Checking in on Hughes’ workload

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(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Down to just the final dozen games of the season, the picture of how the Yankees were going to manage Phil Hughes‘ workload this season is in complete focus. They skipped two of his starts earlier in the year and took advantage of the All Star break to create what amounted to a third skipped start, and he cruises into tonight’s outing against the Rays having thrown 163 innings on the season, by far a career high.

Because lists are nice and easy, here’s a look at Phil’s workloads throughout the years for comparison…

  • 2009: 111.2 IP (majors, minors, playoffs)
  • 2008: 99.2 IP (majors, minors, Arizona Fall League)
  • 2007: 116 IP (majors, minors, playoffs)
  • 2006: 146 IP (minors)
  • 2005: 86.1 IP (minors)
  • 2004: 5 IP (minors, this was his draft year)

So yeah, the 163 innings Hughes has thrown this year is greater than any workload he’s experienced recently. He’s held up pretty well considering, with no discernible loss of velocity or complaints of a dead arm or anything like that. Of course workload related health issues usually don’t pop up until a year or two after the big innings increase, but that’s not something worth worrying about right now. The important thing is that Phil is healthy at the moment and capable of helping his team down the stretch and into the playoffs.

With the way the schedule lines up, Hughes has three more starts left. Tonight against the Rays, Sunday against the Red Sox, and then next Saturday against the Red Sox again. The Yanks have indicated that there are “no plans” to skip another one of his starts this season, so there’s no reason to expect him to miss one of those starts. If anything, they’ll probably cut one or two of them short like they did with Joba Chamberlain last September (not that I approve). After those three starts Hughes would then line up perfectly to start Game Two of the ALDS on normal rest, Game Three on six day’s rest, or Game Four on seven day’s rest. Based on how he feels and pitches the last three times out, the Yanks will have plenty of options for how to deploy him in the postseason.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that Hughes throws a total of 15 innings in those three starts, even though I suspect it’ll probably be something more like 17 or 18. That would put him at 178 for the season, right in that 175-180 range we all assumed. Didn’t even take any kind of crazy plan or Hughes Rules either, a few skipped starts never hurt anyone. The 178 innings represent roughly a 32 inning jump from his previous career high, set four seasons ago, and about a 66 inning jump from last season.

We have absolutely no way of knowing how Hughes will react to the extra work until next year or maybe even the year after, but it’s hard to consider 2010 anything but a success for the righthander. He’s held up under the workload and his overall body of work amounts to 1.9 WAR, essentially league average right now and he should finish a touch above that at the end of the season. At 24-years-old, Phil’s best years are ahead of him, and the job the Yanks did controlling his innings this year will play a major role in those years.

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

    With the way the schedule lines up, Hughes has three more starts left. Tonight against the Rays, Sunday against the Red Sox, and then next Saturday against the Red Sox again. The Yanks have indicated that there are “no plans” to skip another one of his starts this season, so there’s no reason to expect him to miss one of those starts.

    I personally hope Phil comes up with a “dead arm” (wink wink) or a little “back tightness” (wink wink) for that first utterly-meaningless Sunday start against the Sox and has to “miss a turn” (wink wink) and “get skipped” (wink wink nudge nudge say no more say no more).

    Better safe than sorry. Let Javy have that Sox start. Just to show Boston how little we give a shit about them.

    • vin

      Better safe than sorry. Let Javy have that Sox start. Just to show Boston Javy how little we give a shit about them him.

      FTFY

    • Dream of Electric Sheep

      Better safe than sorry.
      ————————–
      That, get him some BP work . Keep everyone semi sharp , let’s fucking roll after it in the playoff.

    • Reggie C.

      Aw hell no. I’m going to Sunday nite’s game. I’d rather see the start go to Noesi or Phelps than see perpetually dead-arm Vazquez take the mound that nite.

      • Yankeefan91 Arod fan

        im going to the game 2 by were are u sitting i gonna be in da 130 section

  • AndrewYF

    I bet anyone $100 Burnett gets that game 3 start over Hughes in the ALDS. And then no one but Sabathia will be starting a Game 4, and no one but Pettitte will be starting Game 5.

    And then Hughes won’t be starting the rest of the playoffs, because the Yankees are going to sweep the ALCS and WS.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      I can picture the first scenario happening.

      The Rays and Phillies will be pretty tough to sweep though.

    • vin

      I agree with your first paragraph. And I hope the 2nd one comes to fruition.

    • http://twitter.com/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

      Yeah I agree. Burnett will likely get the nod.

  • Betsy

    He’s stayed healthy – that’s really the best thing I take out of this season. His performance (something like a 5 and a half ERA since mid-May) has been disappointing despite the 16 wins (some of which are due to run support). I find he’s as big a question mark going into next year in terms of performance as he was coming into this season

    • MikeD

      I’ll take more out of it than just being healthy. Remember, he was our fifth starter, and this was his first year in the majors holding down a rotation spot from start to finish. He had his ups and he has his downs, and he had his in betweens, as all young pitchers do, but I’d take this from a back-end rotation guy every single year, especially a young pitcher who can now build off this season. If he doesn’t progress beyond 2010, then he still has quite a bit of value. I think it’s unlikely he won’t get better.

  • Pat D

    At least Hughes will finally have the true A lineup supporting him tonight.

    Jeter ss
    Swisher rf
    Teixeira 1b
    Rodriguez 3b
    Cano 2b
    Posada c
    Berkman dh
    Granderson cf
    Gardner lf

    • Dream of Electric Sheep

      The absolute A lineup in support of the young master Hughes ! I like it. Let’s get this WC shit over with. I would definitely play it safe after that. let’s give all the main cogs the rest they may need.

      The number one overriding factor in Yankees pending success is HEALTH to me, to that end, rest everybody.

      If that means conceding the HFA , so be it, it’s one fucking game in ALDS and ALCS.

    • larryf

      21 HR’s out of the 8 hole is simply Grand.

      • vin

        And 42 steals with a .388 OBP out of the 9 hole just isn’t fair.

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      Now we just have to make sure we, you know, hit James Shields. He throws a change up. Lay off said change up.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    My concern with Hughes workload is more pitches thrown/batters faced than innings pitched.

    In his 146 inning season he faced 556 batters. This year he has faced 675. We know he was much more efficient in the minors, but assuming he threw the same number of pitches per batter in the minors as in the majors he has already thrown at the very least 489 more in game pitches than in 2006. That is about 5 starts, being conservative. That’s significant already and he’s not yet done.

  • Hobbes

    That seems short sighted to say his big innings increase is not something to worry about now. he could easily be skipped one more time before the playoffs, and it doesn’t seem fair to compare his innings to his workload 4 years ago either. I am on the record as being nervous for hughes next year and beyond.

    • http://twitter.com/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

      Meh the rule of thumb is 30 IP after your previous high workload. He’ll be fine.

      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        yeah but I don’t think anyone has ever used an innings total from 4 years ago, before.

        • http://twitter.com/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

          Sure but the Yankees seem to think it’s fine otherwise they wouldn’t risk this at all. With the information they have and their worries about young pitching I’m not at all concerned.

  • MikeD

    His workload is fine. The media, and some fans, get in a panic when a young pitcher throws more than 30 innings above his previous high because of all the publicity around the Verducci Effect. Fortunately, others have now studied this issue and found that the Verducci Effect is more fiction than fact. The idea of watching workload of young pitchers is correct, so the spirit of Verducci is fine. The devil, however, is always in the details and there is no magic “30 inning” magic to be concerned about.

    • MikeD

      There is no magic 30 inning *mark*….

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Agreed. Pitchers workloads need to be monitored, especially young pitchers.

      That being said, the 30 inning jump is just a number that cannot be broad brushed across every pitcher and stated as fact.

      • icebird753

        You speak of blasphemy, and should be excommunicated from all other baseball fans until a few centuries.

  • Erick

    Doesn’t it matter that his previous innings high was set 4 years ago? Even if it is just a 32 inning jump from four years ago, it represents a nearly 70 inning jump from last year and nearly 80 innings from the year before.

    Sure it’s just 30 from 2004, but again, that was four years ago. And the innings in the postseason still aren’t beind added, which could well represent another 15-20 innings or more.

  • KeithK

    I know few of us are thinking along these lines right now, but if you follow the arbitrary 30 innings figure then Hughes should just about be completely rules free next season. With pitch counts he’s not likely to surpass 210 innings withouy becoming a bunch more efficient even with 35 starts.