2009: The main opposition to Joba Chamberlain’s bid to be the 5th starter in the Yankees rotation, Phil Hughes has played second-fiddle to Joba for a while now. Joba was the prodigal son, seen as the future of the Yankees bullpen and Hughes was associated more often with Ian Kennedy. Personally I believe that Hughes is as good a pitcher as Joba is and the 2009 season proves as much. As a starter he went 3-2 with 34.2 innings pitches while giving up 37 hits and 21 earned runs. He also only walked 15 batters while striking out 31. His 5.45 ERA is far from spectacular but the reason the number is so high is because during a May 9th outing at Baltimore he pitched 1.2 innings and gave up 8 earned runs. Young pitchers tend to have bad outings but only great pitchers can come back and throw 8 innings of 3-hit ball while giving up no runs and striking out 6 batters.
In 2009 Joba had the edge over Hughes when it came to starting games but since Hughes only started 7 games it is more likely that he would have gotten better rather than worse as the season went on. His relief appearances, barring 3 terrible playoff performances, were nothing short of spectacular. In 51.1 innings he gave up 8 earned runs, 31 hits, and walked 13 batters. He also struck out 65 hitters, allowed 2 homeruns in 44 appearances, held opponents to a .172 batting average, and finished with a 1.40 ERA. That is a stellar season. And by all accounts he will only become better as he gains more experience. We do not know whether he will be able to translate his success as a reliever into success as a starter.
- 2009 Stats: 51 Games 3 Saves 18 Holds 3 Blown Saves 3.04 ERA 86.0 Innings 68 Hits 28 Walks 96 Strikeouts
2010: I believe that Phil Hughes will be a reliever this year for the New York Yankees and he will be used as both a long and short reliever. With the retention of Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre the likelihood that Hughes will be called upon to make a spot start will be very slim. The Yankees should give Hughes the chance to win the 5th starter spot, which I believe will go to Joba, and once that happens Hughes should be given the peace of mind to know that his place is in the bullpen and only in the bullpen. Using Hughes for spot starts, while not disastrous last season, will only serve to complicate his eventual move to the starting rotation as it changes his routines, innings pitched, and confidence. He will have a great year in the bullpen and will be used to take some pressure off of Mariano Rivera while helping out when the starters are not able to go deep into games.
- 2010 Predictions: 60 Games 8 Saves 20 Holds 2 Blown Saves 2.4 ERA 100 innings 75 Hits 32 Walks 120 Strikeouts