Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hughes Clues: How The Yankees Should Use Phil Hughes This Season

So Phil Hughes is the Yankees 5th starter. Pretty much everyone figured that out by now.

The real question is how are they going to handle his innings limit.

Last year, to much debate, and to everyone’s frustration, the Yankees instituted the Joba Rules. In retrospect it wasn’t so much that he had a innings cap, it was how the Yankees handled it.

Last year, with Rick Porcello, instead of pitching him every fifth day and reducing his innings every start, Tiger manager Jim Leyland skipped Porcello’s start at times and rested him occasionally throughout the year. True, Porcello did have a 104 pitch limit in games, but that was a reasonable pitch count cap. And he wasn’t going out to the mound knowing he was only going to pitch a couple of innings before he got yanked. He was free to pitch.

If the Yankees learned anything from last year—where in effect, they blew Chamberlain’s confidence in late August and September, by pitching him only 3 or 4 innings, and raising his ERA from 3.58 at the end of July to 4.75 by season’s end—they should use Hughes differently. They should follow the Porcello-Leyland method, and let Hughes pitch his games, but let him have longer rests in between games.

For instance, in the beginning of the season, the Yankees have a lot of off days—every Monday in April and April 8th as well. They could skip Hughes some of those days, or use him every 6th or 7th day. And they could do that throughout the year—let him pitch every 6th or 7th day when possible, or skip him whenever there is a rainout. Thereby keeping him fresh, but not making his pitching habits erratic and awkward.

Hughes right now is slotted to throw about 170 innings, a little more than Chamberlain did last year, who threw 157.1.

And truth be told, that’s not so bad. Pettitte threw 194 innings last year. Clayton Kershaw threw 171 innings last year. And Rick Porcello, who pitched as a starter from April 9th to October 6th, threw 170.2

Time will only tell what the Yankees will do with Hughes. But this is a very wealthy, very well run organization. One would hope they’ve learned from last year’s debacle with Chamberlain—one that, it doesn’t seem he’s recovered from yet.

1 comment:

Pete S said...

The Yankees made 2 critical errors last year regarding the Joba issue: they gave it a name, "the Joba Rules" and incessantly talked about it, which added to the problem. The Yankees not only handled Joba poorly from a baseball perspective as you pointed out, they added fuel to the fire by neglecting to play the whole thing down to the media. Sometimes it looks as though Girardi gets bullied by the media which, of course, makes them worse.

I have heard many pitching experts comment on how pitch count has taken on a whole new meaning in the modern game. It used to be a guideline and has morphed into this hard and fast rule that, under no circumstances, should be exceeded. You are absolutely right, P-Cat, if I'm a young pitcher looking over my shoulder at my coach (with a counter in his hand), I don't think I would be effective.

The reality is this...if your pitcher exceeds 100 pitches in 4.1 innings, he's probably getting shelled anyway. So take him out. If he is cruising after 6 innings, maybe you let him pitch the 7th. Cutting him off because of a sum total of pitches combined with innings accumulated over the year is silly.