Down to just the final dozen games of the season, the picture of how the Yankees were going to manage Phil Hughes‘ workload this season is in complete focus. They skipped two of his starts earlier in the year and took advantage of the All Star break to create what amounted to a third skipped start, and he cruises into tonight’s outing against the Rays having thrown 163 innings on the season, by far a career high.
Because lists are nice and easy, here’s a look at Phil’s workloads throughout the years for comparison…
- 2009: 111.2 IP (majors, minors, playoffs)
- 2008: 99.2 IP (majors, minors, Arizona Fall League)
- 2007: 116 IP (majors, minors, playoffs)
- 2006: 146 IP (minors)
- 2005: 86.1 IP (minors)
- 2004: 5 IP (minors, this was his draft year)
So yeah, the 163 innings Hughes has thrown this year is greater than any workload he’s experienced recently. He’s held up pretty well considering, with no discernible loss of velocity or complaints of a dead arm or anything like that. Of course workload related health issues usually don’t pop up until a year or two after the big innings increase, but that’s not something worth worrying about right now. The important thing is that Phil is healthy at the moment and capable of helping his team down the stretch and into the playoffs.
With the way the schedule lines up, Hughes has three more starts left. Tonight against the Rays, Sunday against the Red Sox, and then next Saturday against the Red Sox again. The Yanks have indicated that there are “no plans” to skip another one of his starts this season, so there’s no reason to expect him to miss one of those starts. If anything, they’ll probably cut one or two of them short like they did with Joba Chamberlain last September (not that I approve). After those three starts Hughes would then line up perfectly to start Game Two of the ALDS on normal rest, Game Three on six day’s rest, or Game Four on seven day’s rest. Based on how he feels and pitches the last three times out, the Yanks will have plenty of options for how to deploy him in the postseason.
Let’s just say, hypothetically, that Hughes throws a total of 15 innings in those three starts, even though I suspect it’ll probably be something more like 17 or 18. That would put him at 178 for the season, right in that 175-180 range we all assumed. Didn’t even take any kind of crazy plan or Hughes Rules either, a few skipped starts never hurt anyone. The 178 innings represent roughly a 32 inning jump from his previous career high, set four seasons ago, and about a 66 inning jump from last season.
We have absolutely no way of knowing how Hughes will react to the extra work until next year or maybe even the year after, but it’s hard to consider 2010 anything but a success for the righthander. He’s held up under the workload and his overall body of work amounts to 1.9 WAR, essentially league average right now and he should finish a touch above that at the end of the season. At 24-years-old, Phil’s best years are ahead of him, and the job the Yanks did controlling his innings this year will play a major role in those years.