While we await the start of baseball this evening (weather permitting), let’s pat ourselves on the back. According to a study released earlier this week, the Yankees are the most popular team in baseball. According to the Harris Poll results (here as a PDF), the Yanks beat out the Red Sox and the Braves as America’s favorite team. Despite the popularity though, 21 percent of fans pick the Red Sox as this year’s World Series winners while 19 percent tab the Yankees for that honor. Winning a game or two against Boston this year would probably help the Yankees in the eyes of America’s baseball fans.
While the Yanks have now led the league in popularity for most of this century, I’d be quite curious to see the opposite results. I believe the Yanks would also be the nation’s most hated team as well. Funny how that works out. · (4) ·
Stop me when this sounds familiar.
The Yankees move a heralded pitching prospect into the bullpen, and his success is a revelation. Sporting top-flight fastballs and some good breaking pitches, this starter-turned-reliever dominates, and fans wonder why this pitcher should ever be put back into his starting role. He can lock down the 8th inning. Let’s keep him there.
As this pitcher builds appearances, his numbers get better. Through 13 games, he sports a 0.98 ERA and has a 19:5 K:BB ratio through 18.1 innings pitched. The Bridge to Mariano has been built, and it grows stronger every day.
I am, of course, talking about Phil Hughes. He’s become the latest baseball wunderkind out of the bullpen, the next in a long line of good pitchers who — surprise, surprise — can be great relievers. No shocker there. While reading this piece from Marc Carig this morning, though, I realized again the price the Yankees are paying by keeping Hughes in the pen.
In the article, Brian Cashman reiterates the Yanks’ plans going forward to put Hughes back into the starting rotation. At some point in the future, Hughes will be a pinstriped starter. It may be later this year; it may be in 2010 when Andy Pettitte is probably elsewhere. What it won’t feature though is Hughes with a refined change-up, the pitch he really needs to master to become a top Major League starter.
Carig explains more:
When he is again a starter, Hughes will need to keep refining what is still a raw changeup, one he will eventually need to throw well enough to navigate lineups stacked with left-handed hitters. But despite this need, it’s a pitch Hughes has eradicated from his repertoire as a reliever, meaning he is losing valuable time toward its development.
It is an example of long-term sacrifice to fill an immediate need, a trade the Yankees are willing to make to fix a bullpen that had been ailing…But in the meantime, Hughes admits efforts to improve his changeup are “on the back burner.”
“He’s going to find a way to develop that changeup,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ vice president of baseball operations. “But I’ll tell you what he’s getting: major-league game experience in tough situations, under duress, against the best competition on the planet. As he does this, he gains confidence, and that is huge.”
Everyone in the Carig article says the right thing. The Yanks’ coaches and player personnel recognize that Hughes’ change-up is both a necessity and a work in progress. Hughes knows that he can be a major contributor now at the Big League level and will continue to develop a feel for this important pitch.
Yet, I can’t help but think that the Yankees are sacrificing something by moving Hughes to the pen. I’m fully in favor of getting Hughes Major League experience against good hitters in key spots. AAA hitters no longer offer much of a challenge to the young righty. At the same time, though, Hughes and the Yanks can’t sacrifice his future effectiveness for 40 or 50 bullpen innings this year.
According to the pitch f/x breakdown, Hughes has thrown a career-low 1.2 percent of his pitches as change-ups this year. He last threw one in a game situation on June 10 when he threw 3.2 innings in relief of Chien-Ming Wang. Now that it’s been over a month since he last threw a change, I can only hope he doesn’t lose the progress he made on that pitch.
Lefty reliever Mike Dunn, who was added to the 40-man roster this past off-season, has been promoted to AAA reports Mike Ashmore. Looks like Paul Bush will leave Pennsylvania in favor of New Jersey. Dunn had a 3.71 ERA over 53.1 innings with the Thunder, striking out 76 while walking 32. He’ll try to keep those BB numbers down as he works his way closer to an invitation to the Bronx.
Meanwhile, Ashmore also informs us that RHP Zack McAllister has been placed on the DL. He doesn’t have any real details, and his frustration over the flow of information is palpable in his post. Can’t blame him. McAllister, who could be trade bait in the next few weeks, pitched a scoreless inning in the Eastern League All-Star game, though it’s said his velocity was only in the high 80s. That could have something to do with it.
June 7 Tampa Bay
Synopsis: Joba turns in a quality start, allowing three runs through six. Had one run headed into the sixth, but the Rays went single-happy, hitting three in the inning to go with a walk and give Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead. Yanks recover in eighth, taking ball four off Grant Balfour to retake the lead. Joba gets a no decision.
Pitches – Strikes: 100 – 56 (56%)
Breakdown: 54 fastballs, 29 curveballs, 12 sliders, 5 changes
Average and Max FB: 92, 95.4
Notes: Not a great strike percentage with the fastball (52%), and the curve was only 55%. Velocity is okay, not great. Still, the bigger issue remains throwing strikes. Not that we need any fancy breakdowns to know that. He also seems to favor one breaking pitch each outing. This one was curve heavy. We’ve seen plenty of slider heavy games.
June 12 Mets
Synopsis: Joba’s inability to throw strikes leads him to build up 100 pitches through four innings. Short outing forces Brett Tomko into the game, who allows four runs while recording only two outs. Yanks come back, but Coke blows it. Mo allows go-ahead run, but Luis Castillo drops the ball. All is forgiven. Except Joba’s performance.
Pitches – Strikes: 100-52 (52%)
Breakdown: 69 fastballs, 20 sliders, 5 curves, 5 changes, 1 two-seamer
Average and Max FB: 91.87, 94.8
Notes: Joba clearly didn’t have his best stuff, as his average fastball was under 92. It was another slider game, but again he just didn’t throw the fastball for strikes.
B stuff + two pitches + horrible control = horrible start. Joba allowed only two runs, but he exposed Tomko, which is bad.
June 18 Washington
Synopsis: Another quality start, though again Joba puts up the bare minimum. Commits the cardinal sin by walking in a run. Offense can’t muster a run off Cy Stammen and the shutdown Nationals bullpen and lose the game 3-0. Fanbase embarrassed.
Pitches – Strikes: 100 – 60 (60%) — three in a row at exactly 100
Breakdown: 64 fastballs, 17 sliders, 12 curves, 7 changes
Average and Max FB: 92, 95.6
Notes: We’ve seen Joba around 92 for a while, and the results seem to be predictable. If he more or less throws over 55 percent strikes, he’ll be OK. If he loses his command, he’ll be less than okay. His best starts Feature his fastball at 93, 94, a decent number of strikes, and usually a better mix of his pitches. Minus the walking in a run, this one wasn’t too bad.
June 24 @ Atlanta
Synopsis: Joba pitches into the seventh, but a single, error, and RBI single chase him from the game after recording just one out. Was he tiring? Considering how rarely he’s seen the seventh this year, it’s a possibility. Coke allowed an inherited runner to score, but Yanks hold on and finish off the Braves. Oh, and Joba also hit a line drive right into the opposing pitcher’s neck and took him out of the game. He was perfect through three. The next guy came in and gave up three runs.
Pitches – Strikes: 99 – 68 (68%)
Breakdown: 66 fastballs, 18 sliders, 11 curves, 3 changes
Average and Max FB: 92, 95.6
Notes: See what happens when you throw strikes? You go deeper into the game, and eventually if you can pitch into the seventh you’ll have the stamina to get through it. All in all a good start for Joba, though again we’re just not seeing anything close to the fastball we saw last year. A few mph decrease is fine if he’s trying to get some movement on the pitch and save his shoulder. This dropoff, though, is a bit more than that.
June 30 Mariners
Synopsis: Joba throws way too many pitches in the fifth and only gets two batters into the sixth. Other than that inning he was fine, but other than that one part, I’m sure Lincoln had a good time at the play. Yanks come back off Chris Jakubauskas and Sean White and take the series opener.
Pitches – Strikes: 96 – 55 (57%)
Breakdown: 67 fastballs, 20 sliders, 8 curves, 1 change
Average and Max FB: 92, 95
Notes: He threw only 55 percent strikes with his slider, which would indicate that he wasn’t getting many swings and misses, or at least as many as he usually does. Throws almost 60 percent strikes with his fastball, which is good for him. All in all, a pretty unremarkable start.
This was a pretty ho-hum set of starts for Joba. Maybe it’s because they’re all starting to look the same. Sometimes he has some better control and is a little better. Sometimes he can’t find the zone and is bad. For the most part he’s at 92 with his fastball, picks a primary breaking pitch and sticks with it. Unfortunately, being patient means waiting more than a couple of months for a young pitcher to develop. Still, his steep drop off in velocity is certainly a concern.
Tomorrow we’ll go over the last two. I can’t wait to see the comments section on that one.
Zach McAllister has been placed on the disabled list, but I have no idea why. He pitched well in the Eastern League All Star Game just yesterday, so it can’t be that bad. Meanwhile, the Yankees had their deal with Dominican shortstop Damian Arredendo voided when it turned out he isn’t who he says he is. It’s not the first time it happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Gwinnett, walk-off style)
Kevin Russo, Juan Miranda & Doug Bernier: all 0 for 3 – Russo drove in a run & K’ed twice … Miranda walked & K’ed twice … Bernier K’ed
Ramiro Pena: 0 for 4, 3 K, 1 E (throwing) – Ransomian
Colin Curtis & Shelley Duncan: both 2 for 3 – Curtis was hit by a pitch, crossed the plate twice & K’ed … Shelley homered, drove in two & K’ed
Frankie Cervelli: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI – picked a runner off first with a snap throw
Yurendell DeCaster: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI – walk-off solo jack
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 5-3 GB/FB – 56 of 82 pitches were strikes (68.3%)
Romula Sanchez: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 2-0 GB/FB - just 11 of 25 pitches were strikes (44%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 18 of 34 pitches were strikes (52.9%)
The Yankees have one more night of R&R to enjoy before the second half begins, but not everyone is that lucky. The Mets have the Oliver Perez Horror Show taking the mound in Atlanta, which is always good for a laugh. There’s not much else going on tonight, but use this thread to talk about whatever you want. Just be civil.