Hello, back and ready for some baseball, football, tennis and etc.
So, what the heck is wrong with Phil Hughes? No one really expected him to maintain his stellar start where up until June 6th he had a 2.54 ERA. But as of late, he has been pretty awful. in his last 3 starts, in 14.2 IP, Hughes has given up 13 runs. He's given up 4 HRs in that time, and only pitched decently against the pathetic-hitting Oakland A's. So what gives?
It could be just fatigue. Hughes has never pitched this many innings before in the big leagues and he's laboring. He's pitched 155.1 innings this season, almost double his former major league high. The highest he's ever pitched in the minors is 146.1 IP, and that was in 2006 in the A+ and AA leagues.
Take for instance the August 25th game against the Blue Jays. Hughes pitches were all over the place. He walked 5 in 3.2 innings and threw 102 pitches. 66 of his 102 pitches were strikes.
Another reason may be that Hughes has turned into a more 2 pitch pitcher as the season has gone on. Of those 102 pitches, only 7 were cutters. Compare that to a May 12th game against Detroit where Hughes pitched 7 innings of shutout ball, Hughes threw 27 cutters. In that game, Hughes only walked 1. Is Hughes less sure of the pitch. Can he not control it now?
One more reason to believe it is fatigue is the tightness of his pitches. Compare the movement on his pitches from the 5/12 game to the 8/25 game. Notice how his movement in the 5/12 game is much tighter on both the horizontal and vertical planes; whereas in the 8/25 game, the movement is more erratic and nowhere near as tight. That's sloppiness in mechanics and most likely, arm fatigue. Click on the images below and compare the 5/12 (left chart) with the right one (8/25) game.
Hughes only turned 24 just 2 and a half months ago. And consider this is his first full year of major league pitching, Hughes hasn't really done that badly. However, the Yankees should be extra cautious with him, perhaps even throwing him to the bullpen—though that likely won't happen. Yes the Yankees desperately need pitching for the stretch run, but as of right now, skipping Phil Hughes altogether until maybe the playoffs is the best answer.