Yankee Pitching Coach Dave Eiland weighed yesterday in on the competition for #5 starter’s role. George King of the NY Post has the story:
TAMPA — Nine games and two rainouts into the exhibition season, none of the five pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the Yankees’ rotation has copped a lead.
That means the headliners — Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain — are tied with long shots Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves.
“As of right now, if we had to pick one we couldn’t really pick one,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said yesterday after a game against the Nationals in Viera, Fla., was rained out. “The sample is not big enough.”
I’ve said all along the sample will never be big enough. You’re talking about facing AA and AAA hitters for the first few weeks, and many of the MLB vets are either working on things or still getting into shape. That leaves 2 starts at the end of March for them to ‘make a decision’ on, since they said they want thing thing wrapped up a week before the end of Spring Training. I’ll say it again, I think this entire ‘battle for #5′ is absurd. They know who these pitchers are, and a few weeks of Spring Training shouldn’t change that evaluation, even at the margins.
Though Girardi and Eiland said the competition won’t be decided by numbers, Chamberlain clearly needs a solid outing — if only for his confidence — after posting a 27.00 ERA so far this spring.
Yet, Eiland is looking behind the statistics, focusing on what the club is asking pitchers to develop.
“If a pitcher is working on something and it hurts him, we have to understand that,” Eiland said.
“It’s not just numbers, it’s the quality of each pitch, pitching ahead in the count, first pitch strikes and stuff,” Eiland said. “Are the outs hit hard? You can give up lasers that get caught and not give up any runs.”
That last sentence can’t be overemphasized, the whole reason why folks have developed stats like BABIP and FIP is to try to isolate the element of luck from a hitter or pitcher’s results. And I’m not saying you can’t get valuable info from the small sample of a few starts, advance scouting is all about that. But to draw a determination of who someone is as a pitcher, and what their role on a team should be based on 2 exhibition starts in March is utterly absurd.
I’ve mantained all along that this is simply a storyline for sportswriters and folks like us to kick around, since Spring Training gets pretty dull in a hurry. But don’t buy what they’re selling you folks, it just doesn’t add up. The Yanks are smart enough to know this.
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