Your Word of the Day is “Pronate” (with Phil Hughes)

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Apparently David Waldstein of the New York Times discovered a new word for the day: “pronate”.

It was present in his entire recap of the latest performance by Phil Hughes of the Yankees.

At the moment that virtually every pitch is thrown by every pitcher at every level of baseball, the throwing hand pronates.

Pronation is one of the major elements in determining how and where a pitch moves once thrown.

When Hughes tried to throw his fastball to the outside of the plate against right-handed hitters, he pronated just a little too much, causing the ball to spin slightly sideways (the opposite of a cut fastball), and making him lose precise command of it.

I don’t care about Phil Hughes’s pronating or not pronating and I tend to believe that the rank and file Yankees’ fan, uninitiated with and tired of the whys of endlessly poor results, doesn’t have much interest in the issue either. The bottom line is that Hughes was bad again. At best, he’s an inconsistent pitcher who, at age 26, has yet to become either an innings-gobbler or a trustworthy rotation stalwart. He’s a mid-to-back rotation arm that you can find relatively cheaply on the market.

The Yankees’ organizational apparatus for pitchers is increasingly suspect—if not outright ridiculous—given the failures with Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy (as a Yankee) and Hughes, along with the trades for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos and babying regulations placed on Manny Banuelos (Pineda, Campos and Banuelos are all on the disabled list), and the demotion of Dellin Betances because he lost the strike zone. Adding to that is the way both Chien-Ming Wang and Ivan Nova evolved into, at worst, solid pitchers when the Yankees didn’t think much of either and didn’t enact the stifling rules they placed on their other, more prized, arms.

Hughes is okay as a useful starting pitcher. Sometimes. But he’s never pitched 200 innings in a season. He gives up a lot of home runs. He’s not a strikeout pitcher. And he’s been bad in the post-season. If he were seen as an arm who’s benefited from pitching for a very good team with a solid bullpen as Nova is and pitched as he has over the past two years, the Yankees might non-tender him and would definitely look to trade him. But since he’s one of the prized prospects “developed” by Brian Cashman, he’s getting chance-after-chance to prove that the Yankees method of nurturing starting pitchers is somehow valid.

You can cover for a prospect that hasn’t fulfilled his potential for so long before reality becomes self-evident. Hughes’s reality is this: a career ERA of 4.46, rampant inconsistency and the clinging to a concept that eventually he’ll turn into something more.

But he’s not improving and he’s not something more. It’s time to accept that this is it, at least as a Yankee.

He didn’t “pronate”? After this season, if Cashman has finally seen and heard enough from Hughes as he did from Kennedy before shipping him off to Arizona, perhaps the GM will do a little “pronating” of his own and flick his wrist to coolly put his cellphone to his ear and listen to offers to ship Hughes out of town. Maybe someone else can straighten him out; or maybe this is what he is. Regardless, it’s clear by now that it’s not going to happen for him in a Yankees’ uniform and it would be best for all involved to move along and let Hughes pronate out of town.

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Campos is Cashman’s Misshapen Key

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This is a small but striking piece from yesterday’s New York Times—link.

Phil Hughes agreed to a 1-year contract to avoid arbitration. The contract pays him $3.2 million, a raise of $500,000.

There’s nothing notable about a four-year veteran receiving a contract with those dollar figures. But it was the conclusion that caught my attention. It says:

Teams are likely to inquire about Hughes, and the Yankees will be willing to listen to trade offers.

It was only four years ago when Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy were in the nascent stages of redefining the Yankees developmental apparatus. They were to be homegrown talent providing competence-to-brilliance at an affordable price.

Of course it didn’t work out that way.

Kennedy was traded and fulfilled expectations in a Diamondbacks uniform. Chamberlain was shuttled between the starting rotation and bullpen and is now recovering from Tommy John surgery, a mere shell of the dominating force and sensation he was on his arrival in 2007. And Hughes was also used as a starter and reliever, saw his velocity drop to levels where he couldn’t get anyone out in early 2011 and returned to some semblance of effectiveness late in the season.

Hughes is a tradable commodity fighting for his spot in the starting rotation with non-existent on-field value. Other teams will be attracted by his age and the hope that he can fulfill that potential away from the usage guidelines imposed upon him by the Yankees, but aside from their own headaches or projects, they’re not going to give up much of anything to get Hughes.

This is why it’s so ludicrous to think that the same Yankees front office is suddenly learning its lessons as they acquire Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from the Mariners for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.

The concept that Campos is the “key” to the trade—at 19-years-old and having spent last season in low-A ball—is either delusional or a transparent attempt at propaganda to assuage the anger that Montero was traded at all.

Have the Yankees proven that they’re able to assess pitchers under Brian Cashman? The same GM who signed the likes of Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay, A.J. Burnett and Pedro Feliciano?

There are some instances in which Cashman gets a pass. Carl Pavano was a disaster that, had it not befallen the Yankees, would’ve hit someone else because there were about four other teams prepared to pay Pavano the same amount of money the Yankees did.

But these examples of dropping the lowest grade haven’t happened often enough to warrant deferring to his or anyone in the organization’s judgment when it comes to pitchers.

Now they’re waiting and following the same trajectory with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances as they did with Kennedy, Chamberlain and Hughes. They point to studies—both medical and historical—to validate the babying that’s gone on since both joined the organization.

Is it paranoia?

Is it fear?

Is it arrogance?

Is it a calculating desire on the part of the GM to accrue the credit that the likes of Theo Epstein has for being a “genius”?

Any reason is an explanation.

I’d be very concerned if Cashman is doing these things because he thinks they’re the right way to go about nursing a pitcher to the majors. That would indicate a total obliviousness to what’s happened right in front of his eyes to all of these starting pitchers who will go on his ledger as, at best, disappointments. The mandates on innings and pitch counts not only hindered the development of the three pitchers from 2008, but both Hughes and Chamberlain got hurt in spite of them.

They couldn’t pitch effectively and didn’t stay healthy, so what was the point?

Some refer to the development of Ivan Nova as “proof” that the Yankees can nurture pitchers. But Nova was never considered a prospect and the Yankees repeatedly left him exposed to other clubs. Nova was selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft of December 2008 only to be returned to the Yankees the next spring. They didn’t know what he was and as recently as last season, they sent him to the minors as the odd man out when they had too many starting pitchers.

Was it so hard to look at Nova and see something different? Didn’t it impress the organization when he buzzed Jose Bautista and Bautista took a few steps toward the mound attempting to intimidate the rookie and Nova didn’t back down an inch?

There are aspects to pitching more important than high draft status a dazzling array of stuff. Nova’s fearless. That counts for something.

Is it poor recognition skills or did they want to bolster the pitchers that were “supposed” to be the centerpieces?

Cashman was once adept at speaking to the media, saying three notebook pages worth of stuff, yet saying nothing at all. As he’s aged, he’s dispatched the circular dialogue sprinkled with non-committal corporate terminology to allocate blame and place the onus on players in an unfair manner.

Feliciano’s shoulder injury was left at the door of the Mets when Cashman said the pitcher had been “abused”. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen shot back asking how the Yankees didn’t know about Feliciano’s workload before they signed him.

A few days ago ESPN’s Jim Bowden revealed this Cashman analysis of Pineda:

Brian Cashman told me last night that Michael Pineda better improve the change-up & develop into a #1 starter or he will have made a mistake

Cashman also compared Montero to Mike Piazza and Miguel Cabrera.

Is Cashman really putting that yoke around the neck of a 23-year-old as he enters a new clubhouse to stand behind CC Sabathia in the starting rotation, pitching for a team and fanbase to whom anything less than a World Series win is considered disastrous?

I would not have traded Montero and Noesi for Pineda and Campos. I would have done as the Yankees did simultaneously to the trade being announced and signed Hiroki Kuroda and moved forward with what I had. Unless Cashman has something else on the burner, his reservations about Pineda and blustery proclamations about Montero made it too high risk a decision to feel good about. If he doesn’t feel cocksure about Pineda, how does he justify trading a bat he valued so highly?

Those who are trying to play up the inclusion of Campos as important had better look at the Yankees history of pitchers and how many of them have fulfilled the hype—not the promise, but the hype.

It’s right there in black and white, on the medical reports and in the trade buzz.

If you’re thinking that Campos is their new discovery and saving grace for a risky trade, you’d better look at history and think again.

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