LADY AT THE BAT: David Phelps: Another Broken Yankees Pitcher

Monday, April 22, 2013

David Phelps: Another Broken Yankees Pitcher

I'm not sure there's any good way to look at yesterday's game. Every positive was countered by a horrible negative. The Yankees lost 8-4 to the Blue Jays--the AL East's last place team. I guess the one good thing is that it was only game #17 and the Yankees are still going strong in the AL East (2nd place). You can say Nova kept the team in the game until manager Joe Girardi didn't trust him enough to finish what he started in the 6th and brought out Looney  . . . I mean Booney. Boone Logan was successful against lefty Colby Rasmus in the past so it wasn't a decision out of left field. We just get to question it now that we know it didn't work out. The disaster continued when starter turned reliever (but should always be ready to start) David Phelps who was responsible for 3 of the Toronto's 8 runs. Which brings me to what fans should really be worried about--the up and down, unpredictable, starter-reliever mismanagement of the Yankees young pitchers. Given how low the Yankees draft, the exceptional young arms are few and far between and the front office has managed to break most of them.

It kills me every time I see David Phelps come out of the bullpen. I'm one of the major league Yankees fans that follows the baby Bombers throughout their minor league career. I usually make it to a few Trenton (AA) and Scranton (AAA) games every season. All you have to do it check out David Phelps' minor league stats to see why I get so frustrated:

  • Single-A Stats: 19 G, 19 GS, 112.2 IP, 2.80 ERA
  • Double-A Stats: 15 G, 15 GS, 95 IP, 1.89 ERA
  • Triple-A Stats: 31 G, 30 GS, 184.1 IP, 3.03 ERA

A young pitcher that does his job this well should not be brought up to the Bigs until he can be told, "You're starting every fifth day, we'll make sure you get your innings in, and we're going to give you the opportunity to get out of your own jams." That's how you let a pitcher develop and work out the kinks that can't be worked out at the triple A level. Instead, the Yankees have said, "Uh Oh, we screwed up, Kyle Farnsworth sucks, we're desperate. Let's take our organization's #4 prospect, throw him in the bullpen, and rush him up after only 3 relief appearances in the minors and only about 160 innings overall." I'm referring to Joba Chamberlain, who in the span of one year in 2007 went from A+ ball to AAA. So where is he now? Broken. Fan's cringe when they see him warming in the bullpen. Oh, but Joba wasn't the only one.

There was another guy drafted before Joba, in 2004. By 2006, this particular starter was named Pitcher of the Year as the Yankees top minor league pitcher. In 2007 he was easily the Yankees #1 prospect and in the top 5 throughout all MLB organizations. Again, the Yankees were in a jam in 2007 due to injury and the prospect was rushed up after only about 28 innings in triple AAA. This may have been harmless since he came up to start, but, again, due to the aging rotation, the front office sacrificed the development of the young arm for post season competition. This prospect, of course, was Phil Hughes. Hughes was thrown in the bullpen to support the rotation as a long reliever in 2007 and again in 2008 with a crowed rotation and injury to Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte. After a string of injuries and starter-reliever back and forth where is Phil Hughes now? Mostly a broken, back end, starter with not many chances left to prove he can be a reliable starter.

At one point it was very realistic to think of Hughes and Chamberlain as aces down the road. They had the stuff for it. What should they look like now? I would have to say it would do the front office some good to glance over at the Red Sox organization to see what they could've had. Right around the same time Hughes and Chamberlain were the talk of the Yankees minor league system, so were Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester over in the Red Sox system, although Lester was a little earlier. Buchholz and Lester both went through pretty standard development--at least 100-120 IP at each level. They were brought up to the Majors to start. Even when Buchholz became a worry in terms of pitching too many innings, he was shut down instead of having his innings limited through relief work. He was actually kept off of the Red Sox post season roster in 2007. Where are they now? They've both thrown no-hitters and have contributed to positive memories to Red Sox history--as opposed to the memories of midges and mopping up we have from Hughes and Chamberlain. 

So now the Yankees have an opportunity to go about things differently with David Phelps. Needless to say, Phelps is currently the punching bag for their woes as he's usually in the mix of horrible losses. It's time for Phelps to go back to Scranton to get back to the starter he was before they juggled him around. Middle relievers are a dime a dozen; decent starters are few and far between. When the Yankees need a starter down the road, they need to make sure Phelps will be ready for the job or we will see history repeating itself with Vidal Nuno and that won't be a good thing.


Anonymous said...

You're 100% correct....Phelps is not the same pitcher who came up from the minors last year.
Two major problems: The Yankees have been operating without a competent GM, and Girardi is more of an engineer than a baseball manager

Anonymous said...

By the way, they will destroy Adam Warren also.

Unknown said...

Might be even worse for Warren, he's not even getting in a game, he's the second long man but Girardi keeps throwing Phelps in. To have both fill in starters sitting in the bullpen is ridiculous, they won't be ready when really needed. If they weren't going to use them as starters they should have traded them...these guys will be more than adequate as back end starters for any major league ball club