As you probably know by now, this afternoon’s game against the Rays has been postponed due to rain. Joe Girardi indicated that the game will be made up as part of a doubleheader sometime in September. Tampa doesn’t come back to New York until the third to last series of the year, so hopefully the Yankees will have a playoff spot wrapped up by then and can let the kids do most of the work in the second game. As an added benefit, Jamie Shields will now pitch against the Red Sox tomorrow instead of against the Yankees today. Hooray for that.
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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
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.
The afternoon started with the Yankees honoring Derek Jeter and his 3,000th career hit, and it ended with another Yankees great showing everyone that the gas tank isn’t empty just yet. To the bullet points!
- You think Jorge Posada‘s got a chip on his shoulder? In his first game in exactly a week, Posada singled in the game’s first two runs in his first at-bat, blooped a single in his second at-bat, and walloped a grand slam in his third at-bat. That was his first homerun since the interleague series against the Brewers at the end of June, and he had three hits this month total before this game. I don’t know if this game will get him more playing time, but it was fun to re-live the glory days, wasn’t it?
- While Posada was busy partying like it was 2007, Phil Hughes was getting his 2010 first half on. Philbert struck out six walked one, and allowed just four hits in six innings of work, giving up just two runs in what was essentially garbage time. He also got seven ground ball outs compared to five in the air, which was a welcome change. Hughes threw 96 pitches, held his velocity throughout the start, and mixed his pitches were well: 46 fastballs, 25 curveballs, 13 cutters, and 12 changeups. That’s much more like it. Phil has now thrown three straight quality starts, and has allowed two runs or less in five of his six starts since coming off the DL.
- The Yankees offense was brutally effective as a whole, working deep counts and punishing mistakes. Jeremy Hellickson needed 99 pitches to get 13 outs, and Brandon Gomes needed 21 pitches to get two outs. Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano all had two hits, and Posada had the three. The Grandyman whacked his 33rd homer of the season, tying him with Jose Bautista for the MLB lead. Cano’s double was his 30th, making him the first player in franchise history with 30 doubles in each of his first seven seasons. Bananas. Eric Chavez and Russell Martin had one hit each, and although Nick Swisher didn’t pick up a knock, he walked three times. All told, the Yankees put 22 men on base and managed to score nine runs despite being 2-for-11 with RISP.
- Cory Wade chipped in two scoreless innings (on just 21 pitches), and Hector Noesi actually came out of his burrow to see his shadow and throw a scoreless inning. That means he’ll go another six weeks before pitching, right?
- The win stretches the lead over Tampa for the wildcard to 8.5 games. Jered Weaver and the Angels took a pounding in Toronto, so the Yankees lead them by eight full games. Here’s the box score, here’s the WPA graph, and here’s the updated standings.
The rubber game will be played Sunday afternoon, at least in theory. The weather report is looking pretty grim, so there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to play. Freddy Garcia was supposed to start, but he’s been scratched with a cut on his finger. A.J. Burnett will go against Jamie Shields instead.
Got some bad news folks, Gary Sanchez‘s season is likely over due to a broken finger. He left Thursday’s game in the fifth inning, so maybe he got hit by a foul tip or errant back swing or something. If he is done, he finishes the season with a .364 wOBA and 17 homers in 343 plate appearances, which is pretty damn good for an 18-year-old kid in full season ball.
In other news, here’s video of Bryce Harper’s walk-off homer off Ryan Pope and Double-A Trenton last night (2:05 mark). That is no cheapie my friends. And finally, Josh Romanski was sent from Trenton back down to High-A Tampa as Kei Igawa was activated off the DL.
High-A Tampa (7-2 win over Dunedin)
Alex Rodriguez, DH: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K – he was supposed to play third today, but that was changed and not even Joe Girardi knows why … he’s going to do some informal workouts tomorrow, so I guess that means he won’t play in a game
Abe Almonte, CF: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 2 K
Walt Ibarra, SS: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 E (fielding)
Neil Medchill, PH-DH: 0 for 0, 1 RR, 1 BB
Kyle Roller, 1B: 3 for 4, 1 K – 11 for his last 25 (.440)
Kelvin Castro, 3B: 0 for 3, 2 K
DeAngelo Mack, RF & Cody Johnson, LF: both 1 for 4 – Mack tripled, drove in four, and walked … Johnson homered, drove in two, and struck out
Tyson Blaser, C: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
Emerson Landoni, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Jeff Marquez, RHP: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 8-1 GB/FB – vintage Marquez right there … this start is right out of the 2007 playbook
Dan Burawa, RHP: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3-1 GB/FB
Preston Claiborne, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-2 GB/FB
Joe Girardi announced during his postgame press conference that Freddy Garcia will miss tomorrow’s start because of a cut on his finger. A.J. Burnett will start instead, and will be followed by Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and CC Sabathia in Kansas City. Garcia tried to throw his splitter off flat ground today and couldn’t, though they’re hopefully he’ll just miss one start. Girardi called it a kitchen accident. Either way, it gives Garcia some extra rest and keeps Phil Hughes in the rotation for at least one more turn. Win win? Win win.