• Sherman: If Season Started Today, Hughes To Start & Joba In The Pen

    Posted by on February 3rd, 2010 · Comments (36)

    Via Joel Sherman -

    It was impossible to ignore, and the Yankees didn’t ignore it.

    Words were not needed. Joba Chamberlain’s body language screamed confidence and the scoreboard flashed 97 mph. Here at the end of his most taxing season, Chamberlain was a strutting fire-breather again. In the postseason. As a reliever.

    The difference from the starter who too often was tentative and too frequently throwing fastballs at 89-91 mph was stark. As one Yankees official noted recently, “It was hard to miss.”

    The transformation was so blatant, in fact, that the No. 5 starter competition between Chamberlain and Phil Hughes is almost over two weeks before pitchers and catchers even report.

    The Yankees never would admit it publicly, but if the season were to begin today, Hughes would be in the rotation and Joba would be Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man — and, perhaps, heir apparent.

    Yeah, let’s put Hughes in the rotation – because we know he lacks a third pitch that’s required when facing a line-up more than one time in a game, and, we know that his fastball – as a starter – is more in the 89-91 MPH range and then requires pinpoint control to be successful. Makes perfect sense, right?

    Pull-ease.

    Hey, I have no issue with Chamberlain in the pen, if that’s what the Yankees want to do. But, what about having him in the pen with Phil Hughes?

    Sure, I know, there’s not a lot of room out there with Rivera, Marte, Robertson and Aceves…and perhaps Melancon and/or Gaudin. And, of course, there’s no room in the “budget” to acquire another starting pitcher like…say…Jarrod Washburn to be a fifth starter.

    But, the thought of counting on Phil Hughes to make 30 starts and provide 165+ quality innings, at this stage of his career, based on what we’ve seen from him so far, makes no sense, whatsoever.

    At this junction, I think the Yankees have no choice but to go with Joba in the fifth slot. (Don’t even mention Sergo Mitre, OK?) He may have some issues – but, the other choices, given the way the Yankees are now, make little sense.

    Comments on Sherman: If Season Started Today, Hughes To Start & Joba In The Pen

    1. Corey
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:17 am

      Why justification does Sherman have to say this? Hughes the starter was infinitly worse than Joba the starter. Plus, they built up his innings so that this would be the year where he would go all out, at least let him lose that chance first. I really think Joba is going to bounce back this year, and I really don’t see how people think Hughes is better.

      In any case, if the season started today, I’d bet Joba would be in the rotation and Hughes would be starting in Scranton.

    2. YankCrank
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:26 am

      Why don’t we let these guys battle it out in spring training and see who comes out the best pitcher? Joba and Phil aren’t even 25 yet, they still have plenty of growing and learning to do. Let’s resist the temptation to hit the last nail in the coffin on Joba and Phil’s ability to start.

      For all we know, the best pitcher coming out of camp can be named Chad Gaudin?

    3. YankCrank
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:28 am

      Corey wrote:

      In any case, if the season started today, I’d bet Joba would be in the rotation and Hughes would be starting in Scranton.

      I would be 100% ok with this, even if the roles were flip-flopped. It’s not like they have anything to prove in AAA, but i’d still like them to be given every chance to start until it’s proven that they’re incapable of doing so effectively.

    4. Corey
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:43 am

      YankCrank wrote:

      It’s not like they have anything to prove in AAA,

      I would put them there as a matter of keeping them stretched out. I too don’t think they have much to prove at AAA.

    5. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:45 am

      The issue isn’t whether or not Hughes and/or Chamberlain are capable of being starters at the MLB level yet — there just isn’t enough evidence to make that decision yet — rather, the question is why would the Yankees have put themselves through the charade of the so-called Joba Rules if they don’t intend to start him in 2010?

      Chamberlain HAS to start the 2010 season in the rotation, if for no other reason than he is finally stretched out enough to where there are no more innings limits for the team to be mindful of. Whether or not he succeeds as a starter in 2010 will go a long way in determining his future role but I just don’t see any way to make a decision on Chamberlain’s future without giving him this one (potentially last) chance to pitch with the knowledge that 25+ starts and 180+ innings are his responsibility.

      As for Hughes, there is no sense in ruling him out as a starter for the same reason that there is no reason to rule out Chamberlain. We simply need more time to assess where Hughes is in his development. Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez will both be free agents at the end of the 2010 season. There is a good chance that Hughes is asked to pitch in the rotation on a full-time basis as early as next year (if not sooner, depending on injuries, etc.).

      Finally, with respect to your scouting assessment of Hughes, you should check your facts a bit more carefully. In 2009, Hughes threw a fastball (62.8%), a curveball (20.3%) and a cutter (16.4%). In his previous two seasons, Hughes never threw a third pitch – in both cases, a slider – more than 9.4% (2008) of the time (4.7% in 2007). It’s fair to say that Hughes added a third pitch that he trusted for the 2009 season, as evidenced by the fact that he threw it nearly twice as often as any third pitch previously thrown earlier in his career.

    6. February 3rd, 2010 | 9:52 am

      @ MJ: Just because a guy throws three pitches doesn’t mean the 3rd pitch is a quality pitch.

    7. YankCrank
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:53 am

      MJ wrote:

      Chamberlain HAS to start the 2010 season in the rotation

      That’s a very good point. However, i’d even go as far as to knock it down a peg and say Joba simply has to start. Whether he begins in the majors or AAA, the guy has to be a starter until he proves he can’t start.

    8. Corey
      February 3rd, 2010 | 9:53 am

      @ MJ:
      Didn’t he have a change-up in the previous seasons? I know he didn’t throw it all that much, but I remember him trying to.

    9. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 10:07 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Just because a guy throws three pitches doesn’t mean the 3rd pitch is a quality pitch.

      Fair enough, but according to FanGraphs weighted pitch average information, Hughes’s cutter was actually worth 1.98 runs above average/100 pitches. Looks to me like his third pitch was actually pretty valuable.

    10. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 10:09 am

      @ Corey:
      Indeed, he threw changeups approximately 6% of the time in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, Hughes only threw it 0.6% of the time.

      One thing to keep in mind is that PitchFX sometimes has pitch recognition issues and classifies something as one thing when it might be another. I imagine that he threw more changeups than that but they might’ve been mis-categorized.

    11. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 10:13 am

      @ YankCrank:
      My own personal feeling is that Chamberlain would benefit greatly from a half-season in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. I look at Clay Buchholz’s 2009 season as an example of the good that could come from that for Chamberlain.

      Having said that, since I don’t expect it to work out that way, if he’s in the big leagues, he should be starting because there’s no benefit to having had him go through the stretching out process if the team doesn’t try to reap the benefits in the immediate future. If he flops as a starter, by all means, convert him back to a relief pitcher. But for every day he spends on the 25-man roster between April-September, he should be starting games.

    12. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 10:18 am

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      I would also add that just because a guy threw a third pitch (slider) in previous seasons that may not have been effective, doesn’t mean his new third pitch (cutter) isn’t effective.

      You can’t make a priori assumptions on Hughes when he was not the same pitcher in 2009 as he was in 2007-2008.

    13. Tresh Fan
      February 3rd, 2010 | 10:45 am
    14. Pat F
      February 3rd, 2010 | 11:01 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Just because a guy throws three pitches doesn’t mean the 3rd pitch is a quality pitch.

      correct, which is why we need to use a combination of the relevant data, the opinions of those who really know about grading pitches (analysts in the YES booth, scouts, etc.), and our own observations, just as mj has above. the stats say yes, and the analysts say yes, so you’d really have to be a trend setter in knowing something everyone else doesn’t to say hughes’ cutter isn’t a quality pitch. whether or not that pitch (and hughes in general) will grade out as a starter is pure speculation in either direction, which is why we should give it a chance.

      agree with everyone here that the one between hughes/chamberlain that doesn’t open the season with the team should start in AAA to stay stretched out if a need arises. if one doesn’t, they get their innings and can join the big league bullpen later in the summer to bolster that part of the team.

      also, steve, if hughes and chamberlain were to both end up in the pen, why would gaudin stay there too? i think he’d be a near automatic for the fifth spot considering, as you say, mitre is the only other option. but any discussion of the budget or acquiring another starter shouldn’t even come into play considering gaudin’s presence.

    15. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 12:10 pm

      In re-reading the post, I just saw this:

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      And, of course, there’s no room in the “budget” to acquire another starting pitcher like…say…Jarrod Washburn to be a fifth starter.

      We don’t need to belabor the point about the budget (quote marks or not). What we can all agree on is that no amount of money should be spent on Jarrod Washburn, ever. The Mariners did us a favor by trading him to Detroit last year. In 43 putrid innings, he sank the Tigers like a stone. Wherever he pitches in 2010, it should be someplace other than the 10451 zipcode.

    16. YankCrank
      February 3rd, 2010 | 1:04 pm

      MJ wrote:

      What we can all agree on is that no amount of money should be spent on Jarrod Washburn, eve

      I can still remember multiple people coming here on August 1st and complaining about how we didn’t give up prospects to get Jarrod Washburn.

      Kinda funny, so many Yankee fans were pissed we didn’t give up an Austin Jackson to get a Jarrod Washburn, but we give up Jackson for a far more valuable player in Granderson and it’s a travesty to the same fans.

      Another reason I can’t stand the fan base i’m a part of.

    17. #15
      February 3rd, 2010 | 1:09 pm

      It took several years to get things lined up for Joba to finally have this one, uninhibited shot as a full season starter. This is the make or break year on that question in my mind. I believe he’s a reliever by nature and will likely end up there, but everything in the past two years was done to create this chance to gauge if he can be a plus starter. So take this opportunity and let him go for it. Give him until August or so. If he’s not effective, and I mean really not effective… like a string of rough 3 or 4 inning outings most every time he toes the rubber as a starter, then transition someone else (maybe Hughes at that point, but preferably someone else) in as the 5th and move Joba to the pen. If Joba has an ERA ~ 4.50 with some good and some bad outings let him ride the season out as a starter, until, hopefully, it’s time to hone the squad for the 2010 post season. There is no reason to leave a fire-breather like that off of the post season roster just because you don’t need a 5th starter. I really like the idea of Robertson, Hughes, Joba and that other guy from Panama in the pen late in the season and in the post season. That is a hugely deep pen when games really matter. Hughes threw 86 innings including 7 starts last year. I’d like to see him get 100-110 inning and ~ 5-7 starts again as the situation calls for it. Limit him to 4-5 innings or ~ 65-70 pitches in those starts. I don’t think we need to turn him into a starter this year, but it would be nice have him posed for ~ 150 innings next year when we will likely see either Andy or Javy out of the rotation. He might have matured some last year and been encouraged by his success in getting people out. His work ethic will need to be there.

    18. Raf
      February 3rd, 2010 | 1:41 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      @ MJ:

      Yeah, if they wanted a flyball, HR prone LHP, all they’d have to do is call up Igawa from AAA

    19. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 1:46 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      In fairness, I think all fan bases are irrational and myopic. Yankee fans are spoiled but I think you’d find the same reaction to the non-Washburn trade/Gradnerson trade with respect to Austin Jackson in any other city too.

      If you don’t believe me, read USS Mariner. Dave Cameron laments the same type of fan you do…

    20. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 1:47 pm

      Raf wrote:

      Yeah, if they wanted a flyball, HR prone LHP, all they’d have to do is call up Igawa from AAA

      LOL, good point. Plus he’s younger, so that fits with the whole “younger/more athletic” thing too ;-)

    21. YankCrank
      February 3rd, 2010 | 2:09 pm

      @ MJ:

      You’re probably right, and it’s not that I don’t “believe” you it’s just that I feel the Yankee fan is a different breed.

      Throw in the normal irrational and contradictory thinking that most fans have, but also add in a whole lot of “self-entitlement” and plenty of “spoiled”.

    22. YankCrank
      February 3rd, 2010 | 2:10 pm

      Raf wrote:

      @ YankCrank:
      @ MJ:

      Yeah, if they wanted a flyball, HR prone LHP, all they’d have to do is call up Igawa from AAA

      Haha very true, Igawa would have been perfect and performed just as poorly.

    23. MJ
      February 3rd, 2010 | 2:15 pm

      YankCrank wrote:

      Throw in the normal irrational and contradictory thinking that most fans have, but also add in a whole lot of “self-entitlement” and plenty of “spoiled”.

      Yeah, I’d buy that.

    24. Raf
      February 3rd, 2010 | 4:03 pm

      YankCrank wrote:

      Throw in the normal irrational and contradictory thinking that most fans have, but also add in a whole lot of “self-entitlement” and plenty of “spoiled”.

      Don’t forget that being in a media market like NY, some fans tend to think that the world revolves around them and their team.

    25. Evan3457
      February 3rd, 2010 | 7:24 pm

      Joel Sherman is obviously listening to one voice in the Yankees’ hierarchy.

      I see no reason to believe Sherman is correct here, any more than there was to believe him about the Yanks making another other to Damon.

    26. BOHAN
      February 4th, 2010 | 1:33 am

      anyone saying hughes cant start is going on a very small sample. he can start. it wasnt that he doesnt throw hard enough or doesnt have a third pitch he has a third pitch and can throw hard enough. ive seen hime do it plenty of times. is problem starting was primaraily on the mental part. everyone who has never pitch at a competiv level believes that the only part of being a effective starting pitcher is throwing hard and having 3 plus plus pitches. people who throw hard and have 3 plus plus pitches r pitchers like sabathia, verlander, lee, halladay, hernandez, santana, lincecum, grienke etc… aka best pitchers in the league. hughes isnt there, yet. as we all saw when he went to the bullpen he got confidence and a feel for how to pitch mentally… the most important part of pitching. he has a very good cutter now, a plus fastball when he needs it and a great curve along with a decent slider and changeup thats coming along. ive been a big chamberlain and hughes in the rotation together guy. but ive come to realize that joba in the pen and hughes in the rotation is where they both belong at this stage and future stages of their careers.

    27. BOHAN
      February 4th, 2010 | 1:36 am

      YankCrank wrote:

      I can still remember multiple people coming here on August 1st and complaining about how we didn’t give up prospects to get Jarrod Washburn.
      Kinda funny, so many Yankee fans were pissed we didn’t give up an Austin Jackson to get a Jarrod Washburn, but we give up Jackson for a far more valuable player in Granderson and it’s a travesty to the same fans.
      Another reason I can’t stand the fan base i’m a part of.

      anyone who wanted to give up a-jax for washburn is a retard. plain and simple. they should be slapped in the face

    28. BOHAN
      February 4th, 2010 | 1:40 am

      MJ wrote:

      Raf wrote:
      Yeah, if they wanted a flyball, HR prone LHP, all they’d have to do is call up Igawa from AAA
      LOL, good point. Plus he’s younger, so that fits with the whole “younger/more athletic” thing too

      younger more athletice? hes 31 hes not younger then joba or hughes. not even close. hes not even younger then sabathia

    29. BOHAN
      February 4th, 2010 | 1:45 am

      Tresh Fan wrote:

      Apparently Joba didn’t get the memo:
      http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100203&content_id=8013598&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

      in case you didnt realize they tell every pitcher that is fighting to be in the rotation to come in shape to be in the rotation. its a whole lot easier of a transition to make to the bullpen from a starter then from a reliever to a starter. i think every pitcher should be physically in shape to be a starter no matter who you are and i dont mean arm wise i mean endurance and strength wise

    30. Raf
      February 4th, 2010 | 8:22 am

      BOHAN wrote:

      MJ wrote:
      Raf wrote:
      Yeah, if they wanted a flyball, HR prone LHP, all they’d have to do is call up Igawa from AAA
      LOL, good point. Plus he’s younger, so that fits with the whole “younger/more athletic” thing too
      younger more athletice? hes 31 hes not younger then joba or hughes. not even close. hes not even younger then sabathia

      we were joking…

    31. egghead71
      February 4th, 2010 | 12:38 pm

      I really expected to read the comments and see everyone agreeing with Sherman on this one, because that seems to be a prevailing national sentiment. The fact of the matter is, this has been Cashman’s plan all along, and look for a similar course with Hughes. He will spend the year in the bullpen, hopefully get some late starts to get his innings limit up to 130-150 and then step into the rotation next year. I doubt many of us expect to see either Petitte or Vazquez here next year, so even if they sign Lee, there will be an opening in the rotation for Hughes.

    32. YankCrank
      February 4th, 2010 | 1:26 pm

      egghead71 wrote:

      I doubt many of us expect to see either Petitte or Vazquez here next year,

      I wouldn’t necessarily agree with this. If they both have successful years – something that isn’t impossible by any means – and want to come back, i’d love to have them back in ’11.

    33. MJ Recanati
      February 4th, 2010 | 2:05 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      Pettitte will be back as long as he wants to be back. With him, it’s always a year-by-year thing.

      I don’t think the Yanks are bringing Vazquez back no matter how well he does. My impression is that he served two purposes for 2010: first, he was a quality arm that the Yanks could slot in the rotation with little to no worry and, second, that his contract expired after the season, thus freeing up cash for 2011.

      I can’t see them playing the waiting game with Hughes for an indefinite period of time. He was supposed to be in the rotation back in 2007. I have a hard time imagining that they want to start paying arbitration payouts on a guy that hasn’t gotten his full shot…

    34. clintfsu813
      February 4th, 2010 | 2:11 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      I agree..While I think Andy will hang it up, I’d love to see Javy back. (That is if he posts a good year, obviously.)

    35. Corey Italiano
      February 4th, 2010 | 6:36 pm

      clintfsu813 wrote:

      @ YankCrank:
      I agree..While I think Andy will hang it up, I’d love to see Javy back. (That is if he posts a good year, obviously.)

      I truly believe Andy is year by year in his heart, too. While I could see him calling it quits on one hand, I could envision situations where the competitive juices would cause him to return

    36. Jake1
      February 5th, 2010 | 9:31 am

      i dont see the big deal in developing 2 lockdown relievers? whys it so bad if they are dominant in the pen? not like the yankees cant go out and get starters. they arent the pirates who need to develop their own starters

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