• And, The 5th Spot In The Yanks Starting Rotation Goes To…

    Posted by on March 24th, 2010 · Comments (23)

    Ah…Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves…who will win the coveted last spot in the Yankees 2010 starting rotation?

    Well, I would be shocked if it’s Sergio Mitre…because that means Hughes and Chamberlain, in some combination, go to the bullpen or the minors. Either both go to the pen, or one goes with the other heading to Triple-A, or maybe they both get sent down to Scranton? And, I find any of that unlikely to happen…now.

    Alfredo Aceves? I have little doubt that he can’t be a somewhat useful fifth starter for a big league team. Heck, I’d rather give him 30 starts, at this stage of his career, than guys like Livan Hernandez, Brian Moehler or Kyle Davies. But, I stress useful here so that it’s not confused with “great” or even “very good.” Yet, I just have a hunch that General Joe is more likely to use Aceves as a trusted long man out of the pen (with Mitre being a long-man in mop-up situations) – at least to start the 2010 season.

    Really, this “battle” is all about Chamberlain and Hughes. And, most seem to think that Hughes will be announced as the winner…very soon.

    So, here’s my prediction: If Phil Hughes is selected to be the Yankees 5th starter, to begin this season, one of three things will happen – and two of them are bad. Maybe Hughes will hold his own and make 30 starts in 2010? If he does, that would be good. But, I think the odds are greater that he will get exposed as a starter (due to his lacking a third quality pitch and the abililty to get lefties out) and/or he will get injured and end up on the disabled list – as often seems to be the case when he’s asked to carry the load of starting for a full season.

    Now, Chamberlain, on the other hand, is another story. Is he too confident? Is he delusional? Is he too head-strong? We’ve heard this type of stuff in the past. Also, is he already past his peak – even though he’s just 24-years old? Hey, it’s happened in the past with pitchers. Granted, I’m not saying that he’s going to be terrible now…just never again as great as he was in 2007.

    In the end, factoring all this all in…regarding the fifth spot in the Yankees 2010 rotation…at this junction what I feel most sure about is: Whomever gets the job to start this season probably won’t be the guy who owns it for most of the season. And, the player who will make the most starts for the Yankees following Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and Vazquez is “To Be Determined.” And, that goes for now, next week, three weeks from now, and maybe some time after that as well.

    Comments on And, The 5th Spot In The Yanks Starting Rotation Goes To…

    1. MJ Recanati
      March 24th, 2010 | 7:34 am

      If Chamberlain ends up losing the 5th starter battle and winds up in the bullpen, I will just be left to wonder what all those stupid Joba-rules games were all about.

      It wouldn’t represent a failure if a first round draft pick ends up being an effective late-innings reliever but it would be ever so slightly disappointing after all the hype and all the effort and time invested. But, if that’s how it’s going to be, better to just accept it, turn the page and hope that Chamberlain succeeds in this important and challenging role.

      The worst part about it isn’t that Chamberlain may “only” be a reliever, it’s that all the dummies that believed he should’ve been a reliever from the start will actually think they were proven right.

    2. gphunt
      March 24th, 2010 | 8:29 am

      If Chamberlain loses, and that seems to be the case, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t move him to AAA to log innings as a starter. Melancon is more than ready to be a reliever at the MLB level. 2011 is important because Pettitte is preaching retirement and the Yankees aren’t jumping to sign Vazquez to an extension. Having Hughes and Chamberlain off of their innings limits and ready for 2011 rotation full-time would be ideal for Cashman. Furthermore, no telling what Sabathia is going to do after 2011 either.

    3. YankCrank
      March 24th, 2010 | 8:33 am

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      If Chamberlain ends up losing the 5th starter battle and winds up in the bullpen, I will just be left to wonder what all those stupid Joba-rules games were all about.
      It wouldn’t represent a failure if a first round draft pick ends up being an effective late-innings reliever but it would be ever so slightly disappointing after all the hype and all the effort and time invested. But, if that’s how it’s going to be, better to just accept it, turn the page and hope that Chamberlain succeeds in this important and challenging role.
      The worst part about it isn’t that Chamberlain may “only” be a reliever, it’s that all the dummies that believed he should’ve been a reliever from the start will actually think they were proven right.

      I couldn’t agree more MJ, which is why I can’t see a scenario where Joba can “lose” this battle. With all of the hype surrounding Joba and his Rules since 2007, I just can’t see them giving up right now. Give the kid the 5th starter role, and now that there’s no limit on what he can do let him show you if he is indeed a useful ML starter or a useful ML reliever. Giving up right now, before the 2010 season starts, would be hypocritical and just wash away all of the inconvenient 50-pitch-count performances and three-inning starts that he’s had to go through the last few years.

      I have always taken the stand that we don’t know what Joba will be, but you may as well see if he can be a dominant starter before deciding all he is is a dominant reliever…simply because a dominant starter is more valuable (that’s why a Sabathia can make $23 million a year and the best reliever ever is at $13 million a year). But don’t just give up after this inconvenient operation has been going on for two + seasons.

    4. jay
      March 24th, 2010 | 8:35 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      because that means Hughes and Chamberlain, in some combination, go to the bullpen or the minors.

      Do you mean that one of them *has* to go the minors? They don’t – you could fit all of these guys on the 25 man roster, albeit in the bullpen, if Mitre was the 5th starter.

    5. clintfsu813
      March 24th, 2010 | 8:36 am

      @ YankCrank:
      I totally agree, and thats why I think Joba will win the 5th spot..for now at least.

    6. Raf
      March 24th, 2010 | 10:22 am

      YankCrank wrote:

      I just can’t see them giving up right now.

      I can, if only because the way they have been going about developing Chamberlain. Even last year, they really couldn’t figure out what to do with him. And he seemingly hasn’t been right since getting hurt in Texas.

    7. Pat F
      March 24th, 2010 | 10:35 am

      “due to his lacking a third quality pitch”

      this is incorrect, and will not become correct just because you keep repeating it. hughes threw his cutter at least 16.4% of the time last year, which is more than he had ever thrown any third pitch and was barely less than he used his curveball. it was also a more effective pitch for him last year than his curveball (20.3%). it would not be unreasonable to make the argument right now that his curveball is his third pitch.

      whether or not these two secondary pitches will be effective and hold up as a starter is unknown. but to say they do not exist or are not quality is ignoring the facts.

    8. YankCrank
      March 24th, 2010 | 11:12 am

      According to Joel Sherman, Hughes won the job and Joba to the pen.

      If true, color me surprised.

    9. MJ Recanati
      March 24th, 2010 | 12:09 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      As early as yesterday evening on ESPN Radio’s New York Baseball Tonight, they were saying that it was Phil over Joba in the 5th starter competition.

      Like I said above, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a failure on Joba’s part. He can still provide immeasurable value to the Yankees as a dominant reliever (if he does indeed dominate in that role).

      The only problem I have is simply that it makes all of the 2008-2009 innings Chamberlain logged as a starter a big waste of time. If you wanted to get to the point where he’d be unfettered by innings limits, why would you stop that process now? It’s like running a marathon, getting through the grueling and painful 25 mile mark and then just quitting with a mile to go.

    10. YankCrank
      March 24th, 2010 | 12:34 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      The only problem I have is simply that it makes all of the 2008-2009 innings Chamberlain logged as a starter a big waste of time. If you wanted to get to the point where he’d be unfettered by innings limits, why would you stop that process now? It’s like running a marathon, getting through the grueling and painful 25 mile mark and then just quitting with a mile to go.

      Exactly why i’m surprised. I just don’t see why they’d go through the long and painful process to just give up now.

    11. MJ Recanati
      March 24th, 2010 | 12:46 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      I don’t know either. I’d like to think it’s because the team (scouts, coaches, others) has come to a conclusion based on data, observation, etc. that he can’t start. I’d like to think that they came to this decision via a reasoned, measured and intelligent process. I’d like to trust them on this one.

      We’ll probably never know the real reason they pulled the plug on Chamberlain in the rotation for 2010 which means we’ll probably spend the next six months talking about it ad infinitum. I just hope that if we ever DO find out the reason, we find evidence of logic and reason and not just Cashman fucking Chamberlain up for a third time. I like Cash-Money but I’m extremely underwhelmed with how he’s permitted the team to handle Chamberlain’s development.

    12. YankCrank
      March 24th, 2010 | 1:16 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      I like Cash-Money but I’m extremely underwhelmed with how he’s permitted the team to handle Chamberlain’s development.

      This is something that will be debated to no end, and idk if there’s a right or wrong answer. Is what happened to Joba a product of how he was forced to develop at the ML level on pitch and innings limits? Was it because of his injury in Texas? Is this the Yankees fault for giving up too soon, when he’s still only 24-years-old?

      Hard to determine. All I know is, for whatever has brought Joba’s career to this, I don’t like it.

    13. MJ Recanati
      March 24th, 2010 | 1:36 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      I’m all for protecting young arms and keeping them on leashes for their own good but I can’t remember another time where a team would trot out a starter and tell him he had 30 pitches or 3 innings, whatever came first…in AUGUST!

      The Twins developed Santana by bringing him out of the bullpen for 4-inning relief appearances once a week in addition to regular relief duty. Seems to me that was just as good an idea as any.

    14. YankCrank
      March 24th, 2010 | 2:09 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:

      For whatever reason, i’m just disappointed. Like you said, if Joba is as good a reliever as he was in ’07 he still has value. We all knew what he could bring to the bullpen, so this isn’t a loss.

      I was just excited for the promise of the ’08 Joba at Fenway pitching out of the Yankee rotation. I, like i’m sure most of you, sat through the bullshit 30-50 pitch appearances because we knew that once 2010 came, his training wheels would be off and he could just pitch. Just pitch as the starter that’s so dominant, and so valuable that they needed to baby him.

      Too bad. Sure, he can still be dirty out of the pen, but I wanted to at least see him pitch with no restrictions and see what happens. Maybe i’m overreacting…

    15. clintfsu813
      March 24th, 2010 | 2:12 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      I was just excited for the promise of the ‘08 Joba at Fenway pitching out of the Yankee rotation

      I was there! My one and only trip to the Fens :)

    16. MJ Recanati
      March 24th, 2010 | 4:05 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      I don’t think you’re overreacting, it definitely seems like the Yanks quit the race when they were in the homestretch. It’s definitely a curious turn of events and one that does represent a degree of failure for all parties involved.

    17. March 24th, 2010 | 9:20 pm

      @ Pat F:
      I wrote “due to his lacking a third quality pitch”

      Stress “quality.” Sure, maybe he threw the cutter 16% of the time in 2009. But, was it quality? If so, then why did he spend so much time this spring trying to master the change?

    18. Pat F
      March 24th, 2010 | 11:12 pm

      @ Steve Lombardi:

      i responded to the quality element. according to fangraphs pitch values his cutter was a more “quality” pitch than his curveball. i don’t think those values are the be all, end all, but i do think they are helpful guides to combine with what you see with your eyes. and last year i saw a very effective cutter from hughes. he used his curveball more, but his cutter was more effective, hence why i think it would be reasonable to consider those pitches on near equal footing for hughes at this point in terms of 2nd and 3rd pitches.

      having an effective cutter in 2009 and developing a change this spring are not mutually exclusive. a lot of pitchers these days have 4, 5, even 6 pitches, including two in our rotation (sabathia and pettitte). if you can have four effective pitches, it’s better than three. further a change would give hughes another plane to throw on and change eye levels, as the cutter and 4-seam are very similar in that regard.

      whether or not these pitches will be “quality” as a starter the way they were as a reliever certainly remains to be seen, so i agree with your conclusion there. i think there is just a slightly more accurate way of arriving at it.

    19. marmeduke
      March 25th, 2010 | 7:57 am

      Why are people talking about winning or losing?? If Hughes gets the spot it doesn’t mean that Joba lost it! It means there is only one spot now so only one of the two can start…right now. Hughes has been the prospect with the higher ceiling since he was drafted. Joba excited people more because of that 99 mph fastball which he no longer throws. If he carried that fastball into starting we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Hughes appears to be the better choice at this point but both should be in the rotation by next year, and possibly, before the end of this year. People shouldn’t have a Hughes vs Joba mentality.

    20. MJ Recanati
      March 25th, 2010 | 7:58 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Stress “quality.” Sure, maybe he threw the cutter 16% of the time in 2009. But, was it quality? If so, then why did he spend so much time this spring trying to master the change?

      That’s a weird question, Steve. Why would you infer that someone trying to improve a pitch in spring training believes that his other pitches aren’t good enough and thus worth replacing?

      Isn’t spring training the time of year where pitchers try to work on pitches, to refine them to the point that they can use those new pitches in games? Does it say somewhere that one must replace one pitch in the repertoire with another and that if Hughes is working on his change, he surely must think that his cutter isn’t quality?

    21. MJ Recanati
      March 25th, 2010 | 8:03 am

      @ marmeduke:
      I hear what you’re saying but I think you need to consider what the effect of Phil “beating” Joba means here:

      -If the Yanks put Chamberlain in the bullpen, the odds of him being an effective starter in 2011 are minimized because he will have spent two seasons (2008-2009) getting stretched out only to spend the season (2010) back to short-relief duty. It’ll be hard to expect much from Chamberlain in terms of a 180+ innings season in 2011 if he’ll be back down to between 70-100 this year.

      -If the Yanks send Chamberlain to AAA as a starter in order to keep him stretched out — as the Red Sox did with Clay Buchholz last year — then, yes, your point is well taken that there was no “winning” and “losing” in this situation.

      I’ve long advocated for Chamberlain to spend at least half the season in AAA to continue his development as a starter. I’ve seen enough to know that he’s not a capable MLB starter, given the fact that he only has two pitches, doesn’t maintain velocity consistently, has endurance/stamina issues and loses command quite frequently. 20 starts in AAA should do enough to either help him correct his flaws and finalize his development or tell us that he’s better-suited to a relief role.

    22. Raf
      March 25th, 2010 | 9:45 am

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      given the fact that he only has two pitches

      He has 4, and to be honest, I am surprised that he doesn’t work his curve and change into more games. Especially if there is a problem with his velocity.

    23. MJ Recanati
      March 25th, 2010 | 11:01 am

      @ Raf:
      He might *have* have four but he only *uses* two. The fact that he doesn’t use his CB and CH makes him a two-pitch pitcher.

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