Friday, April 15, 2011

Hughes To The DL

It's not the solution I wanted to see (at least not without confirmation that there is or isn't something medically wrong with him), but at least a decision has been made on how to handle Phil Hughes' alarming and continuing lack of velocity.  Maybe this phantom DL trip will be good for him, maybe it won't.  But it is a better option than throwing him out there and letting him get shelled, physically and mentally, and sacrificing the chance to win for the opportunity to see if he magically regains his form.

And as an interesting side note to this situation, who would have thought that the original AB4AR Phil Hughes Photoshop would still be relevant this year.  Too bad this time it's because he's throwing the ball like a pageant queen.

Sorry, Phil.  Get that strength back and we'll see you in 15 days.

Feliciano's Left Arm Not Looking So Good

(Swanny Duckson does the best he can with what I gave him)

Dr.'s assessment:  Your arm's off!

The unknown: Whether Feliciano's desire to stick it to the Mets will cause him to say "'tis but a scratch" and stupidly try to rehab it this year in hopes of pitching.

The Good & The Bad After Two Weeks

(The Horse has been OK so far, I guess.  Courtesy of The AP)

The Good:

- Russell Martin: The guy has looked like 2007-2008 version of himself so far this season, hitting .289/.325/.579 with 5 XBH and 9 RBI.  He's also the only catcher in MLB who has caught every inning of every game, so his health appears to be a non-issue, at least early on.  I don't expect him to hit for that much power all year, but he doesn't have to in this lineup.

- Robbie Cano: Apparently we don't know because Cano has flown under the radar so far, quietly putting up a very good .326/.340/.587 tripleslash while leading the team with 15 hits (8 XBH) and 8 RBI to boot.  The walk rate is down early, but that should come up as teams start to pitch him more carefully to get to Swish and Jorge like they did last year.  And ever since that flub on Opening Day, he's been solid in the field.

- A.J. Burnett: 3 wins in 3 starts is good enough, but when the peripherals surrounding it are all better than last year's, that's even better.  His 4.67 ERA might not look great, but that has been artificially inflated by some later-inning garbage runs and his WHIP (1.27), FIP (4.35), and xFIP (3.65) are better indications of how well he's pitched.  His K rate is up from last year, his walk rate is down, and he's using his changeup more effectively.

- Mariano Rivera: His announcement this week that he doesn't plan to play after 2012 certainly hasn't had any effect on Mo's performance in 2011.  He has allowed just 3 baserunners in his 6.1 IP so far, saving 5 of the team's 7 wins and picking up the W in the one last night.

- The Rest of The 'Pen: 5-for-5 in save situations, 7 holds, and a collective 3.61 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  Factor out the one bad Soriano outing and those numbers look even better.  Other than that he's been very effective, even with diminished velocity, Joba is starting to look like the Joba of old, D-Rob has become the Tommy Gavin of the 'pen (best fireman ever, if you didn't get the reference), and Bartolo Colon has been great as the long man in his last 2 outings.  If Boone Logan gets it together, they might not miss Feliciano as much as people think.

- The Horse: A .412/.512/.882 line, 8 XBH, 9 RBI, 11 R, and 7 BB to just 4 K in 34 ABs?  Yeah, I guess that's pretty good.  A .566 wOBA, .471 ISO, and pitchers league-wide pissing themselves every time he steps in the box?  That's even better.  Obviously these insane numbers aren't going to carry over all year, but the important thing is that A-Rod has carried his stellar ST over to the regular season.  He still looks healthy, smooth, and locked in at the plate.  And his Kentucky Derby odds keep improving.

The Bad:

Brett Gardner: He hasn't exactly excelled in the leadoff role, hitting .154/.227/.225 early.  And that weak hitting is being compounded by the fact that his rep as a count worker is starting to work against him as he's taking way too many strikes early in the count this year and putting himself in bad spots.  Those bad spots are causing him to take more defensive swings and he just isn't making contact.  His Ks are up (tied for the team lead with 13) and his walks are down (.91 BB/PA).  That's a bad combination for a guy who doesn't hit for a lot of power.  He needs to be more aggressive early in the count and start swinging at good pitches to hit.

Curtis Granderson: Another rough tripleslash (.194/.275/.444) being helped by the fact that he's hit for a little power, Grandy's biggest problem has actually been against righties this year.  He has his 2 HR and 3 RBI in 8 at-bats against lefties this year, but is hitting just .179/.281/.286 against righties.  A career-low BABIP could have something to do with the bad numbers, so at least we can take solace in the fact that he has reverted to his old mechanics.

Phil Hughes: There's no other way to say it.  Hughes has been awful so far this year.  He was a little better last night, but 4.1 innings of 5-run ball kind of takes any merit out of the statement "best start of the year."  As I touched on yesterday, the issue isn't so much the diminished velocity, but rather the lack of a clear definition of what the approach to finding a solution is going to be.  Hughes is pitching without his best stuff and without confidence right now, and that's a bad thing.  He's still a young pitcher and needs some support from his coaching staff to help him regain his form, that support being more than Joe saying he "believes" that Hughes is going to find it.  One more bad start with bad stuff and it might be time to start talking about sending Hughes down to try to find something.