No, yesterday’s game was not pretty — and that’s an understatement. We watched a series of poor at bats combined with the sloppiest defense I’ve seen in quite a while. Oh yeah, and Phil Hughes didn’t exactly make things any better. The youngest pitcher in the majors didn’t even record an out in the fourth inning, leaving the game in the hands of a bullpen that will surely be tested over the next few weeks.
Of course, knee-jerk Yankees fans were quick to heap the insults on Hughes. I got one email that said keeping Hughes (not trading him for Santana) would be a move we’d regret for the next six years. I got plenty which noted that, once again, Hughes’s velocity wasn’t up to his scouting reports. True, many of these came from people watching the Kansas City broadcast — the gun was clearly slow in the Midwest. But the complaints rolled in nonetheless.
I found myself doing what I’ve done for the past year and change: Defending Hughes. I sometimes feel as if I want him to succeed so badly that I refuse to see the negatives he presents. But then I step back and remember that we’ve seen what he can do. I’ve seen it in his stats, and I’ve seen him do it to major league hitters.
But then I think back to what we all agreed on before the season even began. No one thought this would be a cruise ship season. You’re going to hit bumps with your young pitchers, especially when one of them is the youngest pitcher in the majors. Yesterday, we hit a bump. To see it any other way is, in my opinion, just plain shortsighted.
So what does this have to do with Melky Cabrera?
It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest Melky fan. I watch him at the plate, and I sometimes cringe at the hacks he takes. And I always see him taking circuitous routes to balls in the outfield, especially line drives.
The response most heard to my complaints: He’s young. And as you can see above, I constantly use the same defense for Hughes. I’ve said before that youth does not guarantee progress, but it certainly leaves the door open.
It’s completely conceivable that through experience Melky learns how to play line drives, especially those over his head. In fact, it can be said that the only way he can possibly get better at playing them is to, well, play them. This is no guarantee, but there’s a point where it’s a good idea to leave him out there and let him learn. I think we’re still at that point now, considering the alternatives.
So, because I’m so quick to defend Phil, I don’t think it’s quite fair of me to continually bash Melky. Yes, he frustrates me plenty. But on the other hand, Phil frustrates his share of Yankees fans, too. We’re going to have to learn to let these players grow, though. And if they don’t, well, that’s why the team has an aggressive plan to build the farm system.
Next time I rail on Melky for this or that, please, remind me of this post.
Game note: Just checked the Gameday data for Phil’s outing. His fastball was 91-92 the entire first inning. He slipped a few in under 90 in the second inning, but was still for the most part 90-92. He threw a lot more under 90 in the third inning. Ditto the fourth. So I’m not sure what to make of all that. But the reports of him throwing 86 are greatly exaggerated.
Also, this is kinda strange. With Billy Butler on second and two outs in the third, Hughes threw six pitches to Ross Gload, none of which were fastballs…he topped out at 78 for the at bat. The next batter, John Buck saw nothing but fastballs (though none topped 90). The strangest part of all is that he walked both guys.