Game Thread: Rays versus Yankees, Sunday July 28th

Derek Jeter's back! Again. Is he back for good? The injuries have been so pervasive this year that it seems like the veterans are destined to get hurt. Let's hope Jeter stays healthy. The Yankees can use his bat. Even a diminished Jeter is better than the production the Yankees have been getting from shortstop. Phil Hughes works the rubber for the Yankees. The Rays counter with Matt Moore. Use this as your game thread. Enjoy!

Yanks' Deadline Strategy With Hughes Is Perfect

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) Assuming, of course, that what Joel Sherman reported in The Post yesterday Monday has some truth to it.  That's a disclaimer that always has to come with any Sherman report, but if the team's strategy he laid out is actually what they're following then it might just be the smartest thing they've ever done with Hughes.

Basically it comes down to the Yankees not being willing to move Phil Hughes at the deadline just for the sake of moving him, which is the right approach to take.  According to Sherman, they're looking for more than just a stopgap or some mid-level prospects in return for him.  They want a position player with some years of control left - something the future lineup could really use - and if they don't get that they plan on keeping Hughes and making him a qualifying offer this offseason.  If a team is willing to sign him and forfeit the pick, the Yanks get another compensatory 1st round draft pick next year.  If no one is, the Yanks get Hughes back for another year in his prime and get another chance to move him at next year's deadline.

At worst, they come out with an extra 1st round pick in the 2014 draft if they follow this plan.  That's pretty good value for a guy who they weren't going to re-sign anyway.  At best, the Yanks get a useful piece that can help re-tool the lineup and achieve next year's payroll budget goal.  Anything less than that and the Yankees are better off keeping Hughes for the rest of this season, be it as a back end rotation guy or in the 'pen.  Kudos to Cash and the front office for being smart enough to realize that.  Now let's see if they follow through on the plan.

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Do You Hear That, Phil?

Hughes vs LAD

Do you?  You should listen to it a little closer.  That's the sound of Michael Pineda coming.  That's the sound of your rotation spot disappearing in about a month, and possibly a nice chunk of your upcoming free agent money with it.  Take a look around, buddy.  You're the weak link in the rotation, and the truth is you have been since the minute Ivan got DL'd.  You're sitting with a 5.09/4.43/4.41 split now, with just as many bad starts as good this season after another Phil Hughes 101 clinic last night- missing in the strike zone with fastballs, inconsistency with the offspeed stuff, no ability at all to put hitters away with 2 strikes.  It's all just getting old, dude.  You're waking up today coming off another stinker and Pineda is pitching again tonight down in Tampa.  It's already setting up for you to be bumped.

And guess what?  This time the Yankees won't shuffle guys around and roll out the red carpet for you in the bullpen.  They don't need to do that this time.  Things are just fine in the 'pen.  Maybe you'll get put on the phantom DL with more shoulder fatigue.  Maybe you'll get sent down to Triple-A to hang out with Ivan.  Maybe you will get sent out to the bullpen, to be Adam Warren's caddy and D-Rob's sock washer.  It doesn't really matter anymore.  What matters is that your act has gotten tired and Pineda is on his way.  He's coming and he's not coming just to be a placeholder for Andy's back.  He's coming for your job.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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On Sending Hughes To The Bullpen

I'd assume most Yankee fans have similar feelings about Phil Hughes that I do. He's an inconsistent starter that will never live up to his lofty expectations. He was supposed to be the next Roger Clemens. He was Mark Prior-good, but without the injury prone mechanics. He had a fastball as good as Jake Peavy, a curveball taught to him by Mike Mussina, and a cutter brought to you by Mariano Rivera. In the end, it wasn't really fair to Hughes that we expected him to be a culmination of all the great pitchers he was compared to. Seven years later, we can now look back on the development of Hughes and start to see what he's really become, something far from an ace with an elite repertoire, and more of a Frankenstein's Monster trying to find his place in baseball. Phil  HughesHughes again had lofty expectations in 2013. After six years of injuries, bouncing between the bullpen and rotation, and just plain inconsistency, Hughes showed some true promise in 2012. Throughout last season, Hughes lost his cutter, dropped his arm angle, added a slider, and promising change up. From the point where these tinkerings began and ended, May 6th to Sept 30th, Hughes posted a 3.83 ERA through 169.2 innings. For a pitcher in Yankee Stadium, that was good enough for him to be an above average middle rotation pitcher. So why wouldn't we expect the right-hander to continue this into 2013?

Of course, he's returned to his old inconsistent self in 2013. Six of his eleven starts have been brilliant quality outings, while the other five have been complete duds. With the help of his new slider, he's increased his K% to a strong 21.6% high, and kept his BB% in check at 5.9%, but his HR/FB is also at a career high of 13.2% and his GB% is at a career low of 30.1%. His fly ball tendency has always been a mark of the right-hander, and his high home run rates can't be overstated. Unfortunately, he lives and dies by his four-seam fastball, which is both his best and worst pitch. The remarkable amount of movement and spin he achieves allows the pitch to see upwards of a 10% whiff rate, but the movement also generates a ton of fly balls.

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Pinpointing Hughes' Timing Problems

Phil Hughes has a handful of brilliant starts, and a handful of abysmal ones. His last shot against the Mariners was an embarrassing dud where he lasted just 0.2 innings and gave up 7 earned runs. According to Chad Jennings of LoHud, the starter looked at video this week and came to the conclusion that he was "getting on the side of the ball", a bad habit he has when he overthrows. I wondered if we could see any difference between his mechanics from his last start and one of his gems from earlier in the year. Below is a side-by-side comparison of his four-seam fastball.


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Lyle Overbay powers Yankees to a sweep of the Blue Jays

R.A. Dickey was good. Lyle Overbay and Phil Hughes were better. Dickey gave the Blue Jays seven innings of four hit baseball. Normally that's enough to get your team the victory, but not when two of those hits were homers. Brennan Boesch gave the Yankees their first run with a solo shot in the second inning. That was enough to keep the Yankees in the game until the seventh inning. With Travis Hafner on base Lyle Overbay hit a home run in the seventh frame to put the Yankees ahead three to two, the eventual margin of victory.

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Game Thread: Blue Jays versus Yankees, Sunday April 28

Thank god the Blue Jays retooled in the offseason. If they hadn't made all these improvements the Yankees may not have won each of the past three games. This afternoon the Yankees go for the sweep. They'll have to do it against the knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Dickey hasn't gotten off the start that many expected after his Cy Young season in 2012, but you can never predict a knuckleballer. The Yankees will counter with Phil Hughes. Hughes hasn't been strong to start the season either. My gut tells me that both of these pitchers will show up today, but my gut tells me a lot of things. Use this as your game thread. Enjoy!

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Did Phil Pitch Inside Last Night?

Hughes 4-18

After his downright disastrous start last Saturday, I took a venture into the PITCHf/x realm on Monday and determined that, for whatever reason, Phil Hughes was not pitching inside to hitters.  He really hadn't shown stellar command of his 4-seamer in either of his first two starts, and the fact that he was working away and missing away made it much easier for hitters to look for a certain pitch in a certain area and tee off on it.  Having done that analysis just a few days ago, I couldn't very well sit by and let his start last night go un-analyzed.  So let's play another round of America's newest favorite Yankee-related game, "Did Phil Hughes Pitch Inside Last Night?"

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Hughes' Inability To Pitch Inside Isn't Doing Him Any Favors

Hughes 4-13

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

For a season that's only two weeks and eleven games old, it's already been an incredibly trying one for Phil Hughes.  After losing a lot of ST time due to another back issue, Hughes returned to the rotation a week ago Saturday and got touched up pretty good by the Tigers.  He made his second start this past Saturday, in place of Andy Pettitte after being skipped over for the top of the rotation after the rain-outs in Cleveland, and turned in an even worse performance, one of the worst outings of his career.

After picking out the flaws in Hughes' approach in 2012, I thought he would be able to turn things around this season if he improved his fastball command and cut down on his early-count fastball usage in favor of his offspeed stuff to keep hitters off balance.  Not only has he failed to do that through his first two starts of this season, he added another frustrating wrinkle to his game on Saturday when he failed to pitch inside effectively to either right or left-handed hitters.

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