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Entries in Phil Hughes (12)

Tuesday
Dec172013

Phil Hughes Getting Lit Up in 2-Strike Counts

The Minnesota Twins' starting rotation has failed to put hitters away for years now. In 2013, Twinkies starters had the lowest strikeout rate (12.3 percent of batters faced) and allowed the highest two-strike slugging percentage (.355) in the majors. Minnesota signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes for a combined $73 million to add some Ks to a chronically underpowered staff, but the latter hurler might actually make the club's problem in finishing off opposing batters worse.

Hitters are typically toast by the time they get down to their last strike, slugging just .274 in such situations during the 2013 season. Not against Hughes, though. The erstwhile Yankee prodigy served up 10 home runs in two-strike counts (tied for seventh-most among starting pitchers) and surrendered a .399 slugging percentage. Among pitchers making at least 20 starts last year, only Roberto Hernandez (.405) and Joe Sauders (.404) let hitters do more two-strike damage. The two names directly following Hughes look depressingly familiar to Twins fans: Scott Diamond and Kevin Correia (both at .394).

Why has Hughes, a former top-five prospect who barely has a better career park-and-league-adjusted ERA (five percent below average) than the undrafted Diamond (eight percent below), been so hittable in two-strike counts? The 27-year-old tries to overpower batters, elevating his fastball and nearly scrapping his curveball in favor of a speedier slider. Unfortunately, hitters are making loud, frequent contact against Hughes' supposed put-away pitches.

In two-strike situations, Hughes relies almost exclusively on his fastball (thrown 51 percent of the time) and slider (40 percent). He goes for the kill with the fastball, throwing it harder with two strikes (92.7 MPH) than in other counts (92.2 MPH) and peppering the upper third of the strike zone. Hughes threw 56 percent of his two-strike fastballs high in the zone last year, far above than the 42.5 percent average for MLB starters. Pitchers tend to miss bats with elevated two-strike heaters, but Hughes allowed scads of contact.

Hughes' fastball contact rate in 2-strike counts, 2013 

 

       Average fastball contact rate in 2-strike counts, 2013 

 

Hitters came up empty a mere 13.9 percent of the time that they swung against a high Hughes fastball, compared to the 22 percent average for starters. Correia (14 percent) actually got as many whiffs when he climbed the ladder. It's probably not a good sign when your fastball can be described as Correia-esque.

Hughes' slider also suffers from a lack of swings and misses with two-strikes (27.1 percent, below the 30 percent average), largely because hitters don't chase the pitch outside of the strike zone. Check out opponents' swing rate on two-strike sliders thrown off the plate against Hughes, and then the MLB average.

Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Hughes' two-strike sliders, 2013

 

MLB average swing rate by pitch location vs. two-strike sliders, 2013

 

Overall, hitters chased two-strike sliders out of the strike zone 43.5 percent of the time. But against Hughes? Just 35.6 percent. That's below both Mike Pelfrey (36.6 percent) and Correia (38.8 percent).

As the game's most fly ball-centric pitcher, Hughes will undoubtedly benefit in moving from Yankee Stadium (which has boosted home runs by 19 percent compared to a neutral park over the past three years, per The Bill James Handbook) to Target Field (which has suppressed homers by nine percent). But when it comes to burying hitters, he has far too much in common with his new teammates.

Friday
Sep142012

Red Sox weren't smart against Phil Hughes and Yankees

Last night, the Red Sox dropped a 2-0 decision to the Yankees. It was the sixth time the Sox have been shut out this season, this time being held to six hits and one walk against Phil Hughes (15-12) and three relievers.

In today's Boston Globe, Peter Abraham wrote: 

“Hughes pitched up in the strike zone and we couldn’t lay off of it,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “Made a lot of quick outs swinging at some of those pitches. We were a little immature in our approach at times.”

Cody Ross, who was 1 for 4 batting cleanup, agreed with Valentine.

“You fall victim to it. You just try for quality at-bats and not grinding. When you do that you get quick outs,” he said. “It’s one thing to be aggressive, but another thing to be smart about it. We just weren’t smart the whole night.”

The team at BaseballAnalytics.org wanted to show you what Valentine and Ross meant.

Let's break down the Yankee pitchers performances

Pitching IP H BB SO BF Pit Str Ctct StS StL
Phil Hughes, W (15-12) 7.1 5 1 7 27 95 68 38 14 16
Boone Logan, H (20) 0.1 0 0 0 1 5 4 3 0 1
David Robertson, H (26) 0.1 0 0 0 1 3 2 1 0 1
Rafael Soriano, S (38) 1 1 0 1 4 12 9 4 2 3
Team Totals 9 6 1 8 33 115 83 46 16 21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 9/14/2012.

Let's focus on starter Phil Hughes.

Here is the array of Hughes pitches last night:

Over half of Hughes pitches (53) were in the upper half of the zone:

Over half of those 53 pitches (31) were swung at by Sox batters:

Of those 31 swings by 16 different batters, three resulted in hits (Mike Aviles and James Loney singled, while Yankee killer Pedro Ciriaco doubled) and 13 resulted in outs including seven strikeouts.

Here are the pitches that the Red Sox swung at:

Here is the summary and final support of Bobby Valentine's assertion: 

  • There were 53 pitches in the upper half of the zone
  • There were 31 swings and 11 misses
  • There were 37 strikes and balls put in play
  • There were nine pitches put in play and 11 fouled off
  • There 31 pitches in the strike zone and six pitches that were chased.
  • There were six called strikes  
  • There were just three swings and misses on the lower half of the zone. T
  • The Sox looked at 10 strikes in the lower half of the zone, but only took three upper half strikes.
  • The two hits in the lower half of the zone came from Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Say you want about Bobby Valentine as a manager, he's remains a very good analyst and when he said the Sox weren't smart against Phil Hughes, he was absolutely right.

Wednesday
Sep072011

Phil hughes' Location

Phil Hughes pitched fairly well against the Baltimore Orioles last night at a rain-soaked Yankee Stadium, allowing 5 hits in 6 innings while striking out 6 and walking just one.

Here's his pitch location prior to yesterday's start compared to last night:

The most noticeable change from last night was how he kept the ball down against lefties, even when throwing inside.