Phil Hughes’ Last Stand

Missing: Rafael Soriano
For Russell Martin, it doesn't get better
(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

As awful as he’s been this season — 7.88 ERA and 6.39 FIPPhil Hughes has actually been pretty lucky. He’s lucky in the sense that Freddy Garcia has performed even worse — 12.51 ERA and 5.51 FIP — and has drawn most of the negative attention. The security blanket is gone now, however. Garcia is out of the rotation and the focus turns to Hughes, the current weak link in the rotation.

The Yankees have given Phil every opportunity to succeed as a starting pitcher in his career, but outside of late-2007 and early-2010, their patience has not been rewarded. Dating back to mid-May of 2010 — an admittedly arbitrary endpoint — Hughes has pitched to a 5.45 ERA (~4.85 FIP) in 228 innings across 41 starts. The nearly 1,000 batters he faced (997 to be exact) during that time have tagged him for a .275/.334/.467 batting line. That’s almost exactly what Howie Kendrick hit last season. So yeah, it hasn’t been pretty.

Because of his recent awfulness and that long stretch of below average performance, tonight’s start against the Orioles just might be the Hughes’ last chance to show the team he can be effective in the rotation. Not only is Andy Pettitte‘s return drawing closer, but David Phelps will begin his starting pitcher audition later this week. As I said this morning, the Yankees can use Monday’s scheduled day off to rearrange the rotation and give his rotation spot to Pettitte if they so chose. The schedule isn’t going to handcuff them.

Phil’s days as a starting pitcher for the Yankees are numbered. It seems inevitable that the team will remove him from the rotation as some point relatively soon, whether it be after tonight’s start, next week, or next month. The Yankees have to stop kidding themselves if they want to improve their starting staff. There are better options on the way, and unless he comes out tonight and shows 2-3 pitches with command, there’s little Hughes can do to save his rotation spot.

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Missing: Rafael Soriano
For Russell Martin, it doesn't get better
  • forensic

    Hughes would be scheduled to pitch again on Sunday. Outside of starting Mitchell that day instead, I fail to see how they could skip him without someone (Nova) having to go on short rest.

  • Chelo

    This really hurts me. Been following #Hughes since he was drafted. He’s the reason I follow the minor leagues and much as I do now a days. He was supposed to be the #Phranchise. We had good times back in 06, when he completely dominated the minor leagues. Than the small part in 07 when he blew his hamstring against Texas. Hasn’t been the same since.

    • Mister D

      There was a time where I absolutely would have taken even odds that Hughes would be the best homegrown starter since Guidry.

      (Yes, I know who that leapfrogs. Didn’t quite work out. YET!)

      • Rigoleto

        Andy Pettitte already worked out for the Yanks.

  • Jason K

    I honestly don’t seem him making his way back to that 18 game winner. With the development of some of our young guys, as well as guys like Cole Hammels, Greinke, and a few other notable FA starters, I doubt we’d see much of Phil next year too.

    • jjyank

      It’s people like you that are at least partially responsible for making Jason Hammel so damn good this year!

      That was a joke. A few of us were talking in a thread yesterday that the reason that Hammel is off to such a good start this year is because people keep misspelling Cole Hamels’ name.

      Anyway, on to my actual response. The problem is that even “18 game winner” Phil Hughes wasn’t that good. He was good about about 1/3 of the season, and otherwise just got a ton of run support.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        My hope is that, every five days, Roy Hughladay takes the mound, we’ll see a typical strong, 8 IP, 0 ER Roy Hughladay kind of start from Roy Hughaladay. What a Roy Hughladay kind of pitcher, that Roy Hughladay. I wish there were more Roy Hughladays in this world.

        • jjyank

          My head hurts.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            IT’S WORKING!

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    Phil is destined for greatness. Don’t kid yourself. He will strike out double digits tonite in an amazing performance for the ages.

    But he will then suck the rest of the year.,

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    A trade of Hughes for Kennedy ??

    • Will (the other one)

      Who – Adam Kennedy?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Jayne Kennedy?
        Jaime Kennedy?
        Miiiiiiiiiiister Kennedy?

        • vin

          Lincoln’s secretary, Kennedy?

          • ROBTEN

            1990s MTV VJ Kennedy?

            • Robinson Tilapia

              She’s still around. Current TV, maybe?

  • Kosmo

    Inevitably Pettitte will be making a start within 2 weeks, so Hughes if he doesn´t turn it around tonight is going to be bullpen bound within that time frame and Garcia DFA.

    • CS Yankee

      ehh, no.

      Garcia will not be DFA this early in the year. Phelps or (likely) Mitchell will be sent down for this clown.

  • jjyank

    It sucks watch a guy who was such a good prospect continue to fail. Unfortunately, the only time that Hughes has had a season long of sustained success at the big league level, he was in the bullpen. If Hughes can’t beat the O’s tonight, I hope that will be the last of his days in the rotation.

  • Cy Pettitte

    alternative titles for this post: D.J. Mitchell’s Yankee Debut

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    What can cash man get for Phranchise Phil??

    • steve s

      That’s the rub for me. He is still only 25 and he’s really not a scrape heap kind of guy yet. He will have good moments again as a starter before his career is over. One guy whose career sort of parallels Phil is Homer Bailey. Maybe these are two change of scenery possibilities. Also, before he got hurt, Pelfrey and Phil were sort of similar in development/not meeting expectations.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      A 2013 setup man named Phil Hughes?

      • steve s

        I’d rather try and trade him then put him is a spot that is just a countdown to free agency. I don’t see Phil or his advisors accepting being the 8th inning guy for his prime pitching years at least before giving some of those California teams (especially NL teams in pitching parks like SD) a shot first.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Phil Hughes’s leverage right now, and if he’s still a failed starter with no current success under his belt when he becomes a FA, is/would be amoebic.

  • Carl G

    So next year, the yankees could have:
    -CC
    -kuroda contract over
    -Pettitte contract over
    -Hughes done
    -Garcia done, contract over

    Four rotation spots, and not much room w/ the $189M cap looming. Do they just bring up all of AAA (mitchell, phelps, warren, banuelos, betances) and see who sticks?

    • JohnC

      Did you forget Nova?

      • Carl G

        I did forget him actually… I did not forget Pineda; I will assume that he won’t come back until he actually does.

        So would you sign a veteran and have 5 guys compete for one spot, or have 5 guys compete for two spots?

    • Ray

      Nova and Pineda? are they not allowed to pitch next year?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Theyz r not teh elite startah like Coal Hammmels.

        • jjyank

          Theyz r not teh elite startah like Coal Hammmels. Jason Hammel.

          Fixed!

    • A.D.

      Also 20M comes off the books for Kuroda, Garcia, Pettitte, and Feliciano, which either reaches the austerity budget, or can be used to fortify the rotation

    • jjyank

      Nova, (hopefully) Pineda.

      There’s 3 out of 5. Yanks can take the best of Mitchell/Phelps/Warren and sign a free agent, or even go with two of those three. It’s not that bad.

      Who knows, maybe that free agent is Kuroda. If he has a good year, he could come back.

      • Need Pitching

        and Banuelos (hopefully) could be a rotation option next year as well
        maybe even Bettances will figure out how to throw strikes

        My guess for next season’s rotation:
        CC
        free agent (maybe Kuroda)
        Nova
        Pineda(eventually)
        Phelps/Warren/Banuelos/Mitchell/Bettances
        Mitre (just for kicks)

        • Bubba

          Mitre?

          You’re a bad, bad man!

    • Kvothe

      CC, Nova, and Pineda (hopefully).

      Phelps, Mitchell, Manny, Betances are possibilities.

      Sign a 1 year contract with a vet and you have 4 kids battling out. That’s not so bad.

  • #28 in 2012

    This is the case where he walks in his FA year, signs with the Dbacks or the Astros and pulls an IPK.

    • jjyank

      That’s not entirely fair. IPK never got a real chance with the Yankees, certainly not to the extend that Hughes has gotten. IPK still had prospect luster when we traded him, Hughes has looked broken for a long time now.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    It will be funny when they have garcia relieve hughes after 2.1 innings tonight. garcia will probably pitch 5 shut out innings

    • JohnC

      It would be like the time Kei Igawa came in for Jeff Karstens and shut out the Red Sox for 6 innings

  • Ben

    If Hughes pitches a no-hitter tonight, would that change what he did in his last 229 innings?

    • jjyank

      No, but he’d get another shot.

      See Galarraga, Armando.

      • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

        When did he pitch a no hitter???

        /troll’d

  • Rich in NJ

    I don’t think the Yankees have given Hughes every chance to succeed as a starter, because apart from 2007, he never had sufficient secondary pitches to succeed. He should have been kept in the mL to attempt to relearn them (or new ones), and that’s where he should be if this current attempt fails, not in the pen.

    • jjyank

      I guess being in the bullpen isn’t ideal, but I think that’s more on Hughes than on the Yankees. Plenty of pitchers have spend time in the bullpen to come back to be successful starters. CJ Wilson, David Price, (so far) Neftali Feliz to name a few. I don’t think Hughes’ struggles in 2012 have much to do with being in the bullpen three years ago.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        The Yankees may have done some dumb things with Hughes, but that’s his arm throwing the ball out there. Agreed.

      • Rigoleto

        Adam Wainwright

      • Kevin Winters

        “I guess being in the bullpen isn’t ideal, but I think that’s more on Hughes than on the Yankees.”

        Especially since he’s the one that asked to be there.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I think they should see if they could get a couple of low A lottery tickets for Hughes. Possibly see if you could get Story from the Rockies, I think he would be an intriguing target. Very far away but lots of potential.

    • jjyank

      But why would any team trade a prospect of any value for Hughes? Not only does he appear broken, but he’s not even cheap and will be a free agent after 2013. Maybe someone in the NL could be interested in Hughes, but I seriously doubt the Yanks get more than an org guy in return.

      • Thomas

        I just read that as

        I seriously doubt the Yanks get more than an orgy in return.

        That would probably be the absolute best case scenario.

  • parmesan

    Just make him a 2 inning reliever already. If he can consistently approximate what he did in 2009, there’s still a ton of value in that. With Mo likely retiring at the end of this season, the Yankees will need the quality depth at the back of the bullpen. Robertson is the obvious candidate to replace Mo (longterm, excepting a Soriano stint in ‘013), but the guy could just as easily be Hughes, given that he throws more strikes than DRob. Either way, it’ll work itself out to the benefit of the Yanks longterm bullpen construction.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Not only are you my favorite cheese, but I think you’re right on the dot. I think the way you salvage this is by seeing how much 2009 Hughes is left in there. If/with Mo retiring, if Robertson can make the transition, an effective Phil Hughes in the bullpen could make for a nice transition. It’s impossible to replace the greatest of old time, but that would make as good an attempt as any you could try.

      • jjyank

        No way, Swiss or cheddar is where it’s at.

        Anyway. I also agree with this. At least Hughes has his velocity back, let’s see if the Yanks can salvage some value as a bullpen arm.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          A nice chunk of parmaggiano is just divine, although, when push comes to shove, I may still prefer a nice aged gouda.

          • jjyank

            I’ll give you gouda. That’s some damn good cheese.

        • mike

          Joba and Hughes setting up DRob and Sorianoi next year…

          Oh how the mighty have fallen

  • Fun with Quarks

    Unfortunately, can we realistically expect him to take a leap forward tonight? Is he going to find a few extra miles per hr on his fastball? Is he going to miraculously develop a legitimate out pitch?

    As cliche as it sounds: he is what he is. It’s too bad, because it’s so easy to root for him (genuine nice guy by all accounts).

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Your winning pitcher tonight: DJ Mitchell.

  • statboy yankopherson

    I still have faith in Phil.

    • jjyank

      I envy your optimism.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I will have faith until his very last breath. It may not be much faith, but it will still be there.

  • Bonnie Parker

    I’ve been saying it’s Hughes’s last stand for weeks now so it’s good to see you guys have finally caught on. Tonight is it. If you can’t outduel Brian Matusz then you shouldn’t be pitching in the AL East.

    • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

      so you’ve been wrong for weeks and now you think your right this week and are happy that people finally decided this was the week? so just to be clear, most did not agreed with you in the past. Depending on pettitte, this could be hughes’ last start, and that completely revolves around how phelps fairs as a starter in the bigs. I doubt they will give as long a leash to phelps as they’ve given hughes. i believe hughes will have at least one more after this.

  • Ton Lon ton

    Maybe Kate Hudson could do something to fix Hughes?

    • jjyank

      She can do something to fix me.

      • The Moral Majority is Neither

        Fix like a dog gets fixed.

  • Chelo

    I miss the 2010 first half . EasyCheese Phil.

  • http://none Bernard

    You two [Ton Lon ton and jjyank] are a riot!!! Hahaha.

    • jjyank

      Thanks?

  • Fin

    Eh, I dont think this is Hughes last stand. Barring a 2 or 3 inning blowup I think he stays in the rotation for the time being. The Yankees dont know what they will get out of Petite in terms or performance or health. Moving Hughes to the pen and eliminating another starting option from the equation this early in the season is something the Yankees probably want to avoid, if at all possible.

    If there were 4 solid starting options I think Hughes would be through but having a 40yr old on a comeback and a rookie who projected as a back of the rotation guy probably gives Hughes some more time, in my opinion.

    • jjyank

      You could be right, but we’ll see. And I think The Plouffenator would be most unhappy with your misspelling of Pettitte. Haha he went on a rant about it in another thread.

      • CS Yankee

        Petite is a lot smaller than Pettitte.

        • OMG! Bagels!

          But they have their own sections in department stores, so that must count for something.

      • Fin

        LOL, I saw that, but I’m too lazy to add those extra t’s.

  • CS Yankee

    He threw a 3-2 Changeup over the dish. Which afterwards he said he would never have done that in the bigs.

    Maybe he mis-remembered?

    /clemens’d

    • CS Yankee

      …and my reply to an off-topic was deleted.

      Moving along.

    • jjyank

      I assume you’re talking about Pettitte. He’s just trying to get his pitches in working order. If he needs to work on his changeup, he will throw it in situations he wouldn’t normally so that he can throw it more. Not a big deal.

      • CS Yankee

        yaeh, it was a reply to someone complaining about him getting lit-up due the the trail.

  • Rigoleto

    Right now, Phil’s “through age 25″ best comp is John Lackey…I don’t know whether to be encouraged or disturbed. (Number 9 is Roy Halladay, so there’s that)

    • Rigoleto

      on baseball reference, that is.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    I feel so Hughsed, I am just Hughesed up.

    Enough!

    • CS Yankee

      If he stinks tonight, I would give him the choice of;
      1) shave you head and you get one more chance as a SP.
      2) traveleling SWB schedule is on-line, here is bus fare.

  • AJavierkei Pavagawnett

    Where’s AJ Burnett when you need him?
    At least he could theoretically get you into the seventh inning.

    • ROBTEN

      If you put me in a box on the mound, I will and will not pitch into the seventh inning.

      Sincerely,
      Theoretical AJ Burnett

  • blooper

    What I don’t get about Hughes is that he doesn’t have much problem getting the first 2 strikes on batters while throwing his 91-93. I can see not being able to put them away if he’d never done it, but he did do it when he was in the pen. Granted, he can’t throw 95 for an entire game, by why can’t he reach back a couple of times an inning and throw the stuff to close the hitters out? That would allow his other stuff to play up too. It’s just baffling to me that he can’t do this, even for 5 innings.

    • Fin

      Hughes has never seemed to have any stamina. I’m just guessing that after the first inning or two he doesnt have it in the tank to reach back and and add a couple MPH and have control of it.

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    The FIP is not encouraging, but I wonder if he’s always going to be a FIP-defying guy because he’s a flyball pitcher.

    Time will tell, I guess.