Josh Kalk, proprietor of the PITCHf/x blog from small ball to the long ball, has authored a piece on The Hardball Times about our one and only Phil Hughes. Kalk talks about a number of things regarding our favorite former prospect, leading off with the velocity issue. Spoiler: He doesn’t have an answer.
What’s more interesting is Kalk’s look at Phil’s release points from 2007 and 2008. Many people believe that Hughes needs to go more over the top to enjoy success in the majors. It appears he’s gone the other way, at least relative to last year. It’s not a big move, but if you look at the graphs in the piece, his arm angle has moved to the right, from his view, meaning he’s coming from more of a side angle.
Despite this change in arm angle, Phil has been remarkably consistent with his release point this year, with all of his pitches. He tends to release his fastball a bit higher than the curve, but for the most part, according to Dan Fox, his release point is “about the size of a postcard.” Kalk wonders if this consistency is actually problematic; that is, does Phil allow for the hitter to concentrate on one area and pick up the ball better because of it?
I’m not so sure about that. Clearly, there were plenty of things going wrong with Hughes earlier this season that had nothing to do with his release point. He wasn’t getting nearly as many swings and misses as last year, and he wasn’t throwing as many strikes. Perhaps his new arm angle had something to do with that — not necessarily that it isn’t working, but that he was still adjusting to it. Maybe it was because of the injury. Or maybe he’s a headcase in disguise who can’t handle guys getting hits off him. Some might say he plain sucks, but I think that’s a premature diagnosis.
With Wang out and Rasner falling back to earth, the return of Hughes could play an integral role in the latter months of the season. He and his pal IPK certainly haven’t performed even close to expectations. But they’ll certainly get another shot in the coming weeks and months.
Thanks to Glen for sending in the article!