What’s Behind Door No. 5

March 31, 2010 – 1:24 pm

Phil HughesSo the biggest question mark going in to spring training is now answered — Phil Hughes will get the nod as the fifth starter, at least for the start of the season. Although in theory this was an open competition between Hughes, Chamberlain, Aceves, Mitre and Gaudin — my suspicions all along were that it was Hughes’ job to lose. And so far this spring, he’s certainly done nothing to lose the job. And conversely, Joba has not done much of anything to win the job for that matter. In fact, as much as I do like Chamberlain, one has to start wondering what is going on with him. He’s just steadily gone downhill since his strong start in 2007 and 2008. If he doesn’t pick it up a notch or two early on this season, he could easily find himself odd man out, as so far the Yankee bullpen looks to be quite strong. Here’s hoping Joba can do what Hughes did last year coming out of the bullpen, and eventually work his way back in to the starting rotation — as that’s where the Yankees ultimately need him.

All in all, you have to like the Yankee pitching for this season. Last year they finished 6th in the league, giving up 4.65 runs/game. Although incredibly if you take out the nine games Chien-Ming Wang started, that R/G stat drops to 4.46, which would have been 2nd in the league! So the reality is that outside of Wang’s unfortunate season, the pitching was some of the best in the league. And this year, with the only significant changes being Javier Vasquez replacing Wang (which should be a big plus) and Hughes and Chamberlain flip-flopping their roles as starter and setup man (which hopefully will be a big plus as well), you can’t help but figure the pitching will be much improved over last year. At this point the only question mark is the middle relief. Say what you will about Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, and Chad Gaudin, but they did give the Yankees 141 innings with a 4.02 ERA. No one really cares about middle relief until it starts stinking up the joint, so hopefully the addition of Chan Ho Park and whoever else ends up making the final cut will at least do as well as Coke et al.  Bottom line, though, is that the pitching looks to be improved over last year — I guess we will see shortly!

Photo: New York Times

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