Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hughes in Pen a Bullish Problem (Score One for Bad Puns!)

Let me make something clear, before I get into the meat of this post:

Long term, Phil Hughes is a starter. That's why the Yankees drafted him, and that's where he will end up long term. As it should be.

In fact, right now, as Joe P. of River Ave Blues told me, Hughes is the Yanks' fourth-best starter.

The thing is, Phil Hughes' pitching well in the bullpen, and Chien Ming Wang not pitching poorly enough to show that he should be removed from the rotation means that right now, there's probably not a very big push from Yankees' brass to get Hughes back in the rotation.

If Wang keeps pitching at a not-quite-catastrophic level, there's less time (this season) for Hughes to stretch out as a starter. Keeping him as a long reliever was a good idea, but Hughes is also being used in short relief stints, and he is not starting every five days, as would be more beneficial to his development.

The issue here is that the Yankees are hamstrung by Wang's situation, and, as has been previously discussed, they can't just simply take him out of the rotation without there being consequences, that include risking losing a former 19-game-winner to another team.

It would be easier to say that the Yankees should drop Wang if his last starts had been catastrophic like his first ones, but, while they haven't been spectacular (or necessarily that good), they haven't been horrendous. Giving up three runs each in two starts is not horrendous, and had the Yankees' offense not decided to take that week in June off, the Yankees could have won those games. (It's also worth noting that the Washington start included one horrendous call, that if it had gone Wang's way, would have likely gotten him out of the inning without the runs scoring. Or at least gotten him closer to it. Fallacy of the predetermined outcome, and all. Michael Kay would be proud).

The one possibility that keeps getting mentioned is that when Joba reaches his innings limit, he and Hughes will simply switch places.

This is deceptively simple, as it would mean Hughes would have to stretch out again, and if Joba doesn't hit his cap until, say, the end of August, there simply may not be enough time for this to have any realistic success.

It's quite a pickle the Yankees have gotten themselves into.

At least, to be optimistic, the Yankees have the luxury of having too many starters. Most teams would kill for that.