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No Pressure, Kid
2008-09-24 13:54
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Phil Hughes was seven years old the last time the Yankees were eliminated during the regular season. Tonight he'll be the first pitcher to start a game for an eliminated Yankee team since Sterling Hitchcock took the Camden Yards mound on September 28, 1993. Like Hughes, Hitchock was a well-regarded 22-year-old pitching prospect at the time, but he never fulfilled his potential due to a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness. Here's hoping Hughes, who pitched well though inefficiently in his last start, won't meet the same fate.

Untitled Fittingly, tonight's matchup of Hughes and Yankee killer A.J. Burnett should conjure up a fair bit of hot-stove conversation. Burnett is all but certain to opt out of his contract this fall as he's set career highs in games, starts, innings, strikeouts and wins this season and could finish with 19 victories by beating the Yankees tonight. His 1.78 ERA in four previous starts against New York has certainly piqued the Yankees' interest, but they'd do well to notice that Burnett's season ERA is barely above average and dips below average when you take away his dominance of the Bombers. He's also going to be 32 on Opening Day next year and has a very sketchy injury history. In fact, all of those career highs this year are the result of the fact of that, at age 31, Burnett has been healthy enough to start 30 games for just the second time in his career this year. Burnett has better stuff than former Marlins teammate Carl Pavano, but the Yankees would do well to remind themselves of the similarities between the two pitchers when contemplating the free agent Burnett.

Phil Hughes' one quality start in the majors this season came back on April 3 against the Blue Jays. Another one in this, his last start of the season, would go a long way toward building both his confidence and the team's confidence in him heading into next year, and would reduce the chances of the Yankees making a desperation move for an expensive injury-prone veteran like Burnett or Ben Sheets. In that way, Hughes beating Burnett tonight would be a tremendous victory for the future of the franchise. But, hey, no pressure.

Comments (51)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2008-09-24 14:45:58
1.   Mattpat11
If the Yankees sign Burnett, it will be a disaster, and I'm sure the knee jerk reaction will be to absolve Cashman and blame Hank Steinbrenner, but I don't think Brian Cashman's history of completely ignoring a pitcher's history in favor of one good year can be disregarded either.

Just putting this out preemptively, because I know its coming.

2008-09-24 15:10:57
2.   JohnnyC
I find the rampant uninformed speculation on which Steinbrenner son actually wields the power in the organization (most prefer Hal to Hank)quite humorous and just as puzzling as the rampant speculation, back in the day, on the Tampa mafia and Randy Levine's alleged hegemony. Any political science student would realize that the true picture is probably much more complicated than this simple, conspiratorial view. That is, would it horrify fans to learn that, maybe, a lot of people in the front office thought signing Carl Pavano or trading for Kevin Brown, to name just 2 questionable moves, was a peachy keen idea? Or that the reason David Ortiz didn't end up in pinstripes rather than in a Red Sox uniform was due to Cashman's veto and exercising what we would have all agreed was sound judgment (i.e., we already had Giambi and Nick Johnson at first base)?
2008-09-24 15:49:25
3.   Cliff Corcoran
I don't think there's any question that Pavano and the Weaver/Brown deal were Cashman's moves. I've been a Cashman supporter, but I've never doubted that. Ditto on Ortiz. Of the three, only the Pavano move seemed like a mistake at the time. And in retrospect, I'm still not sure the Brown/Weaver deal was a bad one, the mistake was not acquiring Brown, but the fact that Joe Torre started him in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004. Before he punched that wall, Brown was 10-4 with a 3.99 ERA. Unfortunately, everything after was disaster save for a good ALDS start (which was followed by an awful outing in Game 3 of the ALCS).
2008-09-24 15:50:56
4.   Mattpat11
3 I still think Brown was the best bad group to pitch that game.
2008-09-24 16:00:26
5.   Cliff Corcoran
4 I'm not sure I agree, though I can't find any post on my old Big Red Blog that offers an opinion on the matter (things were moving fast). I think I would have rolled the dice with Javy Vazquez. Brown was clearly unfit to pitch given his Game 3 performance. Vazquez gave up Damon's grand slam in that game, but only after Brown loaded the bases for him (and that was another major blunder by Torre, bringing in Home Run Javy with the bags juiced).
2008-09-24 16:12:36
6.   randym77
Gardner taking a leaf from the Melky Cabrera school of baserunning.

Remember, Brett: there's a difference between hustle and bad baserunning.

2008-09-24 16:16:24
7.   monkeypants
5 I said it at the time and continue to hold the view that Torre should have started with the bull pen and worked his staff backwards that game. Of course, no manager would ever do that, so Torre can't really be faulted for not following my plan.

6 True, but it is nice to see him swinging down on the ball and getting some more base hits. If he can do that with some consistency he might have some value.

2008-09-24 16:20:13
8.   Eirias
6 He would have made it with a head-first slide.
2008-09-24 16:20:24
9.   Mattpat11
5 I think Vazquez's bad game 3 performance, combine with his bad ALDS performance, combined with his wretched final 14 games should have disqualified him from the start. Brown had pitched more effectively more recently.
2008-09-24 16:28:21
10.   rbj
I'll take a cheap hit.
Man, meaningless games just feel weird.
2008-09-24 16:32:57
11.   randym77
Not making the postseason...I'm not really surprised. I thought from spring training that we didn't have the pitching to get past Boston.

But I never expected to be looking up at the Rays. I gotta say, now that we're out of it, I'm kinda hoping they win it all.

2008-09-24 16:34:25
12.   SF Yanks
I think I'll be rooting for the Dodgers and Joe Torre if I have to choose.
2008-09-24 16:38:33
13.   monkeypants
11 And yet the Sox staff ERA is 4.21 to the YAnkees 4.48, while on offense the Sox scored 5.22 RPG to the Yankees 4.80.

So, the Yankees' pitching has been relatively close to the Sox. The pitching overall was not the problem, it was the Yankees hitting (to the tune of 200 fewer runs scored).

2008-09-24 16:39:55
14.   monkeypants
12 I can't root for Torre's worse-record-than-the-Yankees Dodgers. The sports media will be insufferable--almost as insufferable as it is when the Sox win.
2008-09-24 16:42:35
15.   Just fair
Knuckle-Curve? Whaaaaaa?
As for the playoffs, Go Cubbies. Though I hope Soriano k's about 18 times.
2008-09-24 16:44:39
16.   rbj
15 Yup. I'll root for the Cubs. Then maybe the Rays. Then somewhere down below and after Armageddon I'll root for that team from New England.
2008-09-24 16:46:36
17.   monkeypants
Right now I'm just rooting for Hughes to get a win. Down 1-0 with the practice squad batting, I'm not hopeful.
2008-09-24 16:48:06
18.   rbj
Hey, don't hit one of your starters for next year.
2008-09-24 16:50:01
19.   monkeypants
Steal home!!!
2008-09-24 16:56:44
20.   Dimelo
That curve from Hughes was so nasty!!!

Nady was a good acquisition by Cash.

2008-09-24 17:04:59
21.   Shaun P
The kid is alright.
2008-09-24 17:06:01
22.   randym77
I can't root for the Cubs to win it all. They're nobody without their curse.
2008-09-24 17:08:25
23.   rbj
Congrats Juan Miranda!
2008-09-24 17:13:21
24.   Raf
9 Also, Brown had the playoff experience that Vazquez didn't. I don't blame Torre for going with Brown in gm 7.

Regardless, I like the Yanks' chances up 3-0 with Duque, Moose, Lieber and Brown in the pipeline...

And to show how wacky the postseason can be, Esteban Loaiza, who didn't do much of anything after being traded here for Contreras, had an outstanding ALCS.

2008-09-24 17:22:59
25.   tommyl
Oh, now the real Hughes shows up? :)

Sigh, what could have been this season. Oh well, good to see my fanboy crush back to his old ways. Gives me some hope for next year.

2008-09-24 18:02:59
26.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
Rockies-Giants no score in the 1st...as meaningful as the remaining Yanks games..sigh..not sure I can even get up for the Sox this weekend...maybe Joba and Youkilis will wrestle on the pitchers mound?
2008-09-24 18:07:43
27.   randym77
Well, it's looking like we're going to end the season with Hughes and Kennedy have zero wins between them.
2008-09-24 18:16:14
28.   monkeypants
26 If that happened, Joba would get suspended one month next season. And with the Yanks' luck he'd get hurt, too.
2008-09-24 18:16:20
29.   Just fair
I don't like A.J. Burnett. Serious disdain, really. Bollocks.
2008-09-24 18:16:29
30.   monkeypants
Hughes' pitch count?
2008-09-24 18:20:19
31.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
30 ein hundert..
2008-09-24 18:21:01
32.   randym77
30 100.
2008-09-24 18:21:54
33.   monkeypants
31 32 Ah, probably done, huh. Maybe the little league squad can squeeze out a run here.
2008-09-24 18:24:37
34.   Mattpat11
Tampa's winning!
2008-09-24 18:25:28
35.   Mattpat11
Why the hell does Joe Giardi refuse to send a runner before two strikes? That infuriates me.
2008-09-24 18:26:51
36.   monkeypants
35 Then again...
2008-09-24 18:29:09
37.   Mattpat11
36 He did it with Betemit up. All it does is ensure that the batter has to swing at whatever pitch they throw up there.

Its almost as bad as when he puts in a pinch runner and then just won't put on any play at all.

2008-09-24 18:29:18
38.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
was a masochist and read P.Gammons article on the rise of the Red Sox system...really interesting to see if Cashman stays to try and finish re-building...
2008-09-24 18:32:03
39.   monkeypants
37 I'm not sure what you're responding to. I just found it amusing that right after he sent the runner with two strikes (pop-up), he sent him 0-1 and Damon was caught.

Anyway, split squad didn't score and Hughes is out, so I'm done with this game.

2008-09-24 18:33:11
40.   Mattpat11
38 Or sign Brad Penny. I can see him signing Brad Penny. Because he hates me.
2008-09-24 18:42:06
41.   Just fair
The Yanks success rate at bunting this year, like most things, cannot be too good.
2008-09-24 18:52:00
42.   Mattpat11
Whoo-Hoo!
2008-09-24 18:52:58
43.   Just fair
Whose going to repace Abreu 's production next season? And that out of sight, out of mind clown out West isn't the answer.
2008-09-24 18:53:00
44.   Mattpat11
Tubby in to create a save situation?
2008-09-24 18:53:25
45.   Raf
Ponson?
2008-09-24 19:54:27
46.   OldYanksFan
Does anyone else feel it's a real kick in the ass that NOW, for the last 2 weeks, the Yanks have been playing solid, professional baseball... and have been winning with no help from ARod? That the team is winning with good pitching and contributions from non-stars.

Was Phil as good tonight as his numbers look?
Miranda has terrible splits and I hear is a HORID fielder. Does he look like he can contribute something to this team?
And how DO we replace Bobby's production? It's too bad he SOOOOOOO bad in the field, because otherwise he is a very solid, if unspectacular player.
And do we really give up Giambi's production to sign a Casey Kotchman for 4 years? I don't think Cashman will bit/overpay/blackmailed into getting Tex.

I don't think this is the year to clean house. After next year Matsui and JD are gone, Giambi's option is up, and we will have a much better fell for which kid pitchers are keepers. I wonder if the 2009 team will look a lot like the 2008 team (with Matsui traded somewhere in there).

2008-09-24 20:05:53
47.   Mattpat11
46 I think Brian's a much better evaluator of offensive players than he is of pitching, so I agree, I'd be shocked if he gives Tex 10 years/whatever per.

Hughes looked damn good. Fantastic hook.

2008-09-24 20:16:00
48.   Shaun P
How do the Yanks "replace" Abreu's production?

How about a full season from Matsui? Or Nady, for that matter?

Abreu is going to be 35, his walk rate has been trending down - which is a huge red flag to me - and his power numbers are likely to continue their downward trend (this year is probably a fluke in that regard). Add in the worst defense of any RF in MLB, and a poor CS rate for a guy who's been a wonderful base stealer.

I love Abreu, he's been wonderful for the Yanks and underrated most of his career. But I will not be sorry to see him go. Preferably to a team that does not have a protected 1st round draft pick.

2008-09-24 21:08:34
49.   thelarmis
still cool to see my boy boBBy reach 20-20. it's the 8th time he's done it. only barry and his pop bobby (10 each), have done it more. boBBy will get his 100 ribbies too - he's 1 away...

nice to see the franchise did well tonight.

i sure hope we stay away from burnett...

2008-09-24 21:44:15
50.   thelarmis
torre calls a suicide squeeze (successful) and gets a manny homer out in la-la land...
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2008-09-25 05:53:13
51.   OldYanksFan
48 While what you say is true, you left out and assumed a bunch.
BOTH Matsui and Bobby are horrid fielders. Maybe after surgery Mats will be better, but right NOW (or before the injury became bad) Matsui scares me more in the field then Bobby. Mats has less range, and at least Bobby's arm has held a number of runners, and he has thrown out a number of runners.

Bobby's CSs are up... but he is still a far, far better runner then (robotic) Matsui. How manys DPs did Bobby hit into that... WOW... safe at first!... great hussle. Bobby can still run. While Jetes was Mr. BP, Bobby beat out a number of potential DPs.

Bobby is all of 3 months older then Matsui. Matsui has gone from Iron man to injured every year. You think Physically, Matsui is 'younger' then Bobby?

Bobby's career OPS is still 50 pts better then Mats, but still, I consider them both .850ish OPS guys. Is Booby in decline? Maybe. But Bobby was better this year then last, OPS and HR wise. Is this year a fluke... or was last year then fluke.

Side Note: Decline....
Remember 2005, when Posada had an off year? As a 35 year old Catcher, Jorge was obviously in decline. Catchers wear out younger and faster. Go back to 2005 posts/comments and there were a number of call to trade Jorge while he still had value. Then he had a fine year in 2006. Then there was Jorge in 2007.
Now we have 2008 Jeter. In decline? We all think so. But man, he has been really good Derek for 5 weeks now. (Aug/Sept- .789/.934).

Obviously, as players hit their mid 30's, they are probably trending downwards. To some extent they are all 'in decline'. But to me, decline in a steady, obvious pattern of 2 or 3 years of decreasing numbers. So over the next 3 years, is Jorge a .782(2005) guy, .866(2006) guy or a .969(2007) guy? What about 2009 Jeter? Or Bobby? Or Mats? Or JD? And then, of course, we have the MOST obviously guy in decline. Old, injured, used up, uselass Jason Giambi (.890 OPS, 32 HRs, most games played in the field in 7 years). They are all mid 30's or older. But it's still guess work. And remember, with Bernie, or GOB, I think it was shoulder injuries as much as age that had him drop of a cliff.

There are variables we can only guess at, but for me, between injury, O, D, and running, I think Bobby has the edge over Mats everywhere except maybe D (who knows, the both stink going back and coming in). I don't think it's a huge difference, but I can't consider Mats an OFer anymore. He is pure DH.

Nady's career line: .280 .335 .458 .793. In 200 ABs with the Yanks, he has a very similar line. Averge D in the OF, slow of foot. Better then Bobby? TTTC.

I guess my point is what to do with Bobby, and even Jason, and even Pudge, are NOT no brainers. Replacing them with better players in 2009 might not be easy. In 2010, Matsui, JD and Giambi are 99.9% gone. But 2009 is a tougher call.

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