Aug
10

Pettitte, Moseley and Phil Hughes’ innings

By

After tossing six innings yesterday afternoon against the Red Sox, Phil Hughes had accrued 128.2 innings on the season in 21 starts. He’s averaging just over six innings per outing, and as his current pace, as ESPN’s Ian Begley noted, he’ll reach his soft innings limit of 175 at around September 18 in Baltimore with two weeks of the regular season and the October slate remaining. The Yankees will have to be creative to get the most out of the right-hander who has emerged as the team’s third best starter.

Already this year, we’ve seen how the Yankees plan to get the most out of Hughes. They’ve skipped his starts twice but with less than stellar rests. On four or five days’ rest, Hughes is 12-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 113 IP. In just three starts following six or more days of rest, Hughes is 1-2 with an 8.04 ERA, and in those 15.2 innings, batters are hitting .367/.451/.650. Notwithstanding the small sample size, those results are like night and day.

The Yankees, we know, would love to skip Hughes a handful of times. His start against the Royals next weekend, for one, seems largely unnecessary because the Yanks could beat the Royals without Hughes on the mound. They’d rather just use him for the key starts down the stretch. Hughes, though, prefers to be a creature of habit. “That’s what I’m used to,” he said of pitching every five days. “Just going out and getting the ball and doing my normal schedule. But if they feel like something needs to be adjusted in that way then that’s up to them.”

He doesn’t, however, think his struggles were anything more than a coincidence. Nothing, he said, felt physically wrong when he was pitching on extended rest. Still, the narrative runs strong here, and the results, so far, have been widely divergent. Hughes, as with any starter, thrives on regularity.

How then can the Yankees limit Hughes’ workload without giving him too much rest? The answer should lie with Dustin Moseley and Andy Pettitte. Yesterday prior to the Yankees/Red Sox affair, Pettitte threw a simulated inning in the bullpen. He threw 20 pitches and felt only fatigue and not pain in his injured groin. He’ll throw another simulated game on Thursday before heading out on a rehab assignment for one start. He could be back by the time the Yankees play the Mariners at home next weekend, but the Yankees are going to be cautious with Hughes.

And then, we have Dustin Moseley. Through 30 innings with the Yanks, Moseley has been more than adequate. His strike out totals — 16 with a K/9 IP of 4.7 — are low, but opponents are hitting just .239/.303/.413 off of him. His 1.50 ground out-to-fly out ratio allows him to succeed without a high strike out total, and the Yankee scouts have been high on his sinking pitches. He’ll draw the Royals later in the week.

With these three pitchers in play, the Yankees have six legitimate starters, and the opportunity to use them all. They could employ an abridged six-man rotation, giving Hughes and Pettitte extra days when necessary but keeping Sabathia and Burnett on track. Moseley would act as the swing man, and Hughes’ innings could be stretched out by another week or so.

What the Yankees can’t do, however, is shut down Phil Hughes. There isn’t enough time to ramp down his innings and then ramp them back up before the playoffs, and as Joba Chamberlain showed last year, that strategy wasn’t quite effective. So the team will have to get creative with the rest. With Moseley, the team has the flexibility to rest Hughes or extend his time between starts, and that’s a luxury that could be a key factor come the stretch drive.

Categories : Musings

48 Comments»

  1. Stephen R. says:

    Question – what’s the difference between just skipping his start and using Moseley in a modified six-man rotation? In either case, Hughes is starting on 6+ days rest.

    • Hughes would be starting on five days rest if you did it right.

      Sabathia
      Burnett
      Pettitte
      Vazquez
      Hughes
      Sabathia
      Burnett
      Moseley
      Pettitte
      Vazquez
      Hughes

      Considering the Vazquez dead arm, I’m OK with giving him extra rest too.

      • Stephen R. says:

        Interesting. Have you applied this set up to the remainder of the season? I’m asking because I’m wondering how many less starts/innings it would result in for Hughes (and I don’t feel like doing it myself, so I’m hoping you’ve done it already).

      • I’d say the last week of August and the first two/three weeks of September is the perfect time to roll with a 6-man rotation for 3 or 4 turns through.

        Give all 5 of the key starters a little breather, but roll back into a normal rest/throw schedule for the last two weeks of the regular season to get everyone sharp again.

  2. eddieperez23 says:

    Another thing to consider is whether the Yankees will use Hughes as SP in the postseason or whether they’ll be shifting him to the pen. If the latter, they can proceed as usual, skipping Hughes just once and then letting him adjust to being a RP by pitching him out of the pen the last couple weeks of the season (wouldn’t pitch more then 5-6 innings out of the pen). At this point Hughes is the 3rd best SP on the staff, but would Girardi bump Javy from the rotation for Hughes? (Don’t think he’ll do it to AJ given 3 more years on the contract).

    • mikebk says:

      i dont see any way with the innings limit that he would have enough left to start in the playoffs. he should be the number 3, but i would guess he ends up as the 8th inning guy w Robertson.

  3. Jersey Johnny says:

    How about stretching Joba out and letting him start?

  4. What are the odds Hughes starts in the playoffs?

    • Stephen R. says:

      If you do real back of the envelope calcs –

      175 IP is the limit. He’s thrown 128.2. This leaves around 45 innings to the cap. As Ben noted, he’s averaged a little over 6 IP per start, which means he has 7-8 starts left in him before he hits his cap. If he were to start in the playoffs and if we made it all the way to the World Series with him as, say, the #3 starter, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to pencil him in for 1 start apiece in each series (and maybe more in the two longer ones). This leaves him with 4 starts at the absolute max during the regular season. Doesn’t look too likely.

  5. bexarama says:

    I desperately wish ESPN/FOX had spent more time on Pettitte’s injury/recovery, as opposed to writing love letters* to Pedroia, the only athlete who has ever been on the DL and wanted to get back quickly.

    * I originally had something much less SFW written here but thought better of it. La la la.

  6. theyankeewarrior says:

    Each day it looks more and more like Phil Hughes will be our October set-up man.

    Mo
    Hughes
    Joba
    D-Rob
    Wood
    Marte
    Logan/Aceves/Moseley

    Yummy.

    • Ivan says:

      Yankees have enough BP help as it is.

      CC (Da man)
      Pettitte(Just health and thats it)

      After that a bunch of question marks
      Burnett is up and down, same with Vazquez. Hughes has been the Yankees 3rd best starter and would be alot valuable starting than releiving.

      • Hughes has been the Yankees 3rd best starter.

        Agreed. But will he still be our 3rd best starter in October when he’s pitching innings he’s never pitched before in his life?

        I’ve got a feeling the answer might be “no”. Just a hunch.

        • Ivan says:

          Maybe. However, I like the chance That Hughes will remain the Yanks 3rd best pitcher. Prime example, yesterday’s start where Hughes is laboring in the 2nd, he eventually gathers himself and pitches well. If thats Burnett he implodes and you know that. And While Javy has pitch well for the last month, he still somewhat inconsistent as well.

          • Newbie says:

            Is not every pitcher inconsistent, though? Since May 17, Hughes has had an ERA of 5.02 and thrown just under 6 innings a start. In that same time, Javy has had an ERA of 3.45 and has averaged ~6.3 innings/start.

            • Ivan says:

              Yeah, however Hughes has pitch better of late. Not to mention, at the end of the day, Hughes has been the beter pitcher overall for 2010.

      • theyankeewarrior says:

        Of course he would be. But they aren’t going to let him throw 50 moe innings this season because hes a little better than Javy and AJ. They will have to roll with their big-money guns.

  7. Meat Loaf says:

    Pettitte returning = end of Gaudin?

  8. Newbie says:

    I think a lot of Hughes starting in the playoffs has a lot to do with how the other games go. For example, if they take a 2-0 lead in the ALDS, I doubt Hughes starts game 3, even if he is the third best starter. If however, CC and Andy had just pitched and the team is down 0-2 or even tied 1-1, by all means Hughes will start game three. It is all about risk vs. reward. Is Hughes needed enough in that particular game to offset the possible risk of him getting injured?

    • Newbie says:

      “I think a lot of Hughes starting in the playoffs has a lot to do” haha Department of Redundancy and Repetition Department.

    • Mike HC says:

      I think they are going to want their game three starter to know he is starting game three. Or at least I would. I don’t see the point in getting cute for a game you know you have to play. Why not let your starter be fully prepared instead of thinking about whether he is even going to start or not?

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