Phil Hughes to the bullpen, for the right reasons

Posada, Hughes turn back the clock in win over Rays
Game rained out, will be made up in September

Earlier this week, Joe spent some time discussing the possibility of  sending A.J. Burnett to the bullpen, and how it may be a good idea so long as it’s done for the appropriate reasons.  The basic gist of the article was that if Burnett was to be transitioned the bullpen, it shouldn’t simply be resultant of a reactive angst-induced fit from his recent performance implosions, but rather because it may actually be more conducive to A.J.’s stamina and abilities going forward.

It became fairly obvious after watching yesterday’s match against the Rays, that the same discussion will have to be had regarding Phil Hughes.  As a result of of Phil’s past few starts (in addition to Nova’s rather surprising overall production), the Yankees have found themselves in a rather envious plight, that is to say they have too many starting pitching options.  Hughe’s role with the team for the remainder of the season will have to be defined, and I suspect this decision will occur in the next couple days (if it hasn’t already).

However, just as there are correct and incorrect reasons for transitioning A.J., so are there correct and incorrect reasons for shuffling Phil.  I have heard plenty of comments along the lines of, “Phil should be in the starting rotation because he’s not a sporadic pitcher with issues stemming from a lack of mental fortitude’ named A.J.”  Similarly, there’s the topic of Burnett’s contract, as Joe astutely notes.

With more than two years left on his deal, Burnett is not going anywhere. The Yankees are not DFAing him, nor are they trading him. That leaves them with limited options. They’ve taken the path of least resistance, which is to continue trotting him out there and hoping for the best. But as has become apparent in the past two seasons, his best might not be enough. He’s been good at times, but he hasn’t sustained his success for any long stretch.

Putting superficial diagnoses of A.J.’s makeup aside, in an ideal world, Hughes would not have his role determined merely by the fact that A.J. is an expensive (albeit ineffective) member of the rotation.  Although Burnett is paid as “a number two guy,” this does not mean does not mean he should be treated as such if performance dictates otherwise (which is the case, I believe, given A.J.’s role on the playoff roster).  Conversely Hughes should not, by default, have his responsibilities influenced by A.J.’s production; rather, whatever path is chosen or Phil should be merited by his own results and ability.

Now, for all intents and purposes, Hughes has shown relatively steady improvement since coming back from the disabled list (although that Oakland start is a bit of an eyesore).  Consider Phil’s game log since returning.  Note: the table excludes yesterday’s results.

Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD Exited
1 104 3 Apr 3 NYY DET L,7-10 GS-4 L(0-1) 4.0 5 5 5 2 1 2 0 11.25 19 90 58 15 2 3 13 1 4t 3 out d1
2 105 7 Apr 8 NYY @ BOS L,6-9 GS-2 2.0 7 6 6 2 0 1 0 16.50 14 47 29 8 1 5 7 3 2b 3 out d3
3 106 11 Apr 14 NYY BAL W,6-5 GS-5 4.1 7 5 5 0 2 1 0 13.94 20 70 51 14 4 4 14 4 5t -2- 1 out d4
July Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD Exited
4 107 85 Jul 6 NYY @ CLE L,3-5 GS-5 L(0-2) 5.0 6 2 2 2 2 0 2 10.57 25 87 57 14 2 7 12 6 5b 3 out d2
5 108 92 Jul 17 NYY @ TOR W,7-2 GS-6 W(1-2) 6.0 4 2 2 2 5 0 0 8.44 24 80 51 13 8 3 14 3 6b 3 out a3
6 109 97 Jul 22 NYY OAK W,17-7 GS-5 4.1 9 7 7 4 3 1 1 9.47 27 98 66 29 4 9 10 5 5t 123 1 out a9
7 110 102 Jul 27 NYY SEA L,2-9 GS-6 L(1-3) 6.0 9 2 2 1 3 0 0 8.24 26 101 65 11 9 7 15 5 6t 3 out d1
August Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD Exited
8 111 108 Aug 2 NYY @ CHW W,6-0 SHO(6) W(2-3) 6.0 3 0 0 0 4 0 0 6.93 20 65 48 16 5 9 7 0 6b 3 out a4
9 112 113 Aug 7 NYY @ BOS L,2-3 10-GF(10) L(2-4) 0.1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 7.11 4 13 6 3 0 0 3 1 10b end d 1
NYY 38.0 52 30 30 14 20 5 3 7.11 179
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/14/2011.

Phil had a decent start against Toronto (who probably posed the biggest challenge offensively in terms of opponents faced). The outcome against Seattle (two ER) was good although he did surrender nine hits in the process.  As for Chicago and Tampa Bay, the overall performance was much more satisfactory in all regards.  Hughes’ strikeout and walk ratios were heading in the right direction, his pitch selection was sufficiently mixed, and he was showing better efficiency with his “out pitch.”  Of course, one could certainly make the argument that neither of these clubs are particularly potent.

Yet, is a handful of games enough to warrant a starting rotation spot?  If Yankee Brass feels that Hughes has fully recovered and can sustain these performances going forward, than the answer is unequivocally yes.  A productive starting pitcher is just more valuable to the team.  There’s also the argument to be made that this gives the team the best chance of winning every fifth day.

Realistically speaking however, there’s a very real chance that Hughes will head back to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.  We can pretty much predict the reason for such a shift; well, at least we can predict the reason that will be publicly provided.  Either Cashman or Girardi will say something along the lines that Phil’s stuff will be more effective in the bullpen for the remainder of the season (as proven by his prior experience there).  If we’re “lucky,” we may even hear that an expected uptick in velocity will occur.

This is not the correct reason for this outcome though (at least in my eyes).  I won’t mind Hughes being sent to relief if the team’s rationale is that the postseason is rapidly approaching and the starting rotation for the playoffs doesn’t include Hughes anyway.  Because of the “win now” nature of the organization, I can somewhat rationalize beefing up the bullpen and prolonging Hughes development if it means another potential World Series championship. Also, given Hughes’ shoulder fatigue, it may make sense to limit him down the stretch for the sake of preserving his arm for next year and beyond.

Posada, Hughes turn back the clock in win over Rays
Game rained out, will be made up in September

    This is crap. AJ Burnett is a medicore Pitcher at best and a trip to the bullpen might wake him up.

    • Joel

      Mediocre at best is being rather charitable for a so called number 2 started that hasn’t won since the beginning of July

  • Rich in NJ

    Given Colon’s fragility, Garcia’s less than overpowering stuff, and the lingering uncertainty that Nova’s slider will be consistent enough to raise his K rates (AJ is so consistently inconsistent, I’m leaving him out of the discussion), there is now a reasonable chance that Hughes could be one of the three or four starters who give them the best chance of winning in the postseason. To foreclose that possibility now seems incredibly short-sighted.

    • nsalem

      There are many great pitchers in the Hall of Fame without great K Rates.

    • MikeD

      I want to see Nova’s swing-and-miss rate increase, but he has very good velocity and movement, and is able to generate ground balls. He is showing he can be a winner without a high K rate, which I expect will also increase with more MLB experience.

      As of right now, neither AJ or Hughes would be in the postseason starting rotation if it started today.

  • Tim

    If I were in charge of the postseason pithcing staff right now, I would set them up this way:

    1. CC
    2. Garcia
    3. Nova
    4. Hughes
    5. Colon

    No way no how does Burnett come close to a playoff game, he shouldn’t even sniff a playoff game.

    • Matt Warden

      Agreed about A.J. Given his utilization last postseason, I’d say the team agrees with you too.

      However, as for your postseason rotation, there really isn’t a need for 5 starting pitchers. In 2009, the team got away with a three man staff. In 2010, and this year with any luck, they’ll be able to make do with a four man combination.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      I’d go CC/Colon/Garcia/Nova

      • Joel

        Maybe yes, maybe no. If Hughes stays in the rotation and continues to improve, then he should replace Garcia.

    • FIPster Doofus

      Colon fifth? He’s the second-best starter on the team.

    • MikeD

      You’ve taken the second-best starter on the team and made him fifth so he doesn’t even pitch!

      Colon is probably the number two.

      Hughes has improved, but still hasn’t shown enough to be ahead of CC, Colon, Garcia or Nova. If he makes the postseason roster, he will be in the pen, and AJ won’t even make the postseason roster. Still over six weeks to go, though, so subject to change.

  • Matt Warden

    Heh, apparently I didn’t do the best job of articulating my stance. Folks, realize there is a difference in what I’d like to see happen, and what I believe will actually happen.

    I’d love to Hughes to remain in the rotation to the same degree I’d love for the team to consider shifting A.J. to the bullpen, but I just don’t see it happening. T

    My point is that if the team chooses to move Phil to the bullpen (or A.J. for that matter), the reasons for doing so should make sense rather than just being reactionary knee-jerk moves.

    For Hughes, as I clearly (although not clearly enough apparently) note in the post, if the team thinks his stuff and health are best suited for the starting rotation HE SHOULD ABSOLUTELY REMAIN THERE as that will provide the maximum value to the team. If they insist on moving him though, I want a reason that is more substantial then, “his velocity will be better in the bullpen.”

    If Hughes has to be moved, I can at least buy into the fact that the team is making a move that it feels is most effective for postseason play. I may disagree with it, but I’ll at least understand it.

    • Rich in NJ

      But they have the 7th-9th covered with Soriano, DRob, and Mo. They have Boone (and maybe Banuelos) for LHB and Wade for RHB and less than high leverage situations. That pen seems far more stacked to me than the rotation. So I don’t see how Hughes in the pen makes them more effective for postseason play. It seems so off that, unlike you, I don’t understand it.

    • Steve S.

      The way I see it the whole reason NOT to move Hughes to the pen is for the post season. They have plenty of arms in the pen, but are starving for a legit #2 starter. Phil could be that guy, but if you move him to the pen you’ll lose him as an option since his arm won’t be stretched out for October.

  • V

    If Hughes goes to the bullpen, he ends 2011 with how many innings? 70-85, tops? (14 in minors, 44 in majors, 12-22 in bullpen, 0-5 in postseason).

    What does that do to 2012? You can’t expect 200 innings, at least not without a second-half disaster like 2010, IMO. Pitchers traditionally aren’t all that good at going 175 to 75 to 200 without significant injury risk. If 2012 is limited, then 2013 likely will also.

    I just personally think ‘Hughes to the bullpen’ is the same type of idiotic move this team has decided to make in the past (re: Joba) that has not served them well. (still pissed they didn’t at least trade Joba if all they saw him as was a bullpen arm).

    • D-Lite

      I agree with the innings being critical. Injury or not, the guy will never make it as a starter if he keeps getting knocked down by innings limits. Let him work it out for the rest of the season, hope he has enough for the postseason, then do what you can to keep him on pace for next year by adding on some innings somewhere. He needs to get on and stay on a starter’s schedule or we’ll never see him realize his potential.

    • Coolerking101

      +1. Burnett is not the future. If Hughes is the future (and I believe he is) u cannot take him out of the rotation. For the sake of his development and confidence he needs the innings this year, not to mention the playoff experience.

    • David, Jr.

      Hughes needs innings. A great point. The team does not need bullpen help at all. They have that completely covered. However, there is something that they could need which could be extremely important, which would be rotation insurance.

      Therefore, as strange as it seems, if Burnett is staying in the rotation the right thing would be for Hughes to have regular starts in AAA, which would keep him ready if needed for rotation insurance if something happened to one of the starters.

      • James

        They’re not going to need/be able to give him regular reps down in AAA. Come September 1st when the rosters expand they’ll be able to trot him out there in the MLB rotation. Given that we’re going to possibly have another rain out today and need to make another game up down the stretch, I think the 6 man rotation might stick around for another couple of weeks. In other news.. (and I haven’t checked his rest) has CC been pitching on extra rest? Could this be the reason for his lack of sharpness his last two outings?

    • MikeD

      If Hughes goes to the pen and ends the year with 70 or 80 innings, it will mean nothing to how many innings he can pitch in 2012.

  • Tim

    Whether Hughes goes to the bullpen or not, should NOT be a reason to allow Burnett a chance to pitch in the playoffs or not. IMO they should keep AJ off of the playoff roster at all costs.

  • Winston Smith

    Per Brian Cashman AJ Burnett’s 4 runs in 6 innings is a good outing against a contender. The Rays have the same record as the Angels so that means Phil Hughes’s outing yesterday was twice as good. So why would there be a good reason to send Hughes to the pen? There isn’t one. Stop mismanaging these young kids.

  • Winston Smith

    And now the game is rained out. Skip AJ and maintain the current rotation.

  • JohnC

    I thought the idea is to win as many games as possible. So you run your best 5 startig pitchers out there. Burnett is NOT one of those 5. So you tell him to suck it up and go to the pen and get yourself straightened out! They’ve had no trouble putting persoanl feeling aside when it comes to Posada, why can’t they do the same with Burnett? If he doesn’t like it, tell him to go home!

  • mattdamonwayans

    Don’t understand how Burnett factors into a “Win Now” mentality.

    • Steve S.

      Do you want to win now, or in October? If it’s now, Phil’s the man. If you want to have AJ (or Phil) as an option come October, you’re going to have to finesse this situation. They’re clearly delaying a decision, which is the right move.

  • Jerome S.

    The main difference between Burnett and Hughes is quite obviously age. Hughes is 25 with several years yet that he could develop whereas Burnett is 35 and he’s quite honestly not getting any better. That’s why Phil Hughes needs to stay in the rotation; staying in the rotation builds stamina, builds velocity, and as we all know practice makes perfect. Since the games are as insignificant as ever, I’m very comfortable with him starting.

    AJ is another matter; while his starts from here on out don’t really matter much, it also doesn’t matter that he stays in the rotation. Truthfully? I don’t give a fuck about AJ, until he blocks someone else more deserving from being in the rotation.

  • JohnC

    Thankfully, today’s game is rained out so we get a day reperieve from suffering through one of AJ’s starts.

  • Dave

    Why is everyone so easy on Hughes? The guy could barely break 90mph earlier this year for no apparent reason. Even with his recent outings, his ERA is still over 6. He won 18 games last year — but with an ERA over 4 (kinda like AJ’s last yr in Toronto). And since he’s come up he’s been high-maintenance himself — except that everyone makes excuses for him. Remember that mystery “hot spot” on his MRI — or his inability to read catcher’s signs at night b/c he needed glasses — or his new cutter — or slider — both gone now? His fastball velocity ranges wildly between 88-94. I’m not defending AJ at all, but stop acting like Hughes is a prodigy. No one calls him “Little Rocket” any longer. And Ian Kennedy — who everyone bailed out on no time — has developed into a better pitcher than Phil.
    And one more thing, it wasn’t only Joba who came into camp a little soft in the middle this year. Hughes was outta shape too — I guess he was too busy tweeting — and counting his 2.7 mil arbitration award — to prepare for the season properly. I guess we should forgive a 25 yr old for taking everything for granted, huh? NAAAHHHT.

    • 28 this year

      Ok, so we bailed out too early on Ian Kennedy and now you’re saying we should do the same to Phil Hughes. Go on, you make so much sense. BTW, it took Kennedy time to turn into what he is and he is doing it in the NL West. Giving Phil Hughes time would be learning from our mistakes in the past. The whole overweight crap, I don’t give a damn. CC is overweight but he is one of the best pitcher’s in the league. People come to camp in great shape and still suck. Joba was great this year. And perhaps this 25 year old finally realizes things aren’t for granted. Perhaps after all these injuries and complete failures, he has finally learned. People change.

      • Jorge

        We didn’t bail out on Ian Kennedy early. We traded him for an MVP Candidate. I like Ian Kennedy. I’d rather have Curtis Granderson.

        • Dave

          Austin Jackson was a big part of that deal as well — which you didn’t mention. Would you rather have put Hughes in that trade than Kennedy? I’m sure you could’ve gotten even more than Granderson if you included Hughes. Kennedy had little value when they traded him. Everyone knew that his future wouldn’t be with the Yankees. And if they thought that Kennedy would pitch for them, the way he pitches for the D-Backs, they NEVER would’ve traded him for Granderson — and Austin Jackson would be your centerfielder today.

        • 28 this year

          I agree with the Grandy trade of course. I am just referring to the overall look of Ian Kennedy as a failed guy. He wasn’t but that was the perception that he couldn’t handle it.

      • Dave

        Who said give up on him? Would it be crime to send Phil down to AAA to stay stretched out until the minor league season ends? Is it an insult to put him in the bullpen? Is it crazy to question the fact that is velocity strangely disappears? You don’t care about weight — and neither do I — but I do care about discipline and work ethic. (And CC lost weight this off-season to help with his knee.) Hughes shouldn’t have a strangle hold on a rotation spot — like he’s beyond question. He took a big step back this year. They bounced Ian Kennedy to AAA in a heartbeat — and threw 2 hitters down there like clockwork. Let’s see Hughes go down and maintain his fastball and blow away AAA (which has never done by the way — he doesn’t even have 90 innings in AAA — and he wasn’t dominant there either.)

        • The Big City of Dreams

          Hughes shouldn’t have a strangle hold on a rotation spot — like he’s beyond question.


          I wonder how he’ll be treated going into next season. This yr he was viewed as the number 2 guy behind CC but he stumbled out of the gate and was injured. Since coming off the DL he has put together some good starts. Does a strong finish lessen the concerns the Yankees have or do they upgrade the rotation through free agency and count Hughes as one of the guys in the mix for a rotation spot?

          • Dave

            As long as he has these bizarre fluctuations in fastball speed, I don’t think you can pencil him at the top any longer. I have no reason to believe he can sustain his stuff — b/c he never really has. Even in his “coming out” year, he was a different (much worse) pitcher in the 2nd half. Damon said “Phil Hughes has arrived” after 1 outing against Cleveland — but I’m still waiting. I view him the way I did two years ago. Is he a potential 2-type starter with 92-94 stuff — or a 4th starter type who needs to spot his 88-90 fastball perfectly in order to succeed — or a middle reliever who can’t pitch more than 75 innings a year? I still don’t know.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              Thanks for sharing your opinion I appreciate it.

    • Steve S.

      So you chide people for giving up on Kennedy, and then argue we should give up on Hughes.


      • Dave

        Uhh — you don’t. You made an assumption.

    • Jerome S.

      Suggesting that Phil Hughes spent the off-season lazing around, and that consequently had a negative effect on his performance, is both slanderous and libelous. Phil Hughes was highly valued because we knew he was going to get bigger. It’s not like he was going to be a stringy 21 year old forever. His size means added durability, not lethargy.

      • Steve S.

        Ummm….that’s not the first time I heard that. IIRC, the Yanks weren’t thrilled with Phil when he arrived in camp. It’s neither slanderous or libelous. You doth protest too much.

        • Jerome S.


          • Steve S.

            Its OK, we all miss stuff from time to time.

      • Dave

        It’s about attitude and work ethic. Maybe he thought that after winning 18 games, he was an established veteran who didn’t need to stay hungry. I didn’t say his shape led to his performance demise — but something did. And we can rule out the 1 in 1000000 circulation disorder that they were trying to blame it on. Why doesn’t it bother anyone that we still don’t know why he was throwing 88mph 4-seamers early this year? Perhaps he doesn’t have the durability to be a 200 inning starter with plus stuff. So, to ignore his mysterious loss of stuff at times — and pretend that he’s right on track — is preposterous. I guess Phil Hughes “is back” — but back from what? We still don’t know. And when will it happen again? If that happens again, what will be blamed next? The catcher? The mound is too soft? His cleats are too tight? How long will his leash be? Send him to AAA — lets see him give up 2 hits and K 11 in 7 innings like Nova did. Was it “giving up” on Nova to send him down? He’s proved far more in AAA than Hughes ever did. Nova earned his call up. He made it happen. Maybe Phil should learn from a prospect who wasn’t nearly as touted as he, that you have to prove yourself everyday. Remember Oliver Perez? He used to throw 95 — now he’s in AA. Nothing is guaranteed.

      • Hugh

        Can’t be slanderous AND libellous. Slander is spoken defamation while libel is defamation in written form. And are you suggesting Hughes was more valued to the Yankees than Kennedy because they could foresee he’d end up the fatter of the two?

        • Jerome S.

          CC Sabathia is paid in cheeseburgers I hear, so why not.

      • MikeD

        I think it’s unknown if Hughes arrived in camp out of shape, but I have heard and read those same rumors as Steve S. It doesn’t mean he was lazy if they are true, it just means he didn’t quite have the right conditioning program. He certainly wouln’t be the first young pitcher who believed his natural ability and youth can overcome all, as it has in the past.

        Visually, he did seem heavier and couple that with his unexplained loss of velocity, and it’s a fair question to ask, certainly not slanderous. Add in that the Yankees found nothing wrong with his arm and were able to correct a good part of the velocity issue over a couple a months of running, conditioning, long tossing and arm strengthening, etc. so it does seem that conditioning is a reasonable guess. The Yankees are not going to come out and say this, especially during the season. I would not be surprised if you hear more whispers about this during the off season and that Hughes comes to camp next year in better shape than this season.

        The rumors could be wrong, but my guess is it was conditioning related. If so, let’s chalk it up to Hughes’ learning and development on what it takes to be a successful MLB pitcher as I don’t think it’ll happen again. I’m optimistic that 2012 is going to be his best year to date, no matter if he finishes 2011 in the pen or the rotation.

  • Steve S.

    They seem to be avoiding having to make this decision with the “injury” to Freddy Garcia, one which nobody heard about before last night’s game. They have an eye toward the playoffs, and right now Phil is throwing the ball better (as a starter) than AJ is. Privately, I’m sure they’re hopping this situation solves itself via either injury or ineffectiveness. But as we’ve seen, ineffectiveness won’t be enough to get AJ bounced from the starting 5. As fans I know that’s frustrating, you don’t care about contract or personal issues, just putting the best team out on the field. But teams have to deal with those things.

    Look at what happened to Nova when he was demoted. He was pitching better than most of their other starters, but was the only one who had options. Its not always about performance. At least not during the regular season, come October its a pure meritocracy. But with an 8 game lead in the WC, you have the luxury of running AJ out there in the hope he gets on a good run.

    • Matt Warden

      Great points, Steve.

    • Will

      To your last point,

      AJ at his best can shut down any lineup—we’ve seen that, however sporadically, over his time with the Yankees.

      Phil Hughes at his best isn’t really a shut down pitcher (ok, he’s had two shutdown starts in his career)—he gives up a ton of hard hit outs and often has problems throwing put-away pitches.

      That’s why, even after his horrendous year last year, AJ came much closer to winning a game against a hot Texas lineup in the ALCS than Hughes did. And it’s why AJ should stay in the rotation, because if he manages to iron out his flyball issues and his tiring early issues, he is a better bet in October than Phil.

  • Jorge


    I don’t see you really making any argument here, only “well maybe he should, and maybe he shouldn’t and, either way, there’s probably a justifiable reason for each!”

    Other than a stretch in which, yes, he was incredibly strong as a reliever, Phil Hughes has been a starting pitcher his entire career. He suffered shoulder fatigue which may have begun the second half of last season, but was more pronounced into this season, and it didn’t come out of leftfield. He was, if I remember correctly, the most likely pitcher to suffer from “The Verducci Effect,” and we were talking about his innings count during the stretch run all last season. Plenty of young pitchers this year around the league who are solid pitchers, but had high innings counts last season, have had poor seasons. Hughes took time off, had a cortisone shot and, while he hasn’t looked 100% like his 2010 first-half self yet, looks like he’s recovering just fine. Why would the solution be anything but “allow him to build on his improvement?” The cries of him being permanently broken, busted, etc., come from the same “what have you done for me lately?” crowd that honestly believes releasing Jorge Posada is a viable option for this team. In other words, those cries should be ignored, if not pointed and laughed at.

    AJ Burnett is a pitched in his mid-30’s who, yes, is making a ton of money, but he’s always been the guy you see on the mound. Bouts of brilliance marred by moments in which he has no idea where the ball is going and winds up costing his team. Since his stuff is somewhat diminished due to age, the room for error is even less. Unless he attends the Mike Mussina/Freddy Garcia school of “reinventing yourself as pitcher” (which, IMO, he’d fail at), this isn’t going to get better. I like the guy. I like the pies. I like the way he puts the blame on his own shoulders every time. This isn’t going to get better. The team, and him, should think about what the next few years of his career are realistically going to look like.

    • Matt Warden

      “If Yankee Brass feels that Hughes has fully recovered and [Phil] can sustain these performances going forward, than the answer is unequivocally yes [he should stay in the rotation]. A productive starting pitcher is just more valuable to the team.”

      I don’t know how that’s being misinterpreted. At no point did I say AJ > Phil, and at no point did I say I prefer Phil in the bullpen.

      My argument is that there are correct reasons for making a decision such as shuffling Phil to the bullpen (just as there are correct reasons for shuffling AJ) as opposed to reactionary responses, and I hope they are considered.

      • Jorge

        You responded to the wrong post.

  • Dave the Ox

    Read this in full. Not sure what I’m supposed to take away from it, though.

  • dean

    There are no right reasons for choosing a 34 year old pitcher that is worse than a 25 year old pitcher…..and therefore there are no right reasons for putting Hughes in the pen in favor of AJ.

    • Steve H

      Even if it’s not that simple (it’s not), I don’t know why everyone is ready to proclaim Hughes as definitively better than AJ right now.

      • dean

        Because he was much better last year and has been better this year after coming off the DL when his stuff returned.

        • Steve H

          He’s still not missing many bats, he’s a much bigger injury risk than AJ, and AJ’s last start just 2 weeks ago against Baltimore was far better than anything Hughes has done. I’m not saying AJ is definitively better than Hughes either, but there’s certainly no way to say one is better than the other.

  • Mister D

    I’d be more comfortable sending HUghes to the pen if 1) he actually performed well out of the pen in bullpen, 2) if it was more clear that we needed a 6th inning guy more than a 4th starter, 3) if we weren’t planning on putting him back in the rotation, and 4) if we had any reason to think AJ will be starting in the postseason.

    So far, none of these things appears to be true.

    Yes, there is a good chance he will end up in the bullpen in the postseason, but so too Burnett. I could argue Burnett then would need the month of bullpen experience more than Hughes does.

    As for innings, it was ramping up his innings last year that likely led to his poor second half in 2010 and his dead arm this year. He already missed half the season – I’d be much rather he build up as many innings as he can for the remainder of this season, so we don’t run into similar problems in the future.

    Lastly, is anyone yet rock steady on the CC-Colon-Garcia-Nova rotation come October? Yes, the closer we get to the end of the season, the less likely it is we will see our 2-4 starters crap out, but is anyone willing to bank on it?

    Let’s be honest, the Yankees have 5 question marks in their six man rotation. Hughes and Burnett currently appear to be the two biggest ones, but I don’t think we’ve seen enough to say with confidence who has been better, or which will give us the best chance to win going forward.

    Fortunately, Ms Garcia let Freddy cut the onions yesterday, which should give us at least one more look at both. Then we have a double header next week, and I believe one the week after. That should allow us to give us 2-3 more looks at both pitchers before having to make the decision.

  • jason

    good post. title was definitely misleading though. I thought you were making a case for Hughes to the bullpen and I thought “Okay, let’s hear what this idiot has to say.” Glad it wasn’t though.

    • Matt Warden

      Appreciate it, Jason. Yeah, in retrospect I should have probably chosen another title.

  • Bronx Byte

    Phil Hughes is showing good signs going forward. Burnett rarely has a game when he doesn’t implode when the team provides him with a cushion of runs to work with.
    There’s nothing etched in stone that Burnett has to be on the playoff roster.

  •!/KChinmaster KenC

    If they move him to the pen, get ready for joba 2.0

    • Troll Killer

      He going for long relief, no such 6 inning guy exists.

      / grammarfailonmypart’d

  • Steve S.

    We should remind ourselves that Hughes is just now getting into midseason form. They restarted the clock for him, shutting him down in May and June and building him back up for a July return. When he came back, it was April for him while all of the batters he was facing were playing all year. Just now, over the past few starts Phil has really looked good, looked strong and the results have followed.

    The calendar may say August, but as far as Phil’s concerned its May 15th. First half Phil FTW, baby.

  • burbankbogey

    Good post. If you put AJ’s comparables next to Hughs for the past month and remove the names there is little doubt who you give the ball to.

    • Steve S.

      Can you imagine running a starting rotation (esp a veteran rotation) where everyone has their spot judged on a start by start basis?

      I can’t.

      • MikeD

        So you’re arguing in favor of AJ, because that line of thinking can be used to support AJ.

  • CMP

    The smart move for the short and long run is Hughes in the rotation. Hughes is the better option to start right now and its better for his long term development to leave him in the rotation. No one would argue the fact that AJ is the Yankees 6th best starter now. 2 guys would have to go down for him to be needed in the rotation for the playoffs. The Yankees don’t need to worry about AJ this year because the chances that they’re gonna need him to pitch important innings are slim.

    Moving forward , the Yankees have lots of starting pitching options internally and in free agency. Maybe AJ can become a lights out reliever letting it fly for an inning or 2 and they can get something out of him over the next 2 years.

    The only reason to leave him in the rotation is Cashman saving face for this huge waste of money.

  • Hardy

    I think the best solution would be to send Hughes down to AAA. That would accomplish a couple of things:

    1) All six current starters could stay in that role and would be available for the second half in september with 14 games in 13 days and a possible postseason run.

    2) It would not hinder Hughes development.

    3) It would free up a roster spot for an additional bench player.

    • Jorge

      Phil Hughes has shown over and over again he has nothing to prove in AAA. This is not about development. This is about coming back from the highest innings total he’s ever pitched and being able to pitch at top form over the course of a season.

      • Hardy

        Unfortunately, Phil Hughes hasn’t proven that he is one of the five best starters for the Yankees in 2011. I agree with your point about pitching over a full season and therefore argue that he should start in AAA over being in the bullpen in the majors.

        As an aside, I think sending down Nova to AAA would accomplish exactly the same thing.

      • Dave

        Silly. Hughes may have nothing to prove in AA — but he only logged 77 innings in AAA — with a 3.51 era. He was always rushed. They never let him get a good long stretch of consecutive starts at that level.

        Compare to Nova – he has 228 innings at AAA. And the last 160 of those innings have been dominant. Hughes never dominated AAA over 15-20 starts. Good start here or there — some rehab innings but he never got rolling in AAA. He has a total of 14 starts at AAA spread out over 3 different seasons — and his first 6 starts there were horrible with an era pushing 6.00.

  • Brandon

    Compare these 2 players, from the beginning of July:

    Player A (3-3): 33.2 IP 37 H 16 R/ER 11 BB 26 K 4.28 ERA 1.43 WHIP

    Player B (0-3): 42 IP 46 H 29 R 28 ER 21 BB 44 K 6.00 ERA 1.60 WHIP

    Player A has had 6 starts, while player B has had 7. In 5 of player A’s 6 starts, he has given up 2 runs or less. The lowest run total given up by Player B since the start of July is 3. He has done that 3 times. Player A has come in relief once, those stats incurred in the appearance are included.

    You would rather have Player A in your rotation than Player B, since A has been much more successful, correct?

    A > B since the beginning of July
    Player A is Phil Hughes.
    Player B is AJ Burnett
    Therefore, by substitution, Phil Hughes > AJ Burnett since the beginning of July

    In conclusion, short term, Hughes deserves to be in the rotation more than Burnett. Looking into the future, who should be in the rotation? Hughes, obviously. Phil Hughes should be in the rotation over AJ Burnett.

    • Jerome S.

      The thing is, we don’t make decisions based on the short term. While I agree that Hughes is, overall, better than AJ, and a better rotation candidate than AJ, this is not why. It’s like calling Dan Uggla the MVP, or demoting Mo because of three shitty outings.

      I’m not in the FO. There are a million factors that you and I simply can’t quantify; AJ’s contract, Hughes’s development curve… I trust their judgement in these matters because they have all the facts laid out and quite frankly, we don’t.

      So to reiterate, Hughes is better than AJ, especially in the short term. I think he should be in the rotation. You think he should be in the rotation. But, should he actually be in the rotation?

    • Hardy

      You can’t just choose arbitrary endpoints and stats to make your points. Example:

      Compare these 2 players, from the beginning of the season:

      Player A: 148.2 IP 7.81 K/9 47.9 GB% 6.2 IP/GS 3.94 xFIP

      Player B: 44.0 IP 5.32 K/9 31.8 GB% 4.9 IP/GS 4.96 xFIP

      Player A has had 24 starts, while player B has had 9. In 11 of player A’s 24 starts, he struck out 6 batters or more. The highest strikeout game by Player B since the start of the season is 6. He has done that once. Player B has come in relief once, those stats incurred in the appearance are included.

      You would rather have Player A in your rotation than Player B, since A has been much more successful, correct?

      A > B since the beginning of the season.
      Player A is AJ Burnett.
      Player B is Phil Hughes.
      Therefore, by substitution, AJ Burnett > Phil Hughes since the beginning of the season.

      In conclusion, short term, Burnett deserves to be in the rotation more than Hughes. Looking into the future, who should be in the rotation? Hughes, maybe. AJ Burnett should be in the rotation over Phil Hughes, while Hughes should go to AAA to continue his development.

      • Jetrer

        the only way you get to Burnett over Hughes though is based on Hughes performance when he was clearly hurt early in the season.
        Yes, healthy AJ > injured Hughes, but Healthy Hughes was much better than AJ last season, and has been much better than AJ this season
        You don’t need arbitrary endpoints to come to that conclusion, you just need to compare both pitchers when they are healthy

        • Hardy

          I was mostly making a general point.

          However, I think you overstate your point about the respective 2011 performance when healthy.
          Here are the stats: (entire season for Burnett, since coming from DL for Hughes and we’ll discard Hughes’ relief appearence)

          Pitcher A: 5.6 IP/GS 6.21 K/9 2.07 BB/9 36.8 GB% 41.5 FB% 21.7 LD%

          Pitcher B: 6.2 IP/GS 7.81 K/9 4.00 BB/9 47.9 GB% 34.1 FB% 18.0 LD%

          • Jetrer

            a bit closer than I thought, but Hughes 1 horrid appearance skews his numbers more than AJ’s because Hughes has only 6 starts, and really its unfair of me to base anything on only 6 starts, but to expand the sample and compare the two when healthy going back to last season, Hughes has been much better, and Hughes has been improving over his last couple of starts, AJ has been getting progressively worse as the season has gone on

            • Hardy

              Yeah, but if we take out Hughes’ worst start this year and instead include the best year of his career and the worst year of Burnett’s career we again have arbitrary endpoints.

  • Simon B.

    IMO, as mediocre as Burnett has been, I think he’s still a better bet _this year_ than Hughes.

    Hughes is a fan favorite, and everybody loves him yeah, but he has been awful this year—not just results, but stuff. His last two starts doesn’t change that, and Burnett has shown better.

  • MikeD

    The Hughes love coupled with the AJ hate here is absurd. The world does not end if AJ stays in the rotation and Hughes goes to the pen. It does not mean Hughes’ development will be hurt or that he is in the pen forever. It will be a simple roster move. As of now, Hughes is going to be on the postseason roster and AJ is not. Hughes will be in the pen.

    Cashman’s comments on this the other day were spot on.

    • Jetrer

      The problem with that is that Hughes still has a chance to emerge as a member of the postseason rotation. A postseason starter is much more valuable than having a better sixth inning guy. It seems pretty clear that AJ has no chance of being better than a postseason 4th starter, if he makes the rotation at all. Hughes still has a chance to earn as high as #2 or #3 starter. Given that potential, and AJ’s lack thereof, it seems that it would be a wasted opportunity to just relegate Hughes to Sixth Inning Guy or long man duties now. Let him start until about Sept. 10, and if it doesn’t appear that he will be a postseason starter by then, he would still have plenty of time to transition to the bullpen before the playoffs.

      • CMP

        Agree. It would be one thing to move Hughes to the pen if you were making room for someone who has pitched well and was expected to start in the postseason like Colon or Garcia.

        AJ has neither pitched well this season or last and isn’t gonna start in the postseason unless a couple of starters goes down so basically AJ isn’t a good enough reason to pull Hughes from the rotation.

        • Simon B.

          Furthermore, I don’t know if we can say that Hughes was “clearly hurt” at the beginning of the season. We still have no idea what happened there.

          It sounds like to me that Hughes has just continued to have stamina and strength problems. They pulled him out while continuing to strengthen his arm without hurting the big league team with Wang 2009-esque type starts.

  • Drew

    If they move Hughes to the pen I’ll rip out my f*cking hair.

    • MikeD

      Don’t do that; it might not grow back! You can live with Hughes in the bullpen for six weeks.

  • Paul Tenny

    This debate is an excuse to give pundits something to talk about. Nothing more. The choice isn’t a choice, it’s Hughes. End of story.

    Runs allowed in their last seven appearances:

    Hughes: 2, 2, 7, 2, 0, 1, 2 (16 total)
    Burnett: 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 7, 4 (28 total)

    In their last four for the whole staff except Sabathia:

    Garcia: 2.15 ERA (3-0, 6 earned runs)
    Hughes: 2.48 ERA (2-2, 5 earned runs)
    Nova: 2.50 ERA (4-0, 7 earned runs)
    Colon: 3.24 ERA (2-0, 8 earned runs)
    Burnett: 6.75 ERA (0-2, 18 earned runs)

    Phil Hughes starts. A.J. can mop the floor for all he’s worth.

    • Hardy

      Sabathia: 4.66 ERA (2-2, 15 earned runs)

      Obviously not in the playoff rotation, right?

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