Piliere on Hughes and Joba


AOL FanHouse’s Frankie Piliere has a new post up comparing the Yankees’ two young and hyped righties, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. The two appear to be going in opposite directions, as Hughes is in the process of cementing his place in the Yanks’ rotation while Joba flounders in the bullpen. “[Hughes] was challenging hitters and rearing back and firing with the fastball last year,” said Piliere, “and as he showed on Thursday, he has carried that over into 2010 … If we see more of what he showed against the Angels, the Yankees’ patience is on the verge of paying off.”

I’ve always said that I expect Hughes to have the longer and more productive career, while Joba will have the greater peak. Is it possible we’ve already seen the best of Joba? I don’t believe so, but it’s foolish to disregard the possibility.

Categories : Asides


  1. If the Yankees don’t put him back into the rotation, then, yeah, we probably won’t see much more out of Joba and that’s really sad.

  2. Coach6423 says:

    When did Joba flounder last night?

  3. JA says:

    My big concern about the bullpen is that if he doesn’t turn out to be our next [successful] closer, or “heir to Mo” if you will, then we turned a fantastic trade chip into a much less valuable setup man. Even a league average number 5 starter is probably more valuable than a good setup man.

    So is that what we’ve done? Are we banking all of our hopes on Joba becoming the next Yankee closer? Otherwise we might have pissed away most of his value.

    • Otherwise we might have pissed away most of his value.

      We could argue that’s already been done.

    • Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

      Even a league average number 5 starter is probably more valuable than a good setup man.

      • Chris says:

        It’s not that clear cut. In general, a very good reliever is worth about as much as the 4th best starter on a team. Someone like Mo (or Hughes last year) would be worth about as much as the 3rd best starter.

        • JobaWockeeZ says:

          Andy Pettitte 2009 WAR: 3.3
          Phil Hughes 2009 WAR: (Including starting innings): 2.2
          Mariano Rivera 2009 WAR: 2

          3rd starters >>> 2009 Hughes
          3rd Starters >>> Mo

          • Chris says:

            I don’t think that Andy Pettitte last year is typical of a number 3 starter. He was 39th among pitchers in baseball in terms of WAR last year. I’m talking about a typical teams 3rd or 4th best starter.

            If you look at the pitchers in baseball that ranked between 71st and 105th in WAR last year, there were 25 starters and 10 relievers. If you look at the next 35 pitchers, its 15 starters and 20 relievers. This is basically the range that a teams 3rd and 4th best starter will fall in.

            • Tom Zig says:


              Aaron Harang
              Carl Pavano
              Derek Lowe
              Zach Duke

              all had a higher WAR than Mariano Rivera.

              • Chris says:

                Ok… that still doesn’t address the point. Aaron Harang was the best (i.e. #1 in WAR) pitcher for the Reds. If Pavano had been with the Twins all season, then he would have been #1 on the team (he would have been #2 on the Indians). Zach Duke was the #2 pitcher for the Pirates. Derek Lowe was the #3 pitcher for the Braves.

                So you’re saying that Mo was slightly worse than a #3 pitcher and three other 1′s and 2′s. I agree with that. But he was still more valuable than most (though not all) #4 pitchers and is inline with most #3 pitchers (better than some, worse than others, but roughly the middle of the pack).

                Looking at it another way:

                There were 11 teams in MLB last year who had 4 or more starters that were worth more than their best reliever. There were 10 teams who had 3 starters that were worth more than their best reliever. There were 9 teams that had 2 or fewer starters that were worth more than their best reliever.

                Again, my point is:

                The couple best relievers in baseball are worth as much as a typical teams 3rd best starter. The very good relievers are worth about as much as a teams typical number 4 starter. In any case, a very good reliever is worth more than a number 5 starter.

                • Tom Zig says:

                  Just because a pitcher is that team’s best pitcher, doesn’t make them a #1. Their stats were roughly equivalent to what league average #4 and #5 starters.

                  According to your logic: If Darrell Rasner was on in a 5-man rotation with 4 Jamie Moyers. He would be a #1. But in reality, Darrell Rasner is a below league average pitcher.

                  In terms of value:

                  League average #5 starters >>> Closers

                • Chris says:

                  What do you consider “League average #5 starters”?

                  I consider that to be a 5th starter on a league average team. Which is very different from a league average pitcher who happens to be the 5th starter on a team.

                  A #1 starter could be defined as either: the best pitcher on each team or the 30 best pitchers in baseball. Either way, there are 30 #1 pitchers. Similarly, there are 30 #2 pitchers, 30 #3 pitchers, and so on. Using either definition the best relievers in baseball (like Mo, Nathan, Broxton) are about equivalent to a #3 starter.

                • Tom Zig says:

                  So you’re saying that Mariano Rivera is worth more than the 5th starter on the Pirates? Good work.

                  I’m talking about production you could expect from a league average #5 starter. A #5 starter on an average team =/= League average production for a #5 starter. A #5 starter on an average team could be anywhere from a #2 to like a #7.

                  All of those pitchers I listed are #1s, 2s, or 3s in name only. They all gave around what you could expect from an average #5 pitcher. 160-200 innings. ERA >4.00. Etc.

                  According to WAR that is more valuable than almost every closer.

                • Chris says:

                  They all gave around what you could expect from an average #5 pitcher. 160-200 innings. ERA >4.00. Etc.

                  Your expectations for an “average #5 starter” appear to be off. That’s what you would like from your 5th starter, but it’s not a typical 5th starter.

                  There were 49 pitchers in baseball that threw 100 innings or more with an ERA under 4 last year. That’s 1.6 per team. So a #2 starter would be someone with an ERA about/slightly under 4 and throwing 100+ innings (only 7 pitchers had an ERA under 4 and threw between 100 and 160 innings so the innings cutoff isn’t too important). A number 3 starter would be “160-200 innings. ERA >4.00. Etc. ”

                  According to WAR that is more valuable than almost every closer.

                  You’re right. What you describe is a more valuable than most closers. What you describe is a typical #3 starter – not a #5 starter.

          • Tank Foster says:

            Even with the WAR numbers, I am not convinced. WAR numbers are, statistically speaking, continuous variables. Actual baseball game wins are not continuous variables. It is possible in this scenario that the WAR contribution of two players, while different, could equate to the same number of actual baseball wins.

            Does WAR account for game context/leverage?

            A good starter, relative to his starting pitcher peers, is, I agree, more valuable than a relief pitcher at the same level of “goodness” relative to his peers. The question of whether a very, very good closer is as valuable as a non-front line starting pitcher is, I believe, harder to answer.

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

          before somebody else says it, do you have any evidence of that or is that just your opinion?

          i think the last few times this discussion has come up, people have provided examples of similar starters and relievers, and the starters provided much greater value to their teams.

      • Tank Foster says:

        Not in the playoffs it ain’t.

      • Tom Zig says:

        Even a league average number 5 starter is probably more valuable than a good setup man closer.

  4. Dan says:

    Always remember their ages. They are mere babes and nothing is certain or even projectable yet.

  5. The Ockham’s razor explanation as to why Hughes is pitching better than Joba at the moment:

    Phil’s had more total time pitching as a starting pitcher thus far in his lifetime (HS-college-minors-majors combined). He was in the minors, starting, working on his craft, under the control and routine of the Yankees braintrust. He’s missed less time due to injury and less time due to forced exile to the bullpen.

    Sidenote: He’s also not been asked to alter his style or approach (or really, had his style/approach even discussed) due to the possibility of a permanent move to the bullpen (a luxury Joba was not afforded). He’s just been told “You’re a starting pitching prospect; go be a great starter”.

    • radnom says:

      Ockham’s razor postulates that the simplest explanation is most often correct. The simplest explanation for any result of one game would be that it is just one game – you can’t really draw any conclusions from it. Joba looked better and worse at varying point over last year – let’s see how Hughes fairs down the stretch. For the record I think Hughes will have a slightly better season than Joba’s 2009.

      Also, I don’t think your sidenote is very fair. Until very recently the front office has been very consistent in saying Joba is a starting pitcher long term. Obviously he altered he approach coming out of the pen, but so did Hughes – it is just the nature of pitching in that role and had nothing to do with the team’s long term plans for each guy.

  6. Where the velocity went could be debated all the day long. But in general Chamberlain just isn’t as aggressive as he once was on the mound. We used to see him explode through the finish in his delivery and be able to drive the ball down in the zone. Now, he doesn’t appear to be finishing his pitches with the same aggression and in turn isn’t generating the same velocity. When Chamberlain was moved into the rotation, he toned down his delivery so he wasn’t so maximum-effort and could pace himself. The problem is he still seems to be pitching with that same approach, and still appears to be pacing himself. Why that is the case is difficult to tell for sure. Since experiencing shoulder problems perhaps he just isn’t as willing to let the ball fly, or maybe it just isn’t there. Either way, it can’t be argued anymore that his velocity is anything resembling what it was in 2007.

    Chamberlain still has above-average stuff, and he can be very effective pitching late in games. But let’s not pretend his stuff is what it used to be. On Thursday night, the big righty pitched at 91-93 mph, broke off some very sharp sliders and for the most part was spotting the ball quite well. In other appearances early this season, he has pitched at 93-95 mph. So, yes, he still does have two plus pitches and can be effective. But it might be time to accept that the days of days of pitching in the upper 90s are a thing of the past for Chamberlain

    I agree, Frankie. Well said.

    That sounds like a guy who should be demoted to the minors, so that Nardi and Miley can take apart his delivery again, put it back together, and get him back into the rhythm of being a successful, aggressive, controlled, fluid starting pitcher.

    Something’s wrong with Joba. The best place to fix that is in the Scranton rotation. Until he’s fixed, he not only shouldn’t be the 5th starter, he shouldn’t be in the bullpen either.

    • Tank Foster says:

      I agree. It would be a very good idea to send Joba to AAA or somewhere where they can really fix his delivery. They have quite a few good arms in AAA now and could get by promoting someone like Melancon or Logan for a few months.

      If they have given up on him as a starter, I would be very unhappy…..

      There has to be something wrong, and it has to be fixable. You don’t get through an entire half season throwing in the upper 90s and then just lose that ability. I’m not saying it’s something easy to diagnose, whether physical or mental, injury related or a mechanical quirk that’s gotten in there, etc. But I don’t think it’s “normal” or acceptable for someone to be throwing in the upper 90s at age 21 and then simply lose that ability, forever, at age 23.

      • The Kruker says:

        When was steroid testing implemented in MLB?

      • The Big City of Dreams says:

        “If they have given up on him as a starter, I would be very unhappy…..”

        so will I because it seems like every time it’s suppose to start something happens where a rule is changed or he is sent back to the pen. It’s obvious he can still get outs pitching like he is now but how long will that last. He was 91-93 last night and maxed out at around 94-95. Thats why when ppl went crazy over what he did in fenway I thought alright lets see that consistency again but so far we haven’t see it

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

      Oh Eric of Occam:

      a) leave Miley out of it. NJ’s use is bad enough.
      b) that’s just not.going.to.happen.
      c) from the be careful what you wish for department, a little shoulder soreness leading to some recovery time in Scranton may be just what the doctor (paging Dr. Contreras, paging Dr. Contreras) ordered. no arguments, no questions, and a convenient excuse for why he’s better when he comes back.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      True the minors is the best place for him to work on his craft but the yankees probably won’t do that. He would have to fail out of the pen and even then they might just work with him on the side.

  7. A.D. says:

    Is it possible we’ve already seen the best of Joba? I don’t believe so, but it’s foolish to disregard the possibility.

    The answer is either an obvious yes, because no matter what he does the rest of his career there’s no way he could pitch to the obscene start to his career in 2007.

    Or a clear no, since he hasn’t done much to consider any type of real peak

  8. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Seeing as how the permanent bullpen talks are already in place then there is a good chance we’ve seen the best of Joba.

    Should have been traded if he’s only going to be a reliever. Teams (the Mutts for example) would kill to have talent like that.

  9. Zack says:

    5 BB in 5IP is challenging hitters? Walking Reggie Willits? Yeah some balls questionable, but that happens to every young pitcher.

      • Zack says:

        That’s fine, just like how every one is ignoring the walks though. The article say it was an ‘outstanding’ night for the Yankes last night, after 1 outing. Only mention of the walks (didnt mention the number of coures), is that he was getting squeezed.

        I’m a fan of Hughes, but it’s 5 innings. If Hughes has a bad 5 innings in 4 days will there be another article how Hughes is going in the wrong directon?

        • Ghost of Scott Brosius says:

          There very well might be, but not from RAB. Again, there are high expectations for Hughes and those are warranted, but he has to be recognized as a young starter who will look great, look awful, and look something in between. I’m betting that what we saw last night was one of those in between starts. And if he mixes in a whole bunch of those with a couple masterpieces and only a couple shellings, we’ll have a very good fifth starter on our hands with the promise of more in the seasons to come.

          • Zack says:

            Right, but Hughes had a 6.24 FIP, .198 BABIP, and 9 BB/9 last night. Going back out there for the 6th didnt help those numbers, but a SP needs to go back out there and get some outs in the 6th.

            It was a nice first start for him, consider he hasn’t started a regular season game in about 11 months. But it wasn’t above average, or good, or an ‘outstanding night.’

            • Ghost of Scott Brosius says:

              Exactly. It was about average. And average, from a high-upside fifth starter under 25, is just fine for right now. I think your bickering over three outs though. A couple pitches here or there and he’s thrown 6 innings and given up two runs, which is even above average. So I’m very pleased with what i saw. Please, let’s be careful not to let our resentment over the attitude toward Joba make us overly critical and unappreciative of Hughes.

        • Tank the Frank says:

          I agree with you. I remember last season the media used to kill Joba for starts just like this.

          He only went five innings…

          He walked five batters…

          He walked the # 9 hitter…

          Blah, blah, blah.

          It was a good start for Hughes and I’m happy with it. I just truly believe there’s a bit of a double standard.

          • Zack says:

            That’s all I’m saying.
            But we all know why it’s like that. They’ve all pimped Hughes as the ‘starter’ and Joba as the ‘reliever’ so now they have to do whatever they can to make it true. (The MSM, cant comment on Piliere cause I dont know his work).

          • Renny Baseball says:


    • Ghost of Scott Brosius says:

      Eh give him a break. His high pitch count was mainly due to throwing a lot of strikes that were fouled off. The Angels have some hitters who really look to walk, and Hughes shouldn’t just give in, he has to try to make his pitch. If it’s a little bit off the plate and he doesn’t get the call, that makes sense- he’s still a young pitcher learning how to be a major league starter and hone his craft. He was definitely attacking the zone last night, and his pacing alone shows a willingness to be a aggressive.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      I am just glad they decided not to make Hughes a set up man too. He pitched pretty well last night. Obviously control was not all there, but his curve was just fantastic and his fastball was 91-94 all night. Once the summer comes around Hughes could easily be in the 92-95 range and hopefully his change will continue to develop into a plus pitch. I think Yankee fans are going to see the Hughes that has been hyped about since 2005 which is great considering he was the best pitching prospect before 2007.

  10. ColoYank says:

    Was it just me or did anyone else see that Highes was really moving his fastball around in the zone last night? It could be that some of the pitches were cutters, but on listening to his post-game audio, he said he can throw the cutter to either side of the plate. It looked pretty special to me.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      Cutter seems to be a hybrid between the slider and a true cut fastball. It sits around 86 and has a little more movement, but if continues to improve that pitch it will keep hitters off balance and the speed change is enough to get a few swings and misses. Hughes has a golden opportunity this year and he could easily pitch as good as most team’s #3 starter.

    • Tank the Frank says:

      His fastball had some wicked movement up in the zone. That’s where I think he’ll be successful. Spot the fastball, then go up with the fastball, down with the curveball, and eventually away with the change.

  11. Tank Foster says:

    It looked like he was throwing different types of fastballs, or varying speeds on the fastballs. One guy struck out on a letter high, 87mph fastball. It was probably ball four, but still, the batter was on the defensive and I think Hughes changed the guy’s eye level with the higher pitch and the batter bit….

    Maybe Robertson could teach Joba how you make guys swing and miss at 91 mph fastballs.

  12. EndlessMike says:

    Hughes is like a Andy Pettitte pitcher.Good stuff but I wouldn’t think he can be a Verlander or Hernedez pitcher.

  13. Mattchu12 says:

    To me, it’s like this:

    Phil Hughes can be like Mike Mussina. A #1 or #2 starter because he’s got the brains and stuff to be very effective. A good fastball, a good cutter, a great curveball, and a solid change-up will have the hitters at enough of a disadvantage. But when Hughes can be smart, change eye levels, surprise the hitter by throwing something out of ordinary (remember Moose dropped his curve high or throwing it as his first pitch?), and maximize using his cutter against lefties, he’s going to be excellent.

    Joba Chamberlain can be like Josh Beckett. A true #1 is he gets his head out of his @$$. Joba has the stuff to be a starting pitcher, and a great one at that. But he gets fastball happy, and he tries to show up the batters by pitching borderline pitches to make them swing and miss. The reality is that he’s in a bullpen state of mind 90% of the time where those pitches work in the eighth inning. You can throw a borderline pitch and the batter is anxious enough to swing because his team is running out of chances to make something happen. When he brings this mentality into the first inning, batters lay off, and most of those borderline pitches become balls. He gets behind in the count and either has to throw more over the plate, resulting in lots of hard hits, or he starts dropping his breaking stuff out of the zone and walking batters. High pitch counts, lots of hits, lots of walks, and usually lots of runs ensue.

    Both have the stuff to be a 1-2 combo for a very long time. Hughes is much more set-up for being that pitcher because his adjustments will be simply getting economical with his pitches. CC Sabathia, Mike Mussina, and Andy Pettitte are top of the line pitchers because they’ve got enough brains to know that a one-pitch groundout is a better pitch for the team than a five-pitch strikeout, once Hughes gets that down, he’s going to run away with the starting gig.

    Joba’s problem is all mental and approach. Unfortunately, he seems too hard headed to figure that out and ends up arguing with Posada for half the game.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      very well said

    • Justin Beaver says:

      IF Hughes ends up being like Moose, or even a Moose-lite, I dont think anyone would be complaining.

      But I agree with the Hughes-Moose, Joba-Beckett comparison. It fits exactly what Mike said in the post, Hughes with the longer and more productive career, while Joba will have the greater peak.

  14. Joseph M says:

    Joba should be in the rotation instead of sitting in the bullpen. Unfortunately, the Yanks blundered over the winter picking up Vazquez, an overpriced, overrated .500 pitcher. Now instead of developing Joba we have the pleasure of watching the latest dud from Atlanta waste 32 or so starts.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      so if you were the yankees what would you have done: put him and hughes in the rotation, sign/trade for another pitcher give hughes the 5th spot and put joba in scranton, or sign/trade for another pitcher give joba the 5th spot and put hughes in scranton/the pen

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