Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Phil Hughes Vs. Joba Chamberlain: Round 4

Sorry I'm a few days late on this but better late than never. The battle for the 5th spot in the rotation continued on Monday when both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain pitched. Hughes faced the Phillies while Joba pitched in an intra-squad game. I didn't get to see any of the action, so I'm going off the box scores and the observations of those in the know.

On the surface, Joba picked this round up. Hughes got sacked with the loss against the Phillies, allowing 4 earned runs in 4.1 IP. He gave up 3 HRs, one being a walkoff. Joba had a much better line, throwing 5 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 6 hits. The best part of Joba's line was that 64% of his pitches went for strikes. That's a pretty good strike-to-ball ratio. He allowed only 1 walk so his control seemed to be there.

Now if you dig a little deeper into Hughes' outing, you'll find that it wasn't as bad as it reads in the box score. According to Chad Jennings at the Lohud Yankees blog, the wind was blowing out at the ballpark. Chad's thoughts were that 2 of the HRs, one of which was the game winner, were probably aided by the wind. Scratch those 2 hits from the box score and Phil's final line improves dramatically: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 6 K. Not too shabby. The K total on its own is pretty impressive. Phil's always had a pretty good K/9 #. Last year he whiffed 96 in 86 IP, which is more than 1 per inning. The swing-and-a-miss for strike 3 is going to get him out of some jams I'd imagine.

Chad's blog entry also features quotes from both Hughes and Girardi. Both were extremely pleased with Phil's outing. Girardi thought it was Hughes' best outing of the spring. Phil "felt really good with all of his pitches" and he also felt that his changeups were "the best changeups" he's ever thrown. Their thoughts on his outing certainly make it out to be a positive one. There's definitely more to the story that what was in the box score.

Joba's outing was another step in the right direction. After 2 awful outings, JC has kicked up his game and strung together 2 straight solid outings. From reading Chad's blow-by-blow of the game, I would definitely call it Joba's best outing of the spring. As I mentioned above, 64% of his pitches went for strikes. For me, anything above 60% is a solid strike-to-ball ratio. One of the things I look at in the spring from pitchers is their control. Joba's getting better with it. He's progressing which is what I want to see start over start.

Despite the thoughts by Phil and Girardi, I have to give round 4 to Joba. He's getting better with each outing and this one was his best so far. That's got to count for something. I now have Hughes with a slight edge on my scorecard. I though Phil clearly won rounds 1 and 2. I thought round 3 could have gone either way. I called it a draw. I could have given it to Joba based on his improvement. I could have given it to Hughes because at the time he had the better spring. If I add round 4 to the mix, I still give Hughes the slight overall edge. I do think Hughes is the better choice for the 5th spot. I think they should both start but if it has to come down to one over the other, I'm going with Phil. I've always maintained that in my estimation he's the better pitcher. I see no reason to change that opinion. I also think that if one has to be at the back end of the bullpen, Joba is better suited for that. He has more of the "closer mindset" and I think while both would do well in that role, Joba will do better.

The battle for the 5th spot in the rotation did pick up a casualty this week. The Yankees possibly released Chad Gaudin, who was "in the mix" for the 5th starter spot. If true, then there were 4. In addition to the previously discussed Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, there's Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre. Aceves and Mitre have had decent springs but there's no way that either is seriously in the mix for the 5 spot. I'd be shocked if either were named the 5th starter. There are only 11 days left until the season starts so a decision on who the 5th man will be should be coming soon, possibly as early as tomorrow, or so some people think. I think the Yankees know who they're going with. I personally hope it's Phil Hughes.

Who do you think they'll go with?

Peace, love and Pinstripes,