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.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”