Homegrown starters picking up the slack in September


(Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier this season when the Yankees went on the big midseason run that gave them that once-comfortable ten-game lead in the AL East, they were winning consistently because of their pitching. Every night their starter was pitching not just well, but also going deep into the game. From May 22nd through July 18th, when they went on that 36-13 run, the rotation pitched to a 3.19 ERA (3.55 FIP) while averaging 6.5 innings per start. The starters were dynamite, day after day.

That hasn’t been the case of late. Andy Pettitte got hurt, CC Sabathia got hurt (twice), Ivan Nova cratered before getting hurt, and the Yankees lost their big division lead. From July 19th — the start of the four game series in Oakland — through today, the rotation has pitched to a 4.22 ERA (4.15 FIP) with an average of 6.25 innings per start. I don’t think it was reasonable to expect to the starting staff to continue pitching that well all season, but the drop-off has been quite drastic.

The Yankees have won six of their last seven games and nine of 13 overall, though the rotation as a whole hasn’t stood out during that stretch. They’ve pitch to a 4.06 ERA (3.81 FIP) during those 13 games, which is fine but not great. Better than they had been, I guess is the best way to put it. Maybe serviceable, I don’t know. The offense has scored just enough runs and the bullpen has protected just enough leads to turn those performances into wins, and frankly that’s all that matters at this point. Every win is important, no matter how ugly it is.

Anyway, what does stand out during that 13-game stretch is the performance of the club’s three non-Pettitte homegrown starters, meaning Phil Hughes, David Phelps, and Ivan Nova. They’ve started six of those 13 games and have pitched to a combined 2.70 ERA (3.40 FIP) in 36.2 innings, with the Yankees winning five of the six games. The one loss was when Phelps got rocked in Baltimore, a game the offense actually battled back to tie before the bullpen blew it in the late innings. That one stung.

The club’s veteran starters (Sabathia, Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia) have pitched to a 5.35 ERA (4.20 FIP) in 38.2 innings in their seven starts during this 13-game stretch. It’s not all on Freddy either, he only made one of those seven starts (three runs in 3.1 innings). Pettitte was superb yesterday, but Kuroda and Sabathia allowed at least four earned runs in four of their five total starts. The vets have combined to throw just two more innings than the kids in one more start, so they haven’t been as effective nor gone as deep into the game.

The Yankees catch a lot of grief for their inability to develop starting pitching and deservedly so, but the team’s three young homegrown starters have picked up the pitching slack in a big way these last two weeks. The veteran guys did most of the heavy lifting earlier in the season and now Hughes, Nova, and Phelps are carrying the torch. That’s usually how these things go, not everyone clicks at once, but not many times in the last few seasons have the young pitchers carried New York. Hughes has allowed more than two earned runs just once in his last six outings, and tonight he’ll look to continue this recent stretch of strong performances from the homegrown arms against the Blue Jays in the series finale.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Cuso says:

    I wanna hide before I say this but…Hughes may be getting hot at the right time.

    He’s been pretty solid this year. If they can make it to the postseason, Hughes can cement himself with a strong showing.

    Look how much people went ga-ga over Derek Holland all year. Just because of 1 World Series performance (and it was great one) they made him out to be a borderline #1 starter.

    If Hughes shows up in the postseason. it will change a great deal of how people think of him.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      And will make him a lot more expensive.

      • Darren says:

        I literally couldn’t care less about Hughes’ price going up as a result of him getting hot.

        In fact, I am praying to Jesus’ wife that Hughes, Martin, Swisher, Kuroda and every other free agent get so hot that we win the WS and they all get priced off the Yankees.

    • MannyGeee says:

      THIS… Just like in 2009 when A-Rod became a “true Yankee”, Hughes has a Pinstripe Immortality (TM)

      • gc says:

        People seem to forget Hughes’ first post-season in 2007 when he came in to save the day for Clemens and pitched 3.2 innings of shut-out ball, striking out 4, stabilizing the game and letting the offense take over. It was the only game they won in that series and I remember the crowd really getting behind him.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Holland was a front-end starter last season. Arguably a #1.

      • Cuso says:

        No he wasn’t. At all. Like I said, his WS Series gem made people go through a bit of revisionist history and think that he was “arguably a #1.”

        He wasn’t. Not even close. 16 wins for a team that absolutely crushed the ball all season for him. A 4ERA and 1.35 WHIP and he was “arguably a #1?”

        Wake the f&@k up. Look at CC’s stats and everyone piles up on him about how he’s “not an ace.” His stats THIS year are better than Holland’s last year.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          You are wrong. He had a 4 fWAR season. That was 29th in MLB. There are 30 teams in MLB. Hence, he was arguably a #1 starter in 2011. It was not just one game.

  2. CountryClub says:

    The best part about it is that it doesn’t feel like a fluke. They’re pitching a bit over their heads; but overall, I think all 3 are legit starting pitchers.

  3. Tom Morea says:

    Excellent article, Mike. Especially with your observations concerning Ibanez and Jones!

  4. Better off Eddard says:

    Andy is homegrown and picked up the slack yesterday. The biggest culprit is CC. Hiroki had a sub 3 era in the AL East. He has been brilliant so let’s not lump him in with CC, who said himself that there is no excuse for the way he has pitched. The team has lost his last 4 starts vs TOR, BOS, and Tampa twice. These aren’t Texas offenses. He’s still got time to get it back on track and there’s nobody better on the staff than CC when he’s in his groove. This next start is key for him.

  5. Mike Myers says:

    Stop it with your logic Mike!

    Phelps/Nova/Hughes/That dude from Seattle – Will be a cheap 3-5 Next year.

  6. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Pettitte Hughes Nova Phelps Betances for next year’s homegrown rotation!

    (i know i know)

  7. Raza says:

    Every time Hughes pitches well, I get all giddy inside. He will never be the ace that everyone thought he would be but I don’t think becoming an annual 3 WAR pitcher is out of the question.

    • vicki says:

      you’ve been giddy a lot this season. outside of a rough start or two phil’s been solid ever since he turned the page on april. just solid.

  8. Slu says:

    I’ll admit I gave up on Hughes. I am glad to have been wrong.

    • RkyMtnYank says:

      I hope I’m wrong but I’m still shaky on Phil myself. So many fastballs he’s always just one extra one away from another home run.

      • The Big City of Dreams says:

        I think that’s why some fans won’t embrace him completely because he’s always a few pitches away from the game getting out of the game. Hughes usually dominates the game or has one inning where things fall apart.

  9. Brian S. says:

    Is Phelps LOB% a harbinger of things to come? Will he be one of those pitchers that strands a lot of runners because of his pickoff move?

  10. Rocky Road Redemption says:

    Hey guys, let’s trade CC because he’s only having a very good season instead of the absolutely spectacularly outstanding season he normally has. That makes perfect sense!

    • Joe says:

      That’s what the Dodgers thought! I love our workhorse ace. He’s clearly not 100% right now.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        It’s insane, isn’t it? First off season for the guy I can remember and so many people think the correct course is to dump on him. Fantastic pitcher who helped lead this team to a ring, and one who could have opted out and held the team out for ransom not long ago. You support a guy like that when he’s down, not dump on him.

        We think this kind of faux-cynicism makes us come off as smarter fans. It doesn’t.

        • jjyank says:

          What’s better, faux cynicism or faux rage?

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            I’d rather read “THAT’S IT! I’M NOT WATCHING THE REST OF THE SEASON!” a thousand times over “This is a business and you’re a homer for being attached to Derek Jeter, who should be traded for prospects.”

            • jjyank says:

              Faux rage is definitely better. Especially when it’s over some random scrub on a minor league deal.

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                I love stuff like “Why is Ramon Ortiz taking away innings in AAA?” in the same sentence as “why’d they get rid of DeWayne Wise?”

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

            faux hawks.

            Just ask people with whom they’d like to replace CC…then ask how they plan to convince somebody to take the OTHER side of that crappy trade with your declining crappy Sabathia and his enormous contract. Oh, he’s not that bad? Then why trade him??

        • Christian says:

          He did opt out….

  11. Joe says:

    I love our youth.

    Would a rotation of CC, Hughes, Pineda, Nova, and Phelps work? Kuroda might command a 1-2 year deal, but north of $10 million. Which is what he should cost. Anymore and let him walk. Doubt he duplicates this year.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Something tells me a certain #46 might want to go out differently one final time.

      I don’t count on Pineda. That rotation would work, but with a couple of extreme best-case scenarios.

    • Fin says:

      I dont think that staff would cut it. First off, I believe Pineda wont be ready to pitch again until May, but even if I’m wrong on that hes going to need significant minor league time, and even then there is no guarantee he will be good enough to pitch in the majors next year. I’m not sure that Phelps has done enough to just hand him the ball every fifth day.

      I think most likely we will be looking at a staff off CC, Hughes, Nova, Petite, Kuroda with Phelps,Pineda,and Banuelos as depth. If Kuroda or Petite arent back for what ever reason I think the Yankees would go out and get another proven starter.

    • vicki says:

      i sign hirok if he’ll have us.

  12. DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

    Wrong on Hughes, wrong on Jeter, wrong on Ibanez.

    No way Yanks win it all this year.

    Let me be wrong one more time.

  13. vicki says:

    hearing some buzz about cano failing a test anybody else?

  14. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Remember, kids, the Yankees haven’t developed any starters since Whitey Ford.

    • The Guns of Navarone says:

      Remember, kids, the Yankees haven’t developed any successful starters since Whitey Ford Andy Pettitte.

      • jjyank says:

        I would count Wang. His injury was of the freak nature.

      • Travis L. says:

        What is your definition of developed? IPK did well in this very first 3 starts in MLB. Then he struggled in a few and then we traded him. What if he was struggling in the first few starts to those two seasons and then would have mellowed out and become who he is today? I think we developed him well and just traded him too soon. Although, I wont complain about the Grandyman.

  15. Preston says:

    But the Yankees can’t develop starters?

  16. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    I have always supported the “little big three” and Joba. When was the last time that I did not read a comment about trading one or all of them?

  17. Joe says:

    Sidetrack comment.

    What is this fake rumor on twitter about Cano testing positive for PED? He said he didn’t, then said he has no evidence. Then don’t bother tweeting it you idiot.

  18. Erin says:

    Gotta give props to Phelps. He impressed me his first time pit of the pen and knew he would have a bright future, but never thought I’d see him starting this year. He has definitely stepped up when others were injured.

  19. Darren says:

    I assume Cano IS on PEDs.

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