Jul
20

Plotting out Phil Hughes’s starts

By

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

How do you freak out Yankees fans these days? By telling them that the team will skip a young pitcher’s start. It happened last year with Joba Chamberlain, and the reactions to Phil Hughes this year have been similar. That Hughes pitched poorly in the start following his long rest didn’t help matters. Thankfully, the Yankees don’t take fan reaction into account when making moves for the long-term good of the club. Skipping Hughes wasn’t about some arbitrary innings limit. It was about monitoring the workload of a relatively inexperienced pitcher to help keep him healthy and pitching in the future.

As discussed this morning, the Yankees won’t have many opportunities to skip Hughes in August. They’re going through a long stretch of games that will give them just two days off between now and early September. The Yankees could opt to skip Hughes during those days, but considering the summer heat and humidity, combined with Andy Pettitte‘s absence, it’s more likely that they just give everyone an extra day during those breaks. So where will that leave Hughes as the team enters the home stretch?

With starts scheduled tonight, Sunday, and then the following Friday, Hughes will have 19 starts under his belt, a mark he hasn’t reached since 2006. If he averages 6.1 innings per start he’ll be at 120 innings before the calendar flips. Again, that would be the most he’s pitched since 2006. That in itself should cause concern; imagine going through a rigorous weight training program four years ago, then going a bit lighter during the ensuing three years, and then picking back up at that heavy pace again. Even if Hughes does not present a greater injury risk because of this increased workload, chances are he could face fatigue issues. Again, a break during August is basically out of the question.

After his start on July 30, he would then line up to pitch Wednesday, August 4 against Toronto. That is followed by an off-day, and chances are everyone will just take a breather. The Yanks could choose to go with Hughes on four days’ rest and have him pitch against Boston on Monday the 9th, but I think they’ll have him throw down in Texas on Tuesday the 10th. He’d then go Saturday the 14th, Thursday the 19th, and then Tuesday the 24th before getting another longer layover. Then it’s the 30th against Oakland to close out the month.

Using the 6.1 innings per start guideline, that would bring Hughes to 158 innings heading into September. That’s just 22 innings below the arbitrary 180-inning ceiling they mentioned earlier in the season, so maybe that’s four more starts. He clearly wouldn’t make it through September at that pace, so the Yankees have to hope they have enough of a cushion to skip Hughes a few times in September. Even so, given the tough schedule I can’t see them skipping him more than once. Chances are that if the Yankees don’t have a comfortable lead in the East by mid-September, Hughes could actually hit the 200-inning mark.

Does this affect the Yanks’ strategy in acquiring a starter at the deadline? I think it most certainly does. The easiest transition for Hughes is to move right to the bullpen for September and the playoffs. Skipping his starts might help in the long-term, but the Yankees haven’t realized any short-term success when implementing that tactic. By adding a starter the Yankees can not only replace Pettitte’s production and give him more time to recover, but they can more easily handle Hughes’s workload. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s one the Yankees seemingly feel necessary for the long-term health of their rotation.

Categories : Pitching

106 Comments»

  1. Dela G says:

    When the yankees have an 8 game lead by the middle of august, there will be no need to have phil pitching anywhere near 200 innings

    [/brushes shoulders off
    [/grabs bayonets from TSJC

  2. YankeesJunkie says:

    At the right the price would a Ted Lilly fit the bill. Obviously he would not be anything spectacular the Yanks could gives the Cubs an extra 4 million on salary on the next two months. I could not see the Cubs getting much as giving Lilly arbitration would be ridiculous considering his performance and $12 million salary this year.

  3. If he averages 6.1 innings per start he’ll be at 120 innings before the calendar flips. Again, that would be the most he’s pitched since 2006. That in itself should cause concern; imagine going through a rigorous weight training program four years ago, then going a bit lighter during the ensuing three years, and then picking back up at that heavy pace again.

    Ron Burgundy: 1001, 1002, 1003…
    Veronica Corningstone: Uh, Mr. Burgundy? Helen said that you needed to see me.
    Ron Burgundy: Oh, Miss Corningstone. I wasn’t expecting company. Just doing my workout. Tuesday’s arms and back.
    Veronica Corningstone: Well, you asked me to come by, sir.
    Ron Burgundy: Oh, did I?
    Veronica Corningstone: Yes.
    Ron Burgundy: OHH, IT’S THE DEEP BURN! OHH, IT’S SOO DEEP! Oh, I can barely lift my right arm ’cause I did so many. I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand. Yeah, you have your ubulus muscle that connects to the upper dorsinus — it’s boring, but it’s part of my life. I’m just gonna grab this shirt, if you don’t mind. Just watch out for the guns — they’ll getcha!

  4. Pete says:

    The theory presumably being that they acquire a starter to take Andy’s place, allow Andy extra time to recover, and then have Andy take Phil’s spot in the rotation when he comes back? I like it, but the big question is who? Whoever they acquire will have to replace, to some degree, the production of Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes, because the division is too good to go an extended period of time with more than one mediocre pitcher (the one being AJ – and this is really the first year AJ’s been “mediocre”; he could string together 6 or 7 great starts in a row and make this a moot point, but I’d rather not bet on that) in the rotation.

    I’d be concerned about Ted Lilly’s 86 mph fastball coming into the AL East, and while I semi-like Ricky Nolasco, I fear the cost would be prohibitive (and his production has yet to match what I think most of us would expect it to be, so our expectations of even him could be quite a bit off. Roy Oswalt’s monetary price tag is probably too high, unless we can somehow trade him for Seth Fortenberry, straight up. All in all, I’m not sure there are many great options out there. I think we may have to lean extra-hard on Hughes this year.

    • The theory presumably being that they acquire a starter to take Andy’s place, allow Andy extra time to recover, and then have Andy take Phil’s spot in the rotation when he comes back?

      That, and we might even consider the possibility of rolling with a true six-man rotation for the first two or three weeks of September, in an effort to give everybody in the rotation a nice breather before gearing them back up in the final week of the season and settling on a playoff foursome.

      It’s unorthodox and has the risk of getting everyone off their routine and off their sharpness, but if we restore a regular 5 man rotation for say, the last two turns before the postseason starts, we’d probably be okay and it may be a big benefit.

      • Pete says:

        I could go for that. I’m loving our hypothetical 12 game lead in september, btw.

        As far as the getting pitchers off their routines/sharpness stuff, it could also better prepare them for the lengthy layoffs following each playoff sweep. Idk.

  5. GeraldY says:

    Let’s say that the Yankees think that Hughes is clearly their second best starter going into the post-season. Would they really put him in the bullpen and jeopardize a world championship because of an arbitrary innings pitched number? They might, but I would strongly disagree with that. I think that different rules have to apply to the post-season.

  6. Pete says:

    I’d also like to point out that while Wallace Matthews would say something like “The Yankees have to be concerned about Pettitte’s absence and Hughes’s innings limits”, the wonderful Mr. Kabak actually considers ways the Yankees could address the situation, and then critiques his own ideas because he is so thorough. The world of sports journalism is a truly unfair place.

  7. Chris0313 says:

    I know this is an unpopular position, but I’ll say it anyway. The Yankees should shut down Phil Hughes when he hits his innings limit and have him call it a season. There, I said it.

    (They should also send Joba to the minors and have him restart in single-A and begin his path as a starting pitcher. They should also keep Montero in AAA until he becomes an effective backstop. They shouldn’t call up Eduardo Nunez to be a utility guy. They should, you know, properly develop their minor league talent.)

    • whozat says:

      I do honestly wish that they’d just bite the bullet and send joba down while they still can. I just doubt he’ll ever be more than he is (an inconsistent relief pitcher) if he sits in the majors doing the same thing over and over.

    • ROBTEN says:

      I don’t know about this. I mean, just think where they would be if, instead of sending Joba to the pen, they had put him in AAA to work out these issues from the start of the season…Oh wait, what’s that you say? They’d have a starter with a proven record of success in the AL East to plug into the rotation to replace Andy and, eventually, to take over Hughes’ spot in the rotation when he comes close to his innings limit and someone ready for the rotation full time next year when they will need to replace 1-2 pitchers? I’m sorry, that’s just crazy talk.

      /actually, I agree with everything Chris0313 said.

  8. Mattchu12 says:

    Ok, I’ve been reading about “Hughes in the bullpen for September and the Playoffs” for like, two months now. And the whole time, I have been waiting for someone to say what I’ve been thinking, and since it’s starting to seem like no one is going to, I’ll say it.

    Would you really rather have AJ Burnett or Javier Vazquez start game three over Phil Hughes?

    CC and Andy, I get it, forgone conclusion. My number one and two starters for October. But if you’re really telling me that we are better off having Kevin Brown the Second and/or Bi-Polar Javy on the rubber over the All-Star Phil Hughes, you might as well piss on my face and tell me it’s raining.

    Has his less than stellar last few weeks changed our opinion of him that much? We were all talking about whether Joba should be the game four starter last season, and he was pitching awful. Here is Hughes with his first All-Star appearance and sub 3.70 ERA and his eleven wins, and we’re not even going to think of him as a starter in October? I just don’t get that logic.

    • Chris0313 says:

      It’s safe to say that Javy Vazquez isn’t bi-polar and he just struggled in the early going. He’s one of the most consistent pitchers in MLB history.

      I see your Burnett argument, and tell you it’s irrelevant. Burnett would, at his worst, be an effective fourth starter. No need to push Hughes.

      A rotation of CC, Andy, Javy, Burnett matches up well with any other rotation in the American League.

    • Mattchu12 says:

      I’m not saying innings limits be damned, btw. I just reread it and expect to see someone say “You want to Mark Prior him?”. I’m just saying, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the team and Hughes’ future to plan his innings limit so that he can start in the playoffs?

      And yes, I used “Mark Prior” as a verb.

      • I’m just saying, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the team and Hughes’ future to plan his innings limit so that he can start in the playoffs?

        It would have been, yes. But we need a time machine to go back to Spring Training to fix that problem (by having him start his season a month later in mid-March instead of mid-February).

      • Chris0313 says:

        Excellent use of Mark Prior as a verb. I see your concern, but I don’t think it’s a necessity. Kind of like Cliff Lee. With Lee, we have a super human rotation, without Lee we have a super rotation. With Hughes instead of Burnett, we have a super-duper rotation, without Hughes and with Burnett we have a super rotation.

        Skipping his starts is counterproductive. We want him to start every 5 days and suffer through the grind of a ML season. If he struggles, we want to know it’s because he is getting hammered and not because he is rusty. Just let the kid pitch, if he hits his innings limit, shut him down.

      • I enjoy turning proper names into verbs, but I believe that it was Mark Prior who was Dusty Bakered.

        • What’s worse for your health and career, being Dusty Baker’d or being Joe Torre’d?

          Guess it depends on whether you’re a starter or a reliever.

          • Frigidevil says:

            At least being Torred has the disguise of being the right thing to do most of the time. It can be tough to argue against using your best middle reliever whenever necessary. When someone is being Bakered (Baked?) EVERYONE knows something is wrong, save for those who don’t believe in these newfangled ideologies like preserving someone’s career.

            • Well, it can, I suppose, be argued that being Torre’d can result in short-term success; but it leads to long-term failure, both for the pitcher, who had his career wrecked, and for the team, who, by late August-early September, has a ‘pen full of burnt-out arms and guys who haven’t pitched in months. Remember all those early playoff exits?

              But, really, as far as “short term success”, look at how Broxton was Torre’d this year–especially in that game against the Yanks.

              So, really, the Right Thing?…Not so much.

        • Frigidevil says:

          Indeed, just like how Scott Proctor was Joe Torred

    • Ok, I’ve been reading about “Hughes in the bullpen for September and the Playoffs” for like, two months now. And the whole time, I have been waiting for someone to say what I’ve been thinking, and since it’s starting to seem like no one is going to, I’ll say it.

      Would you really rather have AJ Burnett or Javier Vazquez start game three over Phil Hughes?

      No. But the question is moot; I’d rather have Phil Hughes start Game 3 than Javier Vazquez or AJ Burnett, but it’s not prudently possible.

      One game, even Game 3 in a playoff series, is not worth the rest of Phil Hughes’s career. He has innings limits for a reason. We need to abide by them.

      • ZZ says:

        Cashman has said playoff innings do not factor in.

        Whether that is truthful or not, I don’t know, but he did open the door.

        Also, no one knows the “real” limit and I am sure the playoffs have been accounted for in this calculation.

        • The “playoff innings don’t factor in” part of it is also moot, because he’s going to hit his limit well before the playoffs start anyway.

          To say nothing of the likelihood that he hits a wall down the stretch and starts declining in performance anyway, making the conversation triply moot.

          • ZZ says:

            There is no guarantee he hits his limit well before the playoffs start. It is possible and maybe even likely, but it is certainly not guaranteed.

            • (rereads my comment)

              Number of times I used the word “guaranteed”: 0

              • ZZ says:

                “because he’s going to hit his limit well before the playoffs start anyway”

                That sounds like a guarantee to me.

                  • Jose the Satirist says:

                    Are you guaranteeing that?

                  • ZZ says:

                    Then what did that declarative statement mean?

                    • That I’m DECLARING that he’s going to hit his innings limits well before the playoffs.

                      You didn’t call what I said a guaranteeing statement, you called it a declarative statement. Which is what it was. Had it been a guarantee, it would have explicitly included that word.

                      Look, this is a really weak argument for you, I don’t know where you’re going with this. You admitted as much so yourself: it’s likely and probable that he hits his limit before the playoffs. Nitpicking the syntactical certainty of how that probability is phrased seems like a trivial exercise in semantics that leads nobody nowhere.

                    • Jose the Satirist says:

                      I declare… BANKRUPTCY!

                    • ZZ says:

                      To move away from the grammatical argument.

                      I responded in the way I did because your declaration basically renders my post pointless.

                      But, you cannot declare such a thing because it is only a possibility.

                      Your post basically ends the conversation there, despite not being based in fact.

                      If you think something is only a possibility or may or may not happen it greatly benefits the conversation to acknowledge that.

                    • ZZ says:

                      I also did not admit it is likely or probable.

                      I said it is possible and maybe likely.

                      Personally, I don’t believe it will happen, but the evidence is against me right now given Joe’s post.

                      I just think the Yankees have a plan in place that we have not completely seen yet.

                      I also would not be too wedded to the 180 number floating around.

                      But, this is purely speculation on my part.

                      I am not declaring or guaranteeing it ;)

                    • I just think the Yankees have a plan in place that we have not completely seen yet.

                      I sincerely hope so, but last year didn’t give anyone much confidence. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

        • Ed says:

          Cashman has said playoff innings do not factor in.

          My memory is that that quote was made during the playoffs last year when asked about Joba’s limits.

          In that case, Joba wasn’t going to pitch a significant number of innings, so it’s easy to say that to shut everyone up. I wouldn’t read too much into that.

          • ZZ says:

            I may be wrong but if my memory is serving me well right now, he has said it in regard to Hughes this season.

      • Mattchu12 says:

        See above.

      • Jose the Satirist says:

        I expect him to be ready to throw 147 pitches in a playoff game. David Cone style.

    • ZZ says:

      I don’t agree with everything in this post, but I do agree with the basic premise.

      I think the Yankees will throw their 4 best starters out there for the playoffs.

      Who will be the other 2 behind CC and Andy has yet to be determined.

      But if the playoffs started tomorrow I would and I think the Yankees would as well go with CC-Andy-Hughes-Vazquez.

      The Yankees will do everything they can to maximize their chances of winning the WS and starting pitching is what gets you there.

    • Ed says:

      Would you really rather have AJ Burnett or Javier Vazquez start game three over Phil Hughes?

      When the alternative is putting Hughes at a very high risk of injury? Yes, without hesitation.

      We were all talking about whether Joba should be the game four starter last season, and he was pitching awful.

      Actually, Joba was pitching fairly well through July. He ended the month with 21.2 innings of 0.83 ERA ball. The talk then was about how to reduce his innings so he could pitch in the postseason. That didn’t work out so well. We’re again talking about how to make best use of Hughes’s innings, but this time thinking differently based on what happened with Joba.

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      If Hughes is in the pen for the entire series, he may end up pitching 4 or 5 high leverage innings.

      If he was the game 3 starter, he would pitch 6 or 7 innings. As long as AJ or Javy can keep a game close (or flat out dominate) this point becomes moot.

      We all wish Hughes didn’t have an innings limit. But he does. His future is important.

      The best part is, he can still play an extremely important role as a set-up man (potentially as important as the game 3 starter) in a playoff series.

    • Pete says:

      Would you really rather have AJ Burnett or Javier Vazquez start game three over Phil Hughes

      I would rather have Javy Vazquez’s four well-mixed pitches start against a playoff caliber team than Phil Hughes’s 85% fastballs right now. And by the time October rolls around, I’m sure I’d rather have AJ start than Hughes as well.

      I would be VERY surprised if, given the opportunity to pitch all the way through October, Hughes was able to maintain anything close to his current production levels. Meanwhile, I expect AJ to revert to something closer to his career norm, which has more good starts than bad, and whose good starts are generally great starts (7 IP/2 ER or better), and can be good/great regardless of opponent.

      I realize there are obvious flaws in making this argument, but lets say you discounted Phil Hughes’s first month of this year, and you discounted AJ’s June of this year. Then you’d have Phil Hughes, the 24 year old starter who’s pretty solid and hopefully will get a lot better, and AJ Burnett, the guy who throws up the occasional stinker but also has the ability to dominate any lineup in baseball on any given day, and who has been this pitcher for his whole career.

      Obviously, the context of this season should be weighted above that of previous seasons, but as we’re only halfway through this season, context from this season carries too much weight, as far as perception goes. In other words, by the time September rolls around, we may be looking at Phil as having 8 starts of <2.50 ERA, and the rest of the season of ~4.50 ERA (which would be fine), and AJ as being something close to regular AJ.

      • I would rather have Javy Vazquez’s four well-mixed pitches start against a playoff caliber team than Phil Hughes’s 85% fastballs right now. And by the time October rolls around, I’m sure I’d rather have AJ start than Hughes as well.

        I would be VERY surprised if, given the opportunity to pitch all the way through October, Hughes was able to maintain anything close to his current production levels. Meanwhile, I expect AJ to revert to something closer to his career norm, which has more good starts than bad, and whose good starts are generally great starts (7 IP/2 ER or better), and can be good/great regardless of opponent.

        That.

        Remember, last year in July people were bitching and moaning about how horrible and inconceivable it would be to theoretically shut Joba down and not have one of your best starters in the rotation, and a few months later, he wasn’t remotely one of our best starters and the whole kerfluffle seemed silly.

        Young hurlers scuffle and hit walls when pushed beyond their recent limits. This notion that Hughes will most definitely be a great starting pitcher in September and October has a real and serious counterargument.

        • Angelo says:

          But Phil Hughes pitched well in the play-offs in 2007!!

          5.2 IP/3 Hits/1 Run/0 BB/6 SO

          Take that!

          I completely agree with you by the way.

        • Pete says:

          hahahaha. Kerfluffle.

        • ZZ says:

          I think the Yankees are preparing right now to have all 5 starters ready to go come playoff time.

          Planning this early to take one out of the rotation is dangerous, because as we saw with Andy this week and maybe even AJ as well, injuries can occur at any time.

          CC and AJ threw a lot of innings last year, and as the season starts to wear on injuries to those two are always a possibility.

          Once the playoffs come around, the 4 best starters at the time will be get ball IMO.

          • I think the Yankees are preparing right now to have all 5 starters ready to go come playoff time.

            I agree. I don’t think it’s going to work, though, and I think Cashman knew that likelihood of failure enough that he bought a backup plan (see below).

            I think they’re doing it half-assed, trying to skip him 5+ times through the rotation throughout the course of the year even though they have to know know it’s virtually impossible, and I think they’ll admit that later this summer/fall just like they did last year with Joba.

            I think we learned half of our lesson from Joba 2009 (don’t get cutesy artificially abbreviating his starts to 3 innings or go pitchcount/inningcount crazy, because your young starter won’t have a rhythm and he’ll suck) but didn’t learn the other important part of the lesson (you just can’t spread 5 months worth of innings over 6 months worth of season simply by attempting to find days to skip starts, because it futzes up your rotation and there’s not enough natural opportunities to skip a start)…

            …and thus I bet we’re not going to be successful in this second iteration of the Magical Quest To Get The Innings Capped Young Starter To The Finish Line Of The Three Rounds Of Playoffs With Workload Wiggle Room Intact©™ either.

            Which is why we traded for a backup plan (told ya), and his name is Javy Vazquez. The logical conclusion of this argument is that we use that sound backup plan and not expose our young starter to undue risk.

  9. Riddle says:

    From a fantasy perspective, I just acquired Hughes and Cano for Ichiro and Hamels, and I’m hoping Hughes gets plenty of starts this second half.

  10. Angelo says:

    What the heck is going on here?!

  11. YankeesJunkie says:

    The way the playoffs set up how often do you think the Yankees will need to use a fourth starter? At most only three starts would be needed by a fourth starter and even less if Giradi decides to use CC on three days rest. If Andy does not face any major set backs he will back and ready to pitch October so that gives the Yankees Sabathia, Burnett, Pettite, and Vazquez to choose from which is definitely good enough for a playoff rotation. Hughes can be put in the bullpen sometime in late September and give the Yankees an extra arm to get to Mo.

  12. godfather says:

    hughes’ debacle tonight is the latest in evidence that he has no clue; nor does dave “no-man-is-a-pitching-coach” ailand, whose “help” is missing; someone needs to tell hughes a cut fastball isn’t named that because all batters should be allowed healthy cuts at it; jeez, girardi needs to quit babying this pos and joba; both have long since made that pansy ian kennedy look like a gamer; had my fill of turds with golden arms and tin heads

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.