Phil Hughes: Good & Lucky


I don’t think even the most diehard of fans expected fifth starter suddenly turned third starter Phil Hughes to be as good as he has been through four starts. He’s allowed just nine singles and one homer through 25 innings, which mean the league is hitting just .124 off the 23-year-old. However, as Eno at Bloomberg Sports points out, Hughes has also been really lucky. That ultra-low average is backed up by a a microscopic .162 BABIP, and he’s also stranded 87.4% of the batters than have reached base against him. As those two regress back to normalcy, his 1.44 ERA will start to look more like his 4.23 xFIP, which is still pretty damn good.

The article isn’t all doom-and-gloom, Eno definitely gives Hughes props for the improvements he’s made and the natural progression of a young starter. Make sure you check it out, it covers both ends of the spectrum.

Categories : Asides


  1. I get to see him tomorrow–so I hope the regression staves off for at least one more start

  2. jon says:

    Rest-of-season projections that use this knowledge of home run rates predict that Hughes will put up about a 4.3 ERA from here on out. This sounds like a big letdown, but it would still result in an ERA around 3.70 for the year. If you told a Hughes owner that he would get a 3.70 ERA with a WHIP under 1.3 and almost one strikeout per inning from his pitcher by the end of the year, he’d be thrilled.

    works for me

  3. Good read; I’ve been thoroughly impressed by Hughes this season but I still interested to see if he can mix his pitches more effectively as the season progresses.

    • Thomas says:

      Well according to fangraphs, he has at least mixed his pitches better this season than last season and the ones before (of course in those season he was in the pen, AAA, or hurt), throwing more cutters and less fastballs, curves, and changes, so that is good news.

    • ROBTEN aka don’t call me Dr. Robert Matthew Tennyson II, Esq. says:

      I went to look at the breakdown of pitches this season and it’s interesting:

      Fangraphs has Hughes throwing the fastball only 56.7% of the time, down from a career average 63%. I would have guessed that he’s throwing the fastball more often than that, but I’ll chalk it up to the false knowledge of observation.

      The biggest jumps are in how often he goes to the cutter (27.6% as opposed to 16.4% last season) over the curve (only 13.2%, down from almost 21% for his career). While, granted, the cutter is a good pitch, so is his curve. He’s also throwing the change-up less than half of the time compared to his previous times in the rotation.

      I expect that if hitters start to adjust to the cutter, he’ll throw the curve a bit more. I just hope that he doesn’t fall in love with the cutter so much that the other pitches start to suffer.

      But, with the results so far, I’m not complaining, just extending Matt’s observations.

      • Evan in NYC says:

        Once the Yankees make their first go-round through the league I think we will see more adjustments from him. He can’t continue to go out there and throw the Fastball and Cutter ever night….or can he?

        • Ray Fuego says:

          Oh my Mo!!! Sounds eerily familiar to.. YOU GUESSED IT! MARIANO RIVERA! Mr. Sandman has been using the same pitches for years and no one still hasn’t been able to hit it consistently, but I do expect St.Phil to mix in the curve once his cutter regresses in effectiveness. Its one of the reason its not being used as much, even though I would prefer him mixing up the two pitches during his outings.

  4. larryf says:

    I hope he challenges them inside with his fastball. Down with nibbling! And an effective curve/change when the count is 1-0 or 2-1 will lead to good things as well. Hope Gardy runs wild off Victor M.

  5. BklynJT says:

    What is the difference between xFIP and FIP? How does a xFIP correlate to a projected ERA?

  6. Watching his starts this year, it’s looked like he’s gotten better command of his cutter as the game has gone on — more break, better location. I’ll do some PITCHf/x grubbing on this

  7. Evan in NYC says:

    He also seems to have taken that 8th inning mentality to the starting mound. He isn’t pitching around guys anymore, he is going up there and throwing his 94 mph heater challenging them. Mixing in his cutter and breaking ball have also been a huge advantage he is utilizing keeping hitters off balance. Hughes looks like a much more confident pitcher out there than in the past.

  8. nathan says:

    Hughes has been great, I root for the other 4 days to go by quickly just to watch him pitch. Keep it up Hughesie.

    • Ray Fuego says:

      He is a very entertaining pitcher. Also after toying with both of our prized pitchers so much, its good to see him finally obtaining some success.

      • Chris says:

        How did the Yankees toy with Hughes?

        I understand the argument with Joba, even though I disagree. With Hughes, however, the only thing they did was shift him to the pen midseason last year. That’s hardly toying with him.

        • Mike HC says:

          The only problem I have with the way the Yanks handled Joba is how they have all but given up on his Yankee starting career. Pettitte has a bad throwing shoulder, Javy is all kinds of messed up and Hughes is quite unproven (and lucky as this article pointed out) and on an innings limit. Sergio Mitre is our next best starter. Not exactly a confidence builder right there. I don’t see why the Yanks would not want to have Joba as a potential starting option right now and later in the year.

          I get that Mo and Ho are a bit banged up and some others are struggling so Joba is a huge help in the pen. I just can’t help but think we might regret not having him start down the line.

        • Ray Fuego says:

          I was speaking in generalizations about both pitchers collectively. Everything was up in the air especially in spring training when everybody thought Joba was the sure fire choice for the 5th spot. We can see now that Hughes is looking like the right choice. I’m glad the Yankee brass ignore the fans/media or we would end up like the MLB’s version of the cleveland browns (Sorry just came back from a NFL blog)

      • nathan says:

        True. Its kind of a relief that he is in the majors starting for the Yanks. Its been quite a journey following his progress, injury battle, disappointments and success. Crazy part is he is only 23, that bodes well for the Yanks too.

  9. Rose says:

    People need to have more faith in Phil Pubes…

    AJ, Pettitte (when he returns), and even CC seem for a reality check at some point…but let’s watch them ride this out until then

  10. Rose says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I forgot my reading glasses…

    /Uncle Frank’d

  11. dkidd says:

    less hr/fly ball could have something to do with phil’s development of the cutter

    just from watching (with my own eyes), i’ve seen some fly balls that the batter “just missed” because of the cutter’s late movement

  12. Kevin M. says:

    On thing they aren’t accounting for when talking about his fuure regression is that his walk total is unusually right now due to being squeezed in a start and having unusually bad control in another start. When that normalizes it will partially offest increases in BABIP and HR/fly ball rates.

    I think a sub 3.50 ERA is realistic….which would be fantastic.

  13. Ray Fuego says:

    Can he be considered for the Rookie of the Year award? Sorry if its a dumb question.

  14. Accent Shallow says:

    I expect the HR rate to get worse (1 in 25 innings? Being as he’s not CMW, that’s probably not sustainable). I do expect his walk rate to improve (currently 4.3/9), which should hopefully help offset that.

  15. Clayton says:

    Doesn’t Hughes have an innings cap this season? Who’s filling in for him when he reaches the maximum threshold?

    I hope J. Vasquez figures out how to fix himself. We need him to do well. If we have injuries to the starting rotation, I’m not real confident that we have depth that we can rely on for the long haul. What if AJ Burnett gets injured and other health issues come back with Pettite? Would we trade one of our top prospects in our depleted farm system to obtain a pitcher mid way thru the season? We need Vasquez to figure himself out quickly.

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