Even Steven

Not that they're involved in a debate or anything, but it's interesting to see what two of the better yanks fan analysts think about the same issue. On the one hand, you have Steve Lombardi's take at WasWatching:

If the Yankees want to be considered with the other big dogs in the
A.L. East this season, they must bring in a starting pitcher that they
can pencil into their 5th starting slot who is a lock for at least 25
starts and 150 quality innings. Leaving that last spot open and hoping
that someone steps forward from within the Yankees organization to own
it is a mistake.

On the other hand, you have Steven Goldman's view at the Pinstriped Bible:

Conversely, if the Yankees invest 20-25 starts in a young fifth starter
this year, they might get 30 starts a year for the next five, at prices
they control. There's a lot of value in that achievement and not much
risk. This is particularly true because given the team's depth in young
pitchers, they can pull the plug on any failing experiment very
quickly. Hughes not working out? Back to the Minors and ring in a new
Kennedy administration. Kennedy has a Bay of Pigs? It's Aceves time.
Aceves's arm falls off? Try Kontos. The point is, at the end of the
season you have something you didn't have before, an additional asset
to carry you forward into 2010.

There's that part of me that wants to buy Goldman's argument, especially since it means that a young arm gets a shot at the rotation. It's always nice when you see someone from the minors make it. One of the nicer stories in recent years has been Chien-Ming Wang's emergence. But I do think Lombardi has a point, especially if you factor in the relative unknown that is Joba Chamberlain's 2009 innings total.

It will be interesting to see what the Yanks decide to do. What's your take?

27 comments… add one
  • Good post, Nick.
    As much as I’d like to go with the Goldman Plan, my gut says to go with the Lombardi Plan.
    You have to consider the division, the competition and the fan expectations. In the AL East, you have to go with the proven fith starter.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 15, 2009, 10:32 am
  • Ya, I would love to go with the Goldman plan and push Hughes a bit too. There are a few reasonable choices in the market right now that won’t be there later. I say pick one up, and if anyone gets injured, Hughes can step in. Or even just work it so that Joba/Hughes split the innings a little bit (haven’t looked at the math).
    All the free agency moves this offseason should be peaking close to now, and the Yanks are not a rebuilding team. In other climates, they might’ve gotten away with being a wild card team, but with two teams in the division alone to fight, you can’t give away wins..

    Lar January 15, 2009, 10:58 am
  • They can split the difference and sign Sheets. He will provide quality innings but get injured enough that the kids can get a chance.

    DR January 15, 2009, 12:08 pm
  • The Sox went the Goldman route last year, to an extent, with Buchholz. Glass half-empty: Buchholz’ presence may have cost the Sox the division and thus a home seventh game in the ALCS, he was that bad. On the other hand, as a glass half full assessment (and one I tend to embrace), the Sox made it to the seventh game of the ALCS with the Goldman strategy, and they still have Buchholz as an asset under their control.

    SF January 15, 2009, 12:17 pm
  • Can you argue that the Sox did it last year with Lester and Buchholz? One was successful and the other not. The Yankees employed the strategy last year hoping that at least Hughes would emerge like Lester. That could happen this year instead. It might not.
    I guess the total innings calculation might be different though. Even if Hughes proves he can pitch in the Major Leagues, how many innings will he be able to pitch?

    DR January 15, 2009, 12:33 pm
  • I don’t know that you argue Lester. He proved the mettle in 2007, although in limited IP.
    However, he DID struggle at the start of ’08 until he realized what he was doing wrong.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 15, 2009, 1:12 pm
  • Lester pitched 81 innings in 2006 and 63 in 2007, so while it is not exactly the same, The Red Sox still had to make the gamble to hand over the full-time role to him. Are they planning to make the same gamble with Buchholz this year?
    I have also read that Hughes has never pitched 200 innings before (don’t remember where) so that would be an issue as well, I suppose.

    DR January 15, 2009, 1:35 pm
  • Lombardi as one of the “better yanks fan analysts” is a bit of a joke. No one shows more hatred and unwilling to give Brian Cashman a chance than that vindictive columnist. Give me a break.

    ECB January 15, 2009, 1:53 pm
  • I’ll respectfully disagree. Although I do find myself disagreeing with Steve about a lot of different Yanks-related issues, I find his view of things interesting.
    In any case, what do you think the Yanks should do about the 5th spot?

    Nick-YF January 15, 2009, 2:06 pm
  • you have to go with the proven fith starter
    Who’s the Sox fifth though? If the Yanks signed Pedro to an incentive-laden deal, you’re going to call that problem solved?
    There’s a reason one blog is a Bible while the other is merely Watching. I’m with Goldman and I seem to always agree with him (and seldom with Lombardi). But, it’s not my money. If Pettitte stops whining and takes a decently priced deal, then he’s ideal. If not, keep an eye on the price of new Sheets. Otherwise, there’s nothing worth having.
    I will add that if they do sign a fifth, then it’s time to trade Hughes. His value is still decently high and they need a legit CF. Kemp is perfect. Add a bit more to the package if you have to.

    Rob January 15, 2009, 2:20 pm
  • Buchholz’ presence may have cost the Sox the division and thus a home seventh game in the ALCS, he was that bad.
    May have? Certainly did. The Sox were 3-13 in his appearances, of which a whopping four were quality starts.
    Goldman’s strategy ignores the likely diminishing returns you encounter the deeper you go into that depth. Depth for its own sake isn’t really depth at all if the players can’t provide replacement-level work. If Hughes fails, you have Kennedy, but if Kennedy fails, you have two complete unknowns who COULD work out, or they could join the ranks of Tyler Clippard and Chase Wright. The latter is more likely than the former.
    But you have to give Hughes a chance at some point, otherwise there’s no reason to hang on to him. Ultimately, you’re dealing with the fifth starter in your rotation. Really anything resembling league average is a bonus, and bringing “strategy” into it may be overthinking the situation more than anything.

    Paul SF January 15, 2009, 2:27 pm
  • Who’s the Sox fifth though?
    At the moment, it’s Brad Penny. Come June, it’ll be the survivor of the Wakefield-Smoltz-Penny cage match. Come the inevitable Wakefield injury, it will be Penny again. Come the inevitable Penny injury, it will be the winner of the Masterson-Buchholz-Bowden cage match.

    Paul SF January 15, 2009, 2:33 pm
  • You have to give Hughes chance some time, but it might not have to be next year. I think people forget that he’s 22. It might help him to get more time in the minors a la Edison Volquez. Then again, he might be ready now.

    Nick-YF January 15, 2009, 2:37 pm
  • I don’t see how you can argue that the Yankees would be better with Pettitte than without. A big part of why he’s needed this year is that Joba can’t go 200 innings.
    Next year, you lose Pettitte, but you’d already have four starters who can give you 200 innings, with Hughes or Kennedy likely ready to step in to the 5th spot. If you push Hughes or Kennedy before they’re ready in 2009, you may not have them.

    AndrewYF January 15, 2009, 3:05 pm
  • In 2010 though the Yanks have even more pitchers on the cusp – Brackman, Betances, and Heredia, if not guys like McAllister, Horne, De La Rosa, Garcia, Hacker (and also Kennedy). Call me optimistic, but given the top four, they only need guys to fill the 5, 6, 7, and maybe 8th slots.
    That’s what kills me about the CF situation this season. They could use Hughes, sure, but they don’t need him, especially not based on what we’ve seen of his ceiling (#3 to #5) and health. Now’s the time to move him, most especially if they sign another guy.

    Rob January 15, 2009, 3:27 pm
  • What about Aceves? He looked strong end of last year…or are we already chalking that up to luck or something and he is going to regress this season…

    krueg January 15, 2009, 3:28 pm
  • At the moment, it’s Brad Penny.
    So, again if the Yanks sign Pedro, they’re all set?
    I’m not sure I’m buying the argument the Yanks need a #5 if that’s the case.

    Rob January 15, 2009, 3:28 pm
  • Right, there’s Aceves too. By my count, that’s ten guys (11 with Hughes) to fill one slot in the 2010 rotation and the rest to fill-in when injuries strike.
    Now maybe they aren’t planning to re-sign Wang, who I think is a free agent after 2010, but that’s two years away and when other names could reach the market (Beckett, Webb, etc.).

    Rob January 15, 2009, 3:33 pm
  • I don’t think they *need* it per se, but it would make things more stablizing. Let’s say a legit 5th starter performs, on average, 2-3 wins better than they would’ve with Hughes/Ian/et al, those could be big 2-3 wins or they can be marginal, depending on where you think the Yanks are at right now.
    For me, I think the Yanks are a playoff bounding team, or if not, they’re very close, so anyway you can scoop up a win or two, they should, considering they do have the financial flexibility..

    Lar January 15, 2009, 3:33 pm
  • Re: Aceves, we had tons of guys playing last year too, though in a few more slots, and no one really stepped it up.

    Lar January 15, 2009, 3:35 pm
  • Wang is a FA after 2011. He’s in his second arbitration season, but he was a super-two, so he gets four years of arbitration instead of three.

    AndrewYF January 15, 2009, 3:44 pm
  • “Who’s the Sox fifth though?”
    Rob, I didn’t write this with respect to the Red Sox. I wrote it with respect to my own opinion, as in, “If I’m the GM, this is what I do.”
    However, I would offer that AT THIS VERY MINUTE, the Red Sox are in a better place in their No. 5 slot (Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz)than the Yankees in their No. 5 slot.
    On another front, US Airways jet down in the Hudson after takeoff from LaGuardia. Are we all (YFSF posters) present and accounted for?

    I'mBillMcNeal January 15, 2009, 4:05 pm
  • Wakefield is your number 4. Two guys coming off shoulder problems are the 5. I don’t see how that’s much different than a bunch of kids. Both are types of uncertainty.
    Thanks, Andrew. So basically, they only have one slot to fill for the next three years and, by my count, 11 guys to do it including Hughes.

    Rob January 15, 2009, 4:25 pm
  • Wait, the Sox have four starting pitchers not including Wakefield?
    The Sox have Wakefield in the number four slot, and Penny in the number 5 slot. I would not be so confident in proclaiming Penny better than the Yankees’ options.

    AndrewYF January 15, 2009, 4:39 pm
  • “Wakefield is your number 4.”
    I stand corrected. That’s what happens when I post from work. No. 5 is Penny/Buccholz/Smoltz.
    So the debate is A. vets w/track record but coming off injuries vs. B. unproven rookies.
    I still go with A (as long as No. 5 is not Buccholz). The Yanks rooks in question have either a small sample or no track record. Does that mean it will work in my favor at the end? Not necessarily. That’s why I wrote, AT THIS MINUTE. I just don’t think the sample we have with which to evaluate Hughes or Kennedy is favorable. Come July, my theory could be blown to shreds.
    BUT … you certainly want these guys to get experience. At some point Hughes must produce (poo or get off the pot, as it were), and if he’s to produce, he’ll need an opportunity to do so. And there will be much less pressure on Hughes in the No. 5 slot than there was in the No. 3 slot.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 15, 2009, 4:49 pm
  • BUT … you certainly want these guys to get experience.
    Couldn’t agree more. That’s Goldman’s point. And to be fair to you guys, the Sox also have a bunch of minor league depth (which I know very little about apart from Bowden and Buchholz). The difference is they’ll need to replace at least Wakefield sooner or later and I’m not so sure they’ll re-sign Beckett. So they could be looking at filling three rotation slots in the next three years. In that context, I’m not so sure I want to clog the 5th spot with veteran rehabs.
    Still it looks like the Yanks were/are prepared to do the same thing. Supposedly they were in on Smoltz (so he says) and now they’re in on Garcia.
    On Hughes (and breaking in kids, generally), I also agree completely. Have a competition in meaningless Spring Training games then they have a fifth starter until or if they struggle. That seems much better than starting the year with five knowns, then throwing a kid into the middle of the rotation when one of the knowns feels some minor twinge or more. That would seems to put a ton of pressure on a kid to perform or else get shipped back in one or two starts.
    Last year’s mistake may have been giving the slots to the kids. This year’s could be not giving them even a realistic chance.
    Better to trade Hughes now.

    Rob January 15, 2009, 5:04 pm
  • Yanks should take a gamble on Sheets. Between Sheets and Burnett’s injuries the young guys will get chances.

    the mayor January 15, 2009, 11:17 pm

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