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Hughes seems to be edging out Joba

Mar 23, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT

While some folks tell us not to care about such things, the fact remains that there is a fifth starter’s race in the Bronx, so we may as well pass along the developments that transpire therein.

Joba pitched in that intra-squad game yesterday giving up two runs on six hits in five innings against mostly backups and AAA talent. Hughes pitched against a Phillies lineup consisting of many starters, but Hughes did pitch late in the game and there had been many substitutions by then. His line score looked superficially bad — four runs on five hits in 4.1 innings with three homers — but (a) people who were at the game are saying that the wind was blowing out strong; (b) Hughes struck out six; and (c) Joe Girardi said that Hughes had his best stuff all spring.  Which matters more than a random line score in the Grapefruit League.

Girardi says that he’s going to make his decision by Thursday. Most people are assuming at this point that it will be Hughes, partially because he threw well yesterday, partially because they view Joba’s appearance in a split squad game as some kind of exile and partially because people are still in love with 2007 Joba Chamberlain and the bullpen and all of that. And it may very well be Hughes. Usually when the tabloid guys pull something out of their posterior someone will contradict it in short order, but thus far no one has contradicted the “it’s Hughes” conventional wisdom.

Which is fine, at least as long as it doesn’t mean that the Yankees are going to forever consign Chamberlain to the pen. Working him in to the rotation a bit this season to give tired arms a rest and planing on him moving in to replace Pettitte or Vazquez next year makes a lot more sense than ending his career as a starter at age 24.

Especially considering that he really hasn’t done anything to lose his spot as a starter as much as Hughes has done to win a spot as one. If that makes any sense.

  1. Big Harold - Mar 23, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Before too much is read into Hughes starting against the Phillies as opposed to Chamberlain in the inter-squad game keep in mind that Hughes pitched about 85 innings last season. Therefore, if the Joba Rules meant anything Hughes is going to go to about 130-140 innings at most this year. That would translate into around 20 starts which doesn’t really help. Chamberlain, conversely, has no such limits and would be available for 30+ starts.
    Additionally, the Yankees have invested a great deal into developing Chamberlain into a starter and aren’t likely to relegate him to the pen unless and until they are absolutely sure that he can’t hack it as a starter. Unless he falls flat on his face, the 5th starters job is Chamberlain’s to lose, which he hasn’t. Hughes and the Yankees would be better served sending Hughes down to AAA to build innings on his arm bringing him back for spot starts and or for the post season. And, keep in mind all Chamberlain needs to do his show progress to be successful. He has to pitch like a 5th starter not a top of the rotation guy and merely produce consistent quality starts.
    Unless Chamberlain gets off to a start like Wang last year I think this race was over before it started.

  2. Joey B - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Think of it this way-if it is an open competition, which the NYY say it is, then Hughes has won. This is beyond doubt. If Joba is named the starter, then I assume that they must have wanted him to be the starter all along.
    “Especially considering that he really hasn’t done anything to lose his spot as a starter as much as Hughes has done to win a spot as one. If that makes any sense.”
    A little, not a lot. For his career, which is early, Joba’s done okay as a starter, but hasn’t knocked anyone’s socks off. In 221.2 IPs, roughly a full season, he’s allowed 227 hits, 25 HRs, a 206/101 K/W ratio, and a 1.48 Whip. And every split favors him being a closer. The biggest issue in the starter/BP question isn’t him, it’s Mo.

  3. Big Harold - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    “A little, not a lot. For his career, which is early, Joba’s done okay as a starter, but hasn’t knocked anyone’s socks off. ”
    The same could be said about Hughes, this spring training. If Hughes were given the 5th starter slot it’s Joba Rules all over again.
    As a 5th starter all Chamberlain needs to do is hold down the fort and mature and learn the art of pitching. He doesn’t have to knock anybodies socks off.

  4. Steve Oz - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    I’m a die-hard Yankee fan and here is what I’ve seen:
    I loved when Joba first appeared on the scene, clearly he has tremendous stuff – great fastball, lights-out off-speed and very nice breaking ball. That being said, there is more to pitching as a starter than just having great stuff. Where I have seen Joba lacking is between the ears. His mental makeup is one of a closer – full bore, everything you have for 2 innings. I’ve watched as batters are over-matched in the first 2 to 3 innings against Joba but, the 3rd and 4th times through the lineup are disastrous as the batters catch up with what he is trying to do and either walk or pound him.
    On the other hand, I’ve noticed that Hughes has the mentality of a starter. He changes things up in the later innings and seems to have a much better sense of switching things up each time through the lineup.
    In my opinion, the Yankees are much better served with Hughes as a starter and Joba as the heir to Mariano’s role as closer. While both pitchers have great arms and lively pitches, mentally Hughes is much farther along as a starter and I’m afraid that Joba may never have the right mental make-up to succeed at the front end of a ball game.

  5. YANKEES1996 - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    The starting job is not Jobas’ to lose therefore we have this competition. Hughes has pitched better this spring and is the better choice for the final spot in the rotation. The days of Joba only having to show progress to keep the Yankees happy are over, he is going to have to step into a more solid role if given the last spot in the rotation. The fact that this is most assuredly Andys’ last year is going to intensify the pressure on Chamberlain. Even at the age of 24 it is time for him to answer the bell for the Yanks. The Yankees are notorious for trading away pitchers that do not mature and advance at a moderate pace. If Joba is given the last spot he can rest assured that the watchful eye of Girardi and Cash will be upon him always. If he struggles as the starter he will become trade bait quickly and with the pitchers that are going to be in the FA market after the season the Yankees will most likely be quick to pull the trigger on a trade that involves Joba. The best thing that could happen to him is go to the bullpen and let the pressure subside and if Hughes falters come in and save the day or begin learning the closer trade from Mo.

  6. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    A little, not a lot. For his career, which is early, Joba’s done okay as a starter, but hasn’t knocked anyone’s socks off. In 221.2 IPs, roughly a full season, he’s allowed 227 hits, 25 HRs, a 206/101 K/W ratio, and a 1.48 Whip. And every split favors him being a closer. The biggest issue in the starter/BP question isn’t him, it’s Mo.

    Here’s Hughes stats as a SP:
    141.1IP – 144H – 17HR – 112/59 K/BB and 1.436 WHIP
    WoW, they are almost exactly the same. Now through in the innings limitation and the fact that ST stats mean absolutely zero. All the talk of “bulldog mentality” and idiocy of the ilk is done by the media who can’t see past their own ignorances of what has actually occurred in the game.

  7. Evan - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    No idea why Joba was ever made a starter. He is/was a excellent setup man and could eventually replace Rivera.

  8. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    He wasn’t “made” a starter. He was a starter throughout high school college and the minor leagues. He was made a relief pitcher at the tail end of the 2007 season because he hit an IP ceiling and because the Yankees needed BP help down the stretch. Since then, he’s had to deal with people ignoring everything he’s done as a starter and claim that he was born to pitch from the pen.
    And maybe he’ll be better off in the pen in the long run. But what he did for a couple of months in 2007 shouldn’t dictate that.

  9. harl - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    you know why he was made a starter; steinbrenner thought that arm would be a waste in the bullpen. He seems to be a natural born relief pitcher

  10. Stultus Magnus - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    I’m a Yankee fan, but I was sick of Joba’s BS last year, shaking off his catchers for every two pitches he throws, not accepting responsibility for his crappy outings, getting his crap together only after getting threatened (e.g., the few starts before last year’s trade deadline, or a somewhat public reprimand from Jeter) and then losing it after being given some slack. Personally, I think his problems, the ones “between the ears” everybody is talking about, don’t play to either a starter or closer, just an ignorant ballplayer with little value. If he doesn’t step up this year, then I have no problem trading him even if his value is low. I always thought there was an injury hidden somewhere in his problems (nose-diving of average velocity), if that’s not the case, then the Yanks don’t need him.

  11. Big Harold - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Chamberlain going to the pen doesn’t seem likely and here’s why;
    First of all as you state it’s time for him “ answer the bell for the Yanks.” I agree. But, he can’t answer those questions about his ability as a starter in the pen. He has the innings built up, which supposedly was one of the reasons we didn’t get an accurate picture of his ability last season. Well that is no longer an issue. And, the question needs to be asked: what constitutes progress? I would think if he can keep his era sub 4.00 and consistently provide quality starts the Yankees will take that. I certainly don’t think they are expecting 16+ wins and 200 SOs.
    Secondly, you don’t address the issue of the lack of innings built in Hughes’ arm. He is going to make 20-25 starts topping out at 130-140 innings. If the Yankees weren’t inclined to risk Chamberlain I don’t see them risking it with Hughes either. And, Hughes hasn’t blown everybody away in the past or even this spring training either.
    The Yankees know Chamberlain can throw hard. What they need find out is can he pitch. Will he mature into a quality, front of the rotation starter. The same thing can be said of Hughes but he’s at a disadvantage in his development because he hasn’t pitched a lot of innings.
    At the end of the day one could argue that Chamberlain hasn’t won the 5th starters slot by his performance this spring. Conversely, Hughes hasn’t won it outright either. At the same time, as stated, there are a couple of good reasons why Chamberlain should get the opportunity this season as opposed to Hughes. The same can’t be said for giving Hughes the nod.

  12. redsox jack - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    Who cares because no one will hang with the SOX this year.

  13. beaufraser - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Poor Joba. Is he a starter or a reliever?
    We’re asking the wrong question.
    The question should be is he a pitcher?
    At this stage, he is not.
    We forget that Joba has very few innings. The Yankees should send him to the minors where he can learn how to pitch.
    And then decide whether he is a starter or a reliever.

  14. Stultus Magnus - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Indeed, no one will be hanging with the Sox as Papelbon, Ortiz, Dice-K, et al do the collapse…

  15. De Butz - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    Anyone with any baseball knowledge and half a brain knew this is how it would play out, period, the end.

  16. NYY 1967 - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Absolutely !! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  17. YANKEES1996 - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    I agree with you on a couple of points but not all. Joba absolutely needs to learn to pitch and he needs to mature. His aggressive personality maybe hindering him somewhat. I see Hughes as a more mature alternative and either of these guys should be able to learn to pitch at the Major league level in the fifth spot. Adding Vasquez this offseason has eased the pressure on the fifth starter. I do believe that the Joba Rules have set him back in his development and I think he should have been left in the minors longer than he was. Now, that having been said I do believe that Joba is a victim of the poor rotations that we had several years ago and he and Hughes and Kennedy are all victims of our lack of good pitching. Therefore moving these guys back to the minors is really not an option at this point as it most likely would cause them to start doubting themselves which is one of the worst things you can do to a pitcher.
    I think Hughes is the better option in the rotation because he is more of a finesse guy the Joba and seems to be able to string good outings together easier than Joba. I agree that Joba and Hughes have the ability to be very good front of the rotation pitchers but they are going to have to prove themselves at this level.

  18. Evan - Hartford - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    “Since then, he’s had to deal with people ignoring everything he’s done as a starter and claim that he was born to pitch from the pen.”
    2-0, 0.38 ERA in 24 IP with 34 K & only 6 BB
    Anyone who can do that was BORN to pitch from the pen.

  19. Joey B - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    “Since then, he’s had to deal with people ignoring everything he’s done as a starter and claim that he was born to pitch from the pen.”
    There is a lot of evidence in supoort of him being a closer, and far less in support of him being a starter. His OPS for the first 5 innings-
    1st .744
    2nd .633
    3rd .846
    4th .872
    5th .884
    As a RS fan, we’ve seen this with Papelbon. He throws smoke, but he can’t throw smoke for 5 innings. This wouldn’t be the first time a guy was chosen to be a reliever rather than a starter. It happened to Righetti and Nathan because they felt they were better over shorter periods of time. It wasn’t that they were bad starters. They were okay, but they were far better relievers.

  20. Sick of This Nonsense - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    What you have “seen” is the “mentality”? How the heck does one see their “mentality”? In fact, Joba’s problem was not getting exhausted–it was the first inning that troubled him as a starter last year. So much so that he even threw a simulated first inning a few times in an effort to avoid his first inning problems.
    Starters are so much more valuable than relievers that to put either of these guys in the bullpen long term, without making very sure that they simply cannot hack it as starters, would be a travesty. Go look up Johan Santana’s stats before he was 25. Not very good. I’m not saying either of these guys is the next Johan Santana, but merely the chance that either one could be (or simply a very good starter, or simply a decent starter) is worth more than the 70 innings they mgiht give you as a reliever.

  21. bh0673 - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    All I have seen so far is Joba out of the bull pen lights out, Joba as a starter “deer in headlights”. I was at the game when Joba made his first start, great for two innings then imploded. I think Joba’s problem is he comes out throwing to hard and can’t pace, where Hughes can pace himself. But Joba also reminds me of a Yankee starter back in 95, he pitched well one or two innings and then give up runs but low and behold when moved to the bull pen in 96 became one of the best set up men and eventually the best closer in the game.

  22. union - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    Who cares! We are talking about the 5th man in the rotation here. Neither of these guys are really all that great. In fact, if these two guys were on any other team (minus Boston) nobody would be talking about it. The media’s obsession with the Yankees is down right absurd and would have figured Calcaterra would at least be above it, but alas I’ll just have to dig a hole and put my head in it.

  23. dp - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    Your on drugs, the bosux will be lucky if they finish third. That’s why everyone thinks their fans are idiots. You people think if you say it enough, other people as stupid as redsux fans will believe it. I don’t know who is more ignorant, the team , or their dumb ass fans.

  24. JudyJ - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    he-he-he- lol

  25. jwb - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    They’ve both been excellent as relievers. One has been better than the other as a starter. As a Red Sox fan, I say put the worse starter in the rotation.
    Hughes ERA IP WHIP K9 K/BB HR9
    Starter 5.22 141.1 1.436 7.1 1.90 1.1
    Reliever 1.40 51.1 0.857 11.4 5.00 0.4
    Chamberlain ERA IP WHIP K9 K/BB HR9
    Starter 4.18 221.2 1.480 8.4 2.04 1.0
    Reliever 1.50 60.0 0.983 11.9 3.95 0.3
    Captcha: Takeout won. Nope, leftover beef cantonese tonight.

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