Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekend Odds & Ends:
The Young Guns

It was another tough turn of the rotation for Hughes and Kennedy, though the former breezed through five innings Friday night before becoming undone in the sixth. During the first third of the game, Phil Hughes showed an uncanny ability to throw strike-one, but was unable to survive the sixth frame thanks in large part to a costly error from Alex Rodriguez.

Omitting the third baseman's miscue may have very well resulted in a pitching like of 6 innings and 3 earned runs, however the actual statistics were 5.1 innings-pitched of 5-run ball. Did he pitch that poorly? Certainly not, [LaTroy Hawkins' horrid relief performance emblazoned Hughes' statline] but Hughes did not pitch great either.

The youngster's inability to consistently mix in his changeup and slider has become the 500 pound gorilla in the room, and every opposing batter knows it. In turn, hitters simply take the curveball and sit on the fastball, knowing at some point they will get one they can handle.

On Saturday, Ian Kennedy followed up an impressive six-inning performance against Tampa Bay with 2.1 innings of an 80 pitch nightmare. Nibbling would be an understatement in summarizing Kennedy's outing as the 23 year-old simply refused to trust his stuff and attack the strikezone. The result was a bounty of earned runs, a bevy of full-counts and a bloated pitchcount.

Though Hughes' pitching line may read otherwise, the righthander seemingly took a step forward in his progression. Though Hughes is a notorious slow-starter, and neither Friday or Saturday's game witnessed much run-support from the Yankees offense, there will soon come a time when reasons become excuses and major league learning curves become minor league stints.

The Silver Lining:
  • Hughes consistently threw his fastball 92-93 mph throughout his Friday start, hitting 94 on a handful of pitches. His slider, usually thrown 79-81 mph, made a few appearances during the game as a strike-one pitch. The changeup, which I believe Hughes used once, has become a jilted pitch, collecting dust next to the righty's two-seam fastball. Should Hughes ever command the changeup down and away to lefties or the slider down and away to righthanded hitters, Phil would likely take off.
  • Even while observing Saturday's poor performance, Jim Palmer described Ian Kennedy as having "lights-out stuff." Palmer, unlike many broadcasters, actually does some homework and is not afraid of criticizing his pitching fraternity brothers. Therefore, the statement has more meaning than when Joe Morgan cluelessly praises a young pitcher he's never laid eyes on before. [BTW, Orel Hershiser, while very good on BBTN, is an exceptional example of a broadcaster doing his homework]

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