Hughes’ Underlying Performance

(Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Last night the Yankees won a very well-played game and outplayed Minnesota in every part of the game for the second straight day. Russell Martin hit two homers, Derek Jeter had two hits and scored two runs, and Robbie Cano had another big game as well. But probably the biggest part of this one was Phil Hughes outing. He allowed one run on two hits and three walks while striking out two over seven frames. But was he as dominant as the line shows?

The answer is no. I saw some writers on Twitter saying how good he looked and one in particular went on to say that it was the best he has looked in over a year. I could maybe get on board with the former comment, but the latter is a bit ridiculous. I think he looked a lot better in his start in Chicago a few weeks back. In that outing, he struck out four, walked none, and probably would have gone more than six innings if it weren’t for the rain.

Back to last night’s start, a look at the peripherals will show that Hughes was playing with fire, for lack of a better term. He posted a GB% of around 30%, an unsustainable BABIP of around .045, only recorded two swinging strikes, and was only sitting at around 92 mph with the fastball until it dipped as the game went on.

Don’t get me wrong, Hughes still worked efficiently, only needing 106 pitches to get through almost eight frames, but he wasn’t dominant against a Jim Thome-less Minnesota lineup that I think he should have begging for mercy (only two guys in last night’s Twins lineup had an OBP over .300!!).

There are definitely good things we can take from this start and maybe it gave Hughes some confidence, but we should approach his next start with skepticism and not expect another game of almost eight innings of one-run ball.

On The Hughes Blues

Phil Hughes is scheduled to make his fifth start since coming off the disabled list tonight and it’s probably his most important. The Yankees have been talking about going with a six man rotation, but Hughes, the weakest link as of right now, might not stay in it much longer. With Ivan Nova’s solid start on Saturday night, a bad start tonight for Phil could mean he will lose his spot.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

I mean it does make sense. Hughes hasn’t been nearly the same pitcher he was last year. After striking out more than seven per nine innings in 2010, that total is now down to around four and a half while he is walking almost one more per nine. He has lost an average of two miles per hour on his fastball which has forced him to use it 8% less which has made him use his curveball 6% more. This all being said, he is missing almost 4% less bats which is bringing down his numbers.

So if Hughes were to underperform tonight, what would happen? They can’t just keep sending him out there every six or so days to get killed. It hurts him and it hurts the team. Well, a lot of people say that he should go to the bullpen, but what good does that do him and the team? He has proven that he can be an effective starter and he would the most value as a starter. Since this rules out the bullpen, why not do what they did with Ivan Nova and send him to Scranton to work on a few things and get his confidence up.

So a lot will be put into tonight’s start. He has made two poor starts in a row and a third one may be the last straw. The Yanks are still trying to win ball games and Hughes is not helping that. I hope he pitches well and is able to somewhat bounce back, but at this point I just don’t see that happening.

Some Pitching Updates

Here are some updates on some pitchers in the Yankees organization and other stuff:

  • Phil Hughes will go to see the specialist in St. Louis on Monday to confirm whether he has TOS.
  • Kevin Millwood might have kissed his chances of pitching in pinstripes good-bye with a bad start for Triple A Scranton last night.  His line was 2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.  We’ll see what happens on Sunday though.
  • Via Marc Carig, the Yanks say that Carlos Silva, after going through a conditioning program since signing, is now ready for extended Spring Training.  His opt-out clause doesn’t come into play until June so we’ll see then.
  • Rafael Soriano has apparently turned to Mike Gonzalez, Orioles relief pitcher and former teammate with the Braves, to help him with his struggles.  The two became good friends when they were co-closers for Atlanta in 2009.
  • MLB Trade Rumors posted a list of all of the free agents after the 2012 season.  I know it seems far away, but it’s interesting.  The pitchers include Zach Greinke, Francisco Liriano, Matt Cain, and many more.