Making Phil Hughes a reliever is a bad move

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The Yankees have moved Phil Hughes to the bullpen.
He’ll probably do well there, as would Joba Chamberlain if he were
moved there. But is moving either of these guys — guys who have shown
that they can be effective starters — the right move?

The usual touchstones for this discussion are Dennis Eckersley and John
Smoltz, each of whom thrived in the pen following their conversion. And
you certainly can’t argue with their success. Eck never would have made
the Hall of Fame had he not been converted to a closer. That’s less
clear with Smoltz, but it’s certainly the case that his bullpen
exploits will be cited by many when he comes up for election in a few
years.

But even if the move to the pen was a success for Eckersley and Smoltz on a personal level, was it good for their teams?

Dan Turkenkopf of the Hardball Times has a study up this morning
which seeks to answer that question. I recommend that you read it all
— there’s some math, but it’s not overwhelming or anything –but his
conclusion is as follows:

It’s hard to argue with the success both Smoltz and Eckersley had as
closers. It’s certainly the reason Eckersley was elected to the Hall of
Fame in his first showing on the ballot. But it’s also hard to argue
that their respective teams wouldn’t have been better off keeping them
in the rotation and garnering the same level of performance each had
proved capable of. The A’s would have been roughly two wins better per
season (1.2 for the seasons when Eckersley was at his best as a
closer), and the Braves 1.5 wins.

Now it might not have mattered that much, or worked out that way,
had history gone differently, but the evidence suggests moving quality
starters to the bullpen is a bad idea.

Just keep that in mind the next time we see Phil Hughes pitch a single
inning of relief as opposed to six or seven innings as a starter.

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.