Another Hughes-to-the-pen voice emerges

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When Phil Hughes takes the mound tonight to face off against the Orioles, he is probably making his last start as a fill-in for Chien-Ming Wang. The Yanks’ sinker ball specialist is due back this weekend, and Hughes’ days in the Bronx as a starter are seemingly numbered right now.

Of course, he will be back. Still just 22, Hughes is among the top 20 youngest Major Leaguers this year, and he has pitched serviceably in three of his four starts. Outside of his disastrous start against tonight’s opponent in Baltimore, Hughes has thrown 15 innings to the tune of a 3.60 ERA and has ten strikeouts in those three starts. The ten walks are clearly a concern, but Hughes, at age 22, can hold his own right now in the Majors.

Yet, for all of his success, some baseball commentators doubt Hughes’ long-term outlook. Michael Salfino of SNY wonders if Hughes’ stock is declining. He also speculates that it may have been overinflated before his Big League arrival. In that article, Salfino and Keith Law note that the Yanks do not want to allow Hughes to learn on the job in the Big Leagues and may be better off sending him to AAA to build up his trade value.

Meanwhile, at ESPN, Rob Neyer rips on the piece to suggest that the Yankees could put Hughes in the bullpen. We debated this question three weeks ago, and my basic position still stands: The Yankees should not be putting 22-year-old pitchers who can get outs at the Big League level into the bullpen. It just doesn’t make sense.

Yet, Neyer touches upon an aspect to this proposal that, on the surface, warrants further discussion:

Yes, why not? Hughes has the low-90s fastball and the big curve and not much else, and the low-90s fastball might become a mid-90s fastball if he’s out there for just an inning or two at a time. The Yankee bullpen currently sports a 5.46 ERA, third-worst in the league. Doesn’t a slight change in course seem to be in order? After all, Brian Bruney can do only so much.

I suppose the argument is that Hughes still has a shot to be a good starter, but needs more Triple-A innings if that’s going to happen. I don’t know, though. Johan Santana got 49 Triple-A along with his bullpen apprenticeship in the majors, and he seems to have done pretty well for himself. There are different ways to succeed, and it’ll be a shame if the Yankees fall short this season because they got locked into just the one way.

Johan Santana had those bullpen appearances at the Major League level first because he was a Rule V pick-up. The Twins would rather have used him as a starter in AAA but could not due to baseball regulations. Then, the Twins refused to transition Santana into the rotation much to the chagrin of their fans. In the end, he became a stud out of the rotation. The situations are hardly analogous.

As Neyer suggests, the Yanks may be locked into a development path, and it may be stopping them from considering Hughes in the bullpen. But at the same time, sticking Hughes in the pen would be a move designed to sacrifice the future for the present.

The Yanks pen has been shaky this year, but they just got back one right-handed set-up man. They have true relief options at AAA that should be deployed for more than just three innings before they put their top starting pitching prospect into a relief role. That’s where his long-term value lies, and while Salfino and other New York-based analysts may take this “what have you done for me lately?” approach, baseball just doesn’t work that way.

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  • Joseph Pawlikowski

    The other thing with Santana is that in 2003 the Twins were only able to get him 158 innings, and that was when transitioning him to the rotation from July 11 through the end of the season. The Yanks want to get Hughes more innings than that this year. So working the bullpen-starter thing isn’t as applicable in this situation. If they could find the innings I’d be for it.

    • Will

      Do the Yankees really want to get Hughes more than 158 innings this year? He only threw 70 innings between the majors and minors. Even if you include his Arizona league totals, that would still make 158 innings a huge jump.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        70 in the majors and minors plus another 30 in winter ball is 100.

        Here’s the thing, though, I think some of us are misinterpreting the Verducci rule.

        It’s not about not throwing more than 30 innings over your previous year, it’s about not throwing more than 30 innings more than your previous SINGLE SEASON TOTAL. So, while Hughes’s 2008 total workload of 100 would indicate he should be capped at 130, he did throw 146 innings of minor league ball in 2006. The reason he didn’t approach that again in ’07 or ’08 was due to injury, but his high-water mark of 146 means his cap could theoretically be as high as 176.

        And Hughes himself indicated a desire to throw about 180 innings, which falls in line with that.

        If 18 year old pitcher X threw 90 innings one year, 120 innings the next year, 150 innings in year three, but then got hurt in year four and only threw 50 innings, you don’t have to restart his clock in year 5 and cap him at 80 innings. He’s free to throw 180.

        • Will

          That’s a fair point, but Hughes professional innings total has gone from 146 to 110 to 70. Instead of the gradual build-up in your example, he has been going backwards. I don’t think you can use the 146 (all minor league) innings as a starting point for that reason…he has had too much inactivity since then.

          • Benjamin Kabak

            Between the majors, the minors and winter ball, Hughes thre more than 70 innings last year.

            • Will

              According to Tommie, he threw about 30 innings in the winter. Of course, that now begs the question of whether leverage factors into the equation. If so, AFL innings would be very low on the totem pole.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            I don’t think you can use the 146 (all minor league) innings as a starting point for that reason…he has had too much inactivity since then.

            Of course you can, that’s the heart of the Verducci observation.

            The correlation he’s implying is one of subjecting young pitchers to workloads dramatically larger than what they’ve done before is damaging to a young pitcher’s body. Which is why Verducci said it shouldn’t be 30 more than the highest single season total.

            If that player has an injury, it does NOT restart their clock. It’s written off as a bad season and the player resumes his natural development arc.

        • tim randle

          unless of course he got hurt because he was maxing out his verducci rule innings…

          apparently ‘rule of thumb’ comes from an English law that said you couldn’t beat your wife with anything larger than the circumference of your thumb.

          here’s my problem: let us just watch hughes, see how he does, and get him the game experience he needs at AAA, have him make spot starts in NY when we need him, and when he gets close to his innings limit (which none of us know, ESPREDSOXN included), lets slow him down and if we need to, we can have him come out of the pen for the playoffs–who knows, he may be keeping Joba company there too by then [since we’ll never need four starters, and if we did, CC would be going again anyway! :)].

          Besides, he doesn’t have a closer’s mentality…

  • Whizzo The Wize

    In times of merely ordinary baseball, writers turn to the fanciful.

    Whizzo’s hoping Dave Winfield can kill another seagul with a ball soon so this “Move X to the pen” idiocy can end.

    It’s about as sane as arguing for Sheffield to man 1st base during the playoffs.

    • UWS

      Whizzo is rapidly becoming my favorite RAB commenter. Three cheers for Whizzo.

      • jsbrendog

        where have you been? whizzo equal sign teh awesom!11!

  • Josh

    Orel was saying the other night that the old way to break a young pitcher in was gaining experience in the bullpen first then bringing them to the rotation. If he’s proven that he can dominate AAA, then why leave him there if he can help the big league club? I see both sides but I feel bad for the kid because he’s coming up then going back down. Not like Chris Britton, but you get the idea.

    • Will

      Earl Weaver used that approach with many guys. Palmer, McNally, McGregor, Flanagan, Doyle Alexander and Dennis Martinez all transitioned to the rotation from the bullpen.

      • Chris

        Palmer is another good example of the Verducci effect. He pitched mostly out of the pen in ’65 (92IP), then was a full time starter in ’66 (208IP). He missed most of ’67 and ’68 because he was injured.

        • Will

          Excellent point…considering his very tender age (19 when he broke in), Palmer probably would have been better served being a hybrid in his age-22 season.

          If Hughes jumps from 70 innings to over 160 this year, we might be looking at another injury plagued season in 2010.

  • Mattingly’s Love Child

    Mo wasn’t converted to the bullpen until his age 25 season. So pushing a 22 year old to the pen seems premature.

    With that in mind, other starters that may not have as much stuff as Hughes, that may be older (say Kontos) would be candidates to me to try out the bullpen with the Yankees this year IF the current crop of relievers (including Melancon and Robertson) cannot get the job done.

    • Tank the Frank

      Good points. Kontos HAS the stuff of Hughes but hasn’t shown the command or feel for pitching that made Hughes such a phenom in the minors. Kontos profiles best as a bullpen arm and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there sometime next season.

      I think Ben already said it best: “They have true relief options at AAA that should be deployed for more than just three innings before they put their top starting pitching prospect into a relief role.”

    • MattG

      Rivera wasn’t one of the Yankees’ 12 best pitchers then. Showalter wouldn’t even trust him against Doug Strange. Part of the decision here is that Hughes is much better than 3 or 4 guys currently in the Yankee pen.

  • Aunt Becca-Optimist Prime

    I don’t like the idea of sticking Hughes in the bullpen. He’s a 22 year old kid, not a 27 year old starter that can’t get outs. There’s a substantial difference.

    At this point in time the bullpenning would only hamper his development; when Wang comes back IMO the Yankees are much better suited to have Phil pitching at AAA where he can start once every five days.

    Yes, the bullpen is still an issue, but the reason Joba in the pen worked was because Joba can throw it 100 mph. I might be wrong here, but Phil’s never exactly struck me as a power pitcher.

    • UWS

      the reason Joba in the pen worked was because Joba can throw it 100 mph

      The reason Joba in the pen worked was actually because Joba is a really good pitcher. Throwing 100mph is just icing on a delicious, moist, chocolatey cake.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        And it’s also the reason Hughes would also work in the pen.

        But the reason neither of them should be in there is because building up innings is more important for them at the moment than building up confidence by attacking big league hitters. They’ve both already made great strides in that department. They need innings.

        You get innings by starting.

        • tim randle

          dumbass question alert:

          how come joba was able to come in and face batters with runners on, in late and close situations, and get huge results, but he is teh sux in first innings this year?

          tjsc: saying they need innings is like saying practice makes perfect. watching me practice my golf swing, you know i’m not getting near perfect…perfect practice makes perfect, and while i’m still on your side, at some point he will need to face mlb batters to get better.

          arguably, i’m really glad we’re having this discussion, cause if want stinks it up, its back to hughes starting and wang in aaa…

          • UWS

            how come joba was able to come in and face batters with runners on, in late and close situations, and get huge results, but he is teh sux in first innings this year?

            As much as I hate to say it and will probably be blasted for it momentarily, it’s possible that Joba had “that closer mentality” when he came in in the late innings last year: adrenaline flowing, completely focused, etc. If we are to believe that, then it’s possible that this year he simply didn’t get it going until he was deeper into the game (which is why that silliness with throwing a simulated inning last time might have worked).

            That’s just my $.02, I may be completely off-base.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            I’m not dismissing the notion that Hughes pitching his innings in the bigs is more beneficial to his long term development than him pitching those innings in AAA.

            What I’m saying is, the thing that would benefit the YANKEES more than anything else is having Phil Hughes able to throw 206 innings in the bigs in 2010, as our fifth starter. In order to accomplish that, we need him to throw 176 innings in 2009, and the best way for him to do that is in Scranton.

            We’re slowing down his pitching abillity development a hair by having him throw lower leverage innings in Scranton, but the beneficial trade off is we get and uncapped Hughes for 2010. The gain is greater than the loss.

  • Will

    I raised the Santana comp here a few weeks ago and still think it is not only valid, but a perfect blueprint for Joba and Hughes.

    Your point about Santana’s Rule V status doesn’t really hold water. While it may be true that the Twins would rather have had the 21 year old Johan in the minors, that didn’t stop them from having him perform a hybrid roll over the following THREE years covering his age 22-24 seasons. Joba and Hughes are both in their age-23 seasons, so the comparison is very appropriate.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      If you ask Aaron Gleeman, he would say Front Office idiocy is what kept Santana out of the rotation after his Rule V issues became moot.

      • Will

        With all due respect, why exactly is Aaron Gleeman an authority on this issue? As I posted just above, Earl Weaver was known to use the bullpen has a waystation to the rotation. Also, how can you argue with how the Twins handled Santana…not only has he been fabulous, but he has also been relatively healthy.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          Who said Gleeman was an authority on the issue besides you? I offered up his opinion. It’s a valid one.

          Weaver kept those guys in the pen when they were really young for one season or less. If the Yanks can get Hughes his innings, then fine. If they can’t, then not fine.

          • Will

            It was an appeal to authority without a presentation of Gleeman’s point of view. When one does that, they usually mean to imply that the person being cited is an authority.

            What Weaver did was utilize talented arms in a way that best fit the ball club. Clearly, if you move Hughes or Joba to the pen, the point is to maximize their usefulness by getting as many innings as possible from them.

        • Rich M.

          I dont think you can use the Earl Weaver comp. Bullpens in the 70’s and early 80’s were used a lot differently than they are today. Guys coming out of the bullpen in the 70’s were there to get multiple outs and pitch multiple innings. Today we have guys coming in for a batter and giving way to someone else because he pitches with the opposite hand.

          • Will

            I don’t disagree, but I don’t think anyone is advocating moving Hughes to the bullpen so he can be a specialist. The perfect role for him would be to pitch 2,3 or even 4 innings per appearance (i.e., eliminate the need for guys like Veras and Albaledejo at least twice per week). There is no reason he can’t get his innings using that approach.

            • Benjamin Kabak

              You can’t depend on 4-inning appearances though to develop a starter. Those are exceedingly rare.

              • MattG

                I think you can depend on 2+ innings, and the occasional 4 inning outing, though. That should be sufficient with half a season of starting somewhere.

              • tim randle

                we should hope they would be non-existent…why would you plan to develop somebody by using events that we are planning to never have?

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              There is no reason he can’t get his innings using that approach.

              Only the fact that it’s never been done before.

              • Will

                Throughout this thread, I’ve cited several examples showing that it has.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  No, you haven’t, for two reasons:

                  1) You maintain that the innings goal you’re going to get Hughes to by being this 3-4 innings bullpen pitcher is somewhere in the 100-140 innings range. 140 innings is the low end of Hughes’s goal, not the high end. The high end is 180 innings.

                  2) The only “example” I see you citing here is Billingsley and, to a lesser extent, Santana. Both of those guys made at least TEN STARTS DURING THE season. When Wang returns, Hughes will have made 4 starts. There’s not enough starter time and too much bullpen time in that equation for Hughes to reach even Billingsley or Santana’s totals as a hybrid, which, again, is a goal too low.

              • MattG

                It has been done before, plenty. I know that you realize baseball was not invented by Tony LaRussa, so this comment really puzzles me.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  No, it really hasn’t.

                  Show me a young starting pitcher who spent the majority of his season outside of the rotation in the bullpen who even threw anywhere close to 180 innings.

                  Even the guys who spent half of their season in the rotation and half in the pen only got to 130-150 innings. It’s May. Hughes would be in the pen for 75% of the season. There simply isn’t a precedent for a guy spending 75% of his season in the bullpen and throwing 180 innings. I can’t see that it’s ever been done before.

                • MattG

                  Oh, 180 innings, no. 130 innings, yes. I would say a hybrid for 150 should be doable and has been done.

                • Am I the only Kevin?

                  Yes, a hybrid where you get somewhere near 20 starts. It can happen. It has happened. But that doesn’t mean you bank on that anomaly happening here.

                  If your goal is to ensure 160-180 innings you don’t plan on getting the guy those 20 starts via random spot starts or injury fill-in starts. You need him going every five days for a few months in a row. That happens by accident, yes, but more so by being made an honest to goodness member of a five-man rotation.

                  How is he going to get those extra starts? Shut down Joba? Pray somebody else gets injured?

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Yeah, but Hughes isn’t getting 20 more starts if he stays in the bigs. He’s just not, not unless CMW is still FUBAR.

                  If he goes to the pen, his best hope is to transition back to being a regular starter in September when Joba is shut down. And, I’m sorry, I’ve had enough of the midseason transition from starter to bullpen to starter. No more of that, please.

                • Am I the only Kevin?

                  Maybe I wasn’t clear, but that was my whole point. Hughes either needs to be in the MLB rotation, or the AAA rotation.

            • Rich M.

              I dont think you can guaranty a young pitcher innings when you are trying to win games. The best place is for him to go back to AAA. Its basically a controlled environment where he can gain command of his secondary pitches, which he will need to get major league hitters out as a starter. He will most likely not throw those pitches enough out of the bullpen when trying to win ball games.

  • JRVJ

    IMO, I would not send Hughes down right away, or at least until CMW has proven himself once or twice.

    Aceves will probably be shadowing CMW in his first start back, but it might not be a bad idea to line-up Phil with CMW for the next one.

  • jsbrendog

    this is all I am going to say because I fear if I come back I will get violent after reading all the people that agree with putting hughes in the bullpen.

    i agree with joe. if he could get the innings, then i do it. this is about the future. but as he stated above, hughes will not get the innings and he is too good to be banished to the bullpen for his career when he is the heir apparent to andy pettitte next yr (unless andy pettitte revises that role again, which remains to be seen).

    Do other teams have to put up with the same insane media mouth droppings? are there really people in washington that will go STRASBURG TO THE PEN if he comes up and pitches like hughes?

  • Link

    I do not agree at all with idea of Hughes in the bullpen. If he dominates at AAA, so be it, allow his confidence to build and he can solidify his secondary pitches. I think it is a virtual certainty that Sabathia, Pettitte, Burnett, Joba and CMW will not miss another start for the rest of the season, so he will get more opportunities to pitch on the big league level before the year is out.

    • Nady Nation

      You mean it’s a certainty that one of them WILL miss another start, right?

      • Link

        :) Yes, thanks. I meant that someone will miss a start between now and the end of the season.

  • Tank the Frank

    I have used the “Hughes to the bullpen” argument before, only as a way to show how ridiculous the “Joba to the bullpen” argument is. When comparing the two pitchers and their time in the major leagues as a starter, Hughes doesn’t even come close to Joba. And yet people clammor for Joba to go to the pen while Hughes is never mentioned (even though he pitched brilliantly out of the pen in the playoffs).

    However, I never thought this would turn into a serious argument in the media. Personally, despite his numbers, I think Hughes has looked like a different pitcher this season. His velocity is (finally) up, and he looks to have learned a great feel for his cutter rather quickly. I have finally seen what has made us all so excited about him. He is no longer the two-pitch pitcher Neyer would like to pigeonhole him as.

    I find the path the Yankees are taking with both Joba and Hughes encouraging. While the media may drool about Joba – and now Hughes – in the bullpen, the Yankees are having none of it.

    “…while Salfino and other New York-based analysts may take this “what have you done for me lately?” approach, baseball just doesn’t work that way.” <— Excellent point. Well put.

  • OmgZombies

    Hughes has nothing to gain expect gain innings on his arm for next year, if he goes to the minors.Sure he can be called back up during the year but he needs to learn how to get major league hitters out. With the eventual Joba innings limit can they work something out between the two?

  • Will

    Chad Billingsley’s 2007 season is another fine blue print season for Joba and Hughes. After tossing 90 major league innings (mostly as a starter) in 2006, Billingsley followed that up with 147 innings as a hybrid (43 G/20 GS) in his age-22 season. Now, he is pretty much established as an ace.

    The issue isn’t whether to get Hughes or Joba 40 innings as an “8th inning” guy. It’s whether the Yankees are better off getting 150 innings from both in a hybrid role, or having them either: (1) reach their limits too early in the season; or (2) waste innings in the minor leagues.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      That’s a good point. Here’s how it could work: Hughes can stay in the bullpen now if the Yanks can guarantee that he reaches his innings limit. His limit is higher than Joba’s because of his 2006 totals.

      But you’re also not factoring the health approach. Do the Yanks feel that the unpredictability of the pen would impact a lifelong starter? That’s a question that warrants an answer.

      • Aunt Becca-Optimist Prime

        Not to mention that they’re two different types of pitching and constantly going back and forth between them without being named Ramiro Mendoza is a recipe for blowing out an arm.

      • Will

        Clearly, the Yankees need to have a well developed plan and it must include him being used in longer stints. As for the health impact, it’s definitely a legitimate question, but I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest a correlation between pitchers who work out of both the pen and rotation and the development of injuries (at least none about which I am aware).

        • Bo

          The Billingsly argument is what makes it.

    • ChrisS

      The Yankees also have three legitimate workhorse pitchers that can throw 230-250 innings this year, plus CMW who could return to form and average 6-7 IP per game.

      The Yankees have a long man/spot starter out of the pen barring an implosion (Aceves) and at least three established bullpen guys (Rivera, Bruney, and Coke), plus Veras, Marte, and whoever will rotate through with Edwar (Melancon and Roberts).

      So with all those innings accounted for, while trying to remain competitive in the AL East, they should try to schedule 120 IP for Hughes juggled between the pen and spot starts to learn?

      In 2007, the Dodgers had exactly two starting pitchers make 200 IP (well, 203 and 199). They had everybody but Scott Proctor start at some point. Boomer Wells started 7 games for chrissakes. Brett Tomko had 15 starts. They needed a starter and had plenty of innings to fill. Billingsley could have had 250 IP that season. He was in the pen for all of 2 and a half months. By mid-June he was starting regularly.

      The Yankees don’t really have that luxury. They have bullpen guys that they will depend on who need their work and Hughes needs innings more than anything (something that could be in short supply in NY).

  • Pasqua

    One of the big flaws with the Santana comparison is that it’s total cherry-picking. If you’re going to compare the development arc of Johan Santana, probably the single best pitcher in baseball, to the possible development arc of Hughes, OF COURSE you would say send him to the bullpen. “Hey! Johan did it! Why can’t Phil?!” Problem is, Hughes ain’t Santana. Nobody is Santana. He’s a single, unique entity in baseball. The comparison, on any level, isn’t fair to Hughes.

    • tim randle

      Or Mo.

  • Matt-Pitt

    Not that I would push for this, but could Hughes be like a Masterson for them? Fill in spot starts when somebody needs a day off, pitch multiple high leverage innings out of the bullpen, give him an inning in the 7th or 8th in tight games, be used almost everyday or every other day to get big outs? I feel like thats what they have been doing with Masterson before the Dice-BB injury. He would come in the 6th or 7th and pitch through the 8th at times. Other times he would just pitch the 8th and now he is spot starting. I don’t know if you can log 150+ innings in a year while doing that, but I feel like if the Yankees get created enough, it is always possible. Like I said, not that I would push for this, just something to think about.

    • MattG

      Love it. +1. Wasn’t there once a guy named Ramiro Mendoza? I think he had value…

  • leokitty

    In that article, Salfino and Keith Law note that the Yanks do not want to allow Hughes to learn on the job in the Big Leagues and may be better off sending him to AAA to build up his trade value.

    If he can pitch, why would they want to trade him? Andy isn’t going to be around forever. Gah.

  • niv

    I personally believe Hughes should be in the pen. I believe it can teach him how to pitch in high pressure situations. He has shown he can do it especially, in 1 or 2 innings stints ala 2007 playoffs relieving Clemens. Making the argument that Hughes should not be in the pen because he is 22 years old and can get big outs should not be put in the bullpen? Doesn’t make sense. First of all he is not showing he can get big outs. A pitcher like hughes who’s fastball sits at 93 mph may benefit being in the pen and may touch 95 instead. If this is your reasoning then all the talk about Joba to the pen is asine. Joba is 23. 1 year older than Hughes and has shown to get big outs in this level. If you made this argument for Joba then i would agree 1000%. Joba is a starter. I wish for Hughes success tonite, but when Wang gets back, a better place for Hughes should be in the bullpen and he will strenghten it. He can come in during the 6th or 7th inning and occasionaly spot start if a starter goes down. Hughes does not need any work in the minors. He has already proved himself at that level.

    • leokitty

      Hughes needs to work on command of his offspeed offerings and high leverage bullpen situations are probably not the best time to work them into things!

      • kSturnz

        amen, brother

      • carl

        I agree. It all depends on what he need to learn and the best place to learn it. He needs to learn a third pitch, from everything I have read on this board. The bullpen is probably a hard place to learn it. No one will have time for him.

  • YankeeScribe

    Hughes is a starter. He’d be a waste as a reliever. However, he’s proven himself at the AAA level. His problems at the MLB level appear to be more mental. The only way he’s going to learn how to get MLB hitters out is to continue pitching at the MLB level.

    To solve the innings problem, he should be sent back down for a few more starts and called back up in July or August to work as a RP/SP hybrid. If he’s consistent or dominates, he’s a shoe-in for the 5th starter role in 2010.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Here’s Verducci himself. Emphasis is mine.

    Here’s the way I track it: Find major league pitchers 25-and-under who broke the 30-inning rule. In some cases a pitcher’s innings the previous season may have been artificially depressed, such as by injury, so I’ll use his professional high for the baseline, or, in the case of a recent draftee like Kennedy, his college workload. All innings count (minors, majors, postseason).

    For the purposes of Phil Hughes, his 2006 professional high of 146 innings thrown between High-A and AA is his Verducci baseline. His 2009 innings cap should be 176 innings. His 2010 innings cap should be 206 innings.

    • KW

      Right, because what was done in 2006 athletically, is completely relevant to the present, 3 years later.

      If I was able to bench press 300 lbs 3 years ago, does that mean that has any semblance to what my ability is now? No, it doesn’t. The Verducci rule is a hard and fast set of principles that works about 50% of the time. What’s more important is the most recent data, which means Phil has a long way to go.

      Besides, he’s shown he can dominate AAA hitters. There’s just not much more point to having him pitch to AAA hitters, except for the nebulous concept of “innings.”

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Besides, he’s shown he can dominate AAA hitters. There’s just not much more point to having him pitch to AAA hitters, except for the nebulous concept of “innings.”

        Agreed. And, if he were the 6th best starter, he’d be pitching to MLB hitters instead of AAA hitters. He’s likely not, so he’s going to Scranton.

        I’ll side with Verducci’s stated method of the baseline being the high-water mark (as opposed to inflexibly the previous season’s total) on the innings cap theory over you, though. It makes sense to me that if Phil threw 146 IP in 2006, his target for 2007 should be 176 IP. When he fails to make that due to injury, you get him healthy and then his IP goal for the following season (2008) remains 176 IP. While it is a bit disconcerting that he got injured two years in a row, I still think his goal remains the same.

        176 professional IP’s seems like an appropriate goal for a kid turning 23 in a month. Had he missed an entire two years with a big injury like TJS, maybe you adjust the innings cap. Here, I think it remains appropriate.

  • Tank the Frank (formerly just “Frank”)

    Salfino wouldn’t know a good starting pitcher if it was outside taking a crap on his car. Which… by the way… it is just seconds from doing.

    Good day to you all. *wink* *kiss*

  • BG90027

    I think the best thing to do with Hughes is send him to the minors to work on his control and secondary pitches as a starter and to bring him up as a starter when Joba nears his innings limit or if any starter goes down with a significant injury.

    I get tired of hearing how young he is. He’s pitched in the majors for parts of the last three years. I’m all for giving him more looks but the clock is ticking. He’s out of options next year so the idea that the team can have unlimited patience with him, not use him out of the bullpen and hope he develops into a top line starter in his mid twenties isn’t realistic. He either needs to show more soon or the Yankees will likely be faced with either using him out of the bullpen next year or trading him to a team that can be more patient with his inconsistency as a starter at the ML level.

    • Jackson

      He either needs to show more soon or the Yankees will likely be faced with either using him out of the bullpen next year or trading him to a team that can be more patient with his inconsistency as a starter at the ML level

      Why is patience with a young starter a virtue available to other teams but not the Yankees? If Hughes is inserted into the rotation next year and his inconsistency results in the Yankees not winning a title but allows him to develop into a front line starter for years to come I’m all for that.

      • tim randle

        Why is patience with a young starter a virtue available to other teams but not the Yankees?

        …cause we want to win this year, and the pirates, well, don’t.

      • Matt-Pitt

        A lot of us at this site are, but we are the minority of patient Yankees’ fans. Lets be realistic, if the Yankees allowed Hughes to develop and struggle at the major league level, people would be calling for everybody in the FO to be fired, literally, alive. People’s rationale… “They are the Yankees, they need to win now. They have a billion trillion sicilian dollar payroll, things need to happen NOW.” Yankees’ fans are all about NOW and what have you done for me lately. I wish the majority wasn’t that way, cause I still firmly believe Hughes can be a solid major league starter, a #2-3, which is all they need with CC and Joba manning the front end for years to come.

        Other organizations, such as theee… Twins, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, etc… Can afford to take those risks and develop those guys. Their fan bases are loyal, but they aren’t nearly as impatient as Yankees’ fans.

        • KW

          That’s got nothing to do with it at all. The Yankees operate a business model that is predicated on current and prolonged success. How can you justify to people paying 1250 a seat that they should have patience? They won’t. If the Yankees wanted to be a team that develops kids, they can go be the Pirates, lower their payroll, expectations, and their ticket prices, and they can do that.

          If Hughes can improve in the minors, then to the minors he shall go. I don’t buy it though. He’s a AAA stud, and its his ability to translate those AAA results to the bigs that needs work. This has nothing to do with patience. It has everything to do with putting the best product on the field and maximizing future revenues.

          • Matt-Pitt

            To a certain extent, you are right. However, we are talking about developing ONE player here, not a an entire team, not changing an entire franchise. They can continue to keep their prices where they stand, put the same product on the field, maximize their revenue. It is one day out of 7 they would have to deal with the development out of a player, and lets face it, Yankees’ fans can’t even handle that. They know the talent that Hughes’ has. Not everybody is going to come up from the minors and dominate in the majors. Not everybody as Derek Jeter, a Robby Cano, prospects take their lumps and their fan bases should deal with it.

        • kSturnz

          idk, cards, twins, brewer fans can probably be very impatient at times, but the leagues are not as competitive

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I get tired of hearing how young he is.

      Right now, there are 750 active Major League players. 731 of them are older than Phil Hughes. You can be tired of it, but it’s not just an excuse. It’s a fact. The clock is ticking only because he was rushed in 2007 and you’re impatient.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      1) Wrong. He has an option for 2010. They never used an option for him in 2007. He was called up, but never sent down. The time he was in the minors was covered under his rehab clock, so by the books he was still on the major league roster. They used an option in 2008 and 2009. So he still has one next year.

      2) “I get tired of hearing how young he is.” Too fucking bad. You’ll continue to hear it until he’s no longer young.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        They never used an option for him in 2007. He was called up, but never sent down. The time he was in the minors was covered under his rehab clock, so by the books he was still on the major league roster.

        Aaah, the old Chien-Ming Wang “Baby on the Corner” trick, eh? Sweet.

        I still can’t find any good site that keeps track of who used options when and who has option years remaining. Where did you locate that important nugget of info, Joe?

        • Joseph Pawlikowski

          “Where did you locate that important nugget of info, Joe?”

          Right up in that big ol’ brain of mine. I understand the rules for using options, and I just went back and figured out where they would have been used. Hughes came back to the majors in fewer than 30 days after his first rehab start. Since he was placed on the major league DL, they didn’t need to use an option for the rehab starts.

          And no, it’s not really like Wang, because Hughes was actually hurt. Twice.

      • BG90027

        Thanks for the correction on the option. That’s frankly a relief. I absolutely agree that he is very young and think the organization has done him a disservice by overly hyping him and rushing him through the system. I meant that I was tired of hearing how young was if he was out of options. That would have seemed more relevant to how patient we could be than his age.

        • Joseph Pawlikowski

          Sorry, too, if that came off as snarky. It’s just that Hughes is young, so when people try to say it’s an excuse, I get a little hot.

  • touchtoneterriost

    Just put Joba in the pen and keep Hughes in the rotation what’s the problem?

    If not keep Hughes in AAA to build he’s trade value and trade Hughes and Kennedy in the off season for a young power hitter.So we can keep our draft picks for 2010.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      This is why we have to fight the “terriosts” over there: So we don’t have to fight the “terriosts” at home.

      There’s a global war on “terriosm”, people.

      • UWS

        ::golf clap::

  • pat

    Freakin Pjobbers

  • vinny

    I think hughes needs to learn how to not walk people before he can go to the bullpen or stay in the rotation… walks are the biggest problem in the yankee bullpen right now and i just think that adding another young guy to the mix who needs to reach an innings limit is just pointless… let him get a full season at AAA and take a closer look next spring.

  • A.D.

    The other thing about Santana is, he’s one sample, and happens to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league right now (and doubtful his bullpen apprenticeship did anything for that. So just because it worked for Santana doesn’t mean its a good idea.

    It’s like hitting on 19 and getting that 2, yeah you won, but it still wasn’t a smart hit.

  • MattG

    If the Yankees first five are healthy, Hughes is a lock for the pen in September. I have to think the Yankees already have a plan in place to make sure he doesn’t get there with more than 130, 135 innings. You want to see him pitch 8-10 games, 12-15 innings in relief in September, and have him stick in that role for the post-season.

    A hybrid situation for now would be totally fine, save one thing: I think Hughes has more to prove in the minors. I know that the results can’t be improved, but the approach can. Hughes relies too heavily on the hitter getting himself out. I think he needs to go back to AAA, and learn to get hitters out on strikes (as opposed to balls off the corners). This is based on the assumption that he pitches the same in AAA as he has here: everything just off the corner, as opposed to on it.

  • Frank

    I can see both sides of the argument, but the one thing Hughes won’t get in AAA is the experience of pitching with the big club, be it as a mop up man, a set up man or even a closer(if Mo needs a day off). It’s just not the same experience, not to mention the fact he will be around the likes of CC,Andy, A.J. and Mo, and can gain a wealth of knowledge from them, day in and day out, which would not be available to him in AAA. Besides, if this were to happen, I don’t see this being permanent. I believe the Yanks see him as a starter long term.

    • Tank the Frank (formerly just “Frank”)


  • The Lodge

    Hughes is pitching to Cash tonight (according to LoHud lineup). That is not a good thing for Phil. Cash has been brutal back there. He was like a scared chicken with stone hands on Sunday.

    • Matt-Pitt

      Thats just awful…. Cervilli has been doing things well and I am fairly positive they were battery mates in AAA… Why not keep it going? Plus, Cash has been downright atrocious.

      • Rick in Boston

        In 3 starts for Hughes in AAA this year, Cash caught one and Stewart the other two (I might be missing a start).

        In the start I found for Cash, Hughes went 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. It was Hughes’ first start of the year.

    • Tank the Frank (formerly just “Frank”)

      Yeah I don’t understand breaking up the lineup when Cervelli has obviously beaten Cash out at this point both offensively and defensively.

  • Benjamin Kabak

    Just for fun: There are 148 pitchers with four or more Big League starts this year. All but 6 are older than Hughes. Take out that disastrous start against the Orioles, and he’s doing fine for a fifth starter.

    • BG90027

      I agree with that. Its a small sample but you’re right. I also think we have much too high expectations for back of the rotation starters. See the following Hardball Times article:

      which broke down the average performance by starters by place in the rotation in 2006. The average 4th starter had an ERA above 5.00 and the average 5th starter had an ERA above 6.00. I don’t mean to suggest that we should be ok with the average, but we’ve been spoiled with unusually deep rotations for much of the last decade.

      If Hughes is our fifth starter next year, I’d be ok with an ERA of around 5.00 for his first full year provided that he consistently pitched 5-6 innings keeping the team in the game. What you can’t accept is frequent early blowouts which are too taxing on the bullpen.

  • Tank the Frank (formerly just “Frank”)

    Prediction: Hughes has a dominant start tonight against a Baltimore team that has scored 9 runs in their last 4 games.

  • Bo

    Will it really be so bad if hes getting his innings pitching out of the pen at the major league level? And we need his arm here anyway. I’d rather see him pitch the 6-7 than Veras or Edwar or Alby.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      It wouldn’t be “so bad”, no.

      It’s just not the optimal solution for building our 2009 and 2010 and 2011 teams.

      Hughes in the pen is a strategy with merit. Hughes remaining in AAA and pitching 180 innings this year is a strategy with more merit.

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      The problem is that he won’t “get his innings” unless he makes at least 20 starts. Are you saying your willing to be the future on your teams 23 year old prospect on enough spot starts popping up?

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Bangwagon time:

    Johan Santana’s development:
    1997 (age 18): 40.1 combined innings at Rookie Ball and Low A; 10 games, 6 starts
    1998 (age 19): 93.1 combined innings at Low A and High A; 17 games, 16 starts
    1999 (age 20): 160.1 innings at High A; 27 games, 26 starts
    2000 (age 21): 86.0 innings at MLB; 30 games, 5 starts (Rule V mandated MLB’er)
    2001 (age 22): 43.2 innings at MLB; 15 games, 4 starts
    2002 (age 23): 157.0 combined innings at AAA and MLB; 38 games, 23 starts
    2003 (age 24): 158.1 innings at MLB; 45 games, 18 starts
    2004 (age 25): 228.0 innings at MLB; 34 games, all starts

    Santana was a starting pitcher in the minors, working his way up through the farm. The Twins kept him in the majors because they HAD TO, not because they wanted to give him a taste or help refine his big league stuff or break him in or any of that jazz. They turned him into a hybrid because they had no other choice, he was too young and too raw to be in the rotation fulltime (and inferior to the other starters they had) but they couldn’t send him down to work on stuff and build innings.

    And, moreover, their hybrid approach SLOWED DOWN HIS PROGRESS TOWARDS BEING A FULLTIME 200+ IP STARTING PITCHER. It took them four years of “hybriding” to make him a legit starter, and he didn’t assume a spot in the rotation until age 25 The reason they sent him down after two full seasons as a “hybrid” pitcher was to work on his changeup, a development process that was retarded by his two years spent pitching in the bullpen. That alone should speak volumes.

    We’re taking a different approach because we’re aiming to turn Phil Hughes into a 200+ IP fulltime starter by age 23, in 5.5 pro seasons instead of 7.5 full pro seasons.

    • Tampa Yankee

      So you mean Santana and Billingsley are the exceptions and not the rules? You got to be kidding me?!?!! It can’t be, I saw it with my own eyes!!1!1!

      In all seriousness, great post.

  • Am I the only Kevin?

    Are the people calling for this mythical 120IP bullpen role aware that he is out of options after this season? Next year, it is sink or swim as a starter in this organization. I think the Yanks are planning on him taking Andy’s spot in 2010, so they really can’t risk him not getting enough innings if they hold his future in this organization as a starter in any kind of regard. The best way to ensure he gets the innings is to have him starting every 5 days, no matter what, because you never know when a random injury is going to eat a month or so of your season.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Incorrect. I stated this above. The Yankees did not use an option on Hughes in 2007. They added him to the 40-man in April and called him right up. No option there. He pitched in the minors, but that was on a rehab assignment. He was called up before said assignment expired, so no option there.

      He was optioned in 2008 and 2009. He has one more left.

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        I stand corrected! Just strike the first sentence of my post, then. He needs to build innings this year to get him ready to take over Andy’s spot in 2010 and the bullpen won’t get him enough.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I think the Yanks are planning on him taking Andy’s spot in 2010, so they really can’t risk him not getting enough innings if they hold his future in this organization as a starter in any kind of regard.

      Especially since Joba’s 2008 innings cap is 150, meaning he’ll be capped at 180 next year. The fact that Joba will likely still be capped in some way for 2010 makes having an uncapped Phil Hughes all the more important.

  • Johnny

    I believe Hughes to the pen is not a wise move at this time. The innings are a factor in that, as he is working towards building stamina. More importantly in my mind is the fact that in his starts this year it seems like he is just about to turn the corner. As a pitcher, he is definitely moving in the right direction and I would like to see him continue working on his game. To do that he needs to pitch regularly.

    Now, that scenario can change. If two months from now, he is really firing on all cylinders and dominating AAA the way Liriano did last year, then maybe you bring him up. At that point it will be less about sacrificing the future for the present and more about finding a way for him to contribute on the big league club and get more work against top flight hitting.

    I imagine that he will get more big league starts too. obviously none of us want it to happen, but the possibility of another pitcher getting dinged up or sore and having to miss a turn or two is always there.

    Let’s just take this one slow, and not make any rash decisions.

  • Rob in CT

    I’m agnostic on this one.

    One the one hand, I like the idea of Hughes working on getting ML hitters out, because he obviously can get AAA hitters out easily, but has struggled with the big boys. Also, NYY’s bullpen could use some help and Hughes > Albie.

    On the other hand, Phil needs to work on his changeup and I don’t think he’d be doing that out of the bullpen. There is also the issue of making sure he gets his innings.

    Either way, provided health, he will start more games for the Yanks this year. Joba will hit his cap and need to be skipped here and there, and Hughes should be the spot starter on those occasions. Depending on what the plan is, you could keep Phil in the bullpen, use him for 2+ innings stints, and also plan to spot start him.

    And all of that assumes no injuries to the rotation, plus Wang actually being better. He could come back and get the pinata treatment again. Then we’re right back to Phil in the rotation.

    [/rambling post]

    • MattG

      Hybrid. 10 starts and 55-60 innings for injury and to skip Joba. + 30 appearances, 50 innings in relief, + 36 innings so far, + 15 innings in the post-season = 155-160 innings. Good enough to get 30 starts in 2010.

      He could be working on stuff in the minors too, but being that he’d be the 7th or 8th best pitcher on the team, I prefer this.

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        First, there is no way you can ensure getting him 10 spot starts. That only happens if CMW shits the bed or somebody goes down for an extended period of time.

        Second, your math is optimistic to say the least. 10 starts (on regular rotation) is 50 games. Using something like the Joba rules to provide rest days roughly proportional to usage, it would take you about 80-90 additional games to get in 50 relief innings. There just isn’t that much season left (don’t look now, but there are only 121 games remaining).

        Third, you completely ignore the fact that he would need time off to transition from one role to the next, not to mention that yo-yoing him would make him less likely to be able to go 5 or more innings in a start.

        • MattG

          You make some good points, but some of them stink:

          Transition? Please. It’s called a swing man, and they’ve been in baseball forever…until now. Just look up Ramiro Mendoza, the last of his kind (maybe until Masterson).

          And the Yankees would be unbelievably phenomenally lucky if they did not need a 6th starter in 10 of the next 121 games. First off, they need at least 5 to rest a healthy Joba, whom will not start more than 25. You really think all five of them will take every turn? THAT is optimistic to say the least.

          But the math is a little off. He can only reasonably get 22 or so relief appearances with the 10 starts (incidentally, the starts do not need to be in a regular turn). So maybe he only gets up to 130 innings in the majors this regular season. Add that to the 19 he has in the minors, and the 10-15 he might pitch in the post-season, and your close. Add fall ball and you’re there.

  • http://whattheteamneeds godfather

    all the garbage about specializing with young pitchers is an asspain; you need arms in middle innings and a kid like hughes is the available one, you use it; or at least you used to, when the game was played with the team’s fortunes in mind, and not “plans” for any individual; pitchers used to earn their way to starting jobs by pitching whenever and wherever needed; this “stretching out” and other nonsense has become vogue because expansion, agents, etc., have watered down the game; use it or lose it, and i tend to think that three innings from hughes up here is worth six down on the farm, a silly notion, i know; using a military metaphor, were a lieutenant to order a private to take a pillbox, he might get the answer, “it’s really not my turn yet…i haven’t been getting the proper rest…”; what if pitchers were pushed? what might we get? ryans and seavers and spahns…it takes balls to throw balls, and the time has to come when kids are extended in the frequency they throw with, not pampered…use it or lose it…isn’t that what john holmes always said?

  • MattG

    Why does Hughes need to get 180 innings this year? So he can pitch 210 next year?

    He is not pitching 210 innings next year. No chance. There are rules other than Verducci’s, and Verducci himself would not suggest he would be injury-free throwing 210 innings at 24, then 240 innings at 25, then 270 innings at 26, etc.

    It would be fine if Hughes tossed 150 during the regular season, and another 10-15 in the post-season. That would put him on target for 30 starts next year, and that’s all you need.

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      Hughes is option 1A in Cash’s plan for #5 starter next year. You need him ready to go 180+ with no caps if you are going to rely upon both him and Joba in the same rotation, especially considering you are losing Andy’s innings.

      • MattG

        I said 30 starts next season. What about that implies < 180 or caps?