MLB Trade Rumors notes today that the Giants have expressed some interest in Nick Johnson. The Nats’ first baseman, working his way back from a year lost to injury, is hitting .368/.455/.688 in the early going, and Washington could look to offload his salary. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Yankees should be right there on the Nick Johnson talks if Washington is serious about trading the first baseman. He would the perfect fit. · (28) ·
Nothing incites passion in the world of Yankee blogs these days quite like Phil Hughes. Maybe it’s the hype; maybe it stems from the Santana trade that probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. But whatever the cause, when Phil Hughes comes up, passions run high.
On one side of the Great Phil Hughes Divide are sites like ours and Save Phil Hughes, to name a few. Carrying the torch for the anti-Phil Hughes crowd is of course this guy. Among the recent critiques of Phil Hughes has been a focus on his velocity. Hughes, once touted as a prospect with a mid-90s fastball, has sat consistently around 91-93 during his Yankee tenure. Mostly, to be fair, he’s sit around 91.
Apparently, it’s chic to be worried about a 21-year-old with pinpoint control and great breaking pitches who hasn’t yet in April flashed his top velocity. At the end of last week, a few baseball experts fielded the question should we be concerned with Phil Hughes’ velocity. For the most part, the consensus was no. Phil Hughes, the second youngest player in the Majors, is doing just fine, and it’s still just April. Plus, the belief that 21-year-olds won’t see an increase in strength and velocity over their next few years is simply not correct.
Today, a piece came out that has to be examined, and it’s time that we broke our silence on this whole Phil Hughes velocity thing. Mike Pagliarulo, the famed pitching coach who once said that Kei Igawa would be a serviceable Major League starter, has determined that Phil Hughes’ mechanics are out of whack. Pags writes:
What to do about Hughes? He needs to change his delivery, just as Roger Clemens did when he went from Boston to Toronto. Hughes’ mechanics are the weakest during pitching stages three and four, the time in which he takes the ball out of glove to when the ball leaves his hand. Two issues: First, he’s not getting full arm extension after taking the ball out of his glove – and this creates an inconsistent release point and, therefore, an inconsistent pitcher. Second, he’s leading with his head instead of staying back and throwing “around” his head – something that young, aggressive hitters can be guilty of…
You’ll notice that Hughes has been throwing his slider more often, despite the fact it’s just his fourth best pitch. Because of his mechanics, Hughes’ arm slot is lower than ideal and, thus, his slider is the only breaking pitch that he can command effectively. It’s the same reason you don’t see three quarter or side arm pitchers with good curveballs. It’s also why if you’re looking at Hughes behind home plate his curve ball is breaking at a 10 to 4 angle as opposed to its typical 12 to 6…
My guess is that if Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland is allowed to really work with him, Hughes will be on track by 2009 or 2010. Let’s not forget this kid should still be in AA Trenton.
Here’s the thing about Pags’ scouting report: It’s wrong. It’s coming from someone who doesn’t get along too well with the Yankee brass, and it’s designed to jab at the Yanks and their coaches.
Starting from the end, the idea that Phil Hughes should still be at AA Trenton is patently ridiculous. Two years ago at AA, Hughes blew through the league. Hitters were overmatched, and the Yanks rightly didn’t see any reason to keep him there.
Meanwhile, the idea that Hughes’ slider is his fourth best pitch also goes against prevailing Hughes wisdom. Hughes had a Major League slider when he was drafted out of high school, but the Yanks made him put it in his pocket to in an effort to develop his other pitches. It’s highly unlikely that he’s lost so much feel for the pitch that it’s now his fourth best offering.
As for the mechanical issues, what we see is a 21-year-old in his first start of the season reaching the low 90s with his fastball. We saw him hit the mid-90s in the warm weather during Spring Training, and we know what he was capable of in the Minors. At the Big League level, it’s only a matter of time and warm weather before Hughes is breaking out the speedier fastballs, and in the end, if the results are what they were last week against the Blue Jays, it doesn’t really matter. With stellar breaking pitches and a change up, those low- to mid-90s pitches will seem a lot faster.
Right now, a bunch of people rooting for the same team are arguing over minor points after watching a 21-year-old throw six innings during the 2008 regular season. Doesn’t this seem a bit overblown as well?
On Saturday, Ed Price took Yankee fans to task for booing LaTroy Hawkins’ decision to wear number 21 this season. Yesterday, Derek Jacques urged Yankee fans to engage in something he’s calling Project 21 in which we all write letters to Hawkins explaining why Paul O’Neill is considered a God among baseball players in New York. I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a bit too up in arms over a simple uniform number. · (32) ·
The book on the Yankees is that they’ll make your pitchers work. However, we have not seen this early on in 2008. As a team, they have seen just 3.05 pitches per plate appearance, after seeing 3.88 last year. Derek Jeter is particularly troubling in his hacking, seeing a hair over 2.5 pitches in each of his 25 plate appearances. Clearly, this is something that will change as the season matures. But it does begin to explain the Yankees’ current offensive drought.
We saw this from the get-go yesterday. Johnny Damon hacked at the second pitch of the game, and Derek Jeter at the third. A-Rod swung at the first pitch of the second inning. Through two frames, James Shields had tossed just 17 pitches. This is not what we’re used to seeing from the Yankees.
Things got a bit better in the third inning, though. Three of the four batters took the first pitch, and it looked like they were putting together some sort of inning before Betemit decided to try for third. In the fourth inning (when we scored runs!), four out of the six hitters took the first two pitches. Cano took the first pitch before fouling off a ton en route to a single, and Jorge took the first pitch to the warning track. So thing weren’t looking all bad.
Still, you’d like to see a bit more patience from the team in the next few games. This is quickly starting to feel like late April/May of last year, when the offense was underperforming and as a result pressing. They really seem to be lunging for balls out of the zone, and otherwise taking poor swings. There’s little left to say, other than: I hope they settle in and get into a groove.
Johnny Damon has the same idea: “When I go, this team goes a lot smoother.”
Well, then. Get to it, Johnny.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Lehigh Valley)
Justin Christian & Cody Ransom: both 1 for 4 – Christian K’ed once … Ransom thrice
Juan Miranda & Alberto Gonzalez: both 0 for 4 – The Former Attorney General K’ed twice
Jason Lane: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Eric Duncan: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 SB – 2 SB this year, 2 SB all of last year … 1.012 OPS
Chris Stewart: 2 for 3, 1 PB
Darrell Rasner: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 5-8 GB/FB – 51 of 73 pitches were strikes (69.9%)
Scott Strickland: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – Chad Jennings speculated that he could be cut to make room on the roster for Jon Albaladejo
Chris Britton: 0.1 IP, zeroes
Jose Veras: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Ben and Joe are at the game, so I’m your host for the day. Sunday day games have always been a personal favorite; there’s nothing better than rolling out of bed an hour or so before first pitch, and spending a lazy Sunday with my beloved Bombers. Except, of course, when they’re not doing any bombing at all.
The lineup has been anemic, batting .231-.284-.353 with a whopping 11 extra base hits through one turn of the rotation (Mr. Beltran already has 6 XBH of his own). Maybe they should start getting tips from the guys playing for Low-A Charleston.
While the offense is lacking, the pitching staff for the most part is excelling. Wang and Hughes were solid if not spectacular, while Pettitte and Moose were serviceable in their first go ’round. IPK, eh, not so much, but it’s just one measly start. Outside of Farnsworth and Hawkins (give it up, he’s not Paul O’Neill, we get it already) the bullpen has been outstanding, combining for 14.2 IP of 5 hit, 1 walk, 18 K ball. Goes to show that you don’t need big and sexy names to have a good bullpen.
Eventually the offense will start pulling their weight, but it sure is frustrating to get off to this kind of start year after year.
The lineup :
Jeter SS – I’ll set today’s over/under at 1.5 GIDP
Matsui DH – where he belongs
Betemit 1B – Morgan Ensberg, hello? Are you out there?
On the mound, number forty, Chicken-Wing Wang (trademark Tim McCarver).
Notes: Giambi’s hurtin’, still no word on how bad or how long he’ll be out … there’s a whole lotta stuff going into the New Stadium … two former Yanks celebrate their birthday’s today: Andy Phillips turns 31, Bronson Sardinha turns 25.
Via BBTF comes a good piece from the New York Observer about Jason Giambi’s 2008 campaign. Giambi, 37, is trying to make a move few his age make with much success: He is trying to move to the field after being a full-time DH.
Giambi, according to Medgal, discovered running this off-season and with it, he hopes, a Fountain of Youth:
Since signing a seven-year, $120 million contract with the New York Yankees prior to the 2002 season, Giambi has been an increasingly irregular presence in the lineup, and seeing him in the field has been an even greater rarity. In his first two seasons with the Yankees, Giambi played in 313 of a possible 324 games, 97 percent, including 177 at first base. But in the past four seasons, Giambi played just 441 of 648 games, and just 211 of those at first base. Last year, Giambi appeared in just 18 games at first base, and often was replaced in the late innings for defense…
“I’d get hurt all the time, and I just took it as part of getting older,” Giambi said as he stood near his locker before yesterday’s game against Toronto, a bat leaning against his leg. “But when I worked toward getting back from the plantar fasciitis, I worked with a new doctor, who deals with—well—ballet dancers. And he told me that I had really high arches. I got these inserts”—he gestured toward prescription orthotics in his cleats—“and suddenly it didn’t hurt to run anymore.”
Giambi suffered knee and back pain so quickly, along with “dead legs,” when running in the past that it was never part of his offseason regimen. But this winter, he said, he ran every day. Giambi found a track near his Las Vegas home and learned how to run without pain for the first time, 60 yards at a time.
This winter was the first time in his career that Giambi went through a running program, and the Yanks are hoping that Giambi’s legs will stay fresher for it this year. While Giambi talks about regaining quickness, his apparent injury yesterday bodes ill for his legs.
Right now, the Yanks have to hope that this supposedly new and improved Jason Giambi is also willing to let himself heal. But at 37, it’s hard to roll back the baseball clock as it keeps on ticking ever forward.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass this along. Too funny.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Lehigh Valley)
Brett Gardner: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – Chad Jennings said the homer was a no-doubter
Justin Christian: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 SB
Cody Ransom: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Juan Miranda: 1 for 3, 1 BB
Alberto Gonzalez: 0 for 3, 1 BB – GIDP’ed
Eric Duncan: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP
Alan Horne: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 Balk, 8-4 GB/FB – take out the second inning, and his line would be 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Heath Phillips: 0.2 IP, zeroes – being used strictly as a lefty specialist this year, except in the occasional emergency spot
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K – 8 of 9 pitches were strikes … your garden variety Scott Patterson outing
Edwar: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
So Jason Giambi left the game today with sore left groin. So he made it through four and a half games before the injury bug bite. Not bad, Jason. Not bad. The Yanks have him listed as day-to-day even though Giambi says he feels OK. I doubt he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow. · (0) ·