Dramatic Endings Are Nice, But Questions Remain June 7, 2008Posted by Pablo Zevallos in Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Dave Eiland, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes.
In two of the last three, the Yankee game has ended with a walk-off hit of some sort. On Thursday, it was a monster Jason Giambi homerun 15 rows back in the upper deck, and today it was a Johnny Damon double down the line to beat the Royals. Giambi’s homer came on a day that was almost lost and ruined by Chien-Ming Wang, who continues his struggles, and Damon’s 6-6 day (tying an American League record for most hits in a 9 inning game–truly amazing!) and his last double made everything right for the Yankees, who bunted Derek Jeter in the first inning (why???) and Andy Pettitte. Pettitte’s struggles continue, as he gave up 10ER and two HRs after surrendering three leads in his last start in Minnesota.
Wang and Pettitte are the anchors of this rotation. They both have enough stuff to get it done, Wang of course moreso than Pettitte. Wang’s GAS (glove side shoulder), according to pitching coach Dave Eiland and catcher Jorge Posada, has started to fly open, preventing his trademark sinker from sinking, and inhibiting proper command. Pettitte has lost about 2MPH from his fastball, now being 87-89 instead of 88-92 like last year. That prevents proper separation from his cutter, which checks in at 84-87, more often on the higher side than the lower side on that range. That can be explained by age and throwing the cutter so much, as throwing the cutter can cause reduction in velocity earlier than usual. In addition, he also looses command of his cutter at times, preventing him from establishing it and thus his other pitches. However, he doesn’t use his other pitches enough at times. He can go too cutter-heavy and then hitters know what to look for, so they just sit on it. He needs to use his curveball and changeup more, and stop being quite so desperate.
This raises the question of the effectiveness of Eiland. This year was supposed to be a transition year, with the offense a year older and Mike Mussina supposed to be somewhere between his stellar 2006 and shaky 2007. Chien-Ming was supposed to win 19 games (again) and Andy Pettitte was supposed to solidly hold the fort for the younger players. Phil Hughes was supposed to take a step forward from his 2007 debut, and Ian Kennedy, while not expected to put up numbers like he did in the minors and September of 2007, was supposed to be a reliable #4/#5 starter.
Almost none of it has happened consistently. Mussina has been great and leads the AL in wins with his slow, slower, slowest approach (Jamie Moyer, anyone?). Hughes and Kennedy are on the DL right now, and both were lit up for almost the whole season (though Kennedy was improving before his DL stint). Wang started well before flopping since the beginning of May, and Pettitte has been looking bad since the Mets series. Even Joba, who has done great, has walked almost 4.5 per 9. Eiland was supposed to be great, as he worked with the Big 3 in Scranton. However, retrospectively speaking, the three weren’t together for more than a month. Hughes was in Scranton for the first three weeks of the season before getting promoted, and was already an uber-prospect. He then returned for two rehab starts in July. Kennedy spent half of August and September there, while Chamberlain was there for a week. So his impact on the trio can’t be that big. Eiland, a former pitcher himself, seems like a nice guy, but in my book he’s on a short leash. I’d like to give him until Independence Day to see what happens. Wang and Pettitte should straighten themselves out by then, Kennedy should be back, and we’ll see how keeps Mussina keeps on doing. By then J.B. Cox and/or David Robertson is certain to be in the bigs, and we’ll see how that goes.