Monday, April 04, 2011

Why Phil Hughes Struggled

Is there something wrong with Phil Hughes arm or shoulder or delivery? In his performance on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers, Hughes had no bite on his pitches. His fastball was without zip and was often flat, he seemed to throw way too many cut fastballs and his velocity shrunk as the game went along. Those were the observations that this Fan made while watching the game. But did PitchF/X back up those observations? They did indeed.

Last year, Phil Hughes threw the cutter 16.4 percent of the time. Last night according to PitchF/X, he threw it 41.1 percent of the time. So Hughes has either fallen in love with that pitch or he had no confidence in his regular four-seam fastball. He threw 40 regular fastballs and 37 cutters. He mixed in only ten curves and only three change-ups.

And to be sure, he did not have a good fastball. The average speed of his fastball was only 89.1 MPH, topping out at 91.5 MPH. But that only tells part of the story. He threw 90 pitches and the last time he hit 90 MPH was on his 57th pitch. So he didn't have his usual velocity and he lost it further as the game went along.

His cutter seems to be his favorite new toy and frankly, it's not Mariano-like. He was getting less than a inch of horizontal movement on the pitch, which is less than fanciful to say the least. And its average speed was only 83.5 MPH.

Compare these results to his April 21, 2010 start last year when his fastball averaged 92.5 MPH and his cutter at 88.1 MPH. Those are significant drops in velocity and take him from being snarky fast to freakin' hittable. Phil Hughes missed only two bats in 90 pitches. That's correct. Tiger batters only swung and missed twice out of  90 pitches Hughes threw.

Obviously that's not going to get it done. The Yankees say they aren't worried. Hughes said he isn't worried. Perhaps we'll have to take them at their word. But it sure seems suspicious and it certainly bears watching.

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