Aug
26

Hughes exits early in 6-3 loss to Jays

By

At long last, the Yankees were able to come to the park on Wednesday and look forward to their first off-day in close to three weeks. They had gone 11-8 in the first 19 games of this 20 games in 20 days stretch, and their attempt to make it a dozen wins fell short when the offense was stymied by a lefthander that wouldn’t beat himself with walks or give in and throw fastballs in fastball counts. It’s never fun going into an off day with the bitter taste of defeat in your mouth, but that’s what the boys will have to do after this one.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Cy Cecil

It’s like clockwork. If the opposing starter features good offspeed stuff, the Yanks seem to be completely incapable of a) working the count, or b) putting together prolonged rallies. The only real damage they did in this game came when Marcus Thames (Mr. Thames to you) connected on a sinker that didn’t sink, sending it deep to left for a two run homer in the 4th. But that was it against Brett Cecil.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

The 24-year-old southpaw faced the Yanks two prior times this season, and much like those two outings, he took the ball deep into the game and keep the Bombers off balance by mixing his pitches like a seasoned vet. Cecil’s 106 pitches were broken down into 47 four-seam fastballs, 24 sliders, 18 sinkers, 12 changeups, and five curveballs. He needed 16 pitches to navigate the 1st inning and then another 20 for the 2nd, but after that he settled in and clicked on the cruise control. A total of 54 pitches were thrown from the 3rd through 7th innings, and just three of the final 17 men he faced managed to reach base. The Yanks made just four outs in the air against him, with the other 19 coming either on strike three or a ground out.

Cecil has now made three starts against the Yanks this year, and his composite line is 22 IP, 16 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 9 BB, 15 K, 33 GB, 20 FB. That’s a 1.64 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Against everyone else, he’s posted a 4.21 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. One of these days the Yanks will figure him out, but it certainly wasn’t happening Wednesday night.

Worst Start Of The Season

In a season full of strong outings and encouraging development, Phil Hughes had his worst start of 2010 in this one, giving up five runs and failing to complete five innings for the first time all year. His five walks tied a career high, and his numbers of pitches per inning went 27, 21, 26, and 28, and of course he only recorded two outs in the fourth. The velocity was fine (averaged 93.7, topped out at 95.9) and he struck out plenty of batters (six, including a whopping 19 swings and misses), but there’s more to life than just that.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

The problem tonight was the same as it’s been basically all summer: Hughes had trouble putting batters away. He got two strikes on 18 of the 22 batters he faced, and yet a dozen of those batters still reached base. In fact, the first ten Jays that reached base all had two strikes on them. We bitch and moan about more curveballs (Hughes actually threw 25 tonight) and more changeups but the solution isn’t that simple, and we have to remember that this isn’t a problem unique to Phil. A ton of 24-year-old’s working on their first full season as a starter in the AL East go through this, and it’s something that should improve with time and experience.

The end result was Phil’s worst start of the season, which is actually pretty damn amazing since we’re now in late August. Hughes has now thrown 39 innings more than last year and 72.2 more than he did in 2008, so there’s a decent chance that fatigue is becoming a factor. I’m sure (hopeful) the team has a plan on place to give him a little bit of a breather in September, they’re going to need him to be effective right down to the bitter end.

Leftovers

I guess if there was a silver lining in this one, it was Javy Vazquez‘s work in relief. He threw 55 pitches across 4.1 inning, allowing just two hits (one an Aaron Hill solo homer) and a walk while striking out a pair. His velocity bumped 90 mph, but I’m not going to deem him cured after 13 outs in low leverage long relief work. The Jays made some loud outs against him, including at least two to the warning that I thought were out off the bat, so Javy’s still got plenty of work ahead of him.

You know, I didn’t even think the pitch that Vernon Wells hit for his homer was all that bad(right). PitchFX clocked it at 92.9 mph and it was up and well out of the zone, almost at Well’s eye-level, really. He just straight up muscled it out. Frustrating? Yes. Massive pitching and game calling fail? Nah. Dems the breaks.

Even though they combined to reach base just two times, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson managed to see 49 pitches between the two of them, which is exactly what you want to see from the top two hitters in your lineup. Jeter worked a ten pitch walk to put the tying run on base with two outs in the 9th, but Grandy made the final out of the game on a fly ball to deep center. Dems the breaks.

Mark Teixeira managed to make five outs on six total pitches in his first three trips to the plate, killing potential rallies by clanking into a pair of double plays. Again, dems the breaks.

Austin Kearns drew a pair of walks, Brett Gardner reached base three times, and even Eduardo Nunez got in on the action with a pair of single, so the bottom third of the order certainly isn’t to blame for the offensive ineptitude. In addition to the homer, Mr. Thames also singled and is now hitting .309/.401/.493 on the season. Love it.

Not sure I like the roof opening after the top of the first. Granderson knocked one about 400 ft to dead center as the second batter of the game; would it have gone out with the roof open? We’ll never know, but it seems kinda sketchy to do it mid-inning.

Are you ready for the mother of all nitpicks? Why did it take Kearns four (!!!) pitches to take second base on a defensive indifference with two outs in the 9th inning? You’ve got to go on the first pitch to eliminate that force at second as soon as possible. The other team isn’t even going to bother to try to throw you out in that spot.

If you’re curious about the biggest WPA swings in this game, they were Thames’ homers (+.103) and Tex’s GIDP with two on and one out in the 5th (-.092). Nothing crazy.

The Yankees are now just 5-7 against the Jays this season (2-4 in Toronto), and that absolutely has to improve down the stretch. They still have six more games to play against these guys. Thankfully the Rays got creamed by the Angels while the Red Sox split a doubleheader against the Mariners, so the Yanks remain tied with Tampa for the AL East crown while holding a five-and-a-half game lead on the Wild Card spot.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

For the first time since August 5th, the Yankees will enjoy a day off on Thursday. They’ll then head to the Windy City to take on the White Sox for three games, starting with A.J. Burnett vs. Freddy Garcia.

Categories : Game Stories
  • Carlosologist

    This whole series was terrible except for last night’s trouncing. All you can hope for is that we take advantage of the freefalling White Sox and win two out of three. Winning series are a priority at this point as the season comes to a close.

    • Pat D

      This.

      If they can do this, they’ll be fine.

  • King of the Troglodytes

    Losing 2 out of 3 to Toronto without a Ricky Romero start, too. Pitiful.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      You mean the Ricky Romero that’s allowed 12 runs in 19.2 IP against the Yankees in his career? Yeah, he always pitches them tough.

      /rolls eyes, makes wanking motion

      • King of the Troglodytes

        Didn’t 8 of those runs come in 1 inning last start? As you are fond of saying – SSS!

        This team shouldn’t be dropping 7 of 12 games to a fourth place team as you have pointed out numerous times when referring to them watching the Yanks in October.

        /incredulous at your lack of research

        • King of the Troglodytes

          BTW, look up Ricky’s August 3rd game log.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Oh please, your initial comment made it sound like you’d be okay with a loss to Romero when you clearly wouldn’t based on your commenting history.

          The Rays have dropped six of 12 to Toronto this year, what does it say about them? What about the Red Sox, who’ve beaten them 11 times in 15 games? Does that mean they’re better equipped down the stretch?

          The Yankees are 22-15 (.595) against AL teams that are realistically in the playoff hunt this year. Does it suck that they’ve lost so much to the Jays? Yeah. Is it the end of the world and an exposure of some fatal flaw? Nope.

          • King of the Troglodytes

            I’ll stick with my first comment – pitiful performance. They need to learn how to pitch or not to pitch to guys like Bautista, Branyan and Carlos Pena and make adjustments at the plate against pitchers like Cecil.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          This team shouldn’t be dropping 7 of 12 games to a fourth place team

          That “fourth place team” is 6 games ABOVE .500 and has a 67-59 pythag win percentage.

          Most fourth place teams generally suck. This one doesn’t. It’s only a 4th place team because it’s stuck in the best division in baseball. If they Jays played in any other division, they’d be in the playoff hunt.

          Toronto is not a shitty team.

          • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

            At this point in the season, the Yanks definitely should have taken 2 of 3 in this series. I understand the Jays are an above .500 team, but I doubt any of us would refer to a series-win against the Jays as a “luxury.” However, this one doesn’t frustrate me as much as the series-split against the Royals.

            I’ll give Cecil credit, but the Yanks really do need to learn how to adjust to pitchers that don’t perfectly mirror their scouting reports. And of course, the dreaded pattern of the pitcher that the Yanks have “never seen before” (obviously not referring to Cecil, just in general).

            Though I very much welcome a Thursday off day, and hope the Yanks can, at the very least, take 2 of 3 against the Caucasian Sox.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Though I very much welcome a Thursday off day, and hope the Yanks can, at the very least, take 2 of 3 against the Caucasian Sox.

              The term “Caucasian Sox” is too ambiguous. Are you referring to the White Sox, or the Red Sox, who love Caucasians?

              • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

                I was referring to the White Sox – who, oddly enough, wear black socks.

    • Mike HC

      The Jays are a pretty tough team. We are obviously better than them, but I would not call our record against them pitiful. Maybe unexpected, but not pitiful.

  • ZZ

    I know Yankee fans haven’t seen a young pitcher really develop since Andy Pettitte and many on here are too young to have even experienced that, but what Hughes has been doing this season with his fastball is very normal for a 24 year old in his first full year starting.

    Pitchers do not know right away when and how to mix in pitches. They are often very reliant on one or two pitches. Great pitchers that go on to be 4 pitch guys are often very reliant on just 1 or 2 pitches their first few years.

    They have success doing this and they want to keep doing it. Also simply, they want to keep their job and pitching well does that.

    This is only magnified with the Yankees because of the pressure Hughes is under to not only keep his job but to be pitching on a team where winning now is the first priority and development is second. Especially this late in the season in a heated pennant race, developing Hughes is an afterthought right now.

    Hughes is going to do what wins games and relying on his fastball has won a lot of games this season.

    Hughes will likely take longer to develop than many other young pitchers, because he is a Yankee. However the trade off, winning World Series, is well worth it.

    From a development standpoint though, this year for Hughes has been a great success. It does not even matter what his ERA or whatever ends up at.

    Statistics really don’t matter that much when it comes to young pitchers, because what they have done does not matter, but what they will do.

    Hughes this year has proved to have one of the best fastballs in baseball. Importantly, he has shown he can sustain this great fastball late in games and late in the season.

    A well located fastball is the absolute best weapon a pitcher can have. Hughes has a great one and now he just has to build around that in the coming years.

    On that alone (obviously there are many other positives) this season has been hugely successful for Phil Hughes and the Yankees.

    • http://www.thesubwayconnection.com Newbie

      Amen to everything you said.

    • Esteban

      You always make pretty well though out points, but damn sometimes your comments are hard to read with all the spaces between sentences.

      • Tom Zig

        damn sometimes your comments are hard to read with all the spaces between sentences.

        Sarcasm?

        • Rivera Venue Blues

          How is that sarcasm? Too many spaces can make it hard to read stuff too.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            I’ve actually asked him to do the same thing (use more paragraphs and less individual sentences). It’s not a sarcastic request.

    • Tampa Yankee

      I agree with most everything you say except for:

      Pitchers do not know right away when and how to mix in pitches. They are often very reliant on one or two pitches. Great pitchers that go on to be 4 pitch guys are often very reliant on just 1 or 2 pitches their first few years.

      Isn’t it the job of the veteran catcher then to make sure the young pitcher mixes his pitches and doesn’t become reliant on 1 or 2 though?

      I understand that you come into a game with a scouting report but when the report starts to go wrong/isn’t working, shouldn’t you deviate from it and make adjustments?

      It starts to get irritating to see 2, 3 or 4 fastballs fouled off in a row on 0-2, 1-2 or 2-2 counts multiple times a game when you have pitches to play with. Try a curve or changeup to change their eye level then come back at them with the heater.

      Just my 2 cents…

  • kurt

    why doesnt phil hughes try a split fastball. i think he would be filthy

    • Carlosologist

      The split-finger is hell on the elbow. I would think that the Yanks don’t want to set Phil back by having him learn a stressful pitch.

      • Tom Zig

        Well he does have a “changeup” and a curveball. He used to have a slider if I’m not mistaken.

    • Chris

      He already throws 4 pitches, why should he try to learn a fifth instead of perfecting the pitches he already throws?

    • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

      Phil’s arm angle isn’t exactly ideal for a split-finger.

  • Esteban

    Yea, can’t really get on Hughes for the homer to Wells, that shit was nowhere near the strikezone.

  • Sean C

    Phil had his worst night of the season, and like the post said, that’s a helluva thing. We all knew he was going to hit a wall of sorts at some point, but I am only encouraged by the great things Phil has showed so far. It may be easy to forget that this is his first REAL shot at a season for the Yankees (injuries and bullpen work aside), but this kid (and I can say that as someone 6th months older than he is…) will be HUGE for the Yankees for years. His potential will continue to be realized. One “worst start” does not a career make (not that anyone around here is jumping off of a bridge on him or said it, I just felt like throwing in a comment on the thread…).

  • Moose Corner

    How good would Hughes be if he really had a changeup – especially one like Cecil’s? Painful to watch all those foul balls. They can’t square them up but their timing is not far off so they get a piece. Hopefully a change could make some of those fouls swings and misses or weak contact in the infield like Cecil got. He’s still got plenty of room for more development; then , watch out!

    • larryf

      This. With Hughes’s fastball (95) and Javy’s change (75) we would have quite the pitcher.

      /Nova’d (although his change is about 85mph)

    • Chris

      Hughes had 16 swinging strikes on 102 total pitches last night. That’s pretty damn good. There were also a lot of foul balls, but I think it’s a good sign that he had so many swinging strikes.

      As for the changeup, it’s getting better. He threw it for strikes last night which is a step in the right direction.

  • Yank the Frank

    I was surprised to see Javy out of the bullpen so soon. I thought they were giving his tired arm some rest. He did well but there were some very hard outs that made me cringe.

    • Frank

      Agree. Wells, Bautista and Overbay weren’t fooled. They just missed getting solid contact on the ball.

    • Klemy

      Agreed. I thought the idea was to rest Javy a while, but apparently they just want him out of the rotation or something? Resting him obviously isn’t the goal if they bring him in a middle relief role so soon. Disappointing.

  • Frank

    Agree with ZZ is his earlier post. Although Hughes had a rough night, we need to remember he’s still developing as a pitcher. Last night, his command was just not there. As for Wells’ HR, you got to give it up to him – that pitch was up by his eyes and he just got around on it. Hughes missed his location by a lot, but if you’re going to miss, that’s not a bad place to miss.

  • charliechoochoo

    Jorge’s catching was abysmal and I don’t know what he was calling for half the time and am not sure Phil knew either. I don’t know if they were getting tied up with multiple signs or what. Hughes looked thoroughly confused sometimes.

    There was also the 2nd base call that should go to defense and not offense.

    But overall the thing that irked me the most was seeing Derek Jeter swing at first pitches. He showed, in the 9th inning, that he can battle but where has this been all year? Does he just want to swing and ground out so he can sit back down? I’m being sarcastic but he doesn’t change anything or seem to be interested in changing anything. I know that most Yankee fans would not call the Captain out, but come on Derek.

    • CBean

      During the Moseley game there were a lot of signs called to. The broadcasters mentioned that when a team is doing as well as the Jays, there are some concerns about stolen signs so a catcher will throw additional signs just to counteract this. I don’t know if this was actually the case but Moseley and Posada had to talk lots as well.