Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yanks-Indians "Return Of Hughes" Live Blog

The Yanks are nationally televised tonight and Phil is back on the hill.  That can only mean it's time for another live blog.  I'm assuming I'm going to get the ESPN broadcast team of McDonough, Sutcliffe, and Aaron F'ing Boone, which is tolerable, so that's good.  The Yanks aren't dicking around with the lineup tonight, throwing their version of the A-lineup out there:

1) Derek Jeter- SS
2) Curtis Granderson- CF
3) Mark Teixeira- 1B
4) Alex Rodriguez- 3B
5) Robinson Cano- 2B
6) Nick Swisher- RF
7) Jorge Posada- DH
8) Russell Martin- C
9) Brett Gardner- LF

And on the mound it's Phillip Joseph Hughes.

Just a quick note on Mo, whose triceps injury I have admittedly not focused enough on.  LoHud is saying he's still not a sure thing to be able tonight.  He's going to throw before the game and then see how he feels.  If he can't go, that's added pressure on the Luis Ayalas, Boone Logans, and Corey Wades of the world, who will almost surely be needed to bridge the gap from Hughes to the 9th inning.

Check back here some time before 7 Eastern/6 Central to get this thing kicked off.

What Should We Expect From Phil Hughes Tonight?

(It'll be good to see Phil back in the pinstripes tonight.  Courtesy of The AP)

The prodigal son makes his return to the rotation tonight in the rubber match against Cleveland.  It'll be the first time since April 13th that Phil Hughes has started a game for the Yankees, and the results leading up to his DL stint and recent rehab were quite ugly.  In 10.1 innings over 3 starts, Hughes put up an ungodly 13.64/8.56/6.34 tripleslash with 2.61 K/9 and 3.48 BB/9.  It's not a stretch (yeah it is) to say that I could have probably gone out there with my high-60s heater and 50s offspeed stuff and put up those numbers.

That was the Phil Hughes with the high-80s fastball, little to no movement, and even less confidence.  Tonight he returns after 3 solid MiL rehab starts, the last one a gem, with his fastball back, his arm strength back, and by the sounds of it, his confidence back too.

“I know it’ll be good.  I know my stuff is there, I just have to execute pitches. I know if I do that, I’ll be fine. I’m not going out there with any wonder or curiosity or doubt. I’m just going out trying to execute every pitch I can.”

This is a complete 180 from the version of Phil Hughes we were seeing and hearing back in early April.  And that, more than the velocity and arm strength, is a great thing.  But the question still remains about what Hughes will look like out there on the hill tonight, and what should we realistically expect from him?  If he can repeat the velocity and maintenance of it through 5-6 innings like he did in his last rehab start, I would be happy with that.  I'm sure Joe and Larry Rothschild are going to have him on some sort of pitch count closely tied to what they're seeing on the gun so as not to risk re-aggravating the shoulder inflammation that was supposedly causing his early-season dead arm.  If he makes it up to that pitch count with better velocity on his fastball and some more bite than what he showed early in the year on his offspeed stuff, I could honestly care less what his line looks like.  I'd be happy with 3-4 runs allowed in 5-6 innings of work.  It would be an improvement over what he produced earlier in the year and a sign that he's moving back towards being the Phil Hughes we remember from last season.

Let's remember that the Yankees don't need Hughes to come back and become the #2 starter that some were expecting him to be on Opening Day.  He's essentially replacing Ivan Nova's 4.12/4.42/4.21 line and 0.8 WAR from the 5th spot in the rotation.  There's no pressure for him to come in and light the world on fire, so for his first time out after an extended absence there's no reason to expect anything more than what Nova has given the Yankees as long as the indication is that he'll continue to move towards exceeding Nova's output.  And coming off a year where he went 4.19/4.25/4.13 with 2.4 WAR, we all know Hughes is capable of that.

Tonight we, like Hughes and the Yanks themselves, should not be looking for anything more than some low-to-mid-90s on the gun and Hughes looking more comfortable on the mound.

Quote courtesy of LoHud.

Can Somebody Explain The CC Snub To Me?

(Best pitcher in the AL?  Top 3?  Courtesy of The AP)

How the hell did CC Sabathia NOT get selected to the All Star Game?  I mean, really, how does that happen?  The guy is statistically one of the 3-5 best pitchers in baseball this year, let alone the AL, he's a big hulking monster of a man, which is always fun for matchups, and anybody who has ever talked to him says he's one of the most friendly, down to earth, gregarious people in professional sports.  The All Star Game was made for players like CC, and yet somehow he managed to get snubbed by the rest of his fellow players and the AL managers who vote for the reserves, most likely because they all felt some sort of unwarranted unfairness for the Yankees already having 6 players on the team.

Well you know what?  That's just too fucking bad.  It's not A-Rod, Cano, C-Grand, or Jeter's faults that they got selected by the fans.  Shit, 3 of those 4 guys deserve the votes they got because they're the best players at their position in the league.  And Jeter, like it or not, is still a big star and a big draw because of the fans, and that's supposedly what the All Star Game is about, right?  Tell me how many fans out there don't like CC Sabathia.  Tell me how many people would rather watch Aaron Crow and Brandon League pitch an inning against Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, and Brian McCann.  Aaron Crow walks 4.14 batters/9.  Brandon League only strikes out a hair over 6 batters/9 and has an ERA/FIP/xFIP tripleslash that is good at best for a reliever.  And don't even get me started on Chris Perez or Jose Valverde.  If people think 6 Yankees is too many, first of all get bent.  Second of all, why would you select Russell Martin?  Don't get me wrong, he's having a nice year, but he's been cold over the last 2 months and has been injured too.  If there's a Yankee that didn't deserve the spot, it's him.

These are the facts.  After last night, CC is now leading the AL in wins (12) and is tied with Jered Weaver for the lead in WAR (4.3).  His ERA (2.90) is lower than those of Felix Hernandez, David Price, and C.J. Wilson.  His FIP (2.56) is better than those of Josh Beckett, James Shields, Gio Gonzalez, and Justin Verlander.  And he's thrown more innings (136.2) than anybody in the AL except Verlander.  You could make the case that CC should be STARTING the All Star Game, let alone be on the roster.

I know with his next scheduled start coming on Sunday that he most likely wouldn't be available to pitch anyway, but that's beside the point.  There are a handful of other pitchers who will be in the same boat and they still got picked.  The point is a player who is more deserving than almost every other pitcher on the roster got snubbed and there's no good reason for it.  Brandon League, Chris Perez, and Jose Valverde have no business being on the team, and each of their respective teams already has a representative, so it's not like they are there for that.  At the very least, CC should have been chosen and then you could bring in one of those guys as his replacement once it's announced that he won't be pitching.  That way he would be recognized for how well he's pitched and one of the other guys, relievers who are used to pitching one inning, could get a nod too.

Just like it's called the "Hall of Fame" and not the "Hall of Very Good," this game IS still called the "All Star Game," not the "Bunch of Pretty Good Players Game."  When you're picking the team, you should pick the best players first and then fill in with subs as needed, and there's no possible way anybody could argue that CC Sabathia is not one of the best pitchers in the American League this year.  Once again, the anti-Yankee bias seeps through and screws something up.  And it's even worse this time because the bias came from CC's own colleagues and not the media.

P.S.- Is is Yankee fan treason to say that I would rather CC be on the All Star team than Mo?