Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Media Pressure?

One thing that has annoyed me about the Yankees's fifth starter race is that it has always seemed, despite assurances otherwise, to be a two-man race. Joba or Hughes? That is the question. But recently all the coverage in the press has revolved around the fact that Ace, based on his performances thus far, is the only clear front-runner if it is truly a five-man race. I would love to see either Hughes or Joba or both develop as full-fledged starters, but if they're not the best men for the job then those who prove themselves should earn the spot. I wonder whether the media's willingness to point out the obvious, that Ace is the only one who has shown the ability to pitch consistently well as a starter, might pressure the Yankees into not simply following some organizational player development plan as opposed to fielding the best rotation possible. They could comfortably do the former because of the strength of their 1-4 starters, but they may have a lot of explaining to do if Hughes, let's say, continues to pitch as he has, Ace continues to pitch as he has, but Hughes gets the nod come the regular season. It will be interesting to see whether the media coverage has any effect on how that decision ultimately plays out.


Dylan Murphy said...

I think Joba should just go back into the bullpen. It's the only place where he's shown consistent success (and dominance). There's too much pressure on him and Phil Hughes to become the next great Yankee starters.

lady gaganonymous said...

I wonder whether the media's willingness to point out the obvious, that Ace is the only one who has shown the ability to pitch consistently well as a starter...
I think this blog has good analysis in general, but you're off here. Ace has started five games in his major league career. He has three starts that I would say are good and two that were not. In 2008:
vs. LAA - 7 IP, 1 ER, 2 K/0 BB
vs. CHW - 6 IP, 2 ER, 3 K/1 BB
vs. BAL - 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 K/3 BB
vs. BOS - 4 IP, 4 ER, 1 K/4 BB
And his one 2009 start:
vs. MIN - 3.1 IP, 3 ER (4 R), 2 K/1 BB
The first five starts of a pitcher's career can't really tell you that they'll be able to pitch "consistently well," but that doesn't even matter because Aceves hasn't pitched consistently well as a starter.

Also, Hughes pitched well tonight. The game wasn't available anywhere, but apparently he had all his pitches working. It was against the like triple-A squad of the Astros, but he was quite good.

Joba needs to learn that he's not gonna just blow guys away and to work more efficiently.

I don't blame the organization for trying to draft and develop young starting pitching, and people need to learn to have a lot more patience with young pitchers. We haven't been doing so great with pitcher development for the past, uh, decade or so, so I think people forget how long it can take, plus how many pitching prospects just don't work out at all; Joba and Hughes have a LOT of success compared to some of the guys they listed in the early years.*

The last really significant pitcher from the Yankees' farm system, CMW aside? Andy Pettitte. I am obviously a big fan of his, but he debuted in 1995. That's a looong time.

* for fun, go look at the first year Derek Jeter was listed. It's 1993; he was #44. Look at the pitchers listed above him and laugh heartily. Not that some of the prospects at various positions weren't busts, but they listed a whole bunch of position players above Jeter that have had really nice careers (Chipper, Delgado, Tim Salmon, Manny, Damon, Klesko, Mike Piazza...).

lady gaganonymous said...

also, I feel pretty comfortable, looking at the 1995 list, that Andy Pettitte, #49, had a better career than any of the other pitchers listed in that year, save maybe Chris Carpenter (who, note, didn't get good until he was 29). Take that, Armando Benitez and some guy named Daron Kirkreit!!!!

Rich Mahogany said...

"I think Joba should just go back into the bullpen. It's the only place where he's shown consistent success (and dominance)."

Joba has pitched 221 innings as a starter and has a 4.18 ERA in that role. It's not like he's failed as a starter, and he's only 24. He has the potential to be an above-average starter, and should get the opportunity to become one.

"There's too much pressure on him and Phil Hughes to become the next great Yankee starters."

I don't think this is true anymore. The Yankees are basically holding tryouts for fifth starter. Not even Yankee fans should expect their fifth starter to be a great pitcher. If Joba turns in a full season of league-average pitching, which is hardly out of the question, he will probably be the best fifth starter in baseball.

lady gaganonymous said...

well-put, Rich.

I do think there is pressure for Joba and Phil to be great starters, but:
a. almost no one comes up and dominates right away, unless they're Tim Lincecum. Andy Pettitte, just to use the example again, had an ERA of 4.00 in his first two years. He had a WHIP of 1.381 and a K/BB ratio of 2.01. Oh, and he was like the staff ace one of those years.
People expect these highly touted prospects to be aces from the day they come up and then when they don't, they're worthless. Add in people not really understanding the difference between starting pitching and relief pitching, and the relative importance of each, and you have a lot of confused people.
b. Joba and Hughes are *professionals* and don't (or shouldn't) give a shit about the pressure.

Roberto E. Alejandro said...

My reference to Ace's success as a starter referred only to his spring training numbers. Since this is supposedly a five-man tryout, then it's the ST numbers that count, in which case Ace is the only person who has shown he can consistently do well as a starter. It's a small sample size, and the post was written before Hughes's last game, but my main point is that there are other pitchers on the staff who are showing they may also be able to have success but may not actually get considered.

Jon Roberts said...

I disagree about Joba. I think he needs to remember he can blow guys away pretty whenever he really needs it. In other words, man up. He seems to have turned himself into an inefficient nibbler and there is no reason for him to be that way.

If Ace were to win the spot would you advocate sending both Hughes and Joba to AAA to stay stretched out? Put one in a long relief role?

I like Ace, but it seems he isn't viewed as a long term rotation option and the other two need the work.

Jon Roberts said...

Of course I then go over to lohud and read about how awesome Joba was attacking the zone and working quickly.

Roberto E. Alejandro said...

One thing Ace has going for him is that he's pretty much guaranteed a spot on the roster. If not in the rotation he will be in the pen. With Joba and Hughes, I feel that if Ace beats them out, then the Yankees first need to make a decision about Joba (will he start or relieve). If it is the latter, and if he loses out this Spring I suspect it will be the latter, then the Yanks should put Joba in the 'pen is Mo's set-up man, and should probably send Hughes to AAA.

The main reason to keep Hughes on the roster is so that he can continue to learn to get major leaguers out. But the problem is that pitching in relief is just too different from starting. You also need to stretch Hughes out, and using him in the 'pen is no guarantee he'll get enough innings to be able to give you a full 200 next year. So if Ace wins the rotation spot and Joba is in the 'pen as our 8th inning guy, I would put Hughes in AAA. Eventually someone will go down, or Ace may prove ineffective in a starting role (we already know he can relieve), and he'll be back on the major league roster in starting role, keeping him stretched out and on path to be a full time major league starter next year.

Rich Mahogany said...

Joba will start and Hughes will go to AAA, with a call up if someone in the pen gets injured. I think this has been the Yankees' plan all along and ST is just a dress rehearsal to make sure everyone is healthy.