As I am sure you all know, the Yankees announced today that Phil Hughes will be the 5th starter. I have discussed this at length and you know that I do not like it, so I would prefer to look past the prudence of the actual decision and look at one of the important details. Rob Neyer discussed the Yankees 5th starter situation yesterday, and the following statement stuck out:
Hughes threw 80 innings in 2008, 112 in 2009, and … 200 in 2010?
I don’t think so. The Yankees, reasonably enough, seem to have concluded that Hughes is the fifth-best starter in their organization. I suspect that they already have a reasonable plan to limit him to something like 160 innings this season. I just don’t know what that plan is.
Once again, the Yankee 5th starter is likely to have innings limits, but what will that limit be? I noted yesterday that the Yankees tend to use a pitcher’s previous career high as a baseline, and that Brian Cashman has said neither Joba nor Hughes would have a significant limit in 2010:
Based upon Cashman’s assertion that there will not be a significant cap on Phil’s innings, I would assume that the Yankees will be referring to his previous high as well, as he only threw 106 IP last season, leaving him near 145 for 2010 if the previous season was the baseline. However, his career high was 146 in 2006, meaning he may be allowed to exceed 180 innings.
The problem with this calculation is that Phil’s previous career high came in 2006. Let’s look at his IP numbers, courtesy of The Baseball Cube:
As you can see, Phil’s career high came in 2006, when he threw 146 innings. That is 4 seasons ago, and some have trouble believing that the Yankees are going to depend on that as a baseline for 2010. However, Marc Carig stated on Twitter that Hughes will have a higher limit than Joba did in 2009, when he threw 163.1 innings. I think it is more likely that the Yankees split the difference between a jump from 105 (2009) and 146 (2006) and give Phil about 165-170 innings, as Rob noted. If they do so, Phil will eventually scrape against that limit much as Joba did. Hopefully, they can figure out a way to handle that issue with more aplomb than they did last time. I would think that skipping two starts prior to the All-Star Break and two after the break would make the most sense, with those starts going to Joba or Aceves.
How would you deal with the innings limit?