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Hughes likely to be named fifth starter today. Here's why it doesn't matter

Mar 25, 2010, 8:29 AM EDT

UPDATE: It’s Hughes.

8:29 A.M. The Yankees fifth start competition has been the most celebrated race for a meaningless job since the last vice presidential search. It’s enough to make me wish for a giant scandal in Yankees camp. I mean, at least it would be fun to talk about, say, a fistfight between Nick Swisher and Mick Kelleher over a card game or a big Marcus Thames steroids beef or something.

But no, we’ve been stuck with Joba and Phil. It’ll likely be resolved today with Joe Girardi naming Phil Hughes his starter and sending Chamberlain to the pen to set up for Mariano Rivera.  Joba fans will complain. The people who think he was born with a bullpen phone stuck to his ear will rejoice. The tabloid writers will spend far too much time talking about how Girardi’s choice reveals important truths about each man’s character and destiny. It’ll be a gas, man. But one tabloid writer makes a pretty wise point. It’s Joel Sherman of the Post, who notes today that the stakes of this fifth starter race aren’t all that high.

Why? Because the Yankees have every Monday in April off and won’t need a fifth starter until the 17th at the earliest, and even later if it rains. Also because Phil Hughes, like Joba before him, will be subject to an innings limit, probably around 170. When you figure that the Yankees are far more likely to make the playoffs than miss them, that means Hughes will need to be pretty severely limited in the early going if they want him to be available for the playoffs (where he’ll likely be a reliever again anyway).

Sherman thinks that the Hughes rules will require that he either start the season in Scranton, where he can be yanked after three or four innings without anyone making a federal case out of it, or split his starts, with him taking the first few innings and having either Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre as scheduled relievers to take, say, the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

The upshot: the conclusion of The Great Fifth Starters Race of 2010 is going to be pretty anticlimactic.  As it should be.

  1. Kid Charlemagne - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:38 AM

    Agreed that the stakes for this year aren’t terribly high, but in the long run its a pretty big deal; the question being answered is which of these two players is going to be (in a perfect world) the next Andy Pettitte and which is going to be the Next Mariano Rivera. The decision made here will determine their fates probably for the rest of their careers.

  2. Reinman - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    I personally thought it was Joba’s job to lose because he projected better as a starter than Hughes at the MLB level. And if someone got injured, Hughes could’ve stepped in then.

  3. Jonny5 - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    Ohhhh enough already with Joba/ Hughes…. We have a 5th starters race in Philly too. The 47 year old Moyer fighting to keep his 5th starter Job against K.Kendrick who has a 1.29 ERA so far in four outings…. Seriously are you trying to get a New york gig Craig? Although most can almost gaurantee Moyer will get the nod because he’s terrible from the pen. But it must be tough starting him with K.K. throwing so darned well.

  4. Jonny5 - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    Joba was born to relieve or close M.Rivera isn’t getting any younger folks.

  5. YankeesfanLen - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    Kind of agree with you except 60% of the 2010 rotation came from free agents and trades, so obviously a bigger Universe exists. I’m moving from Joba being an erratic 2 inning something to suggesting he be trade-bait.
    Captcha demands:”make wistaria”

  6. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    As has been discussed ad nauseam over at riveraveblues.com, the big problem isn’t 2010, but 2011. If Hughes wins the job (and he shouldn’t), the far bigger decision is what to do with Chamberlain. Ideally, if Hughes wins, Chamberlain should go to AAA and continue as a SP in the case that someone from the rotation gets hurt. If the Yanks FO throws him into the bullpen, and a starter gets hurt, Chamberlain wouldn’t be stretched out thus further weakening the rotation.
    2011 is key because, in all likelyhood, the Yanks will need another starter, and possibly two (if Vazquez leaves). If both are stretched out with no innings limitations going into 2011, the rotation is that much better (and cheaper, which is becoming a major factor).

  7. Joey B - Mar 25, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Agreed. With Hughes starting, it means that he is, barring failure, a starter forever. With Joba relieving, it pushes the clock back one more year. Even if he were to start in 2011, he’d be back to the Joba rules again, which is akin to rules for juggling handguns.
    Lost in all of this is the elegant solution.
    If the NYY truly beleive he is a starter, then start him in AAA. Break down all his mistakes from last year and rebuild him. By June, someone will get hurt or crap out. He can step in with virtually no limits.

  8. skip7 - Mar 25, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    Sending Joba to AAA for reasons listed above wouldn’t work, IMO. He’s pretty much an emotional head case as it is, and sending him to the minors, no matter the intentions, might mess him up even more. He hasn’t been the same since his dominance as Rivera’s set-up guy. Maybe he’ll never live up to the hype and expectations put on him.

  9. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    Or, statistically, he’s put up the same numbers as the guy everyone is trying to replace him with, over a longer period of time with no limitations this year.
    But yeah, he’s an “emotional head case” based off everyone’s $2 psychology degree.

  10. Big Harold - Mar 25, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    “But yeah, he’s an “emotional head case” based off everyone’s $2 psychology degree.”
    No he’s not, … he’s 24. I don’t know about you but when I think back to the things I did and how I acted at 24 I’m grateful nobody was following me around with a camera or reporting on my every utterance.
    Chamberlain belongs as the 5th starter because neither of these guys actually “won” the job. Because Chamberlain has been stretched out to the point innings limits are no longer a concern while the same can’t be said for Hughes, (in fact I don’t know how Craig C. arrives at the 170 innings limit as Hughes only pitched about 85 innings last season). And, most importantly, because the Yankees need to find out this season whether Chamberlain has what it takes to be a starter so that they know what direction they take in the offseason with regard to the rotation next season. As was pointed out, what happens to Chamberlain this year is key for 2011.
    It may not play out that way, but Chamberlain should be the 5th starter to see if he’s a pitcher or a just another hard thrower. Hughes should start the year in AAA to prepare him for next season.

  11. Joey B - Mar 25, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    Wow, virtually the same post as mine. I thought I’d get blasted by Yankee fans for suggesting he go back to AAA.
    But in response to your next post, he pretty much is a basket case right now. He got shelled throughout August and September, and he is getting shelled in ST. It’s not a personal assessment since I blame it on the RS best friend, the ‘Joba Rules’. But he is so much better than he is showing now that he needs to be re-built.

  12. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    My comment was supposed to be tongue in cheek, damn internet and sarcasm machine :)
    @Joey B

    But in response to your next post, he pretty much is a basket case right now. Wow, virtually the same post as mine. I thought I’d get blasted by Yankee fans for suggesting he go back to AAA.

    He got shelled in august/sept because he had passed his previous innings high, but a lot. Around 110IP, he still had a 3.5ish ERA and was pitching relatively well. Off the all-star break, he had something like a 23IP/3R streak going, but then ran out of gas (then the 3/4IP stuff started).
    The move to AAA, as mentioned above by a lot of guys at RAB, makes sense because moving to the bullpen will significantly hamper his development as a SP. He’ll only need to throw 2 pitches and not work on his curve/change. He doesn’t have to worry about multiple times through the order because honestly, girardi won’t have him pitch 3/4 innings at a time. Going to AAA allows Joba to continue to work on his conditioning and using multiple pitches multiple times through the order. He’ll also be able to step in when Hughes hits his innings limit, which will happen if he starts out of Opening Day.
    Also, according to the guys at RAB, both Joba and Phil have one option left, but Phil’s runs out around April whereas Joba’s runs out around Aug. So the Yanks are screwed by those constraints as well.

  13. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    holy terrible formatting batman!
    And apparently Hughes gets the 5th spot, FML
    http://riveraveblues.com/2010/03/yanks-tab-hughes-as-fifth-starter-25665/

  14. Joey B - Mar 25, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    “He got shelled in august/sept because he had passed his previous innings high, but a lot. Around 110IP, he still had a 3.5ish ERA and was pitching relatively well. Off the all-star break, he had something like a 23IP/3R streak going, but then ran out of gas (then the 3/4IP stuff started).”
    I’m not seeing it. Even after 110 IPs, he still had a 1.40 Whip. If he was worn out after 110 IPs, then something is wrong. He had 112 IPs in 2007, 100 in 2008. I think it had way more to do with him pacing himself properly and the crazy rules they set for him.

  15. Big Harold - Mar 25, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Sorry I didn’t notice the sarcasm. As an Irish guy that is almost unforgivable.
    I see your point about the number of options left. Frankly I wasn’t aware that situation was that acute. I could be wrong but if Hughes last option runs out sometime in April, it would seem that he might as well start in AAA and bring him up in September with some innings left or just put him in the pen for the year.
    Nevertheless, sending Chamberlain down to AAA isn’t going to teach him how to get major league hitters out so he gains little there. As you point out, putting him in the pen will make him a two pitch pitcher so that doesn’t help his maturation either. It’s sort of sink or swim time for for Chamberlain. If he gets off to a dreadful start, then send him down with the last option and plug in Hughes.
    With 4 quality starters now is the time to find out if Chamberlain is a starter or not. All he needs to do really is develop, learn and not be awful. If at the end of the season he’s better than he was in the beginning then the Yankees have a starter. If not they go looking for one and groom him as Mariano’s replacement.

  16. Big Harold - Mar 25, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Hughes wins, there goes another good argument down the drain.
    http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100325&content_id=8924184&vkey=news_nyy&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy

  17. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    I’m not seeing it. Even after 110 IPs, he still had a 1.40 Whip. If he was worn out after 110 IPs, then something is wrong. He had 112 IPs in 2007, 100 in 2008. I think it had way more to do with him pacing himself properly and the crazy rules they set for him.

    [Please double check my math]
    Through 110IP:
    97/50 K/BB, 3.6 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.89 K/9, 4.07 BB/9
    Next 46.2IP:
    36/26 K/BB, 7.52 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 6.94 K/9, 5.01 BB/9
    There could be lots of reasons why he [seemed] fell off a cliff after 110IP, but he definitely was a much different pitcher after that TB game (8IP, 3H, 0R)

  18. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Nevertheless, sending Chamberlain down to AAA isn’t going to teach him how to get major league hitters out so he gains little there. As you point out, putting him in the pen will make him a two pitch pitcher so that doesn’t help his maturation either. It’s sort of sink or swim time for for Chamberlain. If he gets off to a dreadful start, then send him down with the last option and plug in Hughes.

    Splitting my replies up since you and Joey B are both making good points.
    I agree that putting him in the Minors may not help with “maturation” even though I don’t necessarily see that as a problem. I do see it as an issue that he was so overpowering in his brief minor stint (88IP, 2.45ERA, 135/27 K/BB, 13.8K/9) that it wouldn’t force him to work on 3rd/4th pitches.
    However, if the Yanks brass told him he was down in AAA to work on two (well three) things: work longer into games (aka keep stretched out in case he needs to get called up) and work on third/fourth pitches, he can do both without harming the big league team. Hell, he could throw his curve/change 50% of the time because who cares about actual results in the minors. But with this current move, my trust in the FO diminishes a little.

  19. jwb - Mar 25, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    “Also, according to the guys at RAB, both Joba and Phil have one option left, but Phil’s runs out around April whereas Joba’s runs out around Aug. So the Yanks are screwed by those constraints as well.’
    Not quite. Players have the right to refuse an assignment to the minors (optional or outright) after they have five years of service time. Hughes’ contract was purchased in April, 2007 and he was optioned for a little over three weeks in 2009, so he will reach five years in May 2012 and has two options remaining. Chamberlain’s contract was purchased in August, 2007 and he has never been optioned, so he will reach five years in August 2012 and has three options remaining. This assumes that neither are optioned (or outrighted or serve in the military or are put on the restricted list) between now and then. Options aren’t a problem in the near future for either of them.

  20. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    Aren’t there a limited number of times you can be optioned down to the minors? I seem to remember the Yanks ran into the option problem with Wang last year after they reactivated him too soon, and he only had 4 years of service time.

  21. jwb - Mar 25, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Yes. A player can usually be optioned to the minors in three different seasons, not three different times. There are a couple of exceptions.
    If a player is optioned for a total of less than 20 days in a season, it doesn’t count. It also doesn’t count against his service time. An example of this was in 2008 when Jeff Francoeur was optioned and spent a long weekend at AA Mississippi chatting with Franklin Stubbs.
    There are also some Byzantine rules about not being on an active roster (disabled, restricted, military service, voluntarily retired lists) which I don’t completely understand, so I’ll direct you to former Assistant GM in Charge of Byzantine Rule Compliance Keith Law’s explanation rather than incorrectly resummarize his summary. These are part of the Baseball Rules, which are not generally available to the public, as opposed to the CBA, which is:
    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2006/08/death_taxes_and_1.php
    It looks like Wang spent 63 days on the active roster last season, which meant the Yankees could not option him for a fourth time.

  22. Joey B - Mar 25, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    “Through 110IP:
    97/50 K/BB, 3.6 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.89 K/9, 4.07 BB/9
    Next 46.2IP:
    36/26 K/BB, 7.52 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 6.94 K/9, 5.01 BB/9
    There could be lots of reasons why he [seemed] fell off a cliff after 110IP, but he definitely was a much different pitcher after that TB game (8IP, 3H, 0R)”
    There are a couple of things that occur to me. I don’t think the +30 rule hinders effectiveness as much as it protects a pitcher’s arm. 110 IPs is scarcely more than Torre would get out of his relievers. Gooden had 276 at age 20.
    And this one you won’t like. Joba relies a lot on intimidation. If I guy hits him, he comes up and in, and others might suggest that he tries to bean the batter. The TB game is the game where Garza clipped Tex up around the head area, admitted afterwards that he did so intentionally, and the league de facto condoned it by not even fining him. All that was designed to send a message to the NYY that Joba’s behavior was not going to be tolerated. Stripped of the ability to bean a guy that hits him, he became ineffective.
    That’s not to say he can’t get guys out without beaning them. I’m actually only rambling on because, from a BB perspective, I think Joba can be much, much better. As a RS fan, I hope he starts ove Hughes. As a BB fan, I think he needs to be sent down and taught how to pitch. How to own the inside half without starting a war. How to pace himself. How to deliberately put the ball in play instead of going for the K.
    And like I said, he’ll likely be up by June, and 180 IPs makes him PO-accessible, and gives you two FT starters in 2011.
    Having said that, I still think he should be a closer should Mo ever become human.

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