As part of our continuing effort to run a post mortem on the Yankees’ season, we’re looking at what went wrong. Earlier this week, we looked at Andy Pettitte’s poor second half and the lack of production out of the catcher’s spot. Today we turn to a subject near and dear to our hearts.
Last winter as the Yanks did or did not make an offer for Johan Santana — the official record on that remains a little hazy — we staked a lot on the concept of the Big Three. We were vehemently opposed to included both Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes in the same deal, and we even sold t-shirts.
Needless to say, that didn’t quite work out.
On the season, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy made 18 appearances for the Yankees, and most people would prefer to forget 16 of those outings. Overall, the pair went 0-8 with a combined 7.45 ERA in just 73.2 innings. They allowed 93 hits and walked 41 while striking out just 50. After a promising end to 2007, these two did not deliver as anyone expected.
Had Hughes and Kennedy turned in at least average performance — 25-30 starts with ERAs under 4.75 — the Yanks would never have needed Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson. They probably would have won a few more games, and the team wouldn’t have ended up six games out of a playoff spot.
Of course, it’s not really fair to lump these two pitchers in together. Right now, one still has standing within the organization while the other is in limbo and could very well be moved this off-season. Phil Hughes lost his season to a rib injury. He cracked his rib due to a repetitive motion stress and was on the shelf from May through August. When he finally arrived back in the Bronx, he made two very promising starts, and at 22, he remains a big player in the Yanks’ plans going forward.
Ian Kennedy is a different story. Showing a mix of brash cockiness, confidence and arrogance, Kennedy just couldn’t get outs at the Major League level. He was sent down to AAA twice this year and recalled twice. Each time he came back to the Bronx, he was worse than before. The Yankees don’t seem to mention him too often in their plans for 2009, and he’ll really have to earn a trip back to the Bronx.
But while Kennedy’s stock in the eyes of the fans has fallen, he still has value to the team. The Yanks could include him a trade. He would still fetch a pretty penny, and the Yanks would probably part with him if the price were right. The team could also recognize that young pitchers can take a few years to mature at the Major League level. Kennedy has ran his way through AAA in a way that suggests he’s not being challenged. In the Majors, this year, he looked overmatched, but that’s hardly indicative of future successes or failures.
In the end, the Yankees weren’t bargaining on a Hughes’ injury and Ian Kennedy’s inability to get outs. They could have sustained either one if the other had stayed healthy and effective, but they couldn’t overcome both. It ended up costing them greatly, but we — and the team — will stand behind them. This year may have been a lost year for them, but the slate will be wiped clean in 2009. Next year, you can be though that the Yanks will have a better back-up plan.