Phelps, who has been very good in the starting role, has shown that he not only deserves to stay in the Yankees rotation, but that he has a chance to be towards the top of it in the years to come.
After his six innings, one run outing, which Phelps went pitch for pitch with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, he has lowered his starter ERA to 3.38. If you take out the outing versus the crosstown rival New York Mets in which Phelps surrendered five runs while only recording two outs, he has just a 2.44 ERA in his eight starts this season.
What separates Phelps is his ability to dominate left-handed hitters. Currently, lefties have just a .215 batting average against Phelps, while righties have hit .256 vs the right-hander. Left-handed bats are supposed to dominate righties like Phelps.
What allows the Notre Dame alum to work over lefties to this extent is his two-seam fastball. Phelps’ two-seamer has as much tail on it, what looks like a full two or three feet, as any which I’ve seen. He uses this pitch effectively against lefties by throwing it at their front hip and as the batter gives up on the pitch thinking it’s inside, it tails to catch the inside corner.
MLB managers are going to have to change their philosophy of stacking lefties against Phelps. However, to this point they haven’t.
So far in 2013, Phelps has faced 157 lefties, while facing just 103 righties. In these 157 matchups vs. lefties, Phelps has surrendered just two home runs. Compare this to fellow Yankee right-hander Phil Hughes who has faced 161 lefties and has allowed eight home runs, four times the amount of Phelps.
Having the ability to consistently dominate lefties is a major weapon for a right-handed pitcher with the short porch in Yankee Stadium. This is going to allow the 26-year-old to remain a valuable member of the Yankees rotation for years to come.
While Phelps slots in as the 4-5 option in the starting staff in 2013, in a year or two we may be looking at Phelps as a top of the rotation pitcher.