Sorry, folks, but you’re here a little early

Opening Day rotation order taking shape
Yankees sign Alex Smith out of indy league

We all miss baseball. Deeply. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be reading and writing about it. It has been more than four months since we last saw baseball that counts. As such, we can take comfort in early spring training games. It’s easier than ever, too. The Yankees have played live on television three times already, and will continue to do so frequently throughout the spring. In addition, beat writers flood twitter with a bevy of updates letting us know the latest happenings in camp.

We can, in other words, cling to baseball to a greater degree than ever before. That’s wonderful from an emotional standpoint. But from an analysis standpoint, let’s agree to leave things alone until the players are further along in the process.

There’s a lot at stake in Yankees’ camp. There’s the future of the pitching rotation. Michael Pineda has already come under the microscope. Phil Hughes, too, will face intense scrutiny as he competes for a rotation spot. Every time they take the mound they’ll be the centers of attention. Afterwards, the media will pick apart every little detail, as though it were a regular season, or even postseason, performance. It’s not that we should ignore any of this information. Instead, it’s that we should approach it knowing that these players aren’t even close to full speed.

Look at Pineda, for example. Before his start yesterday he came under fire for issues that we’d known about for weeks, if not months. Yet his performance looked just fine, as he retired six in a row after allowing a leadoff hit. The media in general praised him. But then reports surfaced of his relatively low velocity, and the conversation turned on a button.

Today’s focus was Hughes, who needs a big year to regain some of the luster that wore off last season. The good news? He hit 93 todaymultiple times. The bad? He allowed four hits while recording just four outs, reaching his pitch count before his two innings were up. You can take that information any way you’d like, but I hope it’s any way but seriously. There’s too much time left before the season starts to make too much of anything right now.

The information we’re learning now might come in handy in the future. If Pineda’s velocity remains low, it will absolutely become a concern. If Hughes continues to throw well, but remains hittable, it will become a hindrance to his cracking the rotation. But right now, at this very moment, there’s not much we can do with this information. After all, they’re playing games that don’t count for a reason. At least for now, let’s continue to remember that they don’t count. There will come a time when judgements and analysis will become necessary. But in early March, when the Yankees haven’t even completed one turn through the rotation? That’s not the time.

Opening Day rotation order taking shape
Yankees sign Alex Smith out of indy league
  • jay destro

    the more information there is, the easier it is to make it seem negative.

    this is the scary part of the modern sports news cycle, as it never seems to end, people focus on the potential negatives in order to gain attention.

    • Gonzo

      I disagree, but to each his own.

      • jayd808

        Exactly. I’m gripped by zoilo fever myself.

        • Armonastraight

          No problem–he’s been a prospect for last 3 seasons. Yankee fans ought to have hope for bright & young hopefuls.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It’s the nature of the 24/7 news cycle. It’s the nature of sports talk radio. It’s the nature of a bunch of things.

      People want to interact. People want to post SOMETHING. So we nitpick and, yes, we create shit when there’s nothing to create and engage in hair-splitting arguments. There are plenty of times where I respond to someone with “was it really worth it to respond to that?” with the irony, of course, being that I just responded as well.

      In the end, it is what it is, and we live in era where we’re able to consume any and all information at anytime. I’d rather have this than have my only knowledge of the Yankee farm system be a picture of Vic Mata at the end of the Yankee yearbook.

    • dalelama

      As long as our current roster of hitters choke in the post season none of this matters one bit.

  • Gonzo

    I think my gut feeling is that as long as Hughes throws at a respectable velocity, he’s the 5th starter. And that’s even if he gets slapped around all ST.

    Pineda-gate was interesting on twitter. Everyone got all up in arms.

    • Urban

      I never even heard about Pineda’s velocity until just now. The 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, Twitter, etc. have brought us a lot of good, but sometimes a lot of bad.

      • Gonzo

        I think the visceral reactions are what’s making it a bigger deal than it is honestly.

        Time will tell.

      • DM

        Much ado about nothing. I’ve watched him pitch a few times. He definitely wasn’t letting it go; and he shouldn’t at this point. His motion during those innings looked more like a prolonged set of warm up pitches.

  • Jesse


  • A.D.

    For Pineda I actually thought 91, first time out, isn’t too shabby.

    For Hughes I’d imagine he’s a bit ahead of the game since he came to camp fairly early, but nice that he can already since that didn’t happen pre-DL last year

    • CP

      It was reported as 91 for his cutter and 86 for his splitter. That are both very respectable. Of course, there’s really no baseline to compare to for him since Pitch f/x has him throwing no cutters or splitters last year.

  • Biscuit Pants

    Thanks for this. I am going to send this article to everyone I know that has kneejerk reactions to spring training games. I read the Pineda story on ESPNNY, and could barely stop sighing or rolling my eyes at nearly every line. He’s thrown 2 innings of spring training ball (aside from all the bullpens, simulations etc.). There’s a reason it’s called spring training. If he’s still 90/91 in late April(completely arbitrary date), then we can start worrying.

    • Gonzo

      I didn’t think Marchand’s tiny piece in ESPN NY was out of line at all. It’s the reaction to it that’s hilarious to me.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Velocity means more for Phil because his location and off speed stuff is/has been sub-par. I like Freddy over Phil if Phil can’t throw 93 (or higher) mph fbs consistently. “Getting over Phil” is gonna be hard for some but putting our best starters out there trumps everything.

    • DM


    • Havok9120

      Does velocity mean more for Phil? Of course. We all know this. The question is, does it matter more now?

      Sure it does. But when the baseline is “it doesn’t matter at all” for Pineda, CC, et al, saying it matters MORE shouldn’t mean anything.

      Its 1.1 innings. Under a SPRING TRAINING GUN on March Sixth. I trust my eyes more at this point. Of course, I didn’t see him pitch….

  • Dropped Third

    Hughes is not “pitching” at this point as much as he is trying to harness his stuff and work on some things he might have learned over the offseason. I wouldn’t look all that much into the numbers he puts up as much as I would what the yankees and scouts are saying about his stuff.

    Also you can not expect Pineda to stay in the 88-91 mph range. It’s Pineda’s first outing of the spring and it was two freaking innings. I also talked to a couple of my buddy’s who are M’s fans and they say his velocity increases as the game wears on. Just wondering but is there any statistcal evidence that supports this?

    • A.D.

      Dave Cameron did a piece on this at Fangraphs which discusses Pineda tinkering with his velocity depending on situation:

      • Dropped Third

        Wow good read thanks dude

    • Cris Pengiucci

      you can not expect Pineda to stay in the 88-91 mph range.

      Yes, it’s Spring Training, but personnaly I don’t care if his velocity doesn’t increase if the results are as they were yesterday (both of these situations are unlikely, however). I’m just happy to watch baseball again! More games!!!

  • Tom Q

    The only reason I’d worry this early about Phil is, it seems like ever since that game against the Red Sox in (I believe) June 2010, he’s been getting killed on pitch count. It felt that night like the Sox suddenly learned how to endlessly foul off strike two pitches, and word got around the league quickly — ever since, Phil has struggled to finish batters off. So, him going that many pitches, even in his first effort, strikes a chord because it’s exactly what has me most worried. (Analogy: if Chuck Knoblauch was still our 2nd baseman, and made two wild throws in two innings)

    • A.D.

      Yeah Phil got to that weird point where he couldn’t get people to swing and miss anymore, nor could he get soft contact in play for outs.

  • will

    biggest news of the day, someone finally got zoilo out still batting .750 though

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The league’s figured him out.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        He’ll never be a productive MLB player! Send him back to the minors! Trade for another outfielder! Re-sign Swisher! Panic!!!

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Zoilo is Spanish for “Kevin Maas.”

  • Matt DiBari

    Unless someone is actually injured or shows signs of being finished (bat speed, appallingly low velocity) I don’t give a damn about anything that happens in the interminable slog of Spring Training.

    • Slugger27

      what about hughes last year? the yankees wasted 3 games hoping tangible evidence observed in spring either wasn’t there or didn’t mean anything.

      • Havok9120


        What would your alternative have been? He wasn’t hurt that anyone (including Hughes) could tell. Send him down? Phantom DL stint without knowing the problem? The Yanks needed information, not those three games. One of which, I’ll remind you, we won.

        • DM

          You could’ve sent him down as a wake up call for coming in out of shape.

          “There’s a concern,” Girardi said. “The thing is, I’d seen him work very hard before. But yeah, it does question where their mindset is. Where’s their mindset?”

          It aint the flab, it’s the attitude that leads to the flab. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it happened after an 18-win season — and a big raise. Maybe he took some things for granted. Maybe he thought he had arrived so he didn’t need to bust his ass any longer. But there’s no room for that in Dodge.

          If he pitches poorly this ST and Freddy looks good, I’d use that last option rather than carrying him no matter what. There’s lots of AAA-tested arms in camp that should be given a shot to make the staff in some capacity. Take the best 11-12, if Hughes doesn’t make that cut, so be it. I’m sure we’ll need him and many other arms along the way. It’s a long season.

          • Havok9120

            By that reasoning we should have cut Jones, Garcia and Colon (all badly out of shape last year), and benched CC. Hell, Garcia should be cut THIS year.

            Until you KNOW something is a problem, and what’s causing it, you can’t address it properly. Trying leads to inefficient management long term problems. As for attitude….what attitude? Seriously, we (even I at times) assume he had it, but even that vague Girardi quote, the closest thing we ever heard about “attitude problems” is pretty darn non-specific and not damning at all. We know nothing about an attitude problem, and given the beat writers propensity to obsess about attitude, I’m thinking we would have. Instead we have speculation and slander.

            The question about what to do with him this season is a totally different one, one I haven’t made up my mind about and won’t until we’re much farther along in ST.

            • DM

              I do think there’s a difference between “cutting” and “optioning” — and a dramatic difference between your list and a Hughes, a 24 yr old starter coming off his 1st success. I’ll switch “outta shape” to worse shape than he was the year before — enough for people in the org to notice and point it out — even publicly. If CC came into camp at 350lb rather than his usual, you’d have a point. Phil didn’t prepare the same way in the off-season. Instead of staying hungry, he backed off. And if that doesn’t matter, why did he change his approach this year? There’s a confession embedded in that action. He’s on a mission now. He was on one before his big season. Something changed in between. It’s a valid question mark. And Girardi’s comment doesn’t seem vague to me at all. He got the point across without trashing him.

              • Havok9120

                But my point is, the only notion we had that “out of shape” mattered was a handful of ST appearances. We didn’t know it mattered for him. Did it appear from the outside that there was an issue? Sure. We can even assume it was a contributing factor. We could just as easily assume that he was hurt the whole time.

                My point it that we didn’t know, and either did the Yankees. The fact that he recovered so completely (look at his quotes this year about last year and his actions then), tells me that a “wake up call” beyond a year of failure and injury was not necessary. And “saving” two games in the name of hindsight really seems a bit silly to me. We needed information, information that would have been far more difficult to get if he’s facing some random club of triple and quadruple A players rather than the Red Sox. For all we know, he goes down and is serviceable (decent to bad, but not shelled) despite his troubles. After all, he had 5 years of decent to good MLB performance so he obviously knows how to pitch to some extent.

                What would happen then? We’d have to call him up and throw him to the wolves, just like we wound up doing only it uses an option and an extra month or so.

                • DM

                  Maybe I wasn’t clear. I’m not tying the two things with certainty at all. I’m just talking about a mindset — just like Girardi alluded to. I don’t know what Phil’s issue is. But he’s always had odd fluctuations in mph. Always. It may have been more consistently down for a longer period last year — but I don’t know why. I’m not on the injury bandwagon either. You’ll always find some inflammation in there. They sent him to get checked out for some rare condition as well — which he didn’t have. It’s still a mystery.

                  I’m not sure what you mean by “saving” two games above. But I do think there was a value in sending him down if the performance isn’t there due to the lack of velocity. I’d say the same now — esp early in the year when less pitching depth is utilized and you have other options. If Phil struggles again this ST, I’d rather Garcia start and Phil also start — but in the minors. That makes more sense to me then carrying him in the pen in April where he won’t get much work. Wouldn’t you feel better about him if he got 5 April starts, worked up his pitch count, monitored his velocity, and maybe got him on a roll again — or finding out that he can’t on the AAA level rather than in games that count?

                  But I do disagree with this statement:

                  “After all, he had 5 years of decent to good MLB performance so he obviously knows how to pitch to some extent. ”

                  He’s been worse than that, imo — and labeling it 5 yrs without looking at the details of the more downs than ups can be misleading. And I think he isn’t a savvy pitcher who gets it done without his stuff. His game is a power fast ball and curve — but often there isn’t much power in that fastball; and he’s lost without that. He’s not some pinpoint command/control artist — or an expert changer of speeds.

                  “What would happen then? We’d have to call him up and throw him to the wolves, just like we wound up doing only it uses an option and an extra month or so.”

                  Well if he doesn’t pitch well in AAA, you might have to concede that he isn’t that good for whatever reason. It won’t be about development any longer or high hopes. It might be over as that potential “front line starter” unless he can reinvent himself as heady control pitcher — or regain his stuff with a new role as a short reliever. The expectations of him would have to be radically changed.

                  The basic idea is this. If Phil stinks like he did last year, and his troubles continue with velocity related poor performance, I’m not going to carry him as some last or 2nd to last option in the pen where he won’t pitch much in April — with off days and the usual rain outs — esp if u have some other pitcher having a great ST who might do better in that role. I’d rather Phil start every 5th day in AAA and see what happens, then judge from there. Don’t you have to pitch well to make the team? It’s not like it’s been one blip last year. It’s been more performance issues with him than actual good performance. But for some reason the use of his option isn’t an “option” at all? It’s as if he has a spot somewhere on the big league staff locked up no matter how he performs. Has Phil really earned a status that keeps him on the staff no matter what? Girardi won’t even admit beyond CC and Kuroda in the rotation — and he probably wouldn’t admit beyond Rivera-DRob-Soriano-Logan in the pen. But Phil should be treated like that too? What about “you have to compete and earn your spot” but it’s rigged for Hughes to be on already? Why?

  • Yank The Frank

    Leaving for Fla. tomorrow, I have 4 games lined up within the next week to see. Yowza.

  • high and tight

    This pitching staff the Yanks have assembled is just an absolute bear.

    Stacked rotation and a loaded bullpen. As if the rest of baseball didn’t have enough to worry about w/the Yanks offense, now they’ve gone and done this.

    • Havok9120

      You’re a Red Sox fan trying to jinx us aren’t you?

      ADMIT IT!!

  • parmesan

    Caveats about it being Pineda’s first outing of the Spring aside, I still don’t like seeing his FB velocity that low. It just doesn’t seem altogether right for a guy that can dial it up close to 100. There’s plenty of power pitchers lighting guns up this early in camp. I mean geez, even Hughes was practically pumping gas in comparison. Plus you’d think Pineda would be trying to impress in his first Spring outing with a new team, and as such would be looking to come off ‘as advertised’.

    Add to it Pineda’s last outing of last season when he was barely breaking 90, and it’s not exactly encouraging.

    Of course it might mean nothing. Probably means nothing. But it’s still kind of a bummer.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      ….and just look at Nova. Hasn’t even thrown a pitch yet. How the hell does he expect to keep his rotation spot like that? Cashman failed.

    • Bo Knows

      In ST almost everyone’s velocity is going to be 2-3 mph lower than what it actually will be. Take for example Doc, in his first outing he was never higher than 88mph and even then he only hit that number a few times. Or think about CC’s velocity in his first regular season game of the year where he was at 92 mph when his career and season average is 94.

      If Pineda’s FB is sitting 90-92 (or 91 depending on the source)in his first ST game then its reasonable to expect him to be in the mid 90’s when its time for the games to really start.

      Even Hughes despite his health problems of last year followed the same process, this time last year he was throwing mid 80’s (the signal that something might be seriously wrong because it was much more significant than just 2-3 mph), that became high 80’s by the regular season start.

    • KL

      #1 Actually no. The guys that played winter ball are throwing hard. Other power pitchers are not. Beckett was 88 mph. You’d be stupid to air it out in your first couple of starts.

      #2 Trying to impress a bunch of stupid airhead spoiled brat Yankee fans by pumping 95 mph fastballs in his first ST start would be pretty well…stupid.

      #3 Pineda’s last start of the season came 11 days after his last start.

      #4 Getting bummed because he didn’t throw 100 mph in his first start?! God I love this team, but would hate to be traded to the Yankees. Some of the fans and media are brain-dead.