Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The Phil Hughes Era begins on Thursday, about two weeks late for the beleaguered Yankees rotation. When Wang went down, I had no problem with the Yankees giving Darrel Rasner the first crack at the rotation. His minor league numbers and performance for the Yankees last year suggest that he could be a serviceable back end of the rotation guy. When Pavano (surprise!) and Mussina went down, almost simultaneously, the two obvious candidates to replace them were Jeff Karstens and Phil Hughes. Instead, the usually sensible Cashman decided to promote Chase Wright, a middling prospect with 2 starts above A-Ball. Predictably Wright was chased early from both games, capped off with the almost impossible feat of surrendering four consecutive home runs.
I have little doubt that Phil Hughes is a Major League quality starting pitcher right now. Last season, we saw Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Jonathan Papelbon (albeit in a relief role), and a trio of Marlins pitchers performed at an All-Star level in their rookie seasons. Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, and Cole Hamels also were all above average pitchers that showed hints of future greatness in their first taste of the Majors. I don't see any reason to believe that Hughes could not be added to that list.
He spent the vast majority of last year at Double A, and finished the season with a composite 2.15 ERA, with 168 Ks and only 34 walks in 146 innings. Scouts corroborate the empirical evidence of his dominance by raving about his stuff, command, and poise. Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA system, which is notoriously conservative with its projections, expects Hughes to have a 3.82 ERA in the Major Leagues this season. In fact, PECOTA predicts that he will have the lowest ERA on the Yankees' staff this year. We can not afford to waste that potential another week in Scranton/Wilkes Barre, when the team so desperately needs him.
(Once again, in order to salvage a column devoid of laughs, I give you a Louis CK joke that is atrocious on purpose:
What do you call a piece of crap that is horizontal, up against an erect penis that is vertical?