2 Reasons Why Hughes and Joba Should Remain Starters

This offseason we’ve seen a couple of young ace pitchers, Felix Hernandez and now Justin Verlander, get locked up for the long-term. Those two moves should serve as a good reminder to the Yankees that it is important for the team’s long-term success that Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes become starters.

In an offseason where there was a small market for Matt Holliday and almost no market at all for Johnny Damon, two players who would have signed big contracts if this were five years ago, Hernandez and Verlander managed to land big contracts with ease. The Tigers even found money for Verlander when they couldn’t for Curtis Granderson.

Even when teams are up against a budget they will find money for good pitchers. Just look at the Red Sox this offseason. With a hole in left field they were not even in the market for two very good ones Holliday and Jason Bay. Instead they went after John Lackey, gave him over $80 million, and signed a bargain outfielder.

Top starters are expensive, Verlander, Hernandez, and Lackey each got at least $16 million and that’s where the bidding for next year’s free agent crop of Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, and Josh Beckett is going to start. In reality each could potentially bring in as much as $20 million a year or more and we are talking three pitchers on the wrong side of 30.

Being on the wrong side of the 30 is bad for two reasons. Typically it means you are paying a pitcher for something he’s done in the past with less of a potential for future big seasons. It also means that they’re at more of a risk of breaking down. Bad elbows, bad shoulders, bad backs. They’re part of the job when it comes to pitching and the older they get the likelihood of breakdowns happening just increase.

Obviously Joba and Hughes are not on the level of these pitchers yet, but they do have the potential. Both are hard throwing, young, and have deadly strike out pitches that give them ace potential. Most of all, for the next four years, they are both going to be on bargain contracts.

But instead of fulfilling their rotation from within with younger and cheaper alternatives, some Yankee fans and members of the media, B-Jobbers, are advocating that the Yankees should move one or both of these pitchers to the bullpen. Just remember, for every CC Sabathia on the free agent market there are two Jaret Wright‘s and Jose Contreras‘ because the Verlander’s and Hernandez’s just don’t hit the market in their prime.

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13 Responses to 2 Reasons Why Hughes and Joba Should Remain Starters

  1. nyyank55 says:

    Instead of making it a competition for the fifth spot, why not show confidence in your young arm and name Chamberlain the fifth starter? This may do more good for his psyche than having to compete for the spot. Secondly, Hughes should remain in the bullpen as the heir apparent to MO. I don't care about all those who say that Joba's stuff is lights out out of the bullpen, you need to have ice run through your veins like Mo does in order to have and maintain success in those situations. Hughes has shown me that type of demeanor and I feel is better suited for that role than Joba. Just toying with the idea of putting Joba back in the pen will undo all that was supposed to have happened the last two years which was to build up his innings and pitch count to the point where there would be NO limits this year. Are we going backwards here? As I have mentioned before, Hughes is not ready to be a starter. Nor will the following spring training season be enough to make him one. Why tinker with success? Are we going to make a basket case out both of them? Everyone saw what happened to Joba when they started to cut back his innings last year. Honestly, what incentive can you have knowing that you are going to be pulled out of a game before you can even factor in a decision? It's almost like spring training all over again where all you are trying to do is get your work in and hit the showers. And based on some of the ill thought out comments Joba made following those starts last year, that is exactly how he was treating them. Let's take the life jacket off and let him sink or swim. Let him prove that he deserves the slot and make it his to lose.

    • Rob Abruzzese says:

      Based on many quotes from Joba over the years, I don't think confidence is or ever will be a problem with him. He's brimming with it.

      • smurfy says:

        Thanks, Rob, fascinating analysis. My opinion is that Joba's head is very much an issue. The comments that I recall were "Pretty happy, just a couple of bad pitches," where his confidence serves to let him dismiss poor performance.

        The good version of confidence is when it's married to determination, like Phil when he clenches his teeth. Also, I think the best pitching strategy incorporates more "pitching to contact," while working to keep the hitter off balance so that contact is poor. Mariano's most satisfying outs involve a shattered bat.

  2. Rob Abruzzese says:

    I guess I should clarify something I should have put in this article. For this season obviously there is not enough space to keep both Hughes and Joba in the rotation. What I was talking about in this article is long-term. Maybe Hughes isn't a starter this year, but they should definitely plan to keep him as a starter in the future.

    • Peter Menking says:

      I agree and hopefully the management will have the patience to keep trying out Joba and Hughes in the starting rotation. Once Pettitte retires, and he will probably do so in the next few years, having those two ready to go as starters would make the transition from one era (Jeter, Mariano, etc) to the next (Montero, Granderson, etc) a lot easier.

  3. Eric @ THTGB says:

    I agree entirely. I know Joba and Hughes both don't have much big league starting pitching experience, but, in my opinion, they've shown that they have what it takes to be starters in the major leagues. Joba was fantastic for the first four months of this past season, and Hughes showed us huge improvements in confidence once he shifted to the pen this year. They both deserve a shot at starting for a full season before committing either of them to the bullpen for the rest of their careers.

    Joba worked the innings limits for the past two years and now it's finally his chance for a full 180 IP season; I just hope the Yankees feel the same way. Hughes, unfortunately, is the odd man out of the rotation this season. Hopefully they find a way to get him a bunch of innings this season so that if/when Pettitte retires next season he'll be ready to go in the five slot.

  4. smurfy says:

    I think the bullpen can be used as a training ground for starting. If Phil will start in future, he should be stretched out, bringing him in as the case requires, in the 5th or later, so he can finish or bring it to Mariano. Maybe two days' rest when he does 4 innings.

    I know that flies in the face of the 8th inning pre-stopper machinery, but I think it must be hard on the psyches of the other pitchers to be assigned sloppy seconds only.

  5. nyyankeefanforever says:

    Agree with you entirely about Joba, Rob, but not about Phil. The two of them may be competing for the 5th spot, along with Gaudin, Aceves. Mitre and a few others, according to Girardi, but that's just for morale and motivation. The job is clearly Joba’s to lose, which is as it should be. The team went to extraordinary lengths last year to bring him along without risking damage to his development in a must-win year, for which they should be commended. He’s big, tough and durable with special stuff like CC and made for the starting rotation. He’s still incredibly young and last year delivered a half season of quality starts (six innings or more with 3 runs or less) under enormous pressure in the Number 4 hole. (Hughes has shown absolutely no prowess in extended innings situations, which is fine.) Joba now gets to let it rip in the 5 hole with a year of post-season pressure and winning play (his first ever such experience) under his cap. As for Phil, he was the best set-up man in MLB last year, even better than Mariano was to Wetteland back in the day. Leave him there and let him shorten the innings for middle relievers, closers and starters alike. Joba in the 5 hole and Phil setting up for Mariano. That was the original plan and everyone should just chill out and let it unfold this year. Clearly, it worked out for us last season, and we only got better this off-season in my estimation. Smurfy has a point about training for a starting role out of the pen, but not for Phil and not this year. Let's complete one project at a time. …Thanks again for your thoughtful efforts, Rob.

    For more Hot Stove chucks and giggles, check out “Joe’s Job — The Ballad of Terry Francona” at:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvVZQnELQ9s

    It’s a must-see for Yankee fans and BoSuxers alike. Go Yankees! 28 in 2010!!!

    • My point in the article is that elite starters are very expensive and from what I saw in Phil Hughes last year, he has the capability to be a special pitcher. 8th inning starters are more regularly available and much cheaper than good starters. Just from a monetary standpoint having Hughes in the rotation vs the bullpen would save the Yankees a ton of money.

      • smurfy says:

        Yeah, Rob, gotcha. Just hope the Yankees use those savings to tighten down those seat prices, big time.

        • Rob Abruzzese says:

          I doubt they would ever do that, but I wouldn't mind seeing them use those savings to add a free agent or two next offseason.

  6. smurfy says:

    Certain, I am you are right. Wonder what it cost to have a couple beers, a dog, and a cigar, and watch the Babe swat one?

  7. nord says:

    The 3rd man is why both Joba and Phil should be starters and that would be… Robertson. Sneaky fastball is what they call his main pitch and he showed both poise and expertise in the playoffs last year. If this is the year that marks the decline of Getting Old Andy, then this guy is the 8th innning replacement in waiting for either Hughes or Chamberlin or both, who may be needed in the starting rotation.