Pitching Probables

Game 76: Old Timers' Day
Open Thread: Jeter's Birthday

Pitching’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? Seems like we haven’t worried about anything besides it since day one aside from a few spots of sputtering offense. That, we know’ll improve. But this whole pitching thing has been crazy since forever. Good for writers. Bad for the team. And for fans. I wish we could have ace pitching and a crappy backup catcher to complain about. Wait….

Anyway, it’s looking like, for the first time in a while, the Yankees may eventually have more starters than they have rotation spots. This is a blissful change from the norm, where it usually seems like the question du jour is ‘who the hell is going to pitch tomorrow?’ On the bright side, it’s nice to have so many alternatives. On the downside, the decision isn’t an easy one. We’re not choosing between Justin Verlander and Aaron Cook here. To put it lightly, there’s going to be a pretty serious bottleneck if all the injured Yankees starters come back healthy. Which ones are more likely to stay in the rotation?

Phil Hughes – 90%

We see you too, Phil. (Photo by dbphoto on flickr. Licensed under creative commons. )

Since going down with mysterious arm weakness on April 16th, Hughes has been in and out of the public consciousness. While he’s basically guaranteed to scoop back up his rotation spot when he returns from the DL, the concern should be that both fans have the team have no idea what kind of Phil Hughes is going to come back. Remember that Hughes didn’t even start off the season right: his velocity never where it was supposed to be, even in Spring Training, and none of his three starts were passable. While It’s nice to see that his fastball is above 90 in his first two rehab starts, no one’s exactly sounded thrilled by what he’s showing so far. Throwing seventy pitches in 3 innings is closer to the kind of stuff he showed in late 2010, with an inability get guys out and each batter hitting approximately 203984039 foul balls – and that not the best pitcher Phil can be. My personal concern is not if he will get his spot back, because that seems obvious, but rather how long he can keep it, and what he can do to maximize his own effectiveness. Everyone knows that Hughes has all-star stuff, it’s just a matter of finding it again, and it’s impossible to say whether he will. If Hughes’ dead arm makes it hard for him to reacquire the stuff he had in early 2010, it’s hard to say where he’ll project long term. A 4/5 starter would be a possibility, or maybe even a disappointing move to the bullpen, continuing the Yankees’ general weirdness (in lieu of other words) with developing pitching.

Bartolo Colon – 85%

Who can say enough about Big Bad Bartolo? Fans (and probably the team) came into the year expecting absolutely nothing from Colon, who’d had a mysterious stem cell treatment on his arm during 2010 and hadn’t pitched all during the season. Here was a guy who the Indians wouldn’t sign due to his, err, quite obviously poor conditioning routine. Said routine (or lack thereof) has done absolutely nothing to hinder the fact that Colon was, up until his hamstring injury, the second-most effective pitcher on the staff and probably the one the Yankees were getting the most bang for their buck from. He was even good enough to get the steroid whispers started, which seems to be a compliment nowadays. It’s nice that the injury is in his leg and not his arm, and he seems to be on track for a relatively speedy return. His rehab has gone well and he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday, which would line up him to be back in the rotation over Brian Gordon if they use the off day (also Monday) to skip him. His injury wasn’t am related and he’s, uh, surprisingly agile on the mound, so here’s hoping we get the same Bartolo back that left. Because I don’t think I need to say this, but that Bartolo was really, really good. I blame that two-seamer. Am I allowed to say that pitch is sexy? If there was such thing as a sexy pitch, Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer would qualify.

Freddy Garcia – 50%

Here’s where it gets tricky. Out of the three rotation spots, the only one truly in question is the fifth starter, and it probably comes down the chief or the supernova. Personally, I would prefer to see Ivan Nova (I’ve always been a Nova supporter), but honestly, my gut is that it will be Freddy. Why? First of all, his stats appear a bit better (3.30 ERA/4.14 FIP, vs Nova’s 4.13 ERA/4.13 FIP), and second of all, the pitching plan has always seemed to be put the prospects in the bullpen first (Hughes, Noesi, Nova). While Freddy, like Colon, has exceeded most expectations of him, both his problem and his success can be very easily summarized: he is junkballing people to death. It’s certainly entertaining to watch batters be frustrated by his slow (87 MPH fastball), slower (80 MPH splitter), and slowest (70 MPH curveball) routine, but two utter takedowns by the Boston offense has shown that it’s not likely to work on a power team. That being said, Garcia’s proved he’s capable at least, and his veteran presence shoring up the back of the rotation may be the tipping point in the decision on the fifth starter.

Ivan Nova – 45%

Nova’s results this year have been, to say the least, interesting. What usually happens is that someone on the internet writes a scathing report of how bad he is and how he needs to be kicked out of the rotation, and then he goes out there and just tears up whatever team in question he’s facing. Nova’s biggest weakness is his inability to miss bats: his swinging strike percentage last year was 6.4%, with this year’s being a mere 4.8%, while he’s on pace for only only about 5 strikeouts per nine innings, just below his average from last year. While both years are a pretty small sample, the evidence is clear pretty clear that he’s no David Robertson. He makes up for this with decent ground ball rate (55%) that’s improved from last year’s few starts (51%). The reasons I think Nova should be in the rotation are as follows: first off, he’s young, and has showed improvement from last year to this year and continues to improve, even against high-powered offenses such as the Rangers and the Reds, and secondly, he clearly has the stuff to start in the bigs, and stashing him in the pen or demoting him won’t improve that stuff. The problem is, his stuff certainly would work better out of the pen than Garcia’s, given his slick little fastball-curveball combination and the jump we’d see in his speed if he was only throwing 20 pitches a night. Like I said earlier, though, putting young pitchers in the bullpen is an extremely frustrating part of this team: don’t do it to poor Nova.

Brian Gordon – 5%

Unless Brian Gordon goes out there and throws a perfect game, there’s little possibility that we’ll see him in the big league rotation after people start coming off the DL. While he was serviceable in his first start and has a really great story, there’s an obvious reason why he spent so much time being a minor leaguer. While Gordon is decent filler material while the Yankees deal with their injuries, he doesn’t appear to have the stuff he needs to keep his big league job with this team, at least. He’ll most likely be the first one to go – probably cut, given the excess of pitchers in Scranton and Trenton, but possibly demoted. Either way, Gordon’s been a placeholder for Colon until he gets back, and while he’s fine for a couple of spot starts, there’s really no way this guy is going to take a rotation spot over any of the options listed.

For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Yankees have too many pitchers fighting for a spot. What this comes down too, really, is Garcia vs. Nova, and it’s not an easy one to pick when you take all the factors into the debate. That being said, I personally think this is still a better problem to have than worrying about who the heck is gonna pitch tomorrow. Go Nova!

Game 76: Old Timers' Day
Open Thread: Jeter's Birthday
  • Jorge

    I know there’s a lot of hating on the “weekend posters” here, but I think Hannah is dead wrong on Nova here. I think Nova would easily keep his rotation spot over Garcia. Nova’s in line for a rotation spot into next year and beyond, while Garcia is looking for a contract year-by-year at this point.

    • http://twitter.com/SteveH_MandAura Steve H

      Who do you think would be a better option out of the pen?

    • CMP

      I completely agree. Why screw with Nova’s arm by bouncing him back and forth between the rotation and the pen.

      He’s been about equal to Garcia so I think you have to give the nod to youth and upside.

    • The BIG 3

      I agree too…. except I don’t know if Garcia can/will pitch out of the pen. With the pitching staff being so thin, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they decided to retain Garcia by adding Nova to the pen instead.

  • Adam B

    I wonder if the Yankees can pry a pitcher away from the Giants by dangling Russel Martin (I think Montero has nothing else to learn in the minors and they can’t keep waiting)… He obviously isn’t the only player it would take but it might soften the blow on our farm system…

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      Russell Martin is too valuable to offer as trade bait. Martin make s forget about poor defensive catchers that the Yankees have after him to give the guy a day off.

      Montero has no AB’s available to him at this time.

  • ChrisS

    Hughes is a giant bust, the Yankees would be better off packaging him up with that headcase Montero and trying to secure a half-way decent starter and SS.

    • Uke

      Are you an idiot or an idiot?

      • Wooderson

        dont trade montero but hughes has been absolutely mediocre in his career and yankee fans just suck his dick around the clock for what he represents.

        • http://twitter.com/SteveH_MandAura Steve H

          He just turned 25 and he’s already had 2 productive seasons in the AL East, one as a starter, one as a reliever. Far from mediocre.

          • Will

            He had a productive HALF-season as a starter. Last year his post-break numbers were worse than Burnett’s.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          He has been up and down for his career I will admit that. I think the love ppl have for Hughes is he was the first prospect in a while that ppl got excited about. He is 25 and he can still turn it around but his career has been a mixed bag so far.

      • ChrisS

        Out of the “big three”, the Yankees will have ended up with a 25 yo with 38 yo stuff, a fat reliever that can’t stay off the DL, and an NL Cy Young candidate.

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

          Joba’s been on the DL once in the last three years.

        • http://twitter.com/SteveH_MandAura Steve H

          And Curtis Granderson? They didn’t just give away the NL Cy Young contender (whose stuff simply wouldn’t play in the AL East anyway).

          • The BIG 3

            Ian could not pitch in the AL… Joba would be great today if he didn’t hurt his shoulder in Texas…

            Not you specifically, but do you ever get bored using the rationalizations?

            You know the difference between Hughes 2 above average pitches, one being a 91 mph fast ball, and Ian’s 4 above average pitches, one being a 91 MPH fastball?

            Ian’s probably better.

            Ian Kennedy could certainly pitch well In the AL. Maybe not for the Yankees, with all that pressure, and maybe that’s one reason why he was traded, but he could certainly excel in this league.

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

              Ian Kennedy never had four above average pitches, few do. There’s two pitchers in baseball with four above average pitches: Halladay and Felix.

              • The BIG 3

                He’s always had a plus change, very good slider and above average curve. My 4th would be that he spots his FB real well.

                • Eduardo (My Left Nunez)

                  I think IPK could pitch in the AL East, but I don’t see him being much more than a back-end, 5th starter. No matter, I would undo the deal to bring him back and lost Grandy in the process. Giving up something to get quality is a good thing.

                  • The BIG 3

                    I personally think those numbers he’s putting up in the NL are translatable into something much better than a number 5, but who knows.

                    I just get irritated with that constant ‘Ian could never pitch in the AL’ meme. Of course he could.

                    • Eduardo (My Left Nunez)

                      I agree. I was hoping the Yankees could keep IPK to see how he would pitch if given more opportunities. I still don’t view him as more than a back-end pitcher, but that’s still valuable. That all said, wouldn’t hesitate for a second to trade him again as part of the deal to land Granderson.

                    • CMP

                      The narrative that IPKs stuff wouldn’t play in the AL is a bunch of crap.

                      CJ Wilson has done just fine in the AL over the last 2 years with a FB about 0.5 MPH better than IPKs.

                      Jered Weaver has been dominant the last 2 years with almost identical velocity to IPK.

                      Velocity is less important than hitting corners, changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance with several different pitches.

                      I think IPK could easily be a number 3 starter on an elite level AL team.

              • The BIG 3
                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                  Two above average, one basically average, two below average. There’s also a difference between an above average pitch and above average results.

                  • The BIG 3

                    I always thought that the reason he was thought less of by scouts was because he didn’t throw 93+. But how many Garcia’s do we need to observe before we recognize that isn’t particularly true?

            • Adam B

              part of me feels like IPK is the one that got away… but then again i am just happy he found a home in the nl west… he does give up a lot of fly balls.

        • Wooderson

          2.4 fwar last year, yeah it’s not mediocre. i don’t mean to sell him short, he’s a good young pitcher. but he’s just so far from the pitcher yankee fans think he will be (or some think he already is). if he was a free agent signing as opposed to a homegrown drafted player, i suspect the story would be a lot different.

          • Eduardo (My Left Nunez)

            IPK’s FIP in the NL last year was 4.33. That easily translates to a 5.00+ ERA in the AL East. He’s better this year, but his BABIP in 2010 and 2011 is in the mid-.250s. No pitcher, and certainly not one with IPK’s stuff, can manintain a BABIP that low. He knows how to pitch, but I just can’t see him posting a sub-4.50 ERA in the AL East, at his best.

            As a comparision, Dustin Moseley has a 3.03 ERA pitching over in the NL West. Purely fringy stuff on a good day. IPK is better, but he’s not all that great. Better off in the NL by a good margin.

            • The BIG 3

              IPK’s FIP in the NL last year was 4.33. That easily translates to a 5.00+ ERA in the AL East

              What do you base that on?

              Also, keep in mind that the kid’s still only 26 and his mL numbers were jaw-dropping.

              • The BIG 3

                Doesn’t xFIP account for that? (or is it specific to NL pitchers, alone)

                • CP

                  FIP and xFIP don’t (as far as I know) account for the difference in talent between leagues, or for the fact that he faces a pitcher 10% of the time.

                  • JobaWockeeZ

                    They are park and league adjusted…


                    • JobaWockeeZ
                    • It’sATarp

                      xFIP and FIP are heavily depended on strike out rates and flyball rates and etc. Large ball parks helps a pitcher’s FIP a lot. i don’t think xFIP is that much league adjusted according the formula they use. In the NL (especially the NL west) pitchers do tend to have a higher strike out rates given the offenses and the pitchers hitting. it’s hard to say a guy’s K rates facing average to below avg offenses in the NL west will remain the same if he is in the more heavy offensive AL east teams.

                      But i think xFIP- might be more league adjusted b/c IPK’s xFIP this year is like 3.52 but his xFIP- is only 94… (100 is average) for reference Hughes last year had an xFIP of 4.14 but his xFIP- was 99… and another clue of this is that if you look at Brett Anderson who has a 3.50 xFIP, his xFIP- is 89..much lower than IPK’s. Materson who has an xFIP of 3.58 has an xFIP- of 91 Which leads me to believe that xFIP- might be more league adjusted than simple xFIP but i’m not 100% sure on this…can anyone clarify the formula? If it is, then IPK this year might have a higher xFIP in the AL…but once again i’m not 100% sure on xFIP-‘s calculation.

            • It’sATarp

              Exactly…people say well there’s no difference between NL and AL is pure un true. If you look at the numbers, a lot of pitcher transitioning from AL to NL improve their numbers by a decent amount. Moseley went from mediocre to above avg after the jump. Javy went from decent pitcher to Cy young worthy with the braves. And then the great pitchers (halladay,Cliff Lee, CC , Greinke even) go from great pitcher to putting up godly numbers in the NL. So there is a difference between leagues. And i doubt IPK’s FIP/xFIP/ERA would be what it is now in the AL especially with him having extreme fly ball tendecies

        • SDM

          You do know IPK has that same “38 yr old stuff” as you put it?

          A healthy Hughes is far better than a healthy Kennedy, IPK has done well this year he played well last year but a 2.4 WAR in the NL is not equal to a 2.4 WAR in the AL.

          Also Kennedy “plus fastball” has only been plus this year his “plus slider” is barely an average pitch.
          In a nut shell he’s been a junk baller.

          • It’sATarp

            and we have about 2 of those right now…

        • The Big City of Dreams

          Hopefully the B’s can buck the trend.

    • CP

      With this type of attitude among fans, you wonder why the Yankees have some issues developing pitchers.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      Hughes is not a bust. He’s been up and down but bust is a strong word.

  • Bpdelia

    First off nova is turning out just like the scouting reports said he would: decent back end guy.

    Garcia has pitched pretty darn well for a year and a half.

    Further garcia has little to no value in the pen and nova does.

    Third nova isn’t some top prospect to be handled with care.

    He will go to the pen and he should.

    Its fun to watch young guys start but garcia is more consistently good then nova.

    End of discussion.

    • The BIG 3

      End of discussion.

      Oh, rats, and I wanted to add some more points too. Oh, well, time to eat.

  • yanksfan09

    until Hughes shows he can hold his velo longer than 2-3 innings Until he can do that Hughes is the one that should go to the pen, he was dominate there before, we have the need and he can maintain that velo for 1-2 innings already.

    If he comes back and can hold that velo for 5-6 innings its a different story completely.

    Garcia doesn’t have the stuff that would play up out of the pen, the only role he could do effectively is a long man. He’s pitched very well at times and has an era in the 3’s. I don’t think the Yanks will put him in the BP, i just don’t think it would be the best for the team.

    Colon goes back to the rotation 100% for obvious reasons, he’s been 1B to CC all yr, if they put him in the pen there nuts

    Nova has the stuff that would actually play up out of the pen, he’s capable of a 95 plus mph FB in short burst and he would have to use a 3rd pitch like he’s stuggled to find all yr. I want him to stay in the rotation but if everyones healthy he’s probably the least effective starter and would could have the bigger effect on the BP over garcia

  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    I think you actually overestimate Brian Gordon’s chance to stick in the pen. In fact, if Colon’s simulated game goes fine tomorrow, I think Brian Gordon’s days in pinstripes are over. Colon will slot into the rotation next weekend, and Gordon will be sent back down to AAA.

  • mt

    Will they Yanks let Colon start in Citi Field where he has to bat?

    I would let Gordon start at Citi Field and then have Colon start against Tampa Bay.

    Yes, it means one more start for Gordon but I think they should be extra careful with Colon.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Colon >>> Gordon in terms of pitching. It’s a no-brainer to start Colon as soon as possible.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Nothing about Colon is sexy but Hannah makes us see the 2 seamer in a different light.

    Great work!

  • Charles

    The thing with Nova/Garcia going to the pen is that Garcia would get lit up as a reliever, you can’t come in for 1-2 innings with a 86 mph fastball and expect batters to chase junk. Thats why I think Nova would make a better 1-2 inning middle reliever, his fastball would probably be 93-94 and with his curveball he could be pretty effective.

  • Hogan

    Edit your content. Couldn’t get beyond Hughes section.

  • Cuso

    I can’t believe that there are still idiots in this world that believe Ian Kennedy’s April-June 2011 translates into a lost Messiah.

    Talk to me in September, braniacs.

    • fubar

      And what Curtis Granderson has been doing for nearly a full year now is better than what IPK is doing for Arizona. He’s been the best hitter on the best offense, all while playing a more than serviceable center field. I’ll take Granderson and Hughes over IPK and Austin Jackson any day of the week.

  • Duke The Dumpster

    These percentages are not mathematically possible unless you add a “other” category and give it a 25% chance of being chosen.

  • BigLoving

    I wish the yankees had the cajones to throw Burnett in the pen