MLB PLAYOFFS 2010: Phil Hughes, Not Sabathia Or Pettitte, Is Key For Yankees

October 5, 2010   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

The pressure is on Phil Hughes, not Sabathia or Pettitte, as the Yankees seek the repeat.

Last season, during the playoffs and the World Series, the Yankees relied heavily, almost entirely, on the arms of Andy Pettitte and C.C Sabathia in their quest to obtain their 27th World Series title.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi had little choice but to overuse Pettitte and Sabathia due to the ineffectiveness of A.J Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Hughes. It was not exactly the blueprint for success the Yankees had in mind going into the postseason last year.

The Yankees most likely consider themselves fortunate that the Philly offense failed to show for the majority of the 2009 World Series. If the Phillies had delivered as expected, the Yankees would have had no one fresh or reliable on the mound for a seventh game.

The series went six, and fortune smiled on the Boys from the Bronx. They locked up title number 27 and the hunt for number 28 is underway.

It’s not going to be easy.

This season the Yankees, much like the Phillies, Rays, and Rangers, have improved defensively and offensively. But unfortunately once again the starting pitching headache remains for Joe Girardi and company.


Sabathia, the anchor of the Yankees rotation last year, turned in a Cy Young-worthy performance this season. He seems ready, and quite able, to once again hoist this team on his back and carry them all the way to another title.

He might have to.


But no matter how well he wears the tights, no matter how long his cape is, Sabathia cannot pitch three games in a five-game series, or four games in a seven-game series. He’s going to need a lot more help behind him than what he had in last year’s postseason.

Andy Pettitte is a big-game postseason pitcher, and while he put in his best year statistically this season, he might not be as reliable, physically, as he was last season, due to back and leg issues that have come up recently.

Pettitte is a warrior on the mound, and will grind out every ounce of energy he has to get the job done, but one cannot grind away leg and back issues.

As mentioned at the start of this column, Sabathia and Pettitte carried the Yankees in the postseason last year with little help on the mound from anyone else.  If Pettitte physically fails, and that is a possibility, someone has to step up.

It’s not going to be Javier Vasquez, who lived up to his reputation of not being able to pitch in New York.It cannot be Sergio Mitre, a pitcher that gives his all but lacks the stuff to get it done. It’s not going to be Ivan Nova either. Nova, while appearing to have the stuff, he lacks the experience or poise to make him a viable candidate during the post season..


It certainly will not be A.J Burnett.

Burnett has proved to be an $82.5-million head case. He thinks too much. His problem is not mechanical, it’s mental. Post-game interviews show a man that seems aloof, sometimes unaffected, in regards to his poor season.  


It is hard to tell what is worse, Burnett’s laid back “After the kinda season I am having, I am not going to let it get to me. I have had worse nights and I will have even worse nights in the future” sentiment or Girardi enabling Burnett’s denial by constantly telling the media that Burnett “…did not have his stuff tonight. There were times went he flashed what we want to see, but in a few situations he lost control…”

Excuse me, Joe. The $82.5 million investment as the No. 2 starter on the premiere team in the game is 25-24 with an ERA close to 4.50 in the two years since being signed. I would say that is something that should be getting to him, and a red flag that he did not have his stuff most nights over the last two years.

Burnett should have been yanked from the rotation at the mid-season mark and replaced with someone, anyone, else. A bag of balls would have been an improvement than of allowing Burnett to continue to hurt the team. His poor performance directly prevented the Yankees from winning the East this year.

So if the Yankees are going to repeat this year, and it’s far from a lock, someone has to step up behind Sabathia and Pettitte.  Someone has to give them a rock solid third-man alternative.


That someone has to be Phil Hughes.

When Hughes, once the highest-rated rookie in the minor leagues, first came up with the Yankees as a starter he was brilliant. He showed poise and power in his rookie season before falling to injury while pitching a no-hit bid through seven innings.


Since then, Hughes has struggled with command and endurance. He was placed on inning restrictions and was regulated to the bullpen where he pitched very effectively.

This year in spring training he was given a shot, challenged by Joba Chamberlain, to be the fifth starter behind Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, and the newly-acquired Javier Vasquez.

Hughes secured a spot in the starting rotation by beating out the extremely overrated and unreliable Chamberlain, and delivered a first half that was more than anyone could have expected. But his second half was a labored chore as fatigue set in and his control was challenged.

Overall he finished the year with No. 2 starter numbers. His 18 wins were second-most on the team and among the league leaders overall. His ERA was a bit high, at more than four per game, but it’s nice to have a team behind you that scores a full run more per game than one allows..

When Pettitte went down to injury late in the year, Hughes stepped up behind Sabathia and kept the Yankees in contention. He needs to do that once again for the Yankees to have any chance at all of repeating.


The Yankees, an improved team all-around from last year’s championship team, will score all the runs necessary to win it all this year. That’s not the question, concern or the problem facing the Yankees in their quest.

The problem, their challenge, will be to limiting the opposition  in runs scored. It will all come down to pitching for the Yankees as they seek to repeat.

It will come down to Phil Hughes stepping up or falling down. It comes down to his ability to live up to the hype or to be just another promising pitcher than cannot handle pitching in the pinstripes pressure-cooker that is New York.

How will he fare?  Stay tuned.

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