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PhilHughes0831.jpgPhil Hughes will take the ball for the Yanks tonight, against the D-Rays. The Yankees are all alone atop the Wild Card race, and gaining fast on the Red Sox. With that crucial series behind them, it's time to look forward.

Sometimes, the best way to predict the future is to take a look at the past. Here's a glimpse into Phil Hughes' first 7 starts with the Yankees...

Bad Starts:
  • April 26, vs TOR - 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K
  • August 4, vs KC - 4.2 IP, 6 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 5 K
  • August 26, @ DET - 6 IP, 5 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Good Starts:
  • May 1, @ TEX - 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 BB, 6 K
  • August 10, @ CLE - 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K
So-So Starts:
  • August 15, vs BAL - 5 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 K
  • August 20, @ LAA - 6.1 IP, 5 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 4 K
Hughes' numbers for the season are puzzling, to say the least. His sabermetric stats (WHIP [1.216], K/9 [8.4], K/BB [2.4]) are very, very good. But his traditional stats, and probably the most commonly used pitching barometer, ERA, is atrocious (5.35).

If the stats were reversed, and Hughes had an ERA that did no equate to the more telling stats, I would be worried.  Right now, I'm still on the Phil Hughes bandwagon. If you look at the "good starts" from above, he was dominant. In the so-so starts, especially the start against the Angels, he was dominant for a significant stretch of the game, but probably left in a couple batters too long. Even his last "bad" start wasn't that bad. He only allowed 5 base runners in 6 innings of work. His undoing in that game was the long ball.

Hughes has every tool needed to be a dominant starter in this league for years to come. The thing he needs to learn the fastest, is what to do when one of those tools fails him on a certain night. If the curve isn't breaking off the table, go to the change. If you don't your usual control, don't nibble so much.

The only cause for concern I've seen from Hughes, and this is only since he came back from the DL, is a reluctance to use his change. He's gone away from the straight change, in favor of his slider. If the slider is on, it's great to have two breaking balls, each with different velocity and movement, but I don't think the slider is devastating, and neither pitch neutralizes lefty hitters like the change does.

When Hughes took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Rangers back in May, the change was prominent in his pitch selection. Since he's come back, it's been nowhere to be found. I don't know why, but a guy who throws in the low-mid nineties, has a devastating curve in the low seventies/upper sixties, and a straight change in the low eighties is nearly impossible to key in on. You have batters guessing at what's coming, swinging and missing, and being overpowered. Hughes needs to get back to this. Tonight would be a good time to start.

Hughes and Ian Kennedy will make back-to-back starts for the Bombers against the D-Rays. This is the perfect opportunity for the rookies to put their stamp on this season, which has really been defined by youth in the Bronx. The D-Rays are trotting a couple of stiffs out there, so all they really need to do is keep the games competitive and the offense should score enough to carry the team. I'm hoping that's not all we're going to get. Two good starts from these kids and the Yankees will be on a major roll, with their top three coming up in the rotation. That's a much different feeling than crossing your fingers when Hughes pitches, and knowing you're going to lose when Mussina pitches.
by Brian on Aug 31 2007
Tags: Phil Hughes |