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Hughes Innings Restrictions and Post Season



By Mike Silva ~ August 23rd, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva.

There is always debate about the merit of innings restrictions, or what is known in this town as “The Joba Rules.” Steve S over at the Yankee U recapped nicely the Yankees starting rotation situation. In short, Andy Pettitte is injured, Vazquez terrible, and Burnett unreliable. This leaves Phil Hughes as a vital rotation cog come October, a surprisingly situation since many, including me, thought of him transitioning into the bullpen at that time. The problem with relying on Hughes is the pending innings restriction threshold. Will that impact his utilization in September and the postseason? Will we see some of those “little league starts” that Chamberlain was exposed to a year ago. According to Brian Cashman, “all innings restrictions come off” in a postseason situation. That begs the question as to how important these rules are to the development of a pitcher.

Yes, I have seen the data, and I am not suggesting they should throw complete caution to the wind, but if Hughes gets another six starts, plus potentially 4-5 more in full postseason situation he will blow by the 175 number. Currently Hughes stands at 141 innings pitched, meaning an average of 5 innings will put him just a shade under 200 (including postseason). More important, are five inning starts good for the team?

The first concern, as Steve points out, is how effective he will be when reaching that pitching threshold. Hughes strikeout rate has dropped considerably since the first six week (around 9) to the last three months (around 5.5 a game). He’s rebounded from a poor June/July where the ERA stood at about 5 run per game. Ironically it was after his skipped rotation turn in late June that his problems began. Since getting back to an every five day workload in late July he’s been a much better pitcher.

The point here is that strict interpretation of innings restrictions is foolish. Every pitcher and season is different, making it important to use common sense when managing a starter’s workload. If innings limits were the end all/be all, then this would be an issue in the postseason. Outside of skipping a start in June, I think the Yankees have done a nice job managing Hughes. This should pay dividends in October when they will need him the most.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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