Bob Klapisch Is Panicking

Bob Klapisch is panicking, which is ironic because that’s what he’s accusing the Yankees of doing in bringing up Phil Hughes to pitch Thursday. Hughes – as you may or may not know – is the consensus #1 pitching prospect in baseball today. Klapisch uses this promotion as a way of addressing the Yankees’ shortcomings in general. He has some legitimate concerns, but there are some pretty startling moments of panic:

No one wants to admit they’re panicking, but what else can the Yankees’ summoning of rookie Phil Hughes from Triple-A be except just that — panic, following a disastrous weekend sweep at Fenway?

Disastrous? The Yankees’ starting pitching could not get any worse, Joe Torre is a horrendous manager, no Matsui (for the whole series) and no Damon/Posada for various parts, and it was on the road against a completely healthy Red Sox team (with their three “aces” giving up 15 ER in 20 IP). Final score of the series: 21-17, Boston. And also, it’s April. This was not disastrous.

Everyone is hurt, including Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Chien-Ming Wang, who finally comes off the disabled list tonight against Tampa Bay. But the franchise’s foundation was further rocked on Friday when Mariano Rivera blew a disastrous save against the Red Sox, and was clocked at just 88 mph on the radar gun

This is true. Lots of Yankee starters are hurt. Wang comes back tonight, Mussina in a week, and Pavano probably never. The Yankees have replaced them with inferior pitchers (Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright), who have sucked to the point that the bullpen has been overused. This will be very important to remember shortly.

Also, I’m not saying Rivera isn’t declining. He probably is, because he’s old. But to say that “the franchise’s foundation was further rocked” is extreme. Rivera, like every other reliever in the history of baseball, has had bad months before. This season, Rivera has thrown 6 innings. 6. I think making such a sweeping judgment after 6 innings of work is insane. If he had 6 iffy innings in the middle of the season, it’d be a slump. But it’s at the beginning, so he’s falling apart. I get it.

The rest of the bullpen has been so unreliable that Andy Pettitte has already made two relief appearances. The other relievers, it seems, are just waiting for their next flogging, with no cure on the horizon

Okay, Bob, you yourself said that the Yankees’ starting pitching has been atrocious. This means that the bullpen has had to pitch a ton more than usual. Sean Henn, Luis Vizcaino, Scott Proctor, and Brian Bruney are all in the AL’s top ten innings pitched by a reliever this year. It’s because the starting pitching has sucked so far. The Yankee bullpen is not unreliable, nor are they “just waiting for their next flogging”. I know this because I looked it up. The Yankee bullpen is 12th in baseball with a 3.51 ERA, 5th with a .206 BAA, and 7th with a .625 OPS against.

The Yankees – despite having their foundation rocked by 6 iffy innings from Mariano Rivera and obscenely overworked/mismanaged middle relievers – have one of the best bullpens in baseball. You can look it up, Bob.

Hughes has had mixed results in the minors, pitching effectively in his first start, getting roughed up in his second, before finally mixing and matching his weapons to perfection in overwhelming Syracuse.

Philip “Mixed Results” Hughes:

  • (2004-2006): 21-7, 2.13 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 237 IP, 150 H, 6 HR, 269 K, 54 BB, 10.21 K/9
  • (2007): 2-1, 3.94 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 16 IP, 11 H, 0 HR, 17 K, 4 BB, 9.56 K/9

I’m assuming that Bob meant to say that he has had mixed results in AAA so far, but he didn’t say that. He said Hughes has had mixed results in the minor leagues, which is clearly really wrong.

Don’t think people aren’t noticing how vulnerable they are. One major league executive said, “I wouldn’t say this is one of the better Yankee teams of the last few years.”

I agree the Yankees have gotten off to a horrendous start. But again: injured Wang, injured Mussina, permanently injured Pavano, overworked bullpen (that has managed to be effective), injured Matsui, zero production from first base. But it’s way too early to be saying this stuff with this sort of conviction. The Yankees’ team ERA, believe it or not, is 25th in baseball at 4.67. It’s probably going to improve, since everything that could have gone wrong HAS gone wrong. The Yankees are also on pace to score 1044 runs, when no team has scored more than 1000 since the Cleveland Indians in 1999.

Has the Yankees’ starting pitching sucked so far? Yep, sure has. But the melodrama and panic surrounding this is starting to bother me. Look, I’ll eat my hat if the pitching keeps the Yankees from winning 90 games. But I don’t think it will. Bob Klapisch needs to calm down, step back, and think about what he’s writing. The Yankees began the 2005 season with a 11-18 record, and made the playoffs. Relax, and we’ll talk again in a month.


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