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Phil Hughes on top of his game as Yankees win

May 4, 2013, 7:35 PM EDT

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

Once rated the #4 overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America going into the 2007 season, it has been a tough six years since for Phil Hughes. The right-hander entered 2013 with a career 4.39 ERA split between 103 starts and 49 relief appearances. Whether due to injuries, a lack of control, or a startling inability to miss bats, there was always something in Hughes’ way preventing him from enjoying success at the Major League level. Yankees fans either had already run out of patience with him or were nearing the tipping point.

After tossing eight shut-out innings against the Athletics today, Hughes has logged his fourth consecutive quality start dating back to April 18. In those four starts, he has thrown 28 innings, allowed six earned runs (1.93 ERA), struck out 30, walked five, and surrendered just two homers. This afternoon, his fastball averaged 93 MPH and hit 95 on occasion.

In his post-game press conference, manager Joe Girardi credited his pitcher’s success to mixing up his pitches as he went through the lineup the second and third time. Over his career, Hughes has gotten progressively worse with each trip through the lineup, allowing a .689 OPS the first time through, .794 the second time, and .845 the third.

It remains to be seen whether this is just a run of hot starts for Hughes or if the 26-year-old has finally turned the corner.

  1. 13arod - May 4, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    he still is good

  2. knowlegeforyou - May 4, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Bill’s 8th article of the day. Hughes still has something left.

    • Bill Baer - May 4, 2013 at 7:55 PM

      I’ll be here all night, folks. Tip your waitress.

      • badintent - May 5, 2013 at 1:45 AM

        And your bartenders !!

  3. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 4, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Over his career, Hughes has gotten progressively worse with each trip through the lineup, allowing a .689 OPS the first time through, .794 the second time, and .845 the third.

    Everyone gets progressively worse the more times they go through the order. It’s how much worse they get that’s the issue*.

    *wOBA thru the order, 99-02 per The Book, .345 > .354 > .362 (p186)

    • Bill Baer - May 4, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      Hughes by time through order in wOBA: .307 (974 PA), .343 (945 PA), .366 (649 PA). In terms of runs above average (using 1.26 as the wOBA scale), Hughes is +29, +8, -2. So, opposing offenses’ familiarity with him is more important to Hughes than it is to some other pitchers.

      • djpostl - May 4, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        Has a lot to do with fact huge is really bad at “mixing things up”. I am an avid Yankee fan and watch about 20+ starts of his every year (minimum) and can attest to the fact he just comes after guys one way and one way alone.

        That might get it done first or second time through the order but once they time his fastball in a couple AB’s they start teeing off on the thing.

        I have always said he makes a superior reliever and a “decent” starter because of this fact.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 4, 2013 at 9:02 PM

        Yes, and just like almost every other pitcher, he gets collectively worse as the batter sees him more. Posting his wOBA each time only further’s to prove my point.

      • Bill Baer - May 4, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        @ church

        That’s why I compared to the average. There is a lot of variance in his performance relative to the average.

    • badintent - May 5, 2013 at 1:49 AM

      Some guy name Koufax pitched for 5 years before he figured it out. Then it was lights out on every hitter except Hank Aaron. So at 26, we can all chill a little and cut Phil some slack. He does have the Jay’s , I mean Yankee lineup to support him. Thanks, Jays for Overbay and Wells.They’re carrying the team real nice for the past month.Wanna throw Edwin over too ?

      • 18thstreet - May 5, 2013 at 9:36 AM

        Yes, every struggling young pitcher is just like Sandy Koufax. There’s nothing to discuss, because they all figure it out eventually.

      • badintent - May 7, 2013 at 3:49 AM

        some do, some don’t . Apparently, you’re still trying to figure it out too…………….. must be depressing when your fastball tops out at 35.smuck

  4. sleepyirv - May 4, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    A lot of pitchers don’t figure it out till their mid to late 20s. The wunderkinds are the exceptions, not the rule.

    • cackalackyank - May 5, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      An awful lot of those “wunderkids” are done by the time they are thrity these days.

  5. djpostl - May 4, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    I wouldn’t phrase it “a startling inability to miss bats” because the guy has 560 K’s in 660 innings. His SO/9 would easily be over 8.0 if he hadn’t really had a terrible year in 2011 (5.7/9)

    Probably more accurate to say “the occasional inability to finish batters off” because he does see a lot of 0-2 or 1-2 counts turn into prolonged at-bats.

    • Bill Baer - May 4, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      “Startling inability” referred to his 2011 season when he struck out 14% of hitters, compared to 27% and 20% in the prior two years and 20% and 21% in the following two years. They were specific reasons he has struggled, not generalizations.

      • djpostl - May 4, 2013 at 10:12 PM

        Kind of comes across as a general laundry list to be honest, even to someone who is all too familiar with the issues he has struggled with over his years in pinstripes, but I get where you’re coming from.

  6. uyf1950 - May 4, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    Great outing for Hughes. Has any one noticed that over Hughes’s last 4 outings his ERA is 1.93 He hasn’t given up a HR in his last 3 starts (2 of them in Yankee Stadium). And he has struck out 9 in each of his last 2 outings. I know some will disagree with me but right now Hughes is the 2nd best starter on the staff behind Kuroda. That’s my opinion.

    • cackalackyank - May 5, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      I see your point. I think the best part of that observation is the no “gopher balls” part. It seemed that last year both Hughes and Nova gave up way too many homers. Very good outing indeed. I just hope he continues to do it consistently, and that he is truly developing into what he was projected to be. Also, I hope this is not a fluke that corresponds to his first year of FA eligibility.

  7. 13arod - May 4, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    phill Hughes just needs to work a little bit more on hi offspeed pitches an he will be an allstar

  8. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 4, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    Hughes is a fly ball pitcher.

    2012 Yankees OF= Ibanez, Granderson, Said her
    2013 Yankees OF= Wells, Gardner, Ichiro

    While his home park will continue to do him no favors, the facts above without any adjustments on Phil’s part should lead him to a career year. Defense matters.

  9. randygnyc - May 4, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    Isn’t he a free agent next year? I figured if we got 2012 Hughes, we would let him walk. If he keeps this up, and can finish with 15-17 wins and a 3.50 era, they’ll have to consider resigning him. I don’t expect Kuroda or Pettitte back next year. Hopefully, Pineda steps up to replace one of them. Maybe Hughes could be an answer. We’ll see.

  10. pisano - May 5, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    Today was his best outing in a long time, I only hope he can repeat this kind of effort.

    • uyf1950 - May 5, 2013 at 3:40 AM

      My friend, I think we are going to see a lot more “good” outings by Hughes. But every pitcher is going to have the occasional hiccup. I really think this is going to be Hughes’s year. And with a somewhat thin FA market and in all likelihood both Kuroda and Pettitte moving on the Yankees are going to seriously have to think about re-signing him.

  11. uyf1950 - May 5, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    What I see here by some posters and even the writer of the article is “analysis paralysis”. I learned a long time ago numbers can tell you anything you want them to. For example of Hughes last 32 starts 21 have been quality starts by MLB standards. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t turned 27 years old yet and who most everyone try’s very hard to pick apart. That’s just my opinion.

    • pisano - May 5, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      uyf1950….. what really impressed me was his fastball, he hit 95mph a few times, I didn’t think he’d ever regain mid 90’s after his problems last year. Hopefully he has turned the corner and can become more consistent, but as you said, he’s liable to have a bad start from time to time, but that happens. I also agree with you about being the # two starter now, but if CC can get a little back on his fastball he’ll be the reliable and dominate CC we’re used too. Have you heard anything about Wang? I’ve been waiting to see him with the Yankees, hopefully he isn’t far away from being called up.

      • uyf1950 - May 5, 2013 at 10:32 AM

        He’s made 2 or 3 very impressive starts in Triple A. My guess is if Nova or Phelps aren’t able to take on their share of the load then Wang should be the next call up.

      • uyf1950 - May 5, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        BTW, Wang can opt-out of his minor league deal with the Yankees on May 31st if he isn’t called up by then. I’m guessing one way or another the Yankees will find a way to get him on the active roster by then so he doesn’t opt-out.

  12. cackalackyank - May 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Two things I have observed about Hughes:

    1. Expectations were sky high for him. Being in New York, unless he had come up throwing consecutive perfect games,there would have been at least a few people giving him bad reviews. Since he did not come even close to that, he wound up with truckloads of detractors. Even the most thick skinned player does not easily shake that sudden role change from Golden Boy to Huge dissapointment off overnight.

    2. A major component of the need for him to be consistent seems, to me anyway, to be the need for him to stay in shape. Last year his fast ball was slower, he seemed to tire easily for a younger guy, and he clearly looked to be heavier than he is now. I am not going bring up beer and fried chicken, oh wait, I just did… but he needs to keep the weight down and stay in shape.

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