Well, we’re about to be at that point where the Yankees are going to whittle the rotation down to five guys. Phil Hughes had some okay starts lately, despite a clunker against Oakland and a not-so-hot but not-as-awful-as-it-looked start against Boston on Wednesday night. A.J. Burnett has just been bad overall, despite a pretty good start against the Sox last night.
If we’re going based on just starts against the Sox this week, then there’s pretty much no choice but to give the rotation spot to Burnett. While Hughes had some good process–he was throwing hard, he got a good amount of swings and misses–his results (six runs, even if one of them was an inherited runner that scored) left a lot to be desired. Burnett, on the other hand, looked as good as he has in a very long time and he held the Sox to just two runs while walking no one.
If we take the big picture into account, it’s probably pretty hard to argue for either one of them to keep a rotation spot. Burnett’s 4.02 xFIP (not including last night) is nice, as is his 7.66 K/9, but his 4.80 FIP/5.31 ERA do little to inspire confidence thanks to a 1.40 HR/9. Hughes has kept the walks down with a 3.00 BB/9, but he’s striking out just 5.55 per nine, has a 31.2 GB%, and a 6.75/4.66/4.83 E/F/x line. Based on the overall lines from Burnett and Hughes, we could probably argue that they’re going on reputation alone at this point and that guys like Hector Noesi or Adam Warren could easily replicate what they’re doing.
To complicate things more, both Hughes and Burnett have skill sets that would allow for success in the bullpen. We’ve already seen Hughes do well in the bullpen and even though he’s never really done it, Burnett’s two pitch combination could play up in a relief role and it would alleviate his tendency to struggle as the game goes on. But on the flip-side of that coin, does going to the bullpen help either pitcher or the team all that much? Neither answer is all that clear.
Hughes has already lost development time and his biggest problem–lack of a third pitch–would probably not be helped in the bullpen. However, it could help him regain some confidence. The same goes for Burnett. His problem thus far has been getting through the middle innings, which wouldn’t be helped in the bullpen. But, like Hughes, getting batters out in any situation would be welcomed. As for helping the team, neither guy is likely to see many high leverage innings. However, anything that could help save the important guys in ‘pen a few innings would be welcomed.
So what should the Yankees do? One of these guys has to go to the bullpen. And I guess it should be Phil Hughes. I…I can’t believe I’m saying that. And the reason why is one that Moshe has raised on Twitter a few times. Phil Hughes has a chance to help the Yankees in the playoffs out of the bullpen. A.J. Burnett will probably not end up on New York’s playoff roster. If Hughes is going to help the team, it will be out of the bullpen so the Yankees may as well transition him into that role as soon as possible.
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