Looking over the stats I must admit I’m not too surprised with Ace’s performance. He has been averaging 90-91 mph on his fastball and although he does command 4 pitches; his velocity suggests he is a pitcher who pitches to contact. For most of his career, Ace has been considered a fly ball pitcher (just this season alone his FB/GB ratio has 57 to 45) but over his last five apprearances, including today, his ratio has been 11 to 16. Looking over Ace’s stats his BABIP has been a ridiculously low .241 in 40 innings pitched (not counting today) and his HR/9 has been a rather high 1.13 (at least from a reliever/set-up man perspective).
With Alfredo Aveces SP performance pretty much in the books and a stat line a little less than awe-aspiring: 3.1 IP 4 H 4 R (3 ER) 1 BB 2 K and 1 HR allowed. It’s expected that the powers that be will be mulling over who’ll be the next Yankee starter after the All-Star Break.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not counting out Ace as a viable starter, in fact I think he would be a valuable member of any MLB back-end rotation but translating reliever numbers into starting pitcher numbers can be a tricky thing. His K/BB ratio has been an excellent 4.86 along with being above 3.00 as a minor league starter but adjustments will have to be made in pitch location.
In today’s start, Aceves threw mostly 4-seam fastballs in the first inning which were luckily hit hard at people (2 hard liners to first and a few lineouts to the outfield). He ran into as little trouble in the second and although his walk issued to Cuddyer in the second (immediately after Kubel’s HR) was questionable, Ace started to mix it up with more changeups and curveballs (mostly to set-up his very hittable fastball).
In the third inning, Ace followed the same plan used to strikeout Span in the second and began relying on his secondary pitches to get his outs (a cutter to get Tolbert to groundout, a curve to strike out Mauer, and three straight outside changeups were tossed to Morneau before he flew out to right field). The only troubling aspect of this inning was Aceves decrease in velocity as his fastball came in at 89 mph and by the fourth inning many of his pitches came up in the zone (a sure sign of fatigue as pitchers begin to cheat on their follow through by not bending their back consistently). Of course Dave Robertson came in to relieve and unceremoniously walked in two runs charged to Ace.
Quickly reviewing Ace’s start to his prior relief appearances it was apparent he was throwing his fastball much more frequently earlier in the game. Obviously, Ace isn’t going to ever overwhelm anyone with his fastball but his combination of command and secondary pitches should give him the opportunity to start again but if he doesn’t here are a few more Yankee pitchers that could qualify:
Phil Hughes – some controversy has sprung up on these boards concerning Hughes incredible success in the bullpen. Some are in the camp that this points to the reason that Hughes is back and MUST BE RE-INSERTED BACK INTO THE STARTING ROTATION IMMEDIATELY, while others are enjoying this small sample success and waiting until September or 2010 to formulate their opinion on where exactly he should go. Looking over his stats as a starter, Hughes can become quite hittable in later innings. He definitely looks more commanding and confident out of the pen but with his repertoire and age think it would be a major mistake to label him as a starter or reliever for the moment.
Sergio Mitre – in his first season coming off TJ surgery, Mitre has shown exceptional command not usually associated with first year TJ recovers. In 46+ minor league innings Mitre has issued only 7 BBs while fanning 38, giving him a solid 6.00 K/BB ratio. His BABIP has been average at .294 so luck isn’t considered a factor when looking at his low 2.92 ERA (3.28 FIP) at Scranton. Mitre is another contact pitcher who throws mostly a 90-91 mph fastball and average changeup. But with his command being what it is it would be foolish not to consider Mitre as a possibility.
Kei Igawa – with a fastball averaging 88-89 mph and a HR/9 rate of 1.34 in AAA. Uh… nevermind.
Zach McAllister – at age 21, McAllister has been quite successful in AA Trenton with a respectable line of 86.2 IP, 69 H, 27 R (18 ER), 26 BB, 72 K. Of course it’s doubtful the Yankees bring him up without trying him out at AAA first but since the Yankee Brass sees no point in rushing the youngster it’s probably moot including him in any Yankee plans before 2010.
Pedro Martinez – he has been consistently hitting 91 mph on the radar gun and a few teams have shown interest. Martinez would be a cheap one-year option, but of course his presence may provide a log jam once the Yankee staff reaches full health (If that happens are we going to revisit the return Joba back to the pen chant??? Again, nevermind)