Tagged: Pitching

A True Blessing

This year’s spring training has been a relatively quiet one for our Yankees. No scandals, no controversy, nothing very Yankee-esque. We’re not used to the lack of drama from the Yankees camp, so we have to find something put all of our energy into.

With our starting lineup set (not much to debate other than whether Cano should bat 5th or 7th), we’ve turned our attention to pitching. The main debates amongst Yankees fans involve four names: Hughes, Aceves, Gaudin and Logan. 
Phil Franchise vs. The Aces
The fifth spot in our rotation is up for grabs. The main candidates are Alfredo Aceves and Phil Hughes. Very few people still think Joba Chamberlain should be a starter, and I’m not one of them. Joba needs to clock that fastball of his in the mid-90s, something he hasn’t been able to do as a starter. I think he’ll be our next closer. 
Between Hughes and Aceves, however, I’m somewhat torn, yet confident about which one will become our fifth starter. Both have shown strength this spring training, and they’ve shown that they deserve to be starters.
Aceves has done wonderfully so far in spring training. In three outings, his record is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA. That is absolutely amazing. He started out as a long-shot, but quickly became the frontrunner for the rotation spot with his great outings. Many have also said that if Aceves earns the spot in the rotation, Hughes and Joba will be in the bullpen, providing one Hell of a bridge to Mariano Rivera.
This is all very true, and I am very impressed with Aceves’ performance in spring training so far. He was also wonderful for us last year. 
In my opinion, however, Hughes edges him out in the race. As you know from my previous blog post, we weren’t able to watch the game against the Astros, so I wasn’t able to see Hughes’ last start. What I’ve read about his start, however, really made me happy. Not only were his numbers great in that outing, but he’s worked on his fourth pitch. He’s now confident in his changeup, adding it to his previous arsenal of curveball, fastball and cutter. He threw it as a first pitch at one point, and as a 2-1 pitch with men on base at another. I like the sound of that.
With his dominant start against the Astros, my vote is currently going to Phil Hughes for the 5th spot in our rotation, with Aceves as a very close second. I’d much rather have Alfredo Aceves in the bullpen.
Sixth Righty vs. Second Lefty
This argument depends on who wins the coveted fifth rotation spot. If Aceves is our fifth starter, and Hughes is in the bullpen, then it would probably be a good idea to add Chad Gaudin to the bullpen, since he can be our long reliever. If Hughes is our fifth starter (which is more likely), then we would already have our long reliever in Alfredo Aceves, and we therefore would have no real need for Gaudin. Who should we add to our bullpen instead? I’m a fan of adding a second left-handed pitcher, so my vote goes to Boone Logan.
Boone Logan is one of those pitchers who are betrayed by their numbers. I’ve said time and time again, numbers and statistics do not come close to telling the whole story. Yes, his numbers thus far in the majors have been less than impressive, but he has good stuff. Logan’s main problem is his command of his pitches. In his years in the major leagues, he’s lacked the control necessary to avoid being lit up in some of his appearances. 
What everyone seems to forget, however, is that Boone is still young. He’s 25 years old, and as a left-handed reliever, it’s normal to have control problems at this age. The big bright spot is that he can pitch, his fastball has been clocked at around 94 MPH, and he also has a good slider, curveball and changeup. Even with his shaky command, Logan has held the lefties he’s faced to a .231 batting average. That isn’t a bad number for a pitcher who’s yet to gain full control of his pitches. Phil Coke’s numbers against LHB weren’t much better, and he was great for us last season. During this year’s spring training, Boone Logan has shown good command of his pitches thus far. He had one rough outing, but since then he’s been great. So there’s a big improvement.
We have Damaso Marte who is definitely going to be in the bullpen, so Boone Logan would be his “backup”. My main concern with Marte is his health. He’s not getting any younger, and he had injury problems last year that kept him out of games for a chunk of the season. Yesterday, he got hit in the back hard with a comeback ball off of a Phillies’ bat. That scared me. He seems to be fine right now, but I’m still concerned.
When Marte is healthy, he is solid. I have very little worries when I see a healthy Marte coming out of the bullpen. To keep him healthy throughout the season, we can’t overwork him like Coke was overworked last year. Look, let’s not kid ourselves here, we all know that Joe Girardi likes to go overboard with mixing and matching pitchers to batters. That is no secret. With Girardi’s style of bullpen management, I fear that Damaso Marte will be overworked, and we’ll lose him for the second half of the season due to injury. 
Some people have said “Well, let’s start out the season with Marte as our only lefty, and if he’s hurt, we can call up Logan, or acquire a new LHP, for the second half”. That’s all fine and dandy, but why not avoid Marte’s injury and have a backup for him right from the start? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see Marte healthy all season long and have him pitch during the crucial games in August and September. The way to minimize the risk of Marte getting injured is to give him a well-balanced work load right from the start. Joe Girardi will not do this if Marte is the only LHP in the bullpen. He will overwork him, you know he will.
Others (including Joe Girardi) have said “There are right-handed pitchers, like Robertson, who are good against left-handed batters”. That is true, Robertson has been impressive against both righties and lefties; but again I’ll go back to Girardi’s bullpen management. Do we want Robertson to turn into Joe Girardi’s Scott Proctor? If our only backup for a lefty pitcher is one of our best righties, then said righty will become the “go-to guy” in many games. We’ve all seen what that did to Scott Proctor’s arm, do we want to see it again with Robertson? I most certainly do not.
So far, this is how I see our bullpen:
– Mariano Rivera RHP
– Alfredo Aceves RHP
– David Robertson RHP
– Joba Chamberlain RHP
– Damaso Marte LHP
– Chan Ho Park RHP
That leaves one spot left for a reliever. Of course, I’m already calling Phil Hughes our 5th starter. 
With our inning-eating starting rotation, we don’t need two long relievers in the bullpen. Alfredo Aceves is more than enough as a long reliever, especially since we also have Park and Robertson to share the work load when short relief is needed. Chan Ho Park could also be a second long-reliever if necessary. The addition of Chad Gaudin, albeit a fine pitching addition, would be redundant. Gaudin’s main strength is his ability to be a solid long-reliever. In short relief, I’d rather have Robertson and Park on the mound. What we’re missing is a “lefty specialist” behind Marte. I hate the term “lefty specialist” and, if I believed that Girardi doesn’t depend on these specialists, I wouldn’t be bringing it up. Knowing that Girardi loves lefty specialists, however, I
cannot be comfortable with having Damaso Marte as our only option. We need a second lefty.
Unless Cashman acquires another left-handed reliever, we’re stuck with choosing between Boone Logan and Royce Ring. Yeah, I’ll take Logan. Thanks.
I would love to take a risk and give Boone Logan a chance. With the rest of our arms – I like to call them the “12 Arms Of Fury” – adding Boone Logan would be a low-risk/high-reward move. Give him a chance, if he doesn’t pan out, we still have Marte, and with the other right-handed relievers that we have, losing Gaudin wouldn’t be a tragedy.
We are Blessed.
We’re unbelievably blessed that these are the only tough decisions the Yankees face in spring training. We are practically complaining that we have too many solid pitchers. All teams wish that the only problem they face going into the season is the problem of choosing which of the plethora of good pitchers make the roster. No matter who makes the cut, and who doesn’t, we will have 12 solid arms going into the season. We are truly blessed.



You can find Beeeebzy’s blog entries and more at 161st-and-River.com


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