The report on Phil Hughes’s Wednesday start

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Wednesday was an ugly, ugly day in the Bronx. Ticking timebomb Sidney Ponson lasted just four and two-thirds, surrendering four runs on seven hits and four walks, en route to an eventual blowout. Yes, Sir Sidney has had his share of quality starts for the Yanks, and it’s tough to overlook his contribution to the team in August. However, we knew what we were getting when we brough this guy in for the Mets doubleheader back in June. He has the potential to take your team right out of the game. When you having him pitching in front of a Yanks offense which has had trouble scoring runs, you’re leaving yourself prone to disaster.

Many question whether Sid should start Monday’s makeup game in Detroit. After all, the team is clinging to a root as they dangle off the cliff of contention. Why let Sidney go out there and face another meltdown? Many fans have moved on, and don’t really care one way or another who starts. The game could very well mean nothing, so starting Ponson wouldn’t be the worst idea. However, if the Yanks somehow run off three wins against the Jays this weekend, they might be inclined to make a push. To do that, they might have to sub out Ponson.

Lined up perfectly is none other than Phil Hughes. He hasn’t seen a major league mound since April, after going down with a rib injury that seemingly took far too long to heal. After a few quality starts in the minors, Hughes hit a hiccup for two starts in August. Chad Jennings talked to Chad Moeller regarding his start from last Friday:

He said Hughes’ curveball was missing by too much, he couldn’t throw his offspeed stuff for strikes, and he wasn’t commanding his fastball within the strikezone. Too many bad strikes over the middle of the plate, not enough on the edges. That’s what it looked like to me, but it’s always nice to get some sort of confirmation from within the clubhouse.

Phil took the mound again on Wednesday, and we saw with Down on the Farm, he tossed rather well. Today, Mop Up Duty takes a closer look at the 22-year-old’s start.

Hughes had all of the Bison hitters, included Victor Martinez, looking foolish against his 75 MPH curveball. Delivered with a 15+ MPH difference from his fastball and some serious drop, Hughes used this as his out pitch with two strikes. It is very similar in speed and movement to the curve that Clayton Kershaw throws over in LA. His fastball, which stayed consistant at around 92, has good movement. As advertised Hughes had great command, striking out 7 while only walking 1.

The best news is the curveball. If Hughes is going to succeed at the major league level, he’s going to need the curve. He’ll probably need the change and the slider, too, but having just a 92 mph fastball won’t cut it.

So do you bring up Hughes for Monday? It’s a no-cost move; rosters expand that day, so you don’t have to DFA or option someone. The other side of the coin is that it might be in the team’s best long-term interest to have him continue pitching in the AAA playoffs, and only bring him up afterward, and at that point only to increase his innings totals. At this point, given his two stinkers prior to this, I think one more start in the minors wouldn’t hurt. If the Yanks sweep and Boston gets swept this weekend, maybe we can revisit this conversation Sunday night.

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  • Glen L

    my concern with Hughes at the moment is something mentioned by Josh Kalk during a pitch f/x analysis

    His curveball isn’t coming in on the same plane as his fastball .. major league hitters pick up on this and lay off the curve … in my humble opinion, until he has the curve coming in, initially, on the same plane as his fastball, its not going to work as an effective out pitch (use of change/slider/any other pitch aside)

    • Jamal G.

      The Yankees tried that, that’s why they switched his arm slot to more of an over-the-top delivery than the 3/4 slot he was previously at. However, that move straightened out his Fastball a bit too much thus resulting in the shortage of ground-balls that we were accustomed to seeing from the Phranchise.

      I don’t know if he is back to his old arm slot or not, but like I said before, I’m glad to see the movement his back on his heater.

      • Ivan

        Yea his 3/4 delivery was one of the reasons he got alot of grounders.

        I think they went back to it though.

        I,ve read that Nardi made some minor changes to his mechanics and I guess that was one of them to lower the arm angle.

        • Chris

          I tend to think this is all BS. It’s grasping at straws to guess at an explanation for a pitcher struggling in a hand full of starts. He had the same arm angle last year that he had at the start of this year, right? And he was pretty good last year.

          For me, there are 2 possible explanations for his struggles this year. Either his rib was bothering him earlier than it was diagnosed, or it was just a small sample size and normal struggles for a young pitcher.

  • Jamal G.

    I really the portion of the quote that details the movement on his Fastball. I really love that he’s getting back to delivering that Two-Seamer more often.

  • Ivan

    Personally let have at least one more start and if he does well then bring him up.

    He has learn a cutter that he has gotten some swing and misses and scrap the slider cuz it was hovering at the same velocity with his change up. His Cutter comes out much harder and more movement.

    The key for hughes is finish off hitters. I thought his problem when he was here was finishing hitters off and also throwing too many pitches.

    So far he’s K’d guys, last three starts 13.1 IP and he’s recorded 17K’s.

    The cutter to me could be huge for him. Especially going with that curve.

    Hughes reminds me of Chris Carpenter and it took him years to develop.

  • Vin R.

    bringing him up most likely depends on where we are, if we pick up a couple of games by then i think he’ll be up. unless they really think hes not good enough yet

  • Bill R

    SIDNEY PONSON IS DONE! We got all we could expect from him and he’s finished. We need Hughes now!

  • Ricochet

    92 isn’t going to cut it? WTF, sorry but some of you live in fantasy world and that fastball is more than fine the MLB average is 89-90 so 92 consistently and being able to gear back for 95 is quite good.

    Having a power arm that makes people look foolish is nice but there are plenty of guys that have that and aren’t very good it’s about how to pitch, knowing when and when not to do thinks, control and location as well as changing speeds.

    • Joseph P.

      You misread. The statement meant taht a 92 mph fastball and nothing else won’t cut it.

      • steve

        That sentence in the article was poorly worded. What Ricochet thought you said in the article is the same thing that I thought you said.

  • Babe’s Ghost

    Thanks for the good news. I still think it’s too early to kick dirt on the Yankees’ grave, even if PAbe thinks it’s over.

    If we gain even 1 game over the red sox over the weekend I think it would be worth it to bring Hughes up. He hasn’t faced the Tigers since April, if he’s got a new arm angle then he’ll have an added advantage. While Ponson has been serviceable, I think Hughes gives us the best chance to win. If he get’s shellacked he can always go down again. And with his makeup and promise, I think he’d treat it as another part of the learning process.

    BTW: I think not announcing it in advance also works in our favor since the Tigers then have to prepare for both possibilities.

    • bill

      That is a GREAT name. Babe’s Ghost. I love it. Anyway, I’m confused/concerned with Hughes’ velocity. In some starts Chad Jennings reprted that Phil’s velocity was consistently 94, 95, even reaching 96. In other starts he reported consistent velocity in the low 90’s. I also noticed that in the majors. In some starts, especially when he came up in 07, his fastball was consistently 93-95. In other starts he was in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. In the starts he had a good fastball, he normally pitched well, but in the starts with the sub-par fastball, he got rocked. It may be nothing, but I wonder what causes him to have a difference in velocity between starts.

  • jsbrendog

    this is nto a question you even think about until after sunday’s game. if we sweep and boston is swept the sure, if not, it behooves them to have him pitch out the Milb season and then come up. do not rush him!

  • radnom


  • PhilK

    As detailed by this blog – Ponson is the least worst option and has no future with the Yankees. The Yanks committed to their youth/farm system this year so I think they should ditch Ponson, put Hughes in the rotation for the rest of the year, play hard, to win, with next year’s team and see what that gets.

    • bill

      Exactly. I would personally drive him to the airport. I’m so sick of Sidney Ponson. And get Rasner outta here too. Hughes and Aceves should take their spots

  • tools of ignorance

    As injury prone as Gen. Trey has been (Phil, Joba, IPK), Yanks are going to have to consider bringing back both Moose & Andy. At least they have shown they can make it thru full seasons & been successful.

  • ceciguante

    go with hughes. this season is done, let’s get him some MLB development for a month. ponson sucks, what’s the downside?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos

      The downside is Hughes throwing a stinker because he still can’t command his pitches. Every single complaint you can list about Ponson (too many baserunners, no control, prone to big innings, labors, high pitch counts, hurts the bullpen, etc.) you can also say about 2008 Hughes, but at least Ponson has had bouts of effectiveness this year. Hughes hasn’t.

      But ultimately, the telling part of your statement is when you said “this season is done”. If you truly feel that way, then yes, you advocate for Hughes. (I just hope you’re also advocating for extensive PT for IPK, Melky, Gardner, Cervelli, Aceves, Coke, Melancon, Miranda, etc… if you’re going to throw in the towel, throw it all the way in)

      I don’t feel thay way. Not with 7 games against the White Sox and Red Sox, plus 12 against the Jays, Orioles, and Mariners still on the slate.

  • daneptizl

    So Aceves was already on the 40-man?

    • radnom


  • Dan

    I’ve long been a Fan on Phil and i am not a downer by any means. i still think him and Joba will make the best one two punch in basebal one day. but here is my thinking on what to do with hughes;

    Let him finish the season out in AAA through the playoffs, then bring him up as a long reliever ONLY to finish out the 2008 season; i agree, he needs to get some more MLB experience and he could use the innings on his arm after two shortened seasons due to injury.

    Next year i think you have to plan on NOT having hughes in the rotation, and let him dominate AAA before he comes up. there is no reason to rush his development and if we lose a half season or even one more season of phil to the minors it won’t kill us and it’ll be worth it. my guess is he’ll be dominating AAA by July and get the call up anyway. He’s young, give him time, but theres no need to throw him into the fire before he’s completely ready.

    • Dan

      until then, don’t forget Chase Wright may still be viable option for the big leagues, he can’t be worse than ponson.

      • bill

        He cant be much worse but I dont see him being much better. I personally think Aceves or Hughes should get the nod over him because they have better stuff. Chase Wright has nothing

        • radnom

          How many games have you seen Chase Wright pitch? One?

          And thats probably one more game than you’ve seen Aceves pitch.

          Your “analysis” is laughable.

          • bill

            Okay but I know how hard he throws cuz I read Chad Jennings blog. It would be kinda stupid of me to say Chase Wright has nothing if I didnt know how hard he throws. I know more than you give me credit for. So yor attack of my “analysis” is laughable, cuz you assume I know nothing about Chase Wright’s stuff when really I know more about it than you. It seems all you do is attack my comments

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos

              Bill, for the 18 billionth time, stop overrating velocity. You have a much higher affectation for Chase Wright than for Ian Kennedy simply because Wright throws harder. But IPK is a much better pitcher than Wright, even with a fastball that’s 5-6 MPH slower, because Wright’s pitches are all flat with no movement and he can’t locate them consistently. He throws hard but his stuff is below average.

              Velocity is much less important than command and movement.

              • bill

                You put words in my mouth. I think Kennedy is better than Wright. And if I’m “overrating velocity”, name one YOUNG pitcher currently in the majors succeeding with low velocity. Please, just one. And dont give me Bannister, cuz the league already figured him out

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos

                  Okay, fine. Good to see you hear that… you’ve been beating your Chase Wright drum and badmouthing IPK so consistently, I was beginning to think you thought Wright was better.

                  Sorry for putting words in your mouth.

                • Mike A.

                  Shaun Marcum, Andy Sonnanstine, Scott Baker and Kyle Kendrick says hi.

                • bill

                  Scott Baker and Marcum arent soft throwers. Baker throws 93 and before Marcum got injured he threw around there also. Kyle Kendrick has a near 5 ERA. I’ll give you Sonnanstine … for now. Hew WILL be figured out.

                • bill

                  Ive also never been a Wright supporter, so you might be confused with another commenter. Youre right though about me badmouthing IPK

            • radnom

              “Okay but I know how hard he throws cuz I read Chad Jennings blog. It would be kinda stupid of me to say Chase Wright has nothing if I didnt know how hard he throws. I know more than you give me credit for.”

              No. Thats pretty much exactly what I gave you credit for. For one thing, Wright can throw in the low 90’s so I don’t know where youre discrediting him based on velocity. But either way, that says nothing about his command etc which is more important. I honestly doubt you can have told me either of Wright’s or Aceves’ primary secondary pitches without looking it up, and yet you claim “Wright has nothing” like its hard fact.

              • bill

                I know from the blog that Aceves has a wide arsenal of secondary pitches: splitter, changeup, slider, curveball. I also know that from an interview from”Down on the Farm” on the BP show on YES. I knew fom the blog that Wright’s best secondary pitch is a change and he has a developing curve. He throws a lot of sinkers also. I follow the blog eveyday to get detailed analysis on the SWB starters. But you probably wont give me credit for this info and you will say I just looked this up. Again, I know more than you give me credit for. And I honestly doubt you could have told me the information I just wrote.

          • Glen L.

            why is everyone so mean all the time? you would never say that to a stranger’s face during a conversation at the ballpark .. so why do it behind the veil of the internet?

    • PhilK

      Dan’s comment is reasonable but I would say we want successful big leaguers, not AAA guys. Kennedy is doing very well in AAA but not so much in the Bigs. I think the difference in batters’ skill is large and, as long as Hughes (and Kennedy for that matter) are healthy throw ’em to the wolves for the rest of the season. One simply needs to get experience at that level.

  • Hitman

    I think this season has all but sealed Hughes’ fate that he won’t get an automatic rotation spot next season especially if Aceves does well in the time he has. My question is this. Does Hughes get sent to the AFL to get some innings under his belt?

    • Mike A.

      Too much service time I believe, there’s a cutoff for the AzFL.

  • Geno

    Bring Hughes up, and Kennedy too. The more big league experience we can get them this year, the better off we’ll be next year.