In my previous post, I explained that although Hughes could lose his starting rotation position with a few bad starts, that now, after just two starts, is too early to pull the plug.
Am I disappointed in his starts so far? Yes. But I realize that he may be behind because of the bulging disk he had in his back in spring training. He probably should have had a couple of rehab starts.
But having two bad starts to begin a season doesn’t automatically mean someone should be pulled from the rotation right away. As I mentioned in my previous post, Catfish Hunter, fresh off a 1974 CYA and three cons. WS titles, not to mention signing a big, fat, free agent contract with the Yanks, started 1975 0-3, 7.36 in his first four starts. He finished the year 23-14, 2.58.
This isn’t to say that Hughes will win 23. I’ll be happy with the usual 14 or 15. Perhaps the biggest curse put on Hughes was when he was called a “young Roger Clemens” a few years ago. He isn’t Clemens. (Of course, we would hope he isn’t taking PED’s either, or messing around with teenage country female singers). What he is, is an average to a little above average major league starting pitcher. A solid #4 starter, nothing more, maybe a #3. Not an ace.
But as I wrote before, he has won 16 or more in two of the previous three seasons. Granted his ERA wasn’t great. Around the 4.20 mark. But some pitchers, admittedly better ones, didn’t win 16 or more in two of the previous three years (2010-2012). King Felix doesn’t get the run support. Neither did Kershaw. Neither of them did it. Not Hamels or Lee. Not Kuroda. Pettitte was retired in 2011. Not Greinke. Not Beckett. Not Matt Cain. Not Lincecum. Not Jon Lester. Not James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson. Not Dickey or Buehrle or Josh Johnson or Ian Kennedy or Matt Harrison or Ervin Santana. Johan Santana’s been hurt. Same for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, both of whom missed all or most of a season in the time span. Gee, I listed a lot of pitchers you think would have joined Hughes as far as winning 16 or more in two of the three years 2010-2012.
To people who want to dump Hughes now, I reiterate, how many teams would want someone who isn’t 27 yet and who won 16 in 2012 and 18 in 2010? The answer: probably all of them.
Yes, Hughes gives up HR. He is a flyball pitcher in Yankee Stadium. He gave up 35 HR last year. But people who bitch and moan need to look at baseballreference.com sometimes.
People don’t know, or remember the past.
Catfish Hunter gave up 39 HR in 1973 when he went 21-5. In 1986, Bert Blyleven gave up 50! HR in going 17-14. Blyleven gave up 46 the next year when he went 15-12. Both HOF. Robin Roberts, another HOF, gave up 505 HR in his career. He gave up 41 in 1955 when he went 23-14, and there was no DH then!
The key is to be sure they are solo HR.
So I read elsewhere where 16-13 (Hughes record last year) isn’t that great. Well, Nolan Ryan won 324 and lost 279 in his career. Divide that by 20. You get 20 16-14 seasons, roughly. Mel Stottlemyre averaged 16-13 for his career. Don Sutton 14-11, Phil Niekro 14-12. Roberts 15-13. That’s their 162 g. averages.
When is the proper time to give up on someone? I remember when Doug Drabek went 7-8, 4.10 for the 1986 Yanks at the age of 23. He was traded to Pittsburgh because the Yanks had no patience and for Rick Rhoden, who had a decent 1987 and average 1988 for the Yanks. Meanwhile, Drabek wins the 1990 CYA for Pittsburgh in a season when the Yanks finished last. Maybe some people don’t remember the Yanks 1989-1992 seasons. Maybe they are spoiled by the recent run of success. I do remember those seasons and of getting rid of — too early — young talents like a Drabek, Jay Buhner or Bob Tewksbury. Tewksbury was 9-5 for that 1986 team. After a slow start in 1987, the Yanks gave up on him. He went on to win 16 in 1992 for St. Louis and 17 the next year.
In Dec. 1960, Sandy Koufax turned 25. He already had six years in the majors and was 36-40. His ERA was 4.10. Imagine if the Dodgers gave up on him and traded him.
In 2003, a 23 yr. old Blue Jay pitcher went 4-7, 10.64. 10.64! Toronto didn’t give up on him. Guy named Roy Halladay.
At the age of 31, Dazzy Vance was a failed major league pitcher. 11 games, 4 starts for his whole career. ERA 4.91. From that point on, he won 197 games and made the HOF. He won the 1924 MVP (beating out a .424 hitting Rogers Hornsby) and led the league in K each year from 1922-1928.
Allie Reynolds was just 51-47, 3.31 when the Yanks got him. He was 30 when he began his first season with the Yanks in 1947. In just one year before that did he win over 11 games. We know how he was with the Yankees. Eddie Lopat was 29 when the Yanks got him. He was 50-49, 3.18. We know how he teamed up with Raschi and Reynolds.
I am not saying Hughes will make the HOF or be another Vance or Reynolds.
But I’m pointing out the danger of being impatient. He may not be “the next Clemens”, not even close.
What he is is not 27 yet. He is just entering into what, barring injury, should be his prime years. He won 16 in 2012, 18 in 2010 and few pitchers in baseball could claim winning 16 or more in two of the previous three years.
He may not be an ace. But, as long as he rights himself, he’s consistent, and should be counted on for 14 or so wins in a season. He won’t be the pre-cocaine Dwight Gooden, but he seems to me to be more a Ron Darling type (to use a mid-1980s Mets analogy). Darling was a solid, if unspectacular, pitcher from 1984-1992, averaging 13-10 a season, having an ERA+ of 99 (100 is average). He won 15 once, 16 once and 17 once in that span. Sounds a bit like Hughes and his 4.20 ERA while winning 16 and 18. Maybe we should look more at Hughes as a Darling-type pitcher and temper our too high expectations.
Accept reality. He’s decent, not great. Maybe he can become great. But if he does after you trade him, then what good is that?
He probably will continue being decent. And I can accept eight more years of him being a Ron Darling-type pitcher (no offense to Darling). If over the next eight years, Hughes (if he stays a Yankee) averages 14-10 a year, that really isn’t too bad.
But also, we should quit treating EACH game like a be all and end all game. Each game isn’t the Super Bowl. A baseball season is 162 games long. Even if you lose 40% of the time you go 97-65 or so. You don’t throw someone under the bus for two bad starts, nor do you give up on someone not quite 27 who won 16 for you last year and 18 in 2010.
Regarding Hughes, whines (wines) and boos (booze) belong in a bar, not in a baseball Stadium when we still haven’t hit mid-April yet. Yes, he was bad yesterday. If he continues like that into May, he deserves to be pulled from the rotation.
But he’s only two starts into the season. Give him time to straighten himself out. Be patient. It’s too early for boos, whines and panicking.