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

RAB on The Shore Sports Report
Melky & Hinske get their rings

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.

RAB on The Shore Sports Report
Melky & Hinske get their rings
  • Andy Summers

    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.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      he was ok last yr not pretty good. The game in baltimore was a disaster but it was not the only blemish on his record.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        With that being said he did a nice job tonight

  • Marc R.

    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.

  • John

    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.

  • YankFan

    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

      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.

      • bexarama

        these would be problems that are really good to have.

  • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

    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.

  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    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.

  • Thomas

    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.

  • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

    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.

  • http://161ststreet.wordpress.com/ Chris A

    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.

  • Dubes

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

    • Angelo

      Hughes will have a sub-1.00 ERA this year. Count on it.

      • SamVa

        Phil Hughes’ ERA will look as if he didn’t pitch at all. Count on it.

        • Beef Hammerdong


      • Marcus

        Hughes’s ERA will turn into a black hole that sucks all balls in play towards its center, causing the game of baseball to turn into a singularity. Differentially equate on it.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

          Hughes’s ERA will turn into a black hole that sucks all balls in play towards its center, causing the game of baseball to turn into a singularity.

          You know how Jersey Shore has a character named “The Situation”?

          If it was set at Princeton instead of the shore, they’d have a character called “The Singularity”.

          • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            “If it was set at Princeton instead of the shore, they’d have a character called ‘The Singularity.'”

            You can find him hanging out at Tiger Inn with his buddy “The Nepotism.”

            • WIlliam

              Dp you guys live in Princeton/go to school there?

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

                Not me. Can’t speak for Mondesi.

              • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                Nope, just kidding around.

    • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

      I’ll take that bet. I think he’ll be barely above it.

  • larryf

    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

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

      Here is to hoping Hughes keeps his pitches down.

  • http://deleted How Ya Doin

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

    • Thomas

      I’d take the over. I’d be more likely to set to o/u at 5.1 or 5.2 IP.

    • Mike HC

      That is too low. I would put it at 5

  • Mike HC

    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.

  • A.D.

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

    • A.D.

      Hit post a little too quick…

      Hughes is such a common one for Yankees fans because he was the first big prospect in a long time. Jesus is similar in being the only big bat in the system (and crushing it). Where other guys like Cano, IPK, Joba, Gardner, etc have had more mix between fans.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

      I still think Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens has some good baseball left in him. It’s not too late.

  • ShuutoHeat

    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.

  • Cam

    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.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

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

    I wish I knew how to quit you.

  • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

    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


  • mustang

    “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

      He can’t?

      • mustang

        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

          I agree, I don’t think he will be worse, but he certainly can.

      • Dirty Pena

        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

          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


            • Dirty Pena

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

              • bexarama


                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.

                • bexarama

                  HAS anything to do with anything *

                  Sorry, still distracted by Pettitte potentially taking off Hughes’ clothes.

                • Dirty Pena

                  WOW save it for the midnight post, bex! Tsk tsk.

  • bexarama

    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?

    • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

      I would be very happy with that line. I think expecting more from Hughes this April is asking for heartbreak, ruin, tragedy, and multiple interrobangs.

      • bexarama

        But multiple interrobangs are a good thing!

  • YankeeScribe

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

  • Ansky

    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.


    • bexarama

      a. this is very funny.
      b. except I don’t really remember what you said because I think I went into a trance at the idea of Pettitte taking some of Hughes’ clothes off.

      • Ansky

        I lol’d.

  • Dirty Pena

    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

      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

        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.

  • Nick L

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

  • Poopy Pants

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