It’s not what you think, though. He wasn’t as impressed as us, claiming that the 21-year-old’s curveball didn’t have much bite, that he didn’t use his slider enough, and that his 89-93 mph fastball just isn’t going to cut it. He does make one concession:
Why is Hughes’ stuff down? One possibility is that his left leg is still causing him trouble…it looked like he was babying that leg rather than landing firmly and pushing off that leg as he drives through his delivery.
I always wondered why some guys don’t use their plant leg to generate more force on the ball. I guess it’s what works for them, but if what works for Hughes is the use of his plant leg, it could certainly explain his disappointing outings. I’d love to verify this through video, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find a third-base-side shot from last year. The MLB.tv archives probably have a side-view shot of him during the Texas game, so if I come upon some time I’ll take a look.
Update by Ben: I want to add something here. I watched last night’s game from the third base side of the Tier Boxes, and I tried to pay attention to Hughes’ leg kick and delivery. He definitely has shortened his stride since the Texas outing, and I don’t think he’s generating enough power from his legs as he should.
As for the “why” bit of this, I think he’s tentative. He’s still concerned that he’ll pop his hamstring if he takes a long stride and really drives forward on his legs. As Joe said to me earlier today, what 21 year old hasn’t had some confidence issues? We can all relate.
For Hughes, I would expect a few more good starts and an eventual off-season of rest and healing to restore his confidence. I liked what I saw yesterday; he went about establishing the location on his fastball in the best fashion I’ve seen since the Texas game. But he is 21, and he will struggle. It may be the leg kick; it may be growing pains. But he’s still Phil Hughes, and he’s going to be huge.