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« Young and Old Dodgers | Main | Vernon Wells's Wheelhouse »
Wednesday
Apr132011

Phil Hughes' Early Season Blues

Yes, Phil Hughes' fastball velocity is down. We get it. Is that his only problem? Probably not, but it sure makes it harder for him to be successful with his other pitches. Let's take a look at how he's locating compared to the last three seasons.

Phil Hughes Pitch Location (All Pitch Types)
(Click to enlarge)

The major difference so far has been Hughes' attempt to come in on lefties. The main reason for this is that he's been relying on his cutter more over his first two starts, while shying away from his velocity-challenged fastball.

Phil Hughes Pitch Selection vs. LHB
FB%CHNG%CURV%SLD%CUT%
2008-1063.5%4.4%20.5%1.3%10.2%
201111.9%6.0%13.4%0.0%68.7%
Phil Hughes Pitch Selection vs. RHB
FB%CHNG%CURV%SLD%CUT%
2008-1061.5%0.1%17.0%3.2%18.1%
201112.9%1.4%20.0%0.0%65.7%

Having to rely more on his cutter has not produced positive results for Hughes. Batters are hitting .412 off it, compared to .290 in his three previous seasons; he's only induced a handful of swings and misses on the pitch as well. In his three previous seasons, Hughes was able to get opposing righties to chase his cutter out of the zone 38.4 percent of the time. So far this season, he's produced just 2 total swings on 21 cutters out of the zone to RHB. This could be a sign that his location is somewhat iffy. But it could also be a side effect of the ineffectiveness of his fastball. With batters seeing the cutter more, it's likely easier for them to lay off the pitch when it's thrown to the outside edge of the plate. And the reduced velocity on his fastball means batters have more time to identify the pitch, differentiating it from the cutter.

Phil Hughes vs. LHB
PPAK%BB%Miss%Strk%Foul%
2008-10280666620.3%11.4%18.2%62.7%46.6%
201167170.0%5.9%3.0%70.1%48.5%
Phil Hughes vs. RHB
PPAK%BB%Miss%Strk%Foul%
2008-10270067622.0%5.5%21.5%67.6%46.2%
201170166.3%18.8%6.7%55.7%53.3%

With only two starts under his belt, you can't really get too bent out of shape about any of these numbers, although they don't inspire much confidence going forward. His swing and miss rate is pretty awful even for the limited sample. Basically, opposing batters are making contact on 95 percent of their swings against Hughes. He's obviously not going to be racking up the Ks at that rate.

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