Hughes and Joba: Time to pull the plug?

Yesterday was yet another disappointing outing for Phil Hughes. In what has become a typical “Phil Hughes start,” he gave up 2 home runs and was chased out of the game in the 5th. Joba Chamberlain eventually came on in relief and looked terrible as well, giving up a homer to Torii Hunter.  It wasn’t all that long ago that Hughes and  Chamberlain looked poised to anchor the Yankees’ rotation for years to come, representing a change of pace for an organization that had consistently failed to develop young talent.

Both were highly touted prospects who showed flashes greatness in their early twenties. Unfortunately, those flashes never materialized into sustained success at the major league level. Now, both are heading into free agency and their days in pinstripes appear to be numbered. These guys are only under contract for seven more weeks and, as sad is this may seem, have little upside remaining. At this point, is there any reason to keep giving them chances?

Another disappointing season.

After yesterday’s start, Phil Hughes holds a very disappointing 4.99 ERA. He hasn’t gotten particularly unlucky either — his estimators more or less match up with his ERA. He’s been pretty shaky all season, but the wheels really fell off the wagon in his last three starts, where he’s averaged 4.2 innings and produced an ERA north of 11. Given Hughes’ this terrible performance, it might be time to stop giving starts to Phil Hughes.

The obvious question, though, is who would be his replacement? With David Phelps, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno all on the shelf, there are really no clear internal options, which probably explains why Hughes has kept getting chances. At the same time, being better than Phil Hughes is a pretty low bar to clear. Over 119 innings, Hughes has accumulated 0.8 WAR (0.4 according to Baseball Prospectus) — pretty darn close to replacement level. The Yankees don’t necessarily need to do anything drastic to replace him because… well that’s the definition of replacement level. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a  pitcher capable of posting an ERA around 5.This could present an opportunity for the Yanks to take a flier on a guy who will be under team control for at least a couple of years, something that can’t be said about Hughes.

Who should they be looking at as a replacement? Due to recent injuries, the internal options are scarce. Adam Warren could be an option, but he might need to be stretched out a bit first as he hasn’t started a game all year. In AAA Scranton, they have Brett Marshall who has pitched pretty well of late. After a rocky start, he’s posted a 3.58 ERA and a 3.99 FIP since June 13th. There’s also David Huff who was claimed off waivers from Cleveland in May. Over 62.2 innings, he’s posted a 3.30 ERA with a 2.77 FIP. Otherwise, the team should be keeping tabs on the waiver wire in search of pitchers who have been designated for assignment.  If he were to be replaced, Phil Hughes would presumably be moved to the bullpen. For what it’s worth, he was pretty dominant as a late inning reliever in 2009. That was a long time ago though and doesn’t necessarily mean he could excel in that role again.

What could have been?

Joba Chamberlain has also proven to be useless in recent weeks and should be in danger of being designated for assignment. Since returning from elbow and ankle surgeries last year, Joba has not been his previously dominant self. He’s posted a 4.62 ERA – very disappointing for a reliever — and has slid down to the Yankees’ bullpen totem pole.For whatever reason though, the Yankees’ brass doesn’t seem to be ready to give up on Joba just yet.

Meanwhile, Dellin Betances has been making a mockery of AAA since moving to the bullpen and has more than earned a shot. He was promoted to the big club today to add a fresh arm, but will probably be sent down in a couple of days once the bullpen is rested again. He’s had some major issues with his control in the past, but it’s kind of hard to imagine him being any worse than Joba. Betances will be out of options next year, meaning the Yankees will need to pass him through waivers if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training. Rather than giving playing time to the corpse of Joba Chamberlain, they might as well test Betances at the big league level to get a better idea of what they have  going forward.

Photo By Keith Allison (Flickr: 20110829-0983) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By jimmyjack205 (Originally posted to Flickr as “Joba”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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