Burnett Looks Like Rotation “Winner” Over Hughes 12

The Yankees have had six starters for a couple of weeks now and it is really unnecessary with two of them pitching so poorly. So they are planning on cutting the rotation down to five starters the only problem is up until now neither Phil Hughes or A.J. Burnett have made a compelling case as to which one stays.

Despite poor performances from both of them it looks like Burnett should be the one who stays in the rotation.

It’s not because of last night’s start, or I should say it’s not just because of last night’s start, 5.1 innings of two-run ball doesn’t make up for a July and August where he had a 7.79 ERA in 10 starts. The reason Burnett should stay in the rotation is because of the reason each of them struggles.

Burnett’s problems are that of location and command. He gets into trouble when he falls behind in the count and lays fat pitches over the plate. A move the the bullpen isn’t going to change that much. He made progress with some changes in his mechanics last night and it seems that may be the way to solve his problems, getting him right mechanically.

Hughes is a different beast. His problems seem to stem from a lack of durability and stamina more than anything else. Look at his last start on Wednesday, he came out of the gate firing 95 mph fastballs, but was down below 92 mph by his 30th pitch. By pitch no. 60 93 mph wasn’t even part of his vocabulary.

You can see it in his numbers as well. He does fairly well through his first 60 pitches, but from pitches 61-75 opponents have a .928 OPS against him and from 76-90 they have a .934 OPS against him. Ugly. It is evidence that maybe a move to the bullpen where his stuff won’t have the opportunity to drop off on him may be the best.

It would also give Hughes a chance to cut back on his poor repertoire. He is a four-pitch pitcher in name only. Yes, he technically does throw four pitches, a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup, however only his fastball has a positive value according to FanGraphs. A move to the bullpen would allow him to give up that silly idea that he has four competent pitches and focus on what works best for him.

Finally, there is the matter of experience. Back in 2009 both pitchers were major contributors to the pitching staff, Burnett out of the rotation as the no. 3 and Hughes as a shutdown setup man. Hughes was exciting and had a ton of movement to his pitches back then. It was a role that really suited him. In contrast, Burnett has appeared in 309 major league games and only four as a reliever. It’s not a role he knows and it might take a more than a month until the Yankees even got him comfortable coming out of the pen.

All signs point to the idea that Hughes should be in the pen, not Burnett. Not because Burnett is better than Hughes, he’s not. Hughes even has a brighter future, but in order for the Yankees to maximize the value of the two pitchers it makes sense to put them into situations that they will be the most effective. For Hughes that means a move the pen, for A.J. it means keeping him in the rotation and helping him fix his mechanics. Last night was a good start, they still have a ways to go.

About Rob Abruzzese

Rob Abruzzese created Bronx Baseball Daily in 2008 just before graduating from Brooklyn College. He currently serves BBD as its editor and works as a reporter at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobAbruzzese.

12 thoughts on “Burnett Looks Like Rotation “Winner” Over Hughes

  • Jaime B.

    Yeah it has to be AJ over Hughes… As bad as AJ has been.. He pitched better yesterday… Hughes gets tired after a few innings and is very much hittable… his fastball is too straight… in the playoffs it would be.. CC Nova Aj.. than CC

  • Rob Abruzzese Post author

    Um, I think you forgot a couple of people. In the playoffs it will likely be CC, Garcia, Nova, and if a 4th is needed Colon. The only way I can see Hughes or Burnett getting a start is if somebody gets hurt.

  • Jaime B.

    No way you put Garcia against Boston or Texas… he would get hammered by and elite offense… Aj pitched well in the playoffs in 2009 besides a few bad starts… CC was good, but last year he was terrible in game 1 and was helped by a blowout in game 5… I think Aj has to get a shot over Garcia… I like Colón and wouldn't mind him receiving a start..but Garcia no

  • Jaime B.

    What is Garcias ERA vs Boston…? 2 out of 3 games he got destroyed… he is good to beat the As and weak hitting teams… I would love to be wrong about it… But Garcia should NOT be in the postseason Rotation…

  • hardnose

    Hughes and AJ are scheduled to pitch this week. Looks like nothing's set yet unless there's an error on the foxsports Yankee site…i like AJ over Hughes…

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