What do you do with a problem like Phil?

From a scouting standpoint, the same problems that have plagued Hughes since the second half of 2010 are still there, namely his inability to consistently put hitters away when he gets ahead of them. His strikeout rate suggests he’s getting better at this, but consistently making good pitches remains a problem. That Andrus at bat last night is a good example; he got Andrus out on his front foot with the curveball but, rather than burying the pitch in the dirt where Andrus would have flailed helplessly at it, Hughes left it a little bit up and Andrus was able to adjust enough to get the bat on it, making A-Rod charge to field it and giving an alert Mitch Moreland plenty of time to score. It looks like a minor thing, but it’s the difference between a run and a strikeout that gives you a chance to get the next batter and get out of the jam without any damage. Those things add up over the course of a season.

The real problem with Hughes right now, however, is the question of what to do with him. His profile right now is that of a reliever, but with the way the entire bullpen has performed in the season’s first month, the Yankees simply have no need whatsoever for another reliever. What’s more, you could plausibly argue that Hughes doesn’t deserve to displace anyone from the unit right now, unless you moved David Phelps into the rotation and gave Hughes the long man role (and it should be noted that Phelps’ line from last night is every bit as ugly as Hughes’). So if he’s not a starter, and there’s no place to put him in the bullpen, what, exaclty, do you do with him?

Here’s my suggestion: Double-A. Send Hughes down to Double-A with instructions to focus on rebuilding his secondary stuff, particularly his curveball, and forget about him until September. That sounds drastic, but I don’t know what else to do with him at this point. He’s flashing enough ability that I’d really hate to see the team give up on him entirely at this point, but he’s just simply not good enough right now to be a major league starter, and the Yankees probably can’t afford to continue to incur the cost of trying to let him figure it out at the big league level. If he can go to the minors and refine a power curveball that he can actually throw with some bite, there may actually be some hope left for him, but, otherwise, he simply doesn’t have the stuff to be more than cannon fodder at the moment.

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.

22 thoughts on “What do you do with a problem like Phil?

  1. LarryAtIIATMS

    Brien, I'm trying to count to five. CC, Kuroda, Nova, Pettitte, and … ? If not Phelps, then who?

    • jay_robertson

      A.J.? Colon? Pineda?

      oops – they won't work. Garcia? same answer. What are the call-up penalties for a revolving door of AAA pitchers, kinda like throwing goo at the wall and waiting to see what sticks? I don't see anyone better in the organization, but I don't see a lot of falloff, either. Phelps has at least looked good against lesser teams – even he'd be worth a shot, AFTER Detroit.

    • BrienJackson

      I'd either give Phelps and shot or just keep running Garcia out as the 5th starter.

      • LarryAtIIATMS

        Right now, it's not "either/or", because Pettitte is not ready for MLB. Agreed, I'd give Phelps a shot at starting and see what happens.

        It's funny (in a way that does not make me smile) how quickly a 7-man rotation can become a 3-man rotation.

    • Aaron Small, duh.

      • Shawn Chacon

        or ME

        • The Experience

          or even ME

  2. Do you mean four unearned in the second paragraph?

    • BrienJackson

      Actually I meant fourteen earned, I think. Thanks. :)

  3. Seth

    What's the situation with Oswalt being a free agent? Is it conceivable that the Yankees could try to get him?

    • BrienJackson

      He's holding out for more money, I think. I guess the Yankees could sign him, but he's not a quick fix at this point, as he'd need time to get into game shape.

    • Mike

      I actually like the idea of going after Oswalt now. Especially since the Sox have reached out to him as well, so it would theoretically both fill a need and serve as a blocking maneuver. Other than that, I would give Phelps, Mitchell, and Warren a chance. I'm not sure how much longer they can afford to keep trotting out Garcia and Hughes, though 1 of them will be gone from the rotation for sure in a couple weeks when Andy returns (probably Garcia).

      The most promising thing I can find is that Hughes has a SIERA of 3.91 (supposed to be slightly better than xFIP in terms of predicting future ERA). But he just doesn't pass the eye test at all, as Brien has outlined his problems above (and many times before).

      Also I can't say that 16 innings worth of data is really worth anything in terms of SIERA. I was just trying to grab at something. At this point I'd trust my eyes more than that stat, and they are telling me that Hughes has not fooled anyone since the 1st half of 2010.

      What happened by the way? I remember having a distinct conversation with a friend in late May 2010 that "Hughes is for real and that he'd arrived." What changed from early 2010 to the 2nd half that season where he was just no longer able to put anyone away?

      I'll come back with some amateur analysis in a bit that may or may not be worthwhile, we'll see. I'm having fun with fangraphs and brooks baseball though.

  4. Trade for Moyer?

    • BrienJackson

      Nope, you aren't allowed to trade for pitchers anymore.

  5. Professor Longnose

    Can we send Hughes to be a governess in Switzerland?

  6. Lets put in Noesi, he showed promise!

    Oh….

    • Also not pitching so well right now.

      • Fair enough

      • jay_robertson

        whaddya mean – his ERA is under 10. Trade Gardner, throw in Granderson, and pay their salaries.

        ok – that's just bitterness. But Captain Hindsight DOES want Jesus back. When the best thing we have to hang our hats on is the word of Curt Schilling…

  7. Sicilian Lou

    How about we turn back the hands of time and pulled the trigger to Trade NO THRILL PHILL for Johan Satana and before anyone says No we would'n have CC, I say, No we would had to sign AJ BUST Burnett… But since we cant do this, then the time has come to say good bye and trade him to Detroit for Rick Porcello.. Both need a change of address and since Rick is a NJ boy, maybe some of Moms home cook Italian meals will help get over his issues.. after 5 years didnt the Cashman know that Phil was not apower pitcher or a ground ball pitcher but a fly ball pitcher in a hitters park?.. Even Stevie Wonder could see this.. Hughes belongs anywhere but in NY.. He can not handle the pressure and for that fact many before him couldnt./ West coast pitchers are not built for this enviroment.. Look at IPK..

  8. Bill

    Hughes is a relief pitcher, plain and simple. Reminds me of the situation with Ramiro Mendoza back in the dynasty days. There was a guy who was great one time through the order. After that, the wheels tended to fly off. Not always, but often enough for the Yanks to realize that he was not a starter. Hughes' demeanor, his stuff and the results when he comes out of the bullpen are 100% different (read better).

  9. Bill

    And while there's no room in the bullpen at this moment, what do you think of the Yankees seeing if they can send Soriano to the Giants. Probably would have to eat some of the salary, but they might be able to get a decent player in return and open up a spot for Hughes. I've heard that float around, but I haven't seen a whole of discussion on the matter.

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