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Scouts “stunned by Phil Hughes’ lack of velocity this spring”

Mar 25, 2011, 12:16 PM EST

Phil Hughes 2

This morning my Twitter feed has been full of talk about Phil Hughes‘ declining velocity, starting with a couple reports quoting scouts.

First, here’s Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com:

Scouts following Yankees have been stunned by Phil Hughes’ lack of velocity this spring 87-89 mph, with more 87s than 89s.

And now here’s Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

I can give amens to DKnobler’s scout take about Hughes’ velocity being down. Yankees say was down last yr, too, and came up in Apr. But one scout said had Hughes at 90-94mph this time last yr and it is 87-89 now with heavy reliance on cutter.

What’s especially interesting is that Ben Shpigel of the New York Times wrote an article Wednesday about how Hughes had “unveiled” an altered grip on his slider that made the pitch more like a cutter and was very pleased with the pitch after it accounted for six of his seven strikeouts against the Blue Jays. In talking about the pitch Hughes explained that “it’s just something to get them off my fastball.”

Of course, that takes on a slightly different tone when accompanied by reports of his fastball being in the high-80s. Hughes’ average fastball clocked in at 92.6 miles per hour last season, which was down from 93.8 mph in 2009 but still well above the MLB average. If he’s indeed relying far more on a cutter his overall velocity readings are going to be down, but assuming scouts are isolating his fastball when they pass along readings in the high-80s there’s certainly some reason for concern.

  1. cur68 - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    If he didn’t have a cutter I’d be more concerned about his velocity. The question now is; how goods that cutter? As Roy Halladay has shown an above average cut fastball sets up or gets you a lot of outs and can keep you deep in games providing you have the mechanics to prevent arm injury.

  2. yankeesfanlen - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    I’m not about to get my bowels in an uproar over this. Why? Because Phil Hughes is LUCKY. He’s almost the reverse of years of Andy being the “:tough luck loser” so many times.
    That Blue Jays game was saved by offense the other day, Phil stayed in for an accptable start.
    If he’s mixing in cutters or slower speeds (sounds like Mo and Andy to me) to add some confusion to the opposition, then okay.

  3. aburns77 - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    This is Phil’s fourth year in the majors and the fourth year I’ve read a glut of “what’s wrong with Hughes’ velocity?” articles, and in no time he’s back to throwing 92-94 so you’ll excuse me if I take this with a huge grain of salt.

  4. yankeesgameday - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    It’s just another question mark for the rotation, but if you saw Hughes pitch against most of the Blue Jays regular lineup on Tuesday, he threw for 7 innings and gave up only 3 runs. That’s a quality start and even though he left down 3-0 the Yanks won that game in old style fashion by beating the Toronto relievers. Everyone had their game faces on that day and Toronto didn’t run single A pitchers out to the mound.

    Hughes velocity on his fastball might be “down” and if the radar gun says so, well numbers are numbers and you can’t argue with that. But it seems that Hughes is learning to “pitch” and not just “throw.” He has a cutter now and that change up has been very impressive. I agree that there is a correlation between a 92 mph fastball and being able to get outs with that changeup, but professional hitters can adjust to speed, and what Hughes is doing is combining location with movement, velocity be damned.

    The most important thing for a pitcher to do is get outs for his team and so no one should be complaining about that from Hughes at the moment. So much emphasis is put on numbers, but I don’t think that is a replacement for actually watching someone pitch. As long as there is movement on that fastball at 89 and his changeup works he still has a “plus” curveball. Add in the new cutter and you have a guy who won’t wear down in the fifth, and won’t wear down in the second half of the season again. No, I think this dip in velocity is going to see Hughes keeping the score close through the seventh inning and up his win totals for a team in a tight pennant race come August and September!

    With the Yankee bullpen being a major strength for this team I will take 6-7 innings of Phil Hughes giving up only 3 or 4 runs every time out.

    There are a ton of rotation question marks for the Yanks, but Hughes velocity issues doesn’t feel like it is one of them to me.

    • spudchukar - Mar 25, 2011 at 1:31 PM

      I did watch the game, and while Purcey isn’t a single A pitcher, he is no lock to make the team and undeniably wouldn’t be left in to absorb the damage he permitted. As it is only Spring Training, perhaps too much is being made of his velocity, but to dismiss it as merely “working on things” seems to be whistling past the graveyard. As Aaron states, the high 80’s readings were not on cutters. Plus the Jays had a number of hard hit balls that were caught. I would say it was an okay outing, but Reyes was considerably better. I hope Hughes can repeat 2009. But knowing he is the second most solid hurler on my team is troubling to put it mildly.

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Hughes fell in love with his cutter, to his detriment, last season. Hughes even afmitted that he was throwing it about 40% in his last start. Perhaps the scouts are really clocking that pitch?

  6. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    If the Yankers #2 struggles, they are in big, big trouble.

    • purdueman - Mar 25, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      I haven’t seen anything that would qualify either headcase Burnett or erratic Hughes as being a legit #2 starter, much less on a team in baseballs strongest division, the AL East.

      No, all signs point to growing dark clouds over the Yankees starting rotation (or lack there of). Neither Colon nor Garcia have been able to make it through a full season in a long, long time without extended stints on the DL, and neither has gotten any younger either. Milwood was atrocious for the O’s last season as well.

      What continue to thoroughly perplex me is why with reliable (albeit unspectacular), veterans like Joe Blanton and Edwin Jackson there for the taking (meaning assuming their $8M+/year contracts), with the right mix of prospects to trade that the Yankees have simply chosen to sit idly by and roll the dice. It’s not as if the Yankees aging roster has that many kicks left at the can you know!

    • Jack Marshall - Mar 25, 2011 at 7:12 PM

      They are in big trouble anyway. If any other team had this roster and this team’s holes, they would be picked for third or lower.

  7. genericcommenter - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Maybe he picked up some things from that old guy who won 20 games for the Yankees a couple years ago with a 87 MPH fastball.

  8. pisano - Mar 25, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    If he was on any other team you wouldn’t hear a thing about it. It would be reported as Phil is working on a new pitch, but on the Yankees the media takes on a completely different view, like there might be some arm problem. As aburns77 stated, “take it with a grain of salt”

  9. dfensfelix - Mar 25, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    God I hate the Yankees

  10. Ari Collins - Mar 25, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    As a Sox fan, naturally I’m hoping Hughes is ineffective this year. But, like everything out of ST, this has to be taken with a grain of salt. We’ll see how he performs once the games start.

  11. king3319 - Mar 25, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    It’s Spring Training!!! No starter in their right mind throws all out during this time!!! As many have already said and we all should know ST means nothing, I’m not gonna worry or pay any attention to a “radar gun” until august when the season really starts to matter

  12. wickedworld123 - Mar 25, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Baddd news if it continues. And I hope it does. But, I’m not necessarily convinced anything is wrong yet.

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