Oct
06

Adding a cutter to the repertoire can help…

By

Today, friend of RAB Keith Law examines the rise of White Sox ace Jon Danks (apologies, it’s behind the pay wall, but you can still read the first few graphs). The 6’2″ southpaw was the ninth pick of the 2003 draft by the Rangers, and had a tough time in the upper levels of the minors. In search of a more big league ready chip, the Rangers dealt him to the Sox in a deal for Brandon McCarthy. He struggled in his major league year, posting a 5.50 ERA over 139 innings. The White Sox, though, added a cutter to his repertoire, and he delivered big time in ’08 with a 3.32 ERA in 195 innings. He’ll be 24 in the middle of April 2009.

Why is this noteworthy? I seem to remember another pitcher, drafted a year after Danks, who had some initial troubles at the major league level. The fans of the team were all over this guy before he hit the DL with a rib injury at the end of April. Yet he came back and was highly effective in his minor league stint, and had one “meh” and one superb start upon his return to the majors. Yep, it’s Phil Hughes, and yes, he added a cutter to his repertoire. Perhaps Danks’s tale will allow us to exercise a little more patience in judging the 22-year-old.

This, of course, is not to say that Hughes will develop in the same way, or even that his cutter will equal that of Danks. It’s to say that young pitchers take time to develop. I’ll be the first to admit that we were a bit overzealous in our praise for Hughes and Kennedy. However, I still have faith in both of them, especially Hughes. It was wrong of us to expect him to slot into the rotation last year and become a mainstay without any major bumps. The past year has helped temper our expectations, but long term I think our enthusiasm still stands. With Philly now rocking a fastball, cutter, monster hook, and a work-in-progress change, he can make better use of his repertoire and stay on top of major league hitters.

Categories : Pitching
  • A.D.

    The cutter is what the splitter was for the early/mid 90s

  • Manimal

    Mariano is such a trend setter.

  • Axl

    OK. But what do you propose Kennedy does?

    He’s the right handed version of Kei Igawa…

    • UWS

      Obviously Kennedy needs to start throwing a cutter. Duh!

      • Axl

        An 88 mph cutter! Simply devestating!

        • JohnnyC

          Most cutters are under 90 MPH. It’s the sharp movement not the velocity that’s effective. Ask Andy this year in the second half.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Gyroball.

      • UWS

        Mmmm….gyro…

        • Bo

          Kennedy needs some classes in “makeup” from guys like Mo, Andy, Cone, Key, Moose, etc.

  • Currambayankees

    What better place to learn a cutter than in NY? He has the master of the cutter on hand to teach him, along with Andy who also throws a cutter. Personally, I still have a ton of faith in that Hughes will turn out to be a star pitcher but do believe that patience will be a verture with him and all the young guns that came up with him and those coming up behind him. Nope, he didn’t become a star in a NY minute like many Yankees fans wanted but few pitchers as most hit speed bumps along the way. This will make both Hughes and Kennedy better pitchers in the future.

    I think what most of us Yankees fans have to do is look at what Oakland has done for years with young guns even when they struggled. They showed patience and many of those young guns then got traded for additional chips for Oakland. The Yankees won’t have to trade the guys that show they can make it in NY unlike Oakland but none the less will have to show that patience. Imagine the Yankees with their own Mulder, Hudson and Zito but with better stuff and to boot Blanton and Haren at the same time. Sounds sweet to me.

    • Axl

      You would think Rivera and Andy would have taken him under their wings already. Just as you would think some of our other “professional” players would have done something with Cano and his lack of hustle…

      Andy may not be there next year…and if Rivera’s cutter were easy to replicate…he would have taught it to everyone that’s been there

      • Chris C.

        “You would think Rivera and Andy would have taken him under their wings already.”

        Tough to take someone under your wing when they’re on the DL most of the time. I’m sure alot of the Yankee rookies have gotten help from the veterans. You can’t mentor someone to stay healthy.

      • Chris C.

        Just as you would think some of our other “professional” players would have done something with Cano and his lack of hustle…

        Every team has a guy like Cano on it.
        I’m sure plenty of players have gotten in his face. Sooner or later, he’s gotta take accountability. Cano was pulling the same act even when Bowa was here. The difference was, he was more productive, so people didn’t pay as much attention to it.

  • Manimal

    Joe are you doing RAB and MLBTR at the same time?

  • radnom

    “However, I still have faith in both of them, especially Hughes. It was wrong of us to expect him to slot into the rotation last year and become a mainstay without any major bumps.”

    I disagree with this sentiment somewhat. Many of us had reasonable expectations in the beginning of the year, including the writers on this site. I, and many others (including the Yankee front office) acknowledged that this would be a transition year and that there would be bumps along the way. Just because the ABSOLUTE worst possible situation turned into reality, does not mean these expectations were wrong. I have no regrets in putting faith that we would get production from either Hughes or IPK this year. Sometimes things don’t work out, but no one could have seen the freak injury coming, couple with a complete breakdown for Kennedy
    .
    I for one still feel that I (and the Yankees front office) had the right expectations going into the year. (Keep in mind that if Wang had not had a freak injury, only ONE of Hughes/Kennedy would have had to be producing a 5th starter level to be successful, as we would have had 4 other legit starters including Joba. If Hughes did not get a freak rib injury I think he would have been a fine 5th starter for most of the season.

    PS
    Two Yankees are up for the prestigious “Goulet” award. You can vote here
    http://www.americanmustacheins.....fYear.aspx

  • Ben B.

    Supposedly, Jeter and A-Rod are both learning to throw a cutter, too, so that it tails back in to Texiera next season.

  • Bo

    Can’t give up on Hughes now.

    Anyone that says trade him is way too impatient. That ship sailed when they passed on a legit in his prime ace.

    I think Cashman would cut off his arm before he traded a 22 yr old potential front line pitcher.

    • Chris C.

      “Anyone that says trade him is way too impatient. That ship sailed when they passed on a legit in his prime ace.”

      Believe me, that was never a ship Hughes should have been on anyway. In 2 years, when Santana, who has tons of mileage on his arm to date, is on the downside of his career with 5 years remaining on an enormous contract, and Phil Hughes is 25 years old, nobody will be talking about what a mistake it was not to pull the trigger on that deal.

      The deal Cashman didn’t make was never intended to pay immidiate dividends right away. Only the Hank Steinbrenners of the world would pass judgement on it now.

      • Steve H

        AMEN!!

  • Axl

    Hughes shows promise from time to time…

    It’s Kennedy who needs to go. Who needs right handed Kei Igawa? He’s shown that he can get AAA batters out…but once he comes up to the Majors he’s lit up like a Christmas Tree.

    If everybody was talking about Rivera and Andy helping out Hughes with the cutter…why didn’t Mussina help Kennedy locate his pitches better so he could be effective in the majors??

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      why didn’t Mussina help Kennedy locate his pitches better so he could be effective in the majors??

      It’s not that easy. Give the kid time.

      • UWS

        Pshaw! Logic, reason…who needs them? Pshaw, I say!

      • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

        It’s not that easy. Give the kid time.

        No.

    • E-ROC

      “why didn’t Mussina help Kennedy locate his pitches better so he could be effective in the majors??”

      His wife told him not to help.

    • TheLastClown

      Man, I’m beginning to think that bringing Cash back was in fact a bad idea, when we’ve got such a talented prospective GM right here in Axl.

      Of course, Kennedy, who is a young pitcher that threw his first 19 IP while giving up 4 ER, and then went through a shaky year *as is expected for ALL young pitchers, from Randy Johnson to Halladay*…….is the same as a guy who was an established Japanese starter, with an established style, that could simply NOT translate to American Major League Baseball.

      You should sign on with the front office.

      • TheLastClown

        I forgot to praise your syllogistic logic also, being that it’s OBVIOUS if one pitcher didn’t noticeably improve another *in your wise eyes*, then a third pitcher couldn’t possibly help a fourth with something that’s almost totally unrelated, except for the fact that it has to do with throwing a baseball.

        Your perception knows no bounds

    • Chris C.

      “It’s Kennedy who needs to go. Who needs right handed Kei Igawa? He’s shown that he can get AAA batters out…but once he comes up to the Majors he’s lit up like a Christmas Tree.”

      They were saying the same thing about Mike Pelphrey this time last year.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    Is Melky learning how to throw a cutter? He needs all the help he can get.

    • UWS

      Actually, this may be silly even to suggest, but…do you think it would be worth it to convert Melk into a pitcher?

      • A.D.

        he’s got a nice arm, plus nice trade to the NL, his numbers a real good for a pitcher

    • JohnnyC

      Maybe Melky should be converted to the mound? He could be that LOOGY we’ve been looking for all these years.

    • TheLastClown

      He’s learning an Eephus

    • Matt M.

      if only the yankees had practiced the Wilkins De la Rosa approach with Melky…. maybe we wouldnt have had to deal with as many Sir Sidney starts this season lol.

      • Lanny

        Maybe Kennedy can play CF and have an OBP of over .300.

  • Hitman

    We get it. Hughes is young. Don’t give up on him. Isn’t this like the third article in the last 2 weeks or so espousing patience on these two? I have no problem waiting on them but I really don’t understand why ppl look at Hughes like he’s some sort of potential ace when he doesn’t even have ace stuff.

    • TheLastClown

      Did you see the last start he made? With the second string team behind him?

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

        With the second string team behind him?

        Are you joking around? Otherwise I have to ask what the hell that has to do with how Hughes pitched.

        • Reggie C.

          Another pro-Hughes thread ?

          Send Hughes back to Cali. Trade Hughes + Melancon + Miranda for Adrian Gonzalez. Towers said: Nobody is untouchable. All A-gonz needs is alittle protection to get him into .550 slugging territory, and A-rod backing him up…

      • Hitman

        I saw him make many starts. That’s the problem. His ability to maintain his health is actually a bigger issue.

    • steve (different one)

      Don’t give up on him. Isn’t this like the third article in the last 2 weeks or so espousing patience on these two?

      seriously RAB. Hitman is an intelligent fan.

      by constantly repeating yourselves, you are making him less intelligent.

      please, instead of articles about Phil Hughes, please write an article about why trading for Jeff Francouer is a really good idea.

      that’s what the intelligent fans want to read.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

        Jeff Francoeur had the lowest VORP (-17.3) amongst players with at least 400 plate appearances in baseball this year. They would be better off with Melky.

        Extreme plate indiscipline like that isn’t correctable. It’s in the kid’s blood.

        • A.D.

          Hughes for Melk….change of scenery trade

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

          Francouer is a five-tool player. Those five tools are striking out, not walking, not getting on base, not having an approach at the plate, and looking good in a baseball uniform to a scout.

    • Chris C.

      “I really don’t understand why ppl look at Hughes like he’s some sort of potential ace when he doesn’t even have ace stuff.”

      Lets see………Hughes has a 94mph fastall, a 90-91 mph cutter, a curve ball that drops off a table, terrific control, and opposing scouting reports stating that he has “top of the rotation” stuff.
      But we’ll take your word for it, chief.

      If Phil Hughes never carves out a career as an ace, it certainly won’t be for lack of talent.

      • Hitman

        Hughes’s fastball is straight and averages 92 mph. His curveball is very good but these are really his only two pitches and only one of them would be considered a plus pitch. This is why they’re teaching him a cutter in the first place. I’m sorry but these are not marks of an ace especially when Hughes actually spends more time rehabbing each season than he does actually pitching.

        • radnom

          Hmm….should I listen to you, or the scouting department/front office of the Yankees.

          I mean…you do sound like you know what you’re talking about….but I don’t know who to believe.

          Listen. Hughes’ ceiling is an ace. End of discussion. Whether or not he ever gets there is another story, and yes, his troubles with injuries is worrisome. But please, *please*, stop trying to convince us that you know what you’re talking about because you watched him make four starts in April on YES when he had a cracked rib.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

            I sense the “Hitman is an intelligent fan” meme will soon be joining the “Austin Jackson is uninspiring” meme in RAB lore…

          • ceciguante

            why do hughes fans talk as though he had a cracked rib all april (tacitly excusing his shittiness)? i don’t recall any report, or the yanks themselves, claiming that hughes had the rib injury for a prolonged period. did i miss something?

            i agree with hitman that hughes’ stuff isn’t quite what some hughes lovers like to portray it as. it’s usually a 92mph fastball, not 94, and despite what i’ve seen on pitchfx charts, it looks very straight. the curve is nasty. but his control overall is only there some of the time. that cutter was effective in his last start, but let’s wait and see what happens when the league has seen it a few times. his change isn’t MLB caliber yet. long way to go for young mr. hughes.

            • radnom

              “did I miss something”

              Obviously.

              He had a repetitive stress injury. Meaning it wasn’t like it just cracked all of a sudden but built up over time. I don’t think they ever released how long it was bothering him, but Chasman (or was it Hank?) hinted that it had been a reason for his ineffectiveness.

              Lets be conservative though. It definitely affected him his last start. Assuming he had 4-5 starts before that lets say it affected him in half of them (assuming you need at least a week and a half to develop a repetitive stress injury – again being conservative). That means his “long period of shitiness” was 2-3 starts at the absolute most. And his first start was actually decent. But thanks for slinging mud and accusing us of “making excuses”.

              Oh, and again, thanks for your expert analysis of pitchfx charts, but I think i’ll stick with the professionals, including rival scouts. Although I’m sure your careful analysis of a 22 year old pitcher who is still developing using a free online tool really really is sold. (*rolls eyes*).

              By the way, I hope you realize you are agreeing with someone who just made the most absurd post in the history of this site in the last thread.

          • ceciguante

            btw, i’d follow scouting reports, but not the yanks’ own. i mean, you could follow theirs, but then you might still be waiting for breakout seasons from d’angelo jimenez and ricky ledee.

            • steve (different one)

              you mean 2 guys they thought so highly of that they traded them?

              • steve (different one)

                my comment wasn’t really disagreeing with your point, i was just saying that sometime the yankees hype their prospects for exactly that reason, hype. it helps them complete trades. that doesn’t mean that they privately don’t have those prospects evaluated correctly.

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

                  Um… EVERYBODY hypes their prospects.

                  Why the fuck wouldn’t you?

        • http://evizions.com eVizions

          Hughes can dial it up to 95+. He may not throw that every pitch, but Joba throws 101 and averages around 95-98. Velocity doesn’t really mean that much, otherwise Colt Griffin would be a Cy Young winner. The rest of Hughes’ stuff IS ace material, plus he’s got the makeup of a winner. He’s a potential ace, plain and simple.

  • Reggie C.

    I hope Yankee brass don’t let me down.

    SD is a fire-sale waiting to happen. Peavy may be too onerous to trade for, but HUGHES can really help this ballclub out by getting traded for Adrian Gonzalez.

    • UWS

      Seems to me he’d help out even more by sticking around and realizing his potential.

      • A.D.

        agreed.

        People can make the Kennedy argument for a bat, but Hughes for anything but a big time pitcher is fairly pointless.

        • steve (different one)

          well, i’m as big a Hughes fan as anyone but i’m not sure i’d go this far either.

          there are certainly several big time bats that it would not be pointless to trade him for.

          • http://evizions.com eVizions

            Any bat that would be traded for Hughes, at this point, would probably cost a fortune. I can’t imagine a scenario that would make sense.

            • Ed

              I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Edinson Volquez wasn’t looking so hot a year ago, but I don’t think you can complain about who he was traded for.

  • dkidd

    no matter what you think about hughes, it makes no sense to trade him right now. why trade a potential ace for gonzalez when you can just bury tex in a pile of money?

    • http://evizions.com eVizions

      I don’t really want to throw around a lot of money this offseason (with the exception of Sabathia), but I would much rather do that than trade a guy like Hughes. Our greatest asset is our deep pockets.

      • Lanny

        Is it your money?

        Who cares what they spend?

        Get the best guys in here. Our best advantage is money. We never pick in the top 5.

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

          For the most part, agreed. (for once.)

          • steve (different one)

            seriously, we are through the looking glass.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

              WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!

  • Dan W

    Don’t forget that he also throws a slider…. I still have a lot of faith in this kid and think that he can be an extremely effective starter, and possibly be a #1 if he can stay healthy

    • http://evizions.com eVizions

      Didn’t he put the slider on the shelf? I think the cutter basically replaced the slider.

  • Reggie C.

    I swear its like everybody has whipped out the scouting reports from 2006 on this kid !!

    The FB is as straight as an arrow and that 2 seamer is an 88 mph pitch that simply doesn’t have as much movement as it needs to fool heart of the order hitters. That CB is great when he’s on, but he’s simply NOT consistent. And that mythical 3rd plus pitch has yet to emerge!

    If we can get Adrian Gonzalez (26 yrs old / .550 slugger waiting to happen/ friendly contract for 3 years) at the cost of Phil … DO IT NOW CASHMAN !!

    • Mike in Fla.

      Uh, no. You want a big time 1st baseman, which is really not a need, sign Tex. Hughes will be fine. Give him time.

      Off topic, isn’t it funny how Humberto Sanchez is going to fly way under the radar? He definitely might help next year.

  • Lanny

    They didn’t trade Hughes for the best lefty starter in the league who is also under 30.

    And they’d ship him out for a 1b???

    What am I missing here?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Oh, shit, Lanny’s back with a VENGANCE!

    • Joop

      “What am I missing here?”

      That list could go on forever with you.

  • Old Ranger

    It is getting very messy in here. What is the problem with keeping Phil? Cashman has more information on Phils’ ability then any of us, why not let him (and his people) make the right decision. Giving up on Phil is a disaster and will only exacerbate our starting pitcher needs, he will come back in 2009 with more experience and innings…hopefully, better control/command of his pitches. He should be our #3-4 starter; CMW, Joba, Pavano(?), Phil and one of many.
    If we can land a very good pitcher on the FA/trade market, so be it. I know Pavano is a hard sell but, he was a good pitcher and showed he still has the knowledge…he will get stronger and better come ST in 2009. He has a buy out for 2009, why buy him out for someone else to use against us…use him.
    You’ll think I’m crazy but, just think about it a minute…trading for a pitcher because everyone knows we need one badly, puts us in a hole whereas, if we have our starting five…need I ex-pond more? 27/09.

    • Rory

      I agree with the idea of picking up Pavano’s option. See what we can get in the offseason otherwise, and if we don’t need him, we trade him, paying half his salary. Pavano costs nothing but money, and could have decent value on a no risk contract.