Phil Hughes vs Michael Pineda
The New York Yankees have a dilemma that any major league team would love to have, and that's who deserves to be in the rotation. For once, the Yankees have a surplus of pitching and are on the verge of forming their rotation.
As of now, only ace CC Sabathia and free agent signing Hiroki Kuroda are definitely in the rotation. Ivan Nova, 2011's rookie sensation, is likely to get a spot in the rotation as well. Then there's season savior Freddy Garcia who's contributions to the team last season helped the Yankees reach the playoffs.
Garcia is in the mix for the last few rotation spots. As are Nova, Hughes, and Pineda as none of them are officially in the roation as of now.
Hughes and Pineda are similar in terms of pitching style, age, and potential. Hughes was once thought to be the Yankees' future ace. Pineda has the makings of a top of the starter.
Both have had setbacks however but the Yankees have a decision to make. Hughes has pitched well in Spring Training, but Pineda was the guy they traded prized prospect Jesus Montero for. Despite that however, the Phil Hughes deserves to be in the rotation over Michael Pineda.
When the New York Yankees traded Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, they expected him to be the same pitcher he was in the first half of the 2011 season.
Spring training comes around, and Pineda shows up with that image—with an extra 10 pounds.
Phil Hughes struggled with that the past couple of spring trainings. He showed up a little heavier than last season.
This spring, however, Hughes showed up in shape and ready to compete for a rotation spot.
Pineda, on the other hand, looked like he already had a spot in the rotation and celebrated it with a rather large dinner—or two or three.
In the world of sports, you can't take things for granted, which might explain Pineda's weight gain.
The Yankees need their pitchers to be in the best shape possible. Hughes showed he was serious in competing when he showed up slimmer and in shape. Pineda's weight gain didn't show the same train of thought.
The news out of Florida seems to all be of the same type—2010 Phil Hughes is back.
In 2010, Hughes won 18 games and only lost eight.
Injuries and a dead arm seemed to set him back in 2011.
He's made some great progress to get back to his 2010 form.
His arm is livelier and his changeup has improved. While Hughes might not reach the potential everyone thought he had when he was in the minors, he's still good enough right now to be an effective pitcher.
The pitcher he was in 2010 was an All-Star. All signs point to Hughes having a similar, if not better, year than he did back in 2010.
2010 Hughes was able to give the Yankees innings and wins, something they desperately needed last year.
If Hughes is anything close to the pitcher he was back in 2010, then he should be in the rotation.
Michael Pineda is known for his high-90s fastball, but for some reason it hasn't shown up this spring.
Phil Hughes struggled with a similar problem last spring but has bounced back.
Both the New York Yankees and their fans hope Pineda regains that velocity relatively soon.
They would hate to have an ineffective Pineda to start the season with—especially if Jesus Montero starts blasting out homers for the Seattle Mariners.
Pineda has a pitching style that relies heavily on the speed of his fastball. He's a strikeout pitcher of the fastball-slider combo.
If his fastball isn't—well, fast, then his slider won't fool anyone. His fastball needs to be at its best in order for him to be effective.
Should Pineda continue with his velocity struggles, then the Yankees can start him out in the minors to get that worked out. That's what the San Francisco Giants did with Madison Bumgarner, and it worked out for him, after all.
I'd rather have Pineda in the minors fixing whatever needs to get fix than having him go through a fiery baptism in the majors, in Yankee Stadium, with the New York media on him, and having his confidence get shot.
For once in his career, Phil Hughes is healthy.
There are no nagging injuries or dead arms that he has to deal with.
This spring, Hughes is just pitching and pitching well. We're finally seeing what he can do without the fear of being injured lurking in the back of his mind.
And I like what I see.
Sure, Hughes can always end up getting hurt during the course of the season. The same goes for any pitcher. But for once, Hughes is healthy and showing what he can do.
Hughes is in the best shape he's been for a while. His health is finally allowing him to pitch to the best of his abilities.
Right now, his best is what the New York Yankees need.
I talked about this before in another Phil Hughes article, but I'll bring it up again with a bit of self-plagiarism.
Back in the minors, Hughes had a dominant power curve that would consistently strike pitchers out.
Once in the majors, however, he tinkered with it and started favoring his cutter more than his curveball.
He started working that same power curve into his repertoire once again midseason last year.
Now he's had an entire offseason and spring training to work on it. His numbers are indicative of the work he's done on his pitches, his curveball especially.
The curveball he was using before didn't suit his other pitches well. As a pitcher, you must know what pitches work together to keep the hitter off-balance and to continue guessing.
Hughes' power curve complemented his other pitches well. Now that it's back, he'll have no problem striking batters out.
Michael Pineda's control has pretty much been non-existent this spring.
Pineda hasn't been able to reach his innings target because of the amount of pitches he threw due to his wildness.
Everyone's been so concerned with his velocity that his lack of control has flown under the radar.
As we all know, wild pitchers don't last very long in the majors. The pitchers with the best longevity and success have all had excellent control of their pitches. Pineda hasn't shown that yet this spring.
He's been walking quite a few, but even more troubling is the amount of pitches he throws per outing.
The New York Yankees need him to throw six or more quality innings. He can't do that if he keeps tiring himself out by the time the fifth inning starts.
A lack of control can be masked by high velocity, but Pineda has neither as of now. The AL East is full of potent lineups with patient hitters who make their living on wild pitchers.
Pineda wouldn't be able to last in the majors with the way he is now.
Phil Hughes had a pretty rough season last year.
He started 2011 in the most horrible way and was eventually taken out of the rotation to work on his dead arm.
When he came back, however, he was a different pitcher.
Take a look at his stats once he returned after the All-Star break:
5-3, 4.55 ERA, 59.1 IP, 42 SO, 21 BB, .258 BAA
That's a lot better than his numbers before the break:
0-2, 10.57 ERA, 15.1 IP, 5 SO, 6 BB, .368 BAA
Hughes showed even more improvement when he posted an ERA of 1.84 in 14.2 innings in September.
He was getting better toward the end of last season and making vast improvements. He continued to do so in the offseason, and this spring, we see all of the work he's been doing starting to pay off.
Hughes continued to improve and at this rate, will continue to improve as part of the New York Yankees rotation.
Pre All-Star: 3.03 ERA, 8-6, 113.0 IP, 113 SO, 36 BB, .198 BAA
Post All-Star: 5.12 EEA, 1-4, 58.0 IP, 60 SO, 19 BB, .236 BAA
Michael Pineda had a rather large drop-off in terms of his numbers after the All-Star break.
He just seemed like a different pitcher. Scouting reports caught up to him, and hitters were more familiar with his pitches and pitching style.
It's a slump that every rookie pitcher goes through at the beginning, but the best always find a way out of it. While I hope Pineda finds his way out of the slump soon, he hasn't been able to so far.
He's lost a bit of velocity and control. Pineda needs to get both of those things back before he can start to get back to his pre All-Star break form.
That's a rather bold statement, especially when everyone was ready to pencil him in as the No. 3 starter, at least, once the New York Yankees traded for him.
So far, Michael Pineda just hasn't been the same pitcher he was in the first half of 2011.
His velocity is down, he's not in shape, and he's lacking some control with his pitches.
Those three factors are a recipe for disaster in the AL East.
The AL East has the lineups of the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Hitters such as Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez and Evan Longoria make pitchers' lives difficult. They could easily tear through Pineda the way he is now.
Also, he'll be pitching in Yankee Stadium, under the brightest lights and the scrutiny of the most relentless media. It would've been tough if he was just coming up through the Yankees' farm system, but they traded one of their most prized prospects for him.
Pineda is going to be under a lot of pressure.
That's why he needs to be at his best. Right now, Pineda is far from the pitcher everyone knows he's going to be. He needs to start in the minors to work out some kinks.
He'll be back in no time for sure, but for now, the minors is where he needs to be.
Back in 2007, Phil Hughes was considered the New York Yankees' top prospect and one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball.
Five years, several injuries, role changes and a dead arm later, Hughes has yet to live up to that potential.
He showed flashes of it in 2010, when he went 18-8 with an ERA of 4.19 and was an All-Star. This spring, he's continued to show the potential he had in the minors and still has.
While he likely won't end up being that ace everyone thought he'd be, he still has a chance to be a very good pitcher. Hughes has been more than that this spring.
He's had control of his pitches, been able to last several innings and has been getting the outs he needs. A little more work, and Hughes can be the No. 3 starter on the Yankees rotation.
If he keeps this up and continues his improvement, he can even end up being the Yankees' No. 2 starter.