Sunday, July 17, 2011

Original Phil Hughes Returns

Back when Phil Hughes was a top five prospect in all of baseball, he had everyone raved that he hard outstanding fastball control, and a knockout curveball. Here is even a snippet from Baseball America when they rated Hughes the Yankees top prospect prior to the 2007 season:

"Hughes' greatest accomplishment as a pro has been to forsake his slider in favor of a knockout curveball, which is more of a strikeout pitch and produces less stress on his arm. It's a true power breaking ball that sits in the low 80s with 1-to-7 break. Club officials call it the best in the system because Hughes can throw it for quality strikes or bury it out of the zone, and because he uses the same arm slot and release point he uses for his fastball."

High praise indeed, but after Hughes reached the majors and following his long DL stint after he pulled a hamstring mid-no-hitter in Texas, he forsook his conventional curveball grip for the grip of a knucklecurve a la Mike Mussina. Since then it has seemed that he has always had trouble with putting hitter away, and if you ever saw one of them take his curveball, you would know he wasn't following anyone with it.

It seems the biggest difference with the curveball is the velocity he throws it with. Now his curveball sits in the upper 70s rather that the 72-73 he threw with the knucklecurve. That seem to keep the Jays hitters off balance more and didn't allow them to foul of the pitch when they were fooled.

Since 2008 Hughes has had to rely primarily on his fastball and cut fastball to get hitters out, and as the second half of last year showed, he cannot survive an entire season with just fastballs. Forever it was thought that Hughes needed to add a change up in order to move to an elite level as a starter. The reality might be that he needs to return to his roots with his curveball and, of course, a change would be nice too.

Now I'll actually be able to look forward to his Friday start against the light hitting Oakland A's.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ortiz Suspended

For the altercation with Baltimore pitcher Kevin Gregg, in which Gregg was the instigator, David Ortiz received a four game suspension. Ortiz should not have responded physically. Gregg had already been tossed for jawing at Big Papi as Papi trotted to first. Four games is probably about right, although I think there's a fair chance Ortiz will get the penalty reduced on appeal. Gregg seemed to be operating with some kind of a chip on his shoulder for an imagined disrespect from the Sox based on his post game comments. I guess you have to get yourself riled up and motivated somehow when your team is destined for the basement, and you have 70 or so games to play.

In other news, one of my favorite shows, Curb Your Enthusiasm, will be featuring Bill Buckner in a future episode. God knows how Larry David, a die hard Yankee fan, will use Buckner in the episode. It's good to know that Buckner has developed a sense of humor about his place in history after all of the grief the city of Boston put him through.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mr. 3000... Derek Jeter

Well I would be extremely remiss in my Yankee blogging duties if I didn't post something about my all-time favorite player getting his 3,000 hit in the big leagues.

With a home run in the 3rd inning off of David Price, Jeter joined an elusive club that only has 27 other members before him. That is crazy when you think about it. Baseball has been a national institution in America since 1876. That's 135 years of baseball and Jeter will only be number 28 to get 3,000.

I have been watching Jeter from almost the beginning of his big league career. His rise to stardom coincided with my own interest in the baseball and the Yankees. Like millions of other little league ball players past and present I always tried to emulate Jeter.

Even with Jeter's recent struggles it is hard for Yankee fans not to love him and hard for any opponent not to respect him for the class and dignity he provided baseball with through one of its darkest eras.

Congratulations Derek and hopefully there are a few more left in your bat.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

And to make matters worse...

Jon Lester has been placed on the DL with a strain in his latissimus. With John Lackey pitching like he's throwing batting practice and Clay Buchholz already on the DL, the All-Star break cannot come soon enough. It's really unfortunate because Buchholz, Lester and Josh Beckett had formed an intimidating three-headed monster in the rotation. However, I think Boston is right to err on the side of caution. If they hope to make a run at a title they will need both of their ailing star pitchers. I guess we'll have to deal with the Kevin Millwood era for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lackey Lacking Again

Yesterday, after another short outing in which he gave up seven runs, John Lackey is starting to become a real liability. I have more confidence in Tim Wakefield at this stage. It's enough to make you long for the days of Dice-K. Last season, while not spectacular, was what I would call productive for Lackey. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. These stats are nothing to write home about, but they're not terrible, and he made 33 starts and pitched 215 innings. At least he gave the Sox a chance to win every night and ate up some innings.

Now, with an ERA well over 7.00, Boston has some tough decisions to make about using Lackey. I don't see how they can trot him out there every fifth day with the way he's performing. On the other hand I don't know what other choices they have.