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New York Yankees: The Phil Hughes Solution

New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes is not having the season he or the Yankees were hoping for so far in 2011. Check out the odds for MLB Betting@betus.com.

In his first two starts Hughes has a combined 16.50 ERA, pitching a total of six innings. In his most recent outing, Hughes was yanked in the second after the struggling Boston Red Sox scored five earned runs.

Even more concerning is that Hughes only had one strikeout in both outings combined, facing 33 batters total. Hughes also gave up 11 earned runs, three home-runs and four walks.

The Yankees have lost both of Hughes starts, as he has put the team into such a big hole very early in both games. This undoubtedly leads the Yankees to depleting their bullpen; and mentally sending in a pitcher mid-inning, down five runs is not very encouraging for anyone.

So, what should the Yankees do if Hughes implodes for the third time against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night?

First, let me state the fact that the Orioles are not leading the AL East right now because of their bats, as the team’s batting average is only a .216. This gives the opposing pitcher an advantage already.

So, if Hughes doesn’t improve in this game against a weak line-up, changes are going to have to be made soon, if not immediately.

There are a few options, but the most rational solution that the Yankees must be start thinking about is:

How or where would be the best place for Hughes to work on getting his stuff back?

Logically, when you think where Hughes was most successful the answer would be the bullpen.

When Hughes was moved from the rotation to a reliever role mid-2009, it changed the Yankees season. From the moment his role transformed, Hughes’ mindset naturally followed. His fastball hang-ups vanished, as was proved when his velocity spiked.

This gave Hughes his confidence back after struggling as a rookie and the move played a significant part in the team getting to the 2009 World Series.

Imagine how unstable this 24-year-old is now. He is coming off an All-Star season, where he posted an 18-8 record to now be unable to do anything.

Yes, the second half of 2010 Hughes’ numbers started declining. His strikeouts went from 91 in the first half to 55 in the second and batters went from hitting .239 against him to a .250 following the All-Star break.

It was a slip, but nowhere nearly as bad because at least he could still get the team some wins.

If Hughes went back to the bullpen, he could be an efficient long-man and it might be the best chance for him to just let loose again.

Hughes needs to work on perfecting a third pitch because in all honesty, many pitchers have had successful careers with a 85-89 mph fastball because they had other pitches to get guys out with.

With Hughes, hitters know his fastball is coming regardless of its speed because he only has one other pitch. That is a breaking ball that never is thrown for a strike.

Batters tend to sit on Hughes and just wait for his fastball to come. Hughes fastball is lacking any command, as it is straight, flat and easy to hit. Tigers Miguel Cabrera is the perfect example proving this by hitting two homers off Hughes in his two at-bats.

Hughes has to work on his curve ball and get some self-assurance about throwing; something he seemed to be starting to do last season until he lost total command of it in the playoffs.

Otherwise, he won’t be a worthwhile starter. I doubt some miracle spike in speed will happen to his fastball, at least one that will stick long term.

If Hughes is hurting at all let’s just hope he is not masking it, which the kid would never do intentionally. It is part of human nature, which allows for sometimes-minor pain to get overlooked when under stress.

I know that veteran pitchers, like AL Leiter claim that Hughes needs to continue to get his pitch count up to get his velocity back. If anyone knows it would be Leiter, who also knows just as well that the team cannot take continual losses until Hughes fixes himself. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees: The Phil Hughes Solution’ »

New York Yankees: Phil Hughes To Face The New Baltimore Orioles?

The New York Yankees had their second game of 2011 postponed due to rain, last week it was the Minnesota Twins and now the first game against the Baltimore Orioles has to reschedule.

It has been confirmed that the pitching match-ups will be the same just a day later.

So, AJ Burnett will take the hill against Chris Tillman tonight, which moves Phil Hughes to Thursday who will face the O’s Jake Arrieta.

My preview of Burnett vs. Tillman stays the same; the only difference being the date, but I still think Burnett will get his third win…. read it HERE.

Moving along to the second match-up featuring Hughes and Arrieta is one that Yankee Universe will be watching closely and I think we all know why.

HUGHES:

It is no secret that Hughes has been a mess in his first two starts. Only pitching six innings in total, Hughes has allowed 12 hits, 11 earned runs, three homers, with just one strikeout and an ERA of 16.50.

Hughes’ drop in velocity and loss of command is still a mystery, meaning that the Yankees cannot figure out how to fix him.

There are many possibilities as to why, but it seems like Hughes is suffering from a dead arm and he needs to re-build up his arm strength.

Unfortunately, this is happening more frequently to young pitchers who get overworked. Problem is a lot of the time it is occupied by injury. Hughes has not complained of any ailments yet, as he would not be starting if that were the case.

The only positive heading into Hughes’ start is the rain.

Why? Let me explain.

Moving Hughes from Wednesday to Thursday presumably means that Ivan Nova’s start will get bumped to Saturday. Only because CC Sabathia is slated for Friday night and Yankees skipper Joe Girardi knows that the team’s ace needs to go every five days no matter what.

Sabathia will throw 110 pitches on a bad day, so it gives Girardi more options the night before out of the bullpen in case Hughes implodes again. My guess is Girardi will not keep Hughes in the game if more then two runs score in any of the first three innings.

The Orioles are surely aware of the Hughes situation and without question will come out swinging on Thursday night.

ARRIETA:

Hopefully, the Yankees bats will do the same against the O’s Arrieta to relieve some pressure off their struggling teammate.

Arrieta is another youngster at 25-years-old, who has had limited, but a successful two starts against the Yankees in 2010.  The last time he beat out Sabathia on September 12th and held the Yankees to just two runs, over just shy of seven innings pitched.

Arrieta’s first two starts this season were like night and day, with the latest being a total disaster in the O’s loss to the Tigers. Arrieta got clipped giving up eight earned runs in just three innings.

Arrieta knows that can’t happen against New York’s line-up. Whether Arrieta can take the pressures of throwing in the Bronx, along with knowing how much skipper Buck Showalter wants to win these games is something we all will have to wait to find out until it happens. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees: Phil Hughes To Face The New Baltimore Orioles?’ »

New York Yankees AJ Burnett vs. Buck’s Birds aka Baltimore Orioles

The New York Yankees did not have the best weekend up in Boston, as the Red Sox took two of three from their bitter rivals; but it also was the team’s first two wins of the season.

Yankees ace CC Sabathia was not at this best, but he still did his job allowing just one run to score. The Red Sox loaded up with players on base in all six innings that Sabathia pitched, but even a hampered CC is good enough to put his team in winning position.

The pitching wasn’t the issue, as Boston’s Josh Beckett performance was surreal and the Yankees looked shell-shocked, making contact with the ball just twice.

Up Next the Yankees will host the first place Baltimore Orioles (no that is not a typo) for a three game set in the Bronx.

AJ Burnett will face Orioles youngster Chris Tillman, so let’s break down this match-up between these AL East leading teams.

Burnett:

Burnett will take the bump for the Bombers, looking for this third win on the season. Burnett has always been nerve-racking to watch, even before his dreadful 2010 numbers. Burnett worked hard to fix himself in the off-season and so far it has paid off.

Some of the credit easily goes to Yankees new pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who seems to have earned the pitcher’s trust from the start and is a perfect fit in the Bronx.

So, am I worried about Burnett?

Actually, I feel good about Burnett but he can’t win if the Yankee bats don’t hit again.

In Sunday’s embarrassment, the team was sans A-rod who statistically has proven to be the nucleus of the Bomber’s line-up. When A-rod was on the DL the bats were dormant. Ironically, it was against the O’s in 2010 when A-rod hit a first pitch bomb and it was a rising from the dead, as everyone started hitting again.

Is A-rod still sick?

Well, when I saw Mr. Rodriguez yesterday with Ms. Diaz drinking lattes in mid-town he looked fine, so hopefully he is playing.

The rest of the Yankee brass need to join A-rod and Cano at the party, who along with new additions, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones have saved the ball club from absolute embarrassment.

To sum-it-up…. whatever Jeter is doing isn’t working; Tex is back in April; Gardner in the lead-off is not working out that well; Swisher needs to start to swish the ball out of the park; and Posada is still adjusting to his new role, which is the DH in case he forgot.

Burnett has to keep his eye on O’s Brian Roberts, who in 50 career at-bats against Burnett has three double, three homers, 10 RBIs and 15 hits total. Also, Felix Pie and Adam Jones tend to either hit Burnett or strikeout, pending on which AJ is throwing. Well, now it’s the new AJ so I think he will win these battles.

Tillman:

O’s skipper Buck Showalter is sending 22-year-old Chris Tillman to the mound. Tillman shined brightly down in the minors, but the transition has not been easy and 2011 has not been any better. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees AJ Burnett vs. Buck’s Birds aka Baltimore Orioles’ »

New ERA’s Hilarious Commercial: Team Baldwin or Team Krasinski

New ERA hit the nail on the head with this hilarious commercial featuring Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski.

It is already a classic as far as I am concerned and if you didn’t know, TEAM BALDMIN member here.

You can choose yourself between Team Baldwin or Team Krasinski at New ERA’s RIVALS ARE FOREVER website.

If you don’t believe me, just watch it yourself:

(Yes, you are welcome.)

 

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New York Yankees: Signing Carlos Silva Just In Case

Following a horrible Spring Training, the Chicago Cubs released pitcher Carlos Silva despite owing him $11.5 million bucks.

Well, MLB Trade Rumors reports that Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that Silva has now found a new home with the New York Yankees who signed Silva to a minor league deal with an in-season opt-out.

Two things come to mind:

  1. 1) The state of Phil Hughes.
  2. 2) The risk that comes with picking up a player, like Silva who another team is willing to pay $11.5 million to basically get out.

The second situation is very low risk because GM Brian Cashman is not dumb enough to pay any kind of real money for a pitcher with Silva’s reputation, as the Cubs will still be writing the checks. Also, a minor league deal doesn’t hog a roster spot and if Silva cops any attitude about the situation he is free to leave.

What does this mean for Hughes?

Well, Hughes went from bad to worse in his second start against the Red Sox. Hughes’ velocity is way down making his fastball very hittable. Unfortunately, the worst scenario seems to be coming true as Hughes looks to be suffering from a dead arm.

A drop in velocity is not uncommon in young pitchers following their first or second full seasons.

One theory blames the change in habits or practice. Going from a program based on building arm strength by incorporating a long-toss program to the demands of a major league workload can be too much for some young arms. In the bigs they need to rest their arms in between starts and should be on limited throwing programs in the off-season.

Hughes threw a ton this off-season; basically missed a season when he was in the bullpen back in 2009 and at the end of 2010 you could see Hughes was struggling.

Giving up five earned runs in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox, Hughes became way to risky to leave in the game a minute longer. I didn’t see him throw one curveball and his change-up was a mess. Throwing an 88 mph fastball/cutter, with no command and no secondary pitches is not enough to be effective. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees: Signing Carlos Silva Just In Case’ »

New York Yankees: All-Prospect Team Position by Position

Up until 2010, the New York Yankees and the words ‘Farm System’ were rarely used in the same sentence.

Just as the Yankees do with everything and anything, the task of building up a reputable farm system was met with relentless determination to do whatever it took to be deemed one of the best.

As I go through a zillion stats and video clips, some prospects stood out more than others.

Based on all my tireless research and notes from whom I liked down in Tampa, I present my New York Yankees All-Prospect Team.

This list covers all fielding positions and the DH, but not pitching as that talent deserves it’s own article.

**SIDE NOTE: The Yankees looked for certain distinct traits during the 2009-2010 drafts, as they grabbed more overall athletic players with risk, instead of grabbing guys with more definite talent but less upside. This seemed to baffle other teams scouts, as it made no sense when the Yankees could have waited and gotten a majority of these youngsters in later rounds.

Either the Yankees front office is trying to build a young bench, while hoping one or two turn into Brett Gardners’…. OR they will be used as pure trade-bait with no intentions of ever making them the future of the Yankees. Most of these prospects have the potential to be legitimate players, but getting them there is another story. This is purely just my opinion.

CATCHER: Gary Sanchez

This was not an easy choice, but 18-year-old Gary Sanchez has all the best traits of Austin Romine‘s defense and Jesus Montero‘s bat.

The Yankees gave Sanchez $3 million to obtain his talents, but that is a lot of money for a teenager and it can bring distractions. If Sanchez continues to work hard he will be a premier catcher and hitter in the majors.

Sanchez is 6’2″ and 190 pounds, which is a great size to be efficient behind the plate. He has advanced defensive skills, a strong throwing arm but he needs continual practice to perfect using them all together.

He already has above average power offensively and as Sanchez matures physically, so should his bat. Whether Sanchez can mentally stay in check through it all could be his greatest downfall, but my bet is in 2010 he will be one of the top five prospects in baseball.

DH/1B: Jesus Montero

Sorry, but I just don’t see Jesus Montero remaining behind the plate as a catcher. Especially if he stays in pinstripes it just isn’t happening, with all the talent the Yankees have at his position.

This spring did not help the highly coveted Montero’s reputation that he could hit or play defense. It was really ugly and defensively Montero is not a natural catcher, especially standing at 6’5″ and 230 pounds.

Montero has proven himself enough with his bat in the minors to be rated one of the top ten prospects across baseball. I bet some people might have a different vote post-Spring Training.

Montero will be my DH/1B, but that is all. My guess is Montero will never see the Bronx in any other role than as a DH. Montero could possibly, yet highly unlikely be manning first-base down the road too.

There is no other 1B prospect down on the Yankee farm that provides a bat like Montero’s. He can manage first-base just as well as any other youngster because he can hit and this team needs some reliable power.

Should I take that last sentence back??

No, only because these players are all so underdeveloped and this is part of the learning curve to get to the bigs.

2B: Corban Joseph

Second baseman Corban Joseph is said to have the best bat of all the Yankee prospects, behind Jesus Montero.

Even though the Yankees have another 2B prospect, David Adams, who is better defensively, he has been injury prone. Other then his plus arm, Adams is average or below Joseph in most other categories but not by much. He was the player that hindered the Mariners decision on trading Cliff Lee.

Joseph is not ideal either but with hard work, along with hitting the gym to build strength he could be a good second baseman who can hit.

3B: Brandon Laird

Prospect Brandon Laird is currently manning third-base in Scranton, but is on the 40-man roster.

Laird keeps defying odds, as scouts have always wondered if this kid could really make it to the bigs.

Through hard work and constantly improving himself, has shut his naysayers up. The only thing he really needs to improve is his patience at the plate because when he is in the zone Laird can hit for power, as well as average.

Laird won the 2010 Eastern League MVP award and his big brother, Gerald, is currently a MLB catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. I presume as a back up to Molina.

SHORTSTOP: Cito Culver

Most scouts wondered why the Yankees took shortstop Cito Culver in the first round of the 2010 draft. Admittedly, I agreed at the time because Culver’s bat was not even close to being where his defensive abilities were.

The only other shortstop the Yankees ever drafted out of high school was Derek Jeter, so whatever they saw must have been dynamite. Culver, like Jeter is a natural athlete and has baseball instincts. Cito is an above-average defender, with a better than plus arm. But I am sure the fact that he is a switch-hitter got the Yankee scouts dreaming big things.

After reading about Culver, I was in tears. This kid has been literally through hell and back, but baseball remained a constant and an escape from harsh realities.

Culver’s father is in jail for burning down the family’s home on Easter back in 2008. Mr. Culver will remain behind bars for at minimum another six years. Cito, his mother and sisters managed to escape.

Culver is a special kid, who works hard and he wants to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees. Well, I think this young man will go get it.

OF: Slade Heathcott

Outfielder Slade Heathcott is described as Austin Jackson, but with way more potential. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees: All-Prospect Team Position by Position’ »