If Sanchez can do it, why not Hughes?

Where have you gone, Joba Chamberlain?
Burnett's curve among the toughest pitches to hit

Most of the baseball world looked on last night as Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez polished off a perfect game no-hitter (thanks, Juan Uribe) against the punchless Padres, returning to the rotation with a bang. Sanchez struggled as a starter earlier this season, posting a 5.62 ERA and a .836 OPS against in 65.2 IP before being shifted into the bullpen. After two effective relief outings, an injury moved him back into the starting rotation and the rest is history. I think you know where I’m going with this.

Phil Hughes posted numbers similar to Sanchez while working as a starter (5.45 ERA & .868 OPSA), albeit in a smaller sample, then was moved to the bullpen where he’s been wildly successful in a bigger sample. Yet when the opportunity came to move him back into the rotation due to injury, the team didn’t act. Instead he remains in the bullpen indefinitely, with no apparent plan to move him back into a more valuable role. Al Aceves, who was just as effective as Hughes in the bullpen, got the call for Thursday’s spot start because “he was more stretched out.” Aceves lasted just 3.1 IP thanks to his pitch count.

Now, am I saying Hughes would throw a no-hitter if they moved him back in to the rotation? No, of course not. That’s crazy. All I’m saying is that there’s precedence for a starter shifting to the bullpen, gaining confidence and honing his craft, then moving back into the rotation and being effective. Sanchez is just the latest example.  Dan Haren also did it. So did Zack Greinke. And Adam Wainwright and Chad Billinglsey and countless others. Why can’t Hughes?

Phil may or may not be able to translate his success as a reliever into success as a starter, but how will you ever find out if you don’t try?

Where have you gone, Joba Chamberlain?
Burnett's curve among the toughest pitches to hit
  • Thomas A. Anderson

    Why? Because people have no patience.

    The Yankee fanbase is like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

    “But daddy, I want an oompa loompa NOW!”

    People want Hughes and Joba to be great, but they won’t stand for any growing pains and will demand whatever gratification they get(e.g. bullpen success) and not pay attention to anything else.

    Just gotta ride it out. Andy Pettite will retire probably in the offseason, so Phil will go back to the rotation and this will be a moot point.

    As for the rest of this season? Unless a pitcher goes down for good, I don’t see Phil leaving his 8th inning role.

  • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

    Dude, you’re acting like they are making Phil Hughes a reliever for the rest of his career as a Yankee. Rightly so, you believe that the Yankees are being disingenously optimistic about Chien-Ming Wang’s timetable to return to the Major League rotation withing the month.

    I – along with a few others – believe what the Yankees are saying about Wang’s return, thus, I see the wisdom in keeping Phil Hughes in the bullpen for now as to not have him spend time being stretched out into a starter, put into the rotation for 2-3 starts (just a guess), and then subsequently returned to the bullpen after Wang makes his return.

    If you believe what the Yankees are saying about CMW’s time frame to return then their plan with Hughes makes perfect sense; if not, then they’re moves seem short-sighted and idiotic.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    “After two effective relief outings, an injury moved him back into the starting rotation and the rest is history”

    Hughes has been in the bullpen way longer and right now doesn’t have the arm strength to be an effective starter without risking injury.

    • Mike bk

      that’s not exactly true. sanchez was in the pen 3 weeks and while hughes is now in for about 6, its been more like 5 since his long outing vs boston. no one has said let him throw 110 his first time out but all this has amounted to is we need him in the bullpen so we cant stretch him out cause we have to win right now who cares if it sets his development back a year or two.

  • http://161stStreet.wordpress.com Chris A

    I completely agree. I also feel that being in the pen messed up Joba, and I don’t want to see that happen to Hughes.

  • Johan Iz My Brohan

    I don’t like some of the moves the Yankees have been making lately. They need to do something about Joba, they need to find out what is wrong, but they haven’t done anything. I don’t know why they are so afraid to act.

    • Johan Iz My Brohan

      Girardi has also aggrevated me as well in regards to Hughes. I want Hughes to be throwing more than just one inning with 9-12 pitches. I’d rather see him go two innings. I, for some reason, don’t think Girardi has any confidence in Hughes, or doesn’t know his potential.

    • donttradecano

      The pen didnt mess up Joba, its called growing pains.

      • Doug

        it’s also called worse “stuff”

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

      You know what’s wrong? He’s a 23-year-old starting pitcher in his first full season in the Major Leagues. Have a little God damn patience and relax.

      • zack

        Um, no, that’s not what’s “wrong.” That could be part of it, but how about opening your God damn mind a bit and not just shutting others up. There is almost no chance that the explanation for what is plaguing Joba at the moment is simply being a 23 year old starting pitcher in his first full season in the major leagues (really his second year, as it was just an injury last season). There could be a whole host of reasons as to whats up, but there is lots of evidence to suggest its more than growing pains.

        And, furthermore, why should we be patient? Joba has regressed this seasons, and has been regressing even more the past month or two. He’s not helping the team as is, so why should we just sit back and assume everything is ok? The Yankees certainly shouldn’t be.

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          We should be patient because he’s 23 and he’s not going to be a polished starter at 23 because that’s incredibly rare.

        • dudes

          Justin Verlander. Good 1st season. Bad last year. Great this year. Patience.

          • Mike bk

            actually u can take that further…awful to start year and brilliant since the yankee start.

        • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

          … but there is lots of evidence to suggest its more than growing pains.

          Such as? What I see is a starting pitcher who struggles to put away hitters after getting ahead; an inability to consistently get ahead of hitters early in the count; an inefficient usage of his pitch limit per game. Now, if you want to bring up the inconsistent velocity then do so, but, I could bring up Tim Lincecum and Clay Buchholz as another pair of young starters that has struggled with inconsistent velocity outputs.

          By the way, I like how you attack be for allegedly being narrow-minded, when, by doing so, you actually display a level of narrow-mindedness. I did not come to the conclusion that growing pains are the causes of Joba Chamberlain pitching the way he has because I did not consider any other alternatives; I did consider them, but felt that his inexperience was the best possible reason. You, on the other hand, did not “open your God damn” mind enough to allow for the possibility that I felt that his inexperience was the most logical reason of the bunch, just that it was the first one that came to mind.

          • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

            *… not that it was just the first one that came to mind.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        Two words, Jamal. Burrito. Microwave.

  • Accent Shallow

    I think we’ll see Hughes in the rotation soon enough, either due to Wang’s injury taking longer than expected to heal, or due to Joba being demoted.

    I’m not rooting for either of those things to happen, but I think we’ll see one of them.

    Alternatively, we may see Joba and Hughes switch roles later in the year, as Joba gets closer to 140-150 IP.

    • Mike bk

      so we take a month to stretch hughes out cause joba hit his limit but we cant afford to use the extra 5 days of the allstar break to do it…that makes sense.

      not to mention joba at the length of his outings wont make 150 until mid september since he is only averaging 5 a start as is.

    • Charlie

      i’d be really happy to see hughes starting again, but I doubt the yankees have the sense to stick him in the rotation

  • Tony

    I think Joba has them gun shy about moving pitchers back and forth midseason

  • Johan Iz My Brohan

    Could it have anything to do with the NYS? Giving up all the homeruns there could have made him shy off a little bit against the batters.

    • Tony

      There’s little doubt about this.

  • sjufan

    do they really have much of a choice given joba’s struggles and wang’s injury? they need a starter to replace wang and joba, while he needs to be allowed to work through this, cannot be counted on at this point. i think hughes offers more upside in the rotation in terms of someone who can “be counted on” than does aceves, and right now guys who can be counted on, or at least offer relatively consistent production, is what we need.

  • charlespoet

    Does anyone think the larger problem is that unless you have an established starter – CC, AJ, Andy, etc – the Yankees really do a poor job of judging their young pitching talent.

    Maybe not and it just seems that way because Joba and Phil have so much talent and they are either struggling with no apparent correction in sight or being misused.

    Curious what people think.

    • V

      Huh?

      Joba’s struggling because the Yankees misjudged his talent?

  • Charlie

    I completely and utterly agree with everything in this post, except I wouldn’t consider it a rant. How about death by bullpen instead?

  • DaveinMD

    I think it has more to do with Bruney sucking. If Bruney was pitching well, Hughes would be in the rotation. A lot more pressure for the Yankees to win this year than the Giants.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      I doubt Brueny as ANY affect to Hughes…

      • DaveinMD

        If Bruney was the lights out 8th inning guy he was early in the year, Hughes would be rejoining the rotation

  • Little Bill

    If Sanchez and Hughes can do it, why not Joba?

  • Joseph M

    Hughes may have to be moved back into the rotation. I don’t think Wang will be effective this year which leaves three starters and mounting frustration with Joba. I don’t think the Joba problem will solve itself so I don’t know where that leaves us with respect to Joba. If he can’t turn it around by the end of the month I say you pull him from the rotation and send him back to the minors.

    The biggest mistake made this year was depending on Wang. He was rushed back in my opinion ( I believe he’s on the downside of his career and will win less than 30 games the rest of his career).

    • DaveinMD

      I’ll take that bet. In fact, I believe he’ll win 30 over his next two years.

    • JobaWockeeZ


      Hughes as a starter has nearly equal stats of Wang as a starter after his return to the DL.
      Saying Hughes is our savior is completely wrong if you’re complaining about Wang…

      • DaveinMD

        Take out the one horrendous start in Baltimore, and Hughes as a starter pitched to a below 4 ERA. He was really improving his last three starts.

  • YankeeScribe

    Joba set a record for pitching but it’s nothing to brag about:

    “Joba Chamberlain has made 29 starts in his major league career. He has 10 decisions. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the fewest decisions through a pitcher’s first 29 starts in history.” – Tyler Kepner

  • ArodMVP217

    because we don’t play in the NL West