The Joba controversy

Because Hank Steinbrenner said this quote in Play Magazine:

“‘Red Sox Nation?’ What a bunch of (expletive)
that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled
with Red Sox fans.

anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll
see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to
put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”

He is already a Yankees legend.  Just like Hideki Irabu, Luis Sojo, Derek Jeter, and Jose Canseco.  You see, anyone who has ever worn a Yankees uniform is a Yankees legend (yes, that includes Kyle Farnsworth).

However I, like many sane people, am not with Hank on the current Joba controversy.  You see, I support what seems to be the Yankees’ current plan.  Start the season with the rotation they have now, keep Joba in the setup role and then, around June, work him into the rotation.  The only reason the Yankees have to accelerate putting Joba into the rotation is if any of the five starters suffer an injury that would keep them out long-term.  Right now (and hopefully, not ever), that hasn’t happened.  I realize Hank and many fans of the Yankees think Hughes and Kennedy may not be ready, and that Mussina may be finished as an effective starter, but I do not agree.

With Hughes and Kennedy (and Moose to some degree) the main problem right now seems to be they’re not being aggressive.  Moose, of course, needs to take a page out of Tom Glavine’s book and start pitching inside more.  This doesn’t mean Moose has to completely reinvent himself as a pitcher, that’s not what Glavine did, he just has to sneak the fastball inside enough that batters can’t sit on his breaking balls or a fastball over the outside of the plate.  A successful Moose start at this point also relies on him having excellent control and a sharp breaking ball.  He had that against the Rays and he pitched a great game (He also worked inside a bit more, especially to Gomez).  In the first start against Boston he had it early, but they have one of the best offenses in the league and were going to score a few runs off him no matter how great he pitched.  It also didn’t help that in both starts against Boston he was matched up against Josh Beckett.  Moose can still be successful (I’m talking a 2008 record of somewhere in the 13 wins, seven losses range) but he’s going to have to make some adjustments.

With Hughes and Kennedy I think they’re problem, right now, is their both being tentative.   With Hughes, and I’m not sure if this is because he’s still building up his arm strength, his fastball velocity seems to be less than he’s capable of throwing.  When he was pitching his brief and infamous no-hitter against the Rangers last year, he was topping off with a fastball in the mid-90’s, while I don’t think I’ve seen him hit over 93 on the gun this year.  If it isn’t an arm strength thing, I think it’s a situation where he’s aiming the ball too much, and not relying on his stuff.  He has a tremendous curveball, and he’s had success with it so far this year, but it seems like he’s too concerned with absolutely nailing his spot with his fastball that he’s either missing off the plate for a ball, or he’s getting too much of the plate with a subpar fastball and it’s getting hit hard.   Again, I’m not sure if this is a arm strength issue or a situation where he’s worrying too much about hitting his spot with perfection.  We will see as he progresses over the season.

I managed to catch a few of Kennedy’s starts during Spring Training and was quickly becoming a fan of his approach.  He seemed willing to throw his tremendous change up on any count, and he was consistently throwing strikes with his fastball.  Then, in his first start against the Rays and his start against Baltimore this weekend, he became an extreme nibbler.  And when he was getting into 3-0 and 3-1 counts, he would then just throw a fastball right down the middle of the plate.   He seems afraid of letting the batter make contact early in the count.  At 89 mph, hitters are going to catch up with his fastball.  For him, he has to keep it low in the zone and, most importantly, throw strikes.  It would be great if he could hit the black with every pitch, but it’s not going to happen.  Attack the zone, work in the change up (I’d also like to see a bit more of the curve, for a different look) and, most importantly, throw first-pitch strikes.

The most exciting part of this season, for me, is the young pitching.  The offense will be great, there’s too much proven talent there, but the great unknown is the pitching.  Outside of Wang and Pettitte, it’s off to a rough start, but they’re young, they’re talented, and I think fans have to be patient (and by patient I mean see progress by Memorial Day) before there are any shake ups with the rotation.

The Joba controversy