David Huff: Diamond in the Rough?

Plenty has gone awry for the Yankees this season. A parade of injuries to their starting rotation and a few underwhelming performances on the hitting side have lead to a somewhat disappointing 53-48 record, leaving them three games off the pace in the AL East. Yet for all of the team’s shortcomings, the Yankee bullpen has been one of the few bright spots. David Robertson has stepped seamlessly into the closer role, while failed starters Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have turned into excellent setup men seemingly overnight. Throw in effective veterans Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton, and the Yankees have a bullpen that easily runs five deep — a luxury that few teams have at their disposal. Beyond that front five is lefty David Huff, who the Yankees plucked off of waivers from the Giants last month, and owns a tidy 2.18 ERA over 20.2 innings since joining the Yankees.

Huff has bounced around a bit in the last year. After spending nearly seven years in the Indians organization, Cleveland finally cut the cord on Huff in 2013, waiving the 28-year-old after nearly 300 innings of 5.40 ERA ball spread across five seasons. The Yankees scooped him up in May and stowed him away in Triple-A Scranton. Huff fared very well in Scranton’s rotation, pitching to a 3.84 ERA and 2.79 FIP over 13 games, which earned him some chances with the Bombers down the stretch. He was serviceable for the big club (4.67 ERA and 3.59 SIERA) but was ultimately DFA’d over the winter, winding up with San Francisco. Huff broke camp with the Giants, but never really got going; and after posting an 6.30 ERA over 20 relief innings, Huff was on the move again. For the second time in 13 months, the Yankees acquired Huff for peanuts. This time to serve as an upgrade over Wade LeBlanc.

Huff can crack 90 with his fastball and he throws left-handed. Only a sliver of the world’s population is able to do both of those things, so it’s not hard to see why he keeps getting chances despite owning a career ERA north of 5. But might he finally be putting it all together in his second stint in pinstripes? His ERA says maybe, but his peripherals say probably not. Huff’s managed to keep runners from scoring since donning the pinstripes, but he’s also yielded a few too many walks — 13 in 20.2 innings — leading to a blasé 5.17 FIP and 4.44 SIERA. Even in this small sample, Huff’s done little to convince us he’s anything more than the replacement-level arm he’s always been.

Even so, Huff could be of some use to the Yankees. Outside of Matt Thornton, he’s probably best lefty reliever in the organization (other than maybe Jacob Lindgren) and is capable of throwing two or three innings at a time, which can come in handy during blowouts and extra-inning games. Huff won’t be able to sustain an ERA in the 2’s — or even the 3’s — going forward, but thanks to the Yankees’ bullpen depth, he doesn’t have to. Huff’s a serviceable pitcher who can soak up multiple innings, and throws left-handed to boot. That’s more than you can say about most of his predecessors — Alfredo Aceves, Matt Daley, Jose Ramirez, Wade LeBlanc, et. al– and is more than acceptable for the sixth head on the bullpen totem pole.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights either watching or thinking about baseball. He's also an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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