stadium. I’ve read that Hughes has a serious problem against lefties this year, but I don’t even need to go that deep to see that Hughes stinks. Just by looking at the simple numbers in his 2013 game log, you can see how bad he is when he’s bad.

Phil Hughes gives up home runs – we all know that. But even when he has a decent day from an ER perspective, he can still give up multiple homers. Now I do believe in the adage that games aren’t lost by solo home runs the fact is that Hughes has had four multi home run games and only 4 homerless appearances in 11 starts. That’s awful. I know WHIP isn’t on this chart, but just look how often his hits and walks add up to a higher value than his innings pitched. That’s just not going to work. And what’s even worse is Hughes hasn’t had only one scoreless outing in eleven tries, and that was against Oakland. In 58.2 IP, he’s given up 69 hits (12 homers) and 15 walks. That’s just too many base runners

Hughes’ contract expires at the end of the year and I don’t expect the Yankees to resign him, but if they can package him, Joba Chamberlain Lyle Overbay for anyone with a bat and a pulse, they should jump on it.

MLB PLayoffs: Yankees Win | Monday Morning Quarterback: Giants Lose

I hate Sunday Night Football. It starts and ends too late here on the east coast and it gets "I hate myself for loving you" stuck in my head, which is inexcusable.

And, unfortunately, the New York Giants could not get it done against the Philadelphia Eagles. This is awful for several reasons:

  1. I hate Michael Vick
  2. I hate Sunday Night Football
  3. Seriously, you shorted that kick on the second try?

Every loss in an NFL season is a big loss, but that was a game I felt the Giants should have found a way to win. I’m too tired to agonize over the minutia of the loss (because Sunday Night Football ends too late), but, grr…

I guess I can’t complain too much as the Yankees came back against a 5-1 deficit in the middle innings against the Blue Jays to win the game 9-6, despite Phil Hughes terrible mustache. Just when I thought the Yankees were going to lay down for good, they got up and started doing everything right. It was, as Darth Vader would say, an ‘impressive’ victory. "Most impressive."

Yawn. Let’s stop this Giants night game shit already. It’s barely October and I’m already exhausted.

Does the Yankees slide even matter?

After watching the Yankees for five months, I’m not sure I believe they have what it takes to win a World Series, so even if they don’t make the playoffs, they’re probably just putting us out of our misery early rather than later.  Here are just a few players I’m looking at that would need to drastically improve for the Yankees to make the playoffs and potentially win a world series title.

C.C. Sabathia
Sabathis has been on the DL twice this year – both were precautionary moves, but he just hasn’t looked especially dominate this season, and I think the Yankees need him to be to go all the way.

Robinson Cano
Cano has a lot of talent, but I feel he has regressed this year and I just don’t think he’s every going to become a true super star.  It doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I sure wish he’d run out those ground balls to first like Derek Jeter does… I don’t buy into the theory that “Cano is a loafer” that many have proposed, but… yeah.  It’d be nice if he’d dive for the ball every once and while.

Alex Rodriguez
It wasn’t his fault he got hit with the ball, but then, he’ wasn’t exactly killing it before he got hurt.  The Yankees need A-Rod to be A-Rod, and before the hand injury, he was a shell of his former self, and I’m not sure that is enough.

Andy Pettitte
Pettitte hasn’t gotten back into a game situation yet, so I don’t think the Yankees can count on him – Hideki Kuroda has been AMAZING in Pettitte’s absence, but it sure would be nice to see Pettitte come back and be who he was pre injry.  What a boost that would be!

Middle Relief
Let’s face it – everyone who is not Rafael Soriano, David Robertson or Boone Logan is just not reliable.  As scary as it sounds, I hope Ivan Nova comes back so the Yankees can put David Phelps back in the pen.

Phil Hughes
Too.  Many.  Homers.  I don’t look forward to this guy starting a playoff game – I prefer he’d be in the bullpen and the Yankees go with a three man rotation… or, if the stars align:  Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte and Freddy Garcia.

Mark Teixeira
He’s supposed to play again later this week, but like A-Rod, he wasn’t exactly killing the ball pre injury, so I don’t know if the Yankees can expect anything from this guy at this point.

It’s too late now for the Yankees to go get someone – this team is what it is.  If everyone can get healthy and perform like they’re capably of, the Yankees should be in good shape, but at this point, I don’t have much faith in that happening.

Phil Hughes was replaced with William Campbell on May 6 – it's a CONSPIRACY!

Any 20th Century music fan worth a salt knows the legend of "Paul is Dead" – the myth surrounding the supposed death of Beatles bassist and composer Paul McCartney in a 1966 car accident. You can find all sorts of fake clues (if you look hard enough) on Beatles album covers and in song lyrics that point to the notion that Paul’s death was covered up and he was replaced by somebody named William Campbell, which is proof that there were plenty of stupid rumors about celebrities even before the internet. But I’m beginning to believe in the "Phil is Dead" rumor (that I just started a few words ago) – and I have the stats to prove it!

I remember reading one vintage review of a later Beatles album, during which the reporter claimed something to the effect of "If Paul is dead and this is some new guy, then I prefer the new guy." Such is the case with Phil Hughes.

It’s really beginning to look like Phil Hughes "blew his mind out in a car" because "he didn’t notice that the light had changed" some time before his May 6th start against the Royals, because since that start, he’s been a different pitcher. In four starts over the course of April, Hughes managed only 16 innings and a horrendous 24 hits, 14 runs to a bloated 7.88 ERA. (Sorry, I left out his May 1 start against the Os – he stunk in that one, too.) Since they arrived in Kansas City, Hughes has been pitching to a 3.51 ERA in his last 7 starts, which includes one clunker against the Angels, the one of two games where didn’t measure up to the so called ‘quality start’ standard of at least 6 IP and no more than 3 ER – the other was in Toronto, where he escaped major damage, meaning I’ll let Hughes trade 2 outs for 1 less ER. (By the way,6 IP and no more than 3 ER works out to a 4.50 ERA – I wouldn’t refer to an ERA that high as quality, but that’s just me.)

So who is this guy, and what happened to Phil Hughes?

Sure, this guy looks like Phil Hughes, and in some respects, he even pitches like him (8 homers and 45 hits since May 6 in 49.1 IP), but this guy doesn’t give up as many runs. Why? I think his strike outs increase…

Old Hughes’ first 5 starts: 23 Ks – 4.6 Ks per game
New Hughes next 7 starts: 40 Ks – 5.7 Ks per game

Yep, they sure did. New Phil Hughes brings the Ks. The instances where Hughes has had success and less than four strikeouts per inning is low – he’s only won 2 games under those conditions. On the other hand, his first two starts yielded high strike out totals and he still got rocked. So that means…

I don’t know. If you want a more compelling look at Old Phil vs New Phil, petition The Yankee Analysts or River Ave Blues. Both of those sites are great at stuff like this. Hell, they’ve probably already done the analysis.

When it comes to numbers, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do know one thing for sure – New Phil is much preferred to Old Phil.

In Praise of… Phil Hughes?

I often give Phil Hughes a hard time… because he’s usually screwing up.  However, he tossed a quality start today, so I have to give him props.

(Although I must point out that the term ‘quality start’ is faulty; the definition being 6 IP and 3 ER works out to a 4.50 ERA, and that sort of number doesn’t exactly make me think of the word ‘quality.’  Also, Hughes faced the Kansas City Royals today.  The 9 – 18 Kansas City Royals.)

Here are Hughes’ numbers for today:

IP 6.2

H 6

R 3 /  ER 3

BB 1

SO 7

HR 1

ERA on the season 6.67

THE GOOD
I’m impressed that Hughes was able to get through not only 5 IP  today, but worked into the 7th inning.  He hasn’t done that much at all this season.  With the injury to Michael Pineda, Hughes needs to step up, and maybe today was the first step.

More than a K per inning?  Yes, please!  Again, he was facing the Roayls, but me likey.

Limiting the walks was also a nice touch.  Again, against the Royals.  Still haven’t won 1o games this year.  It’s May.

THE BAD
Another home run?  Can’t Hughes get through one start without giving up a home run?

THE UGLY
Almost a hit per inning.  Against the Royals.

I’m looking forward to Hughes’ next start, which is a strange feeling.  It should be against the punch-less Mariners, so maybe we’ll get more of the same.

Maybe.

 

“Say it ain’t Mo!” The Yankees Next Closer

As the hours blend into days, Mariano Rivera’s injury truly sinks in, and it’s time to stop being sad and move on.  Mo insists he will return to the team and can never be replaced anyway, but someone will have to step up in his role for now.  Who will it be?

I think this is an enormous opportunity for the Yankees to break with convention and stop using designated roles for their two best relievers.  Instead, when it gets to the 8th and 9th inning, Joe Girardi should look at who’s coming up in the 8th inning and line up the best pitcher to face the best hitters.  For example, if the 2, 3 and 4 hitters are due in the 8th inning, I think I’d like to see the best pitcher available face (David Robertson or Rafael Soriano) those hitters rather than saving that pitcher for the bottom of the order in the 9th.

If Phil Hughes continues to struggle and the Yankees have a serious need in their bullpen, he could slot in there nicely.  We know he’s had great success out there and I’ve never been a huge fan of his work as a starter, so it seems like a good match.  Not only that, but Hughes is well suited to be an old school, multy innings reliever in the style of Goose Gossage or Sam Malone.  Or even a young Mariano Rivera, who would dominate the 7th and 8th innings.

Who knows what will happen… and suddenly, the Yankees biggest strength (the bullpen) now has a serious question mark.  The Joba Chamberlain injuries loom even larger!

Another Hughes Start, Another Loss

Phil Hughes has pitched better in 2012 than Freddy Garcia, but that’s not saying much. Watching Hughes pitch is an exercise in frustration.

While Hughes has decent strike out numbers, he let’s up way too many home runs (I think he’s averaging something like over two homers per nine innings), and when you couple that with 28 hits in 21.2 innings… whew. The 23 strike outs are encouraging, but that just makes me think maybe Hughes really does belong in the bullpen. 7 walks in 5 games isn’t terrible, but it sure would be nice if he could limit those if he’s going to give up billion hits. He gave up 3 runs to Baltimore in less than 6 innings… and a fourth runner was allowed to score by the bullpen… that’s pretty crappy. But, I guess Hughes pitched well enough to get another start, even if he can’t handle an offense as lackluster as the Orioles, featuring the hitless Nick Johnson. Oh right, Nick Johnson! We’ll get back to that..

OTHER PROBLEMS:
The middle of the order

Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are like the nightly version of Phil Hughes. We’re into the second month of the season and these guys just aren’t hitting. Maybe they should start following Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson around – both of those guys are absolutely destroying the baseball. Joe Girardi has already tried the jiggle the lineup trick, and that didn’t do diddly, so at this point… I don’t know, I guess we wait around another week or two and if nothing happens, he’ll have to do it again. I guess they could bat Granderson fourth… yeah, maybe Jeter, Cano, A-Rod, Granderson, Teixeira, Swisher… but that still leaves us with Cano and A-Rod and their 2012 woes right in a row. I usually say things like "These guys are too good to struggle for too long," but Mark Teixeira, despite the homers last year, has changed my thinking a bit on that stance. A-Rod is older and Cano can be extremely streaky. Still, I can cling to the idea that they’ll warm up with the weather.

The outfield
While Phil Hughes didn’t let up any hits to Nick Johnson, Eduardo "Scissorhands" Nunez did. Yeah, when a position player misjudges a routine fly ball but doesn’t get called for an error (he didn’t, right?), I can’t fault the pitcher, which was Rafael Soriano in this case. I guess I can’t blame him too much, because he’s not an outfielder, but I’ve watched him play the infield a bunch, and he doesn’t look like an infielder, either. If you can’t play left field… well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Coming up…
When Andy Pettitte’s busy schedule of training to pitch and testifying in Roger Clemen’s case reaches it’s conclusion, we’ll get the lefty back. Maybe that’ll take another 2 or 3 turns through the Yankees rotation, and if Hughes continues to do those 5+ IP, 3 run starts, I bet he keeps his job – unless David Phelps is lighting the world on fire, which seems unlikely. The Yankees schedule is pretty lean from now until about the All Star break, so it shouldn’t be too tall an order for Hughes. If he’s bad… that will really tell you something.

Hughes or Garcia

The fate of the Yankees starting rotation has been in flux since… I don’t know, since last season. Who will stay in and who will get pushed aside for better talent has become the question of the day. Now that both guys that are on the hot seat (Freddy Garica and Phil Hughes) have gone through the rotation twice, we can take a look at this tiny sample size and guess what the Yankees will do when the time comes about a month from now.

When I look at a sample size this small, I go right to WHIP, which doesn’t help us here because they’re both tied there. They’ve both given up 13 hits and their walks are only separated by 1 in favor of Garcia. When we look at hits vs innings pitched, Garcia is again the better pitcher, but he got to face the basement dwelling Orioles and Twins while Hughes got the Rays (who aren’t exactly barn stormers with the bat) and the Angels (who have the talent to hit a lot), so that’s tough. When it comes to numbers, the best thing I can say about Hughes is he’s got more strike outs per innings, which makes sense when you think about how great his bullpen results are. The best thing I can say about Garcia is he only walked 3 guys in the game against Baltimore and his splitter was bouncing 2 feet in front of the plate. They’re both giving up way too many homers in the early going.

Now we go to the eye test. Although Hughes is striking guys out, I feel as though he gets in too many deep counts and still struggles to finish batters off. His fastball and curve ball look much better than last year, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. He hasn’t made much in the way of progress when it comes to developing his change up, so maybe he needs to concentrate on his cutter… or something… or a slider. I don’t know… maybe a sinker? He needs something else. Garcia had much better command of his splitter against the Twins, but the Twins are so awful, it’s hard to accept when your starter can’t give you 6 IP and 3 ER.

At this point, I think the Yankees are still committed to Hughes and when Andy Pettitte is ready to come up to the big leagues, they’ll demote David Phelps (who’s been great, by the way) and send Garcia to the bullpen as the mop up/long man. As long as Hughes is healthy, I think they’ll keep him in the rotation, unless he’s unbearable for too long. They’ll give Hughes, who is still young, every opportunity to regain his 2010 form, which I still don’t think was that great, but good enough for the back of the rotation and sacrifice Garcia to do it. Garcia is fine for organizational depth, but at his age, he could decline rapidly or just decide to retire at any time.

I think Garcia is probably the better ‘win now’ solution, but Hughes is probably the better ‘long term’ pick, and I think that’s the way the Yankees are going – staying with younger, cheaper players so they don’t have to go out on the open market to flesh out the back end of their rotation.

Yankees First 6 Games Of 2012

The Yankees will play their home opener this afternoon, but before that, let’s take a look back at their first 6 games of the season in the road trip that started in disaster and ended in triumph.

Let’s break it down:

The Starting Rotation
Holy hell, what a disaster. Sure, it’s still early and I’m not rushing to judgement, but Ivan Nova is the only starter who’s put in a decent performance so far. C.C. Sabathia can’t command his fastball, Phil Hughes is looking better than last year (but that doesn’t say much), Freddy Garcia is trying to kill the dirt in front of home plate with his splitter and Hiroki Kuroda was up in the zone all night long. Here’s hoping he’ll be better today and everyone else will straighten out. I’m not worried about C.C. Sabathia, and what we’ve seen from Kuroda isn’t his reputation, so not much to worry about there, either – as for Hughes and Garcia… well, the clock is ticking. Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda are on the way. How Sabathia got through six innings last night is anybody’s guess…

The Bullpen
All hail the bullpen! For it is the bullpen corps that were the road trip saviors! Sure, Mariano Rivera did blow that first game, but whatever – that’s going to happen from time to time – he’s rebounded nicely. Just because I worship the guy doesn’t make him an infallible god. David Robertson likes to make us sweat, but he gets the job done. Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano also deserve high praise for their performances last night.

The Offense
Some ups, some downs, but mostly, I’m happy with the overall production – what I’d like to see is some POWER! What do Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez all have in common? No homers. I guess if they hang out with Derek Jeter, it’s a No Homers club – they’re allowed to have one. Derek Jeter is on fire so far this year – that guy sure is good at putting naysayers in their place.

The Defense
For the most part, I’m happy, but let’s do our best to keep Raul Ibanaz on the bench as the DH, hmm? And Eduardo Nunez… I just don’t know what to say about Eduardo Scissorhands. I’d need to see how he plays on a day to day basis (and I am starting to hope I never find out what that looks like) to know for sure, but I’m starting to think that this guy is just not an infielder.

Joe Girardi’s Match Up Binder
I’ve enjoyed Girardi’s tenure as manager so far, particularly his skill with the bullpen and keeping those guys healthy – a refreshing change after Joe Torre’s reign of terror (ask Scott Proctor, Mike Myers, Paul Quantral… you know, anybody that pitched out of the pen for Torre). Still, when he plays match ups in the first inning, I get annoyed – you can imagine what I was thinking when he went to match up strategies and started intentionally walking guys in the first inning of the first game of the season with his ace on the mound! On the other hand, I loved when he brought the extra infielder into the game, even if it was Eduardo Scissorhands.

Going Forward
I think things can only improve from here. Sabathia and Kuroda should round into form, I’m sure Sweaty Freddy will find his splitter and reinforcements are on the way.

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