I just can’t let go of high expectations for Hughes


Despite Alex Rodriguez‘s and Jorge Posada‘s torrid Aprils, the Yankees had plenty of problems at the beginning of 2007. Their pitching situation got so bad that Carl Pavano had to start Opening Day. Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina presented quality options behind him, but the final rotation spots went to Kei Igawa and Darrell Rasner. Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright made starts in early April, thought they weren’t much better. Finally, for a start on April 26, the Yankees recalled Phil Hughes from AAA.

Photo credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

At the time RAB was just two months old. Yet in that time we’d already made our excitement over Phil Hughes well known. For many of us he was the first prospect we followed all the way through the minors. For others, he represented something we hadn’t seen from the Yankees in many, many years: a Top 5 pitching prospect. Even though Hughes was just 20 years old, the expectations for him were through the roof. In retrospect, it was a bit much to pin on a player who had thrown just 153.1 professional innings at that point.

To express our excitement, Mike and I combined to write a massive Hughes post, by far the longest post in our young site’s history at the time. Mike spend the first half writing about how Hughes ended up on the Yankees, from his selection as the No. 23 overall pick in 2004 to the Yankees’ pitching problems that forced his call-up. In the second half I compared Hughes to a number of high-profile minor league pitchers. By the end I assumed everyone was as pumped for Hughes as we were.

From there it was an up and down act for Hughes. He didn’t dazzle in his debut, nor did he get lit up. In his second start, as we all remember, he was working on a no-hitter when he popped his hamstring. He was decent upon his return in 2007, but then something happened during the off-season and Hughes didn’t return the same pitcher in 2008. He spent most of the year on the DL and then in minors. In 2009 he was the sixth starter, though he struggled most of the time. He did finally find himself in the bullpen, giving us hope for this season.

The Yankees skipped Hughes the first time through the rotation, so tonight marks his season debut. I know I should have learned from my previous behavior. I should understand that Hughes might not pitch well tonight. It’s just one game, after all, and Hughes’s first real appearance of the year at that. Yet if he does fail, I’ll still feel that disappointment. No, I won’t boo him, but it will still feel like a big letdown. That’s how big the expectations were for Hughes back in 2007. I don’t know why, but I haven’t been able to let go of those.

For an example of the cognitive divide I’m experiencing:

A reasonable expectation: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

My ridiculous expectation: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Do other fans place lofty, even unrealistic expectations on their favorite players? It’s pretty unreasonable to do so, but sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. For some reason, I just can’t quit expecting the world from Hughes.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Andy Summers says:

    As far as last year as a starter, he was pretty good besides that one shitfestival in Baltimore. I’m much higher on Hughes than I am on Chamberlain, no major injuries in his history…little things here and there, but somewhat clean bill of health, his stuff looked pretty good as a starter last season and the Yankee brass obviously likes him enough to give him Chamberlain’s job…I’m optimistic too. Hughes is also one of my favs.

  2. Marc R. says:

    I still feel like Phil is another javy Vazquez and I meant that as a compliment. I feel a comparable career to javy is a reasonable expectation as long as health isnt an issue.

  3. John says:

    Joe – well-written. I am right there with you. you have explained exactly how I feel. i want phil to be great every time out despite how logical i try to be about it and how unreasonable i know it is.

  4. YankFan says:

    I’m psyched about his game & his season. I expect him to be the best #5 in baseball this year. I wouldn’t be suprised if he’s ahead of Andy by year-end.

    I hope he takes last year’s attitude from the pen & just goes at the hitters, don’t nibble on the corners.

    • WIlliam says:

      Food for thought. What if, by September’s end, the Yankees staff era looks something like this?

      AJ- 3.8

      I think 4 of these are pretty reasonable, and Phil’s era is definitely within his reach. If this occurs, and Phil has an ERA 1/4 a point lower than Andy’s. a pretty significant margin, what happens come the postseason? You only have 4 starters? On one hand, how do you not start the winningest postseason pitcher of all time, when he’s till a good pitcher? On the other hand, how do you bench a pitcher that had a significantly lower era then a pitcher that is starting?What if Phil really breaks out and has a Verlander’esque breakout season? What then? Obviously, these are all good problems the Yankees would have, yet they are very important as well.

  5. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Well the Yankees are seeing something out of him. I’m not expecting the world out of him but I wouldn’t be surprised if he flat out dominates.

  6. No matter what we see out of Hughes this season, I will not be surprised. If he dominates and wins the CY, I won’t be surprised. If he has a season like Joba did in ’09, I won’t be surprised. If he gets absolutely shelled…well, maybe I’ll be a bit surprised, but not overly.

  7. Thomas says:

    I feel exactly the same way Joe. I have high expectations (6IP 4H 1ER 1BB 6K) and realize they are unreal, but I just can’t make more realistic ones.

  8. AndrewYF says:

    Actually, a realistic expectation would be more along the lines of his typical 5 IP, 3 ER, 20 pitches per inning fare. He’ll need this entire year to learn to be somewhat economical with his pitches, and it won’t happen right away.

  9. Chris A says:

    I kind of feel the same way with Hughes. I definitely feel like I expect an amazing outing out of him, but I won’t be disappointed if he pitches decently. I’ve always liked Hughes a lot, and while I am upset that Joba is not in the rotation, I have never liked Joba as much as I like Hughes.

  10. Dubes says:

    Hughes will have a sub-4.00 ERA this year. Count on it.

  11. larryf says:

    If he can control the inside corner with his fastball and throw his curve for strikes on 1-0 and 2-1 counts, we win!!! Not expecting much with the changeup but after Javy-we could use a break from the changeup….

    • Mike HC says:

      After Javy we could use a break from everything being up in the zone.

      Here is to hoping Hughes keeps his pitches down.

  12. How Ya Doin says:

    I’d say a reasonable over/under for IP for tonight is 4.1 innings. Takers?

  13. Mike HC says:

    I have same expectations for the season. 3.6 era and 1.29 whip. I am all on Hughes bandwagon. But this is the only time I have jumped on. I have not been on him like you guys have 4 years ago. Now is the time I feel it. Of course I felt it for Joba last year too and we all know how that worked out.

  14. A.D. says:

    I think all fans come up with craze hope & expectations for their prospect crushes.

  15. ShuutoHeat says:

    We all expect a lot from our favorite players, it is because we want to see the best out of them. I hope Hughes has a great game tonight, but I’ll also be realistic about my expectations.

    God forbid some Yankee “fans” boo him if he wasn’t setting down the opposition.

  16. Cam says:

    By some dumb luck, a friend of a friend ended up getting field level seats the night of his debut. His friend knew how big of a fan I was so he asked me to go. Didn’t have to pay for the tickets, just enjoyed being at the first game Phil ever pitched in the majors. I’ve always held out hope that he would turn into the pitcher we all want him to be, so some day I can say I was at his first game. I’ve got that ticket saved just in case I can grab is autograph.

  17. I just can’t let go of high expectations for Hughes
    By Joseph Pawlikowski

    I wish I knew how to quit you.

  18. JGS says:

    Felix Hernandez is only 2.5 months older than Hughes, therefore Hughes is a bust unless he can pitch as well or better than Felix


  19. mustang says:

    “My ridiculous expectation: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K”

    Me too.

    Totally, Totally agree.

    He can’t do any worst then what his former “Big Three” mate Ian ” rubber neck” Kennedy did in the Dodgers home opener. Ouch!!!


    • Dirty Pena says:

      He can’t?

      • mustang says:

        I guess he can but 6 hits, 6 run with 3 HR in 4.1 IP is really bad for anyone. I’m hoping for a little more from Hughes.

      • Dirty Pena says:

        4 of his 28 career starts have been definitively worse than 4.1 IP, 6 ER, and in six others he didn’t make it past 13 outs. So, I’m pretty sure he can be worse (not that I think he will.)

        • mustang says:

          Yeah your right, but Hughes didn’t win 2007 MiLB pitcher award or go to the same college as Randy Johnson and Barry Zito so I’m hoping for more.


          • bexarama says:


            • Dirty Pena says:

              The above describes Ian Kennedy, who apparently blows and any comparions to him and Hughes are off-base and LOL worthy.

              • bexarama says:


                I just don’t see what going to the same college as RJ and BZ have anything to do with … anything?

                And I agree with you. I’m not EXPECTING him to be worse tonight, but he COULD be. In fact, at this point in the year, I’d be less surprised with an outing like Kennedy’s than Joe’s admittedly unrealistic second expectation above.

  20. bexarama says:

    If Hughes goes six innings or more and gives us three or less ER, I’ll be very happily surprised. Is this just me being pessimistic/purposefully keeping expectations low or does everyone else have really freakishly high expectations?

  21. YankeeScribe says:

    Low expectations for his first start but I expect him to have an ERA under 4 for the season

  22. Ansky says:

    Hughes will finish the year with a sub 1.00 ERA and will win WS MVP. After which Dave Eiland and Andy Pettitte will remove his mask and reveal that it was Casey Kelly all along.


  23. Dirty Pena says:

    My fantasy team needs a good start from Mr. Hughes in my quest to get out of last place in the Premier League.

    • Mike HC says:

      Well, Ervin Santana is a good back up plan if it does not work out. Thanks for Qualls. I hope he still has the job after last night, ha

      • Dirty Pena says:

        Hah. Yeah I think Ervin is probably slightly worse than Qualls, but with Soria, Lidge, and Rodney in a 20 team league I’m ahead of the closer curve with or without Qualls. My starting pitcher situation is terrible with Hughes and Wade Davis as my current 2/3.

  24. Nick L says:

    Shit I just hope he pitches well… I try not to put expectations on him anymore, I just hope for the best.

  25. Poopy Pants says:

    If he gives up more than a run in 6 innings, we can just ship him off to the ‘pen.

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