Sunday, June 25, 2006

He Got Skillz

Before you read this, know that it's simple lunacy. It's so far fetched as to end up on the floor of a digital birdcage somewhere. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain kind of stuff.

Call up Phil Hughes to play with the big boys now. Check out what guys like Francisco Liriano, Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels, Boof Bonser, Chad Billingsley, and others are doing and tell me that Phil Hughes isn't better than Shawn Chacon and Jaret Wright right now.

The Yankees are always followed by rumors about possible trades and player moves, especially these days with all the injuries our outfield has experienced. Names are floated in potential transactions and it seems that every underachieving team with a high priced slugger is a target for beat writers in the quest to drive readership with Rumor and Speculation....the ugly stepchildren in New York to Destiny and Mystique. The asking price invariably includes Hughes. Need a hitter...give us Hughes. Yankee arms look mighty mediocre this season....give us Hughes. I'm not buying. There isn't a single player out there right now that would convince me that giving up our best young arm is the right thing to do. Maybe Johan Santana or the aforementioned Liriano. You might sway me with Peavy or Kazmir. Willis and Zito don't do it for me. We can get Zito for nothing but cash in a few months and Willis is a crap shoot at this point.

Phil Hughes was compared to Roger Clemens in Spring Training, and while I can compare Aaron Small's 2005 campaign to Roger Clemens, I think you see the difference. One is clearly a wonderful fluke that we'll fondly remember long after the fact, and the other is a striking commentary on a live arm that has all the potential in the world. You don't need me to spell that one out. Remember when I said that this idea was lunacy? Check this out.

Cole Hamels pitched 3 games at AA this year before getting the quantum leap call to the Majors. He dominated hitters at A ball for 3 years posting a 1.42 ERA over 25 games with a WHIP of a ridiculous 0.96 over 133 innings. He struck out 12.8 batters per 9 innings during that same stretch. The Phillies braintrust gave him a 3 game cup of coffee at AA Reading where he posted a 2.37 ERA and a 1.158 WHIP over 19 innings. It seems that was enough to launch him to the Bigs where he's flashed signs of brilliance amidst a few rocky moments. His numbers aren't quite there, but he showed guts and a very high ceiling in a loss to the Yankees in which he only gave up 2 runs over 7 innings with 6 Ks. The Phillies seem pleased with the work he's doing, although they have to be concerned with his injury history.

Francisco Liriano pitched in 91 minor league games over the last 5 years. He did most of his work in A ball, where he was impressive in striking out 9.7 batters per 9 innings. He also went 9-14 with a 4.00 ERA and a WHIP of 1.297 over 40 games. The Twins weren't bothered by all that and bumped him up to AA and AAA like a a bat out of Hell. The front office wanted him to spend the start of this season at AAA, but Ron Gardenhire managed to convince the powers that be to keep him with the big boys to get some experience out of the pen. He's arguably one of the best pitchers in the entire sport right now and is being compared to a young Johan Santana. So much for the minors.

Jered Weaver pitched in a total of 15 minor league games before debuting with the Angels this season. He'd pitched for Long Beach State over a 3 year period as well, giving him 70 games below the Major League level prior to his first Big League appearance. In his cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Heavenly Angels of West Hollywood and the Wuthering Heights of Anaheim he impressed just about everyone on the planet, not in the front office of that club. After winning his first 4 decisions and sporting a neat 1.36 ERA over 26.1 IP, the Angels sent him back down to make room for struggling Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon. Weaver's WHIP of 0.76 over those 4 games didn't save him from the bus back to nowheresville, but we're sure to see him back any day now. Did I mention that he only pitched in 15 minor league games? I know I didn't mention that of those 15 games only 8 were at AA, and none were at AAA.

I'll give you one more. Chad Billingsley was just called up by the actual Los Angeles team, the Dodgers, and has been reasonably good in 2 appearances. So far, he's not knocking anyone's socks off with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP, but he's held his own. Time will tell what kind of impact Billingley will have on the Dodgers fortunes in 2006, or if he'll even finish out the year in the Majors, but he's here after 65 minor league appearances at the raw young age of 21 (he'll be 22 next month). His minor league record is very nice with a AA level ERA of 3.39 over 36 games, and a WHIP of 1.168 in the same span. He also struck out about 10 batters per 9 in that service.

That brings us to Phil Hughes. At 20 years old (happy birthday June 24th) Hughes has pitched at Rookie ball, Low-A, A ball, and AA for the Yankees. He's appeared in a total of 35 minor league games and owns a combined 2.40 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9 ratio. His most recent work at AA has included 10 games of work at a 3.18 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. The numbers from level to level remain fairly consistent and he has quickly adjusted to AA after a few so-so starts early on. His most recent game was a dominating 8 inning start in which he gave up 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 10. In June he is a freakish 2-0 in 3 starts with 22 innings pitched, 8 hits, 6 walks, 29 strikeouts, and 2 runs allowed. That means his June ERA is 0.82, his WHIP is 0.64, and his strikeouts per 9 is 11.9 large. You could say he's figured out AA.

The other pitchers spent a bit more time in the minors. Hamels was limited to 25 starts due to a few injuries, both real and freakish. The Yankees will probably find a way to promote Hughes to AAA by the end of the year, and start him off there in 2007. I suppose it makes sense to move him along slowly, but I can't help wonder what he's got in his bag of tricks that would tip the balance for the Bombers in the tight AL East. The Red Sox have Johnathon Papelbon lighting the world on fire as their closer after only 21 games above A ball. They also have John Lester in their rotation after 73 minor league appearances, and only 26 above A ball. He seems to be winning his permanent spot in their Major League rotation with a 2.75 ERA over 3 starts and a 1.347 WHIP. His 10.4 strikeouts per 9 looks pretty good too. The Yankees have turned to Small and Erickson so far for pitching help. They have Ramiro Mendoza in line for a callup at some point. Why not roll the dice? Bring up Phil Hughes and watch him do his thing. I'm insane, and you shouldn't pay attention to anything I say, but I said it anyway.

UPDATE: Two pitchers made their Major League debuts today. Chuck James of Atlanta won his first game by going 8 strong innings of 1 run ball, striking out 8, while walking 4 and allowing 3 hits. He's 24 years old with only 22 games above A ball. The other pitcher was Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins, who threw 5.2 innings against our beloved Yankees in the second game of a split double header. He earned the win by shutting out the Bombers on 7 hits and no walks. Sanchez is barely 22 years old, and was a premium in the trade between Boston and the Marlins that exchanged Beckett for Hanley Ramirez. Sanchez pitched 26 games above A ball with the Red Sox and Marlins farm clubs, and was far less impressive than Phil Hughes. More fuel for the fire.

2 comments:

mars2001 said...

Aaaahahhh..... I'm going crazy here.... (besides the talks of Hughes to the Brewers for Lee)....

What about next year's #3 guy (assuming 1/2 an RJ (an 'honorary' #1), Moose, _______, Hughes and Wang) are next year's starting rotation....

You know... the MATSUZAKA?!... for all I know he's fallen off the far side of the world (or his arm has fallen off after a 180 pitch start on 3 days rest).... is he still alive & kickin?

Still Looking forward to the aforementioned Matsuzaka Watch Catch-up Updates.....


Oh... and who else do you think should be invited to a very special Seven Samarai Spring Training to get together with Matsuzaka in February 2007 (active players/coaches only)?

I have the following penciled in: RJ (intensity), Moose (control), Rivera (mystique), Maddux (mindset), Clemens (longevity), Smoltz (October), and ____________ (?)

The list could also go: Rivera (fastball), Moose (curve), Maddux (slider), Clemens (splitter), Old Man Hough ('butterfly'),....

Either way, it's an amusing exercise to try to come up with a list... oh, and I wouldn't mind if Greinke could get an invite to be an understudy as well....

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