CB, one of our more astute readers, made this point about Phil Hughes having pitched only 5.2 innings this month:
“Hughes has been an important piece to the pen’s revitalization. But his actual impact on games is, unfortunately, much, much less than is frequently perceived. … There’s this die-hard belief that the 8th inning is spectacularly important and excruciatingly difficult to pitch, so a disproportionate amount of credit for the revitalization of the pen is given to “stabilizing the set up role, etc.” The pen is better now primarily because the starters given them length.”
People got all fired up about Joba being in the pen and now it’s Hughes. The reality is the Yankees have been on a roll with Hughes playing essentially a cameo role.
The “set-up guy” is perhaps the 15th or 16th most important player on a well-balanced team. Every player in the lineup, the five starters and the closer impact the game more.
The bottom line is this: good starters are very difficult to obtain or develop. Pitchers who can throw in the 8th inning are much, much easier to find. It would be a ridiculous waste of money, effort and talent to use Joba or Phil in that role. The Yankees realize that.
Phil will be standing in the bullpen next to A.J., CC, Joba and Andy on the first day of spring training next year. He’s a starter who, for now, was needed in the bullpen.