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« Hamstringing Hamilton | Main | Huff vs. Hunter »

Phil Hughes' 2010 Cutter

Phil Hughes' season was neither awful, nor spectacular. After a great first couple of months, Hughes slipped a bit with a stretch of less than optimal starts. And despite what the media might say, his problems were probably not caused by a skipped start in June.

I wanted to take a look at Phil's cutter to see if there was any noticeable change throughout the season. Here are a few heatmaps along with some interesting data points.

Phil Hughes' Cutter, April & May

On the left, you can see all the hits coming off Hughes' cutter and their locations in the field throughout April and May this season. On the right, you can see the movement on his cutter. This is determined as the pitch is crossing the plate. The x-axis indicates 13 feet per second drop from a pitch as it crosses the plate, with each grid line equaling 4 ft/sec (one line above the axis would equal 9 ft/sec in downward movement, one line below equals 17 ft/sec). The y-axis equals 0 ft/sec in horizontal movement.

So the above heat map indicates that Hughes' cutter in April and May had an average downward movement of 12.5 ft/sec and a right to left movement averaging 7.8 ft/sec. Here are the heat maps for the rest of the season.

Phil Hughes' Cutter, June & July

Phil Hughes' Cutter, August, September & October (regular season only)

The first thing that stands out is Hughes' June and July heat map. He was not as consistent with his cutter's movement, as you can see the blue creep toward the center of the map a bit more. Same thing from August on, although not nearly as bad. In April and May, Hughes did not seem to throw any flat cutters, as you can see nothing at all nearing that y-axis of 0 ft/sec.

April - May752517.8-12.5
June - July511667.1-12.7
August - October331267.3-13.3

PA: Plate Appearances decided on a cutter
P: Cutters thrown
H-PlateVel: Horizontal movement in feet/sec
V-PlateVel: Vertical movement in feet/sec

April - May83.5%2892.276
June - July81.0%2993.493
August - October76.3%3093.385

Cntct%: Contact Rate (in play + foul / swings) on cutters
Fly-Dist: Fly ball distance on cutters

Interesting that Hughes got more swings and misses on his cutter as the season went on. In the middle of the season, Hughes' cutter had the lowest average right to left movement. Not surprising that he was hit hardest during that stretch. It's also interesting that Hughes' cutter had more drop as the season went on, almost an entire foot per second from the beginning of the season to the end. I'm not sure what exactly this tells us, if much of anything at all. Perhaps it can be connected to a decrease in spin on his cutter, as he maintained an overall velocity of 89 mph on the pitch throughout the season. It could also be attributed to a slight change in release point or delivery.

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