Let’s Not Be Too Worried…Yet

I am starting to write this post as Phil Hughes deals to Austin Jackson with two outs in the fourth so I have no idea what the outcome of this game is.  However, I do want to talk a little bit about Phil Hughes.  Although his spring and this first start have not been too impressive, let’s not go into panic mode yet.

(Antonelli/News)

In Spring Training, Hughes had his starting pitching spot locked up already, so he was able to work on some things instead of focusing on results.  He changed the grip on his cutter make it more of slider with more bite on it, and made his change up a little more consistent.  But through this, scouts and fans were able to pick up on a lack of velocity.

Hughes’ fastball was only clocked at 87-89 miles per hour this spring, but Brian Cashman has brushed it aside.  He has said that his velocity was around the same during last spring and that he shouldn’t be worried and Phil concurred.  Today, his fastball has been in the 89-91 range so that’s at least an improvement and as the season goes on, expect an increase until he’s back in that 93 range.

If he’s not there by May, then we should be worried.  After throwing only 86 innings in 2009 as a reliever, he threw 176.1 as a starter in 2010, a 90.1 increase.  There is a rule of thumb that says a pitcher should not throw 30 more innings than they did the year before.  This is because it usually lead to arm problems, overexposure, or fatigue.  Hopefully, Hughes does not suffer from this as the PECOTA projections predict he will.

A bad memory. (Erich Schlegel for The New York Times)

So even though his line of five runs in four innings on five hits, two walks, one strikeout, and two home runs wasn’t great, I’m not too worried.  What I am more worried about is his apparent inability to finish hitters.   Even last season, this was a problem for him as once he got two strikes on a better he couldn’t get the out.  This is something he needs to do if he wants to take that next step forward.

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