Hughes or Nova? Or both?

In Hughes’ case, well, we all know this story by now. After winning 18 games and cracking the playoff rotation last year many of us were hoping Hughes would finally emerge as the front of the rotation starter he was projected to be as a prospect. Alas, a mysterious arm injury claimed the first half of Hughes’ season, and he’s been something of a train wreck before returning from the disabled list last month. His start last night was a solid one and probably gives him a boost in this competition, but he still didn’t miss many bats with his fastball, a potential reason for concern.

Thankfully the fact that the Yankees are a near lock to make the postseason makes this a relatively low stakes decision. They can pretty much go with either pitcher, or stick with a 6 man rotation for awhile longer, without much concern. There are good arguments on all sides, but personally I think I’d stick with the 6 man rotation a little bit longer. This way, Hughes and Nova can both continue to get innings in the big league rotation, and Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia can get some extra rest.

But if a 6-man rotation is out of the question, I’d prefer to see Hughes stick in the rotation. The strong postseason odds make the consequences of a disastrous start much lower, and because of that I’d rather see the Yankees bank of the larger upside Hughes offers over Nova. Nova might be a solid back end starter, but Hughes has the potential to be more of a number 2 or 3 starter if he can get all the way back. He’s been pretty solid thus far since coming off of the DL, and seems to be getting better with each start. I say let him continue to try to work out the kinks in the rotation, and hopefully he’ll be a viable option to start in October.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

31 thoughts on “Hughes or Nova? Or both?

  1. Ed Bermeo

    can we just put aj on waivers and eat up at least half of his contract?

    • Jason

      Do you know how waivers work?

      AJ is having a good year, by the way. You should try watching some Yankees games.

      • Sandy

        A.J. is not having a "good" year. He has a K/BB ratio of 1.9 and an ERA+ of 100, which suggest he is perhaps a league-average pitcher. His WAR (per Baseball-Reference) is on pace for approximately 2.6, which would be his weakest total since 2007, other than last year's disaster of -0.5. His FIP is 4.66. And all of this with a BABIP of .252, which suggests he's actually been lucky to put up league-average numbers.

        A.J. has been able to lower expectations so much since joining the Yankees that league-average performance now gets people to think, "Wow, the guy we signed as our #2 starter for $16.5 million per season is having a good year!"

      • Jacob

        LMBO! Great reply.

      • Alex

        Did you watch the game tonight? I sure did…

  2. DustyYF

    In Nova's defense, he has shown improvement over the course of the season. He allowed a ton of baserunners early on, but has been more limiting since mid-to-late June. I think he's struck out a few more too, but he's never gonna be a high K-rate pitcher. He's very much like Chien Ming Wang, I think.

    Hughes definitely has the higher ceiling of the two, though. I'd agree that he should have the final spot over Nova.

  3. Tad

    Maybe Hughes and Nova can settle the final rotation spot over a high stakes poker game.

    What, too soon?

  4. Matt

    Keep Hughes and Nova, send AJ to the bullpen/AAA. The first two actually have upside…

    • Jason

      AJ is easily the third best pitcher in our rotation, how does that make any sense?

      • Tad

        I wouldn't say "easily." By xFIP, yes he's 3rd among Yanx starters. By ERA (5th), ERA+ (5th), FIP (5th), and fWAR (4th) no. Still, he's not getting sent to the pen or AAA. I'm sure a $16 million man doesn't have any minor league options in his contract.

  5. The Dilemma

    The odds of the elder statesmen of this rotation getting through the last two months without an injury is pretty slim. Eventually, this situation will sort itself out when Colon, Garcia and/or Burnett get hurt. In the meantime, I think a 6-man rotation is counterproductive because it prevents the team's best pitcher from getting the ball as often as he could — unless they work out some modified form of a rotation where CC still goes every fifth day.

    But that seems like more trouble than it's worth — which is why sending Nova back to AAA until another opportunity arises makes the most sense. Like the man says, the Yankees owe it to themselves to try to find what once made Hughes the #1 or #2 prospect in the game.

    • Makonnen

      Agree completely. Although Nova's been surprisingly strong, keep Hughes in and get Nova his innings is AAA. We all know how well shuffling pitchers between the rotation and bullpen worked for the Yankees.

    • Chris U.

      At this point in the season, the difference between a true six man rotation and a rotation in which CC is preferred and gets the ball every fifth day (as opposed to every fifth game) is a total of two starts. The six man rotation would yield CC nine more starts, every fifth day would yield him eleven starts. If he took the ball every fifth game, he would start ten more games. With the current lead in the wildcard, Girardi would still have time to adjust back to a five-man or give CC the ball every fifth game if some team started to close the gap or someone gets hurt. In my opinion, the six man would be worth it to a) give Hughes and Nova chances to develop without much downside and b) give the big fella (and the elder statesmen) some rest down the stretch.

  6. Michael

    Given the fact that we have a couple doubleheaders coming up going with a 6 man rotation wouldnt be a bad thing. As long as the loser is sent to AAA and not the bullpen im ok with it. If its even i think Hughes would stay as he has more upside. Send whoever down and keep them stretched out.

  7. Michael

    While we have gotten on the subject of AJ Burnett, i think hes been a good number 4 starter, which is not what we signed up for. The biggest problem with him is that he has a spot in the rotation for years to come, a spot i would as rather see taken up by Banuelos or Betances (not this year and probably not next). Heck I dont doubt that Nova, Noesi, Mitchell, Warren or Phelps could do his job. What I dont get is why the Yankees probably wont even consider eating a large portion of his salary and trying to trade him to another team. For most other teams this signing would set them back years, and if having Burnett own a spot in the rotation means the Yankees wont pursue a starter in the future (FA class 2012 cant wait) or give have an open spot for a highly touted rookie thats when it would hold the Yankees back as well.

  8. Gene

    Both, How 'bout we drop Burnett from the rotation instead and save ourselves a big headache

    • Chris

      I am 100% for getting him out of the rotation. Is there really a starter that you would feel less confident in come playoff time? I would rather have any of the other 5 starting a playoff game.

  9. DustyYF

    Allright….
    I think I've finally reached "Peak AJ" tonight.

    • DustyYF

      Nevermind about the "I think" part. I've been in denial. Now "Peak AJ" is coming in waves.

      Even Larry Rothschild can't save this guy.

  10. Michael L.

    BOTH AND NO AJ!! HOW DO YOU GIVE UP 6 MORE RUNS IN A 13-1 GAME SO YOU CANNOT GET THE WIN??? This blows my mind…

    • Hank

      Poking around at the Brooks site… there was roughly a 2 feet horizontal spread in AJ's release point tonight… TWO FEET!

      How can anyone expect to reasonably control where the ball is going when they can't even control where he's releasing the ball from. Imagine moving the plate a couple of feet back and forth between pitches…. and trying to spot pitches after each time it moves.

  11. mikeNicoletti

    If A.J. goes through waivers and gets claimed, do you give him up?! I realize that this is probably too emotional of a night to ask this and get good answers, but really…. Would you? I honestly don't think i could do it!

    • edbermeo

      I would . It would be like a pitcher version of what happened to Alex rios

      • BrienJackson

        If someone claimed A.J. on waivers and put themselves on the line to take that entire contract? Of course you let him go.

        • jay_robertson

          heck yes – I'm willing to bet that the Yankees would even split his future contract, just to get rid of him.

          • mikeNicoletti

            I hear what your saying, I guess it's my old memories of seeing "good AJ" show up, and the lure of another top of the rotation starter somewhere inside him. Especially after giving a few long winded defenses from writers calling him a headcase in the offseason my opinion has turned less than objective.

            On the other hand, I'm not sure Cashman would be willing to wave the white flag over one of his big money signings. I'm sure we will find out this winter.

          • jay_robertson

            Shoot – I was tickled pink when we signed him. I've been waiting for him to turn it around for over a year now – "good" AJ was great, but that was during the first half of 2010. Almost ancient history. He looked a lot worse than his line, last night.

            Cashman manufactured injuries for Wang and Hughes, so they could get their acts together – if AJ isn't going to the pen, he needs to do the same here. Either that, or at least have our "sixth" starter available for any game AJ starts.

          • BrienJackson

            Good A.J. is gone at this point. Outside of a good game every now and then, I just don't think Burnett even has the kind of ability he had in 2009 anymore.

  12. jay_robertson

    Posting with the advantage of having watched AJ last night – the answer is pretty obvious – keep Nova AND Hughes in the rotation, let AJ go work out his bugaboos in the pen. Last night, it looked as if he was channeling my old friend Sergio – except with worse control. Judging by last night, the only thing AJ is good for right now is long mop-up duty, in a game inwhich we're being blown out. Since he obviously can't hold onto a multi-run lead.

  13. Chris L.

    I think you stick with the 6-man rotation a bit. It will ease the burden a bit on Garcia and Colon, one of whom is likely to turn into a pumpkin at some point, it will spare us quite so much of Burnett, and it will keep Nova's innings down while not treating him or Hughes like a rotation-bullpen yo-yo. Eventually Nova's going to hit some kind of innings ceiling, before Hughes will, but meanwhile the team is winning so the six-man rotation gives everyone a little of what they need.

    And yes, I'd let AJ go if he's claimed on waivers. I remember Jason's post in the 08-09 offseason that he loved AJ for three, liked him for four, and hated him for five years. We're only halfway through the hate. AJ's having a better season than last year, and has been remarkably healthy (for him), but for his paycheck you'd expect more.

    Do what you want with those five… Just don't do anything to screw up CC's mojo.

    • BrienJackson

      I don't think Nova has any innings limit. He's thrown enough innings in the minors it shouldn't be an issue. And I don't think any extra day of rest will hurt C.C. too much, it's not like he doesn't do that occasionally anyway

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