Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mmmmmm, Linkapalooza Nuggets (Nom, Nom, Nom!!)

- Vizzini at No Maas throws some more praise at Brett Gardner for his fantastic start to the season.  Gardner's ability to keep producing at a respectable level will be an interesting subplot to watch as the season continues, as it could have a major effect on the Yanks' decision to go after Carl Crawford.

- Benny Kabak at RAB discusses the current revolving door that is the DH spot in the lineup.  While I agree with him that the Yanks should stop messing around with off-days and rest by using the DH spot, I don't think Juan Miranda is the answer.  If the guy was that good, he would be a regular by now.  Cervelli has earned his spot in the lineup; keep him behind the plate and Jorge at DH to keep him healthy.

- iYankees take a look at Teix's UZR so far this season.  If you're too lazy to click and read for yourself, it's currently 14.4.  So at least there's that while his batting average still sits at .198.

- Darren Everson of the Wall Street Journal takes a very interesting look at whether or not A-Rod will still reach the all-time HR record.  I still think it's a little early to be questioning something that long term, but given The Horse's slow power start, it is a point worth making.

- Moshe Mandel at TYU poses a great question that makes me wish I had somebody out here in Wisconsin to discuss it with: Would the Yanks have traded for Javy if they knew Phil would be this good? 

Perfectly valid question given how incredible Phil has been and how awful Javy has been before yesterday's start.   But at the end of the day, the age factor with Pettitte and innings limit factor with Hughes combined with Javy being a notorious innings eater makes me think he was going to end up in pinstripes regardless of how good or bad Hughes pitched.  So I'm siding with Moshe on this one.

- Graham Stoneburner is decent, I guess.

It's good that Teix and A-Rod seem to be coming around.  It's better that Jorge is back in the lineup and Andy will be back on the mound this weekend.  And it's best that this latest road trip is over and the Yanks can come back home to face their favorite whipping boys, the Twins, before a pair of 2-game series against the Sox and Rays next week.


(Photo courtesy of The AP)

6-0 and a second shutout in as many days?  Talk about a downer heading into the weekend.

Yanks played like a team that just wanted to get on the bus and go home today, which sucks.  CC pitched his worst game of the year, which also sucks.  But with as many bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, and pulls as this team has right now, maybe a playing off-day like they played today was for the best.

I mean, when you're rolling out a starting outfield of Greg Golson, Brett Gardner, and Randy Winn against Justin Verlander, you're not exactly set up for success (no offense, Brett.  You know I love ya).

Is Phil Hughes The Best Pitcher In The American League?

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

It's a legit question to ask after last night. Having missed all of his previous starts this season, I was looking forward to finally getting to watch Phil work last night on ESPN and he didn't disappoint. Watching Hughes pitch last night, you would have never guessed that this was the same guy who had been so hot and cold over the last couple years that the whispers about whether or not he would ever live up to the hype were growing to a dull murmur.

Ever since his shift to the bullpen last year, and even despite his massive struggles in last years playoffs (of which I was one of the loudest critics), Hughes hasn't just been a different pitcher on the mound, he's been a different person. Everything about how he handles himself on the mound oozes confidence and maturity. He is cool, calm, and consistent in his approach, something that had always been missing from his starts in years past. And the nervous posture and darting eyes that would creep into focus when Hughes started putting runners on base are nowhere to be seen this season. Instead he just licks his fingers, gets the ball back, steps back on the hill, and attacks the next hitter.

His numbers this year more than speak for themselves and they stand up against anybody's in baseball right now. After last night he is 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9.  In his 39 innings pitched, he has allowed just 22 hits to the tune of a .165 BAA and a .446 opponents OPS.  He is flat out dominating hitters and after being a bit wild in his first 3 starts, he has made adjustments to cut down on his walks and has walked only 3 batters over 21 IP in his last 3 outings.

But more important than the numbers is the approach. Hughes has finally learned how to pitch smart and at no time was that more evident than last night. From batter to batter and inning to inning Hughes threw the right pitches in the right locations to get the batter to do what HE wanted him to do. He pitched to contact early in the game, getting ahead in the count and forcing Detroit to have to swing with 2 strikes, then just going after them and trusting his defense behind him. But when the time called for it, like the end of the 5th and 6th inning, Hughes changed his approach, getting ahead with the fastball to set up his killer off-speed stuff and go for the strikeout. His poise and command of the situation on the mound this year is absolutely insane. He isn't to afraid to throw any pitch at any time and has learned to recognize trends within a game and stick with what's working, even if his catcher wants to call something different. Hughes is pitching the way that you would expect veterans like A.J. Burnett and Javy Vazquez to pitch, and he's still just 23!!

It seems like Hughes has been around forever, but he is at an age where most young pitchers are still dealing with growing pains and trying to master their stuff at the Major League level. Hughes has gone through the growing pains and the injuries, and he's learned along the way, and this year he has put it all together. He has established himself as not only one of the best young pitchers in baseball, but one of the best pitchers in baseball period and maybe, just maybe, the best pitcher on the Yankees.