Hughes An Unsung Hero

In this Yankees downturn Phil Hughes has been of the few players to step up.  Hughes pitched a gem last night in Boston to help keep the Yankees in first place. It does not matter what the lineup for Boston looked like, it was a huge spot in a pressure situation, as it would have been embarrassing for the Yankees to drop that series vs. Boston. Hughes pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and a walk while striking out seven. He really has been an unsung player this season.

Hughes will probably never be the ace the Yankees hoped for, but since April he has really established himself as a solid starter. Because he has never lived up to being an ace some people have unfairly criticized him. Since April, Hughes is 14-9, with a 3.53 ERA. You have to throw out April because of the adjustments he has made since then. He is a completely different pitcher now.

First in April, Hughes’ cutter was just an awful pitch and he scrapped it. Then, Hughes started to struggle vs. lefties, so he developed a changeup. After that he started to struggle vs. righties, so he developed a slider. Hughes and the coaching staff really deserve a lot of credit for making these adjustments. To top it all off Hughes is 10-4, with a 3.56 ERA at home, in a park that does not suit his style whatsoever. Imagine what he could do if he pitched in one the parks out west, where less of his fly balls would go out of the park.

Having had an injury plagued career up to this point, Hughes has remained injury free and has pitched 175 innings this season. With the injuries the Yankees have had to endure those innings are huge. His 3.70 SO/BB ratio is the best of his career. Hughes sometimes gets wild in the zone, but his 2.1 BB/9 is extremely impressive.  Last night he recorded all seven of his strikeouts on fastballs, which was good to see because of late his velocity had seemed to drop just a tick.

Last night was also not the only big game Hughes has pitched of late. In his last start Hughes pitched a big game vs. Baltimore. The Yankees had just lost an excruciating game the night before after a big comeback, so they really needed to bounce right back.  Hughes was solid in going six innings and allowing two runs in 8-5 Yankees victory. Also, back in August, Hughes saved the Yankees the embarrassment of being swept by Toronto by pitching a gem, as he threw 7.1 scoreless innings that game.

With Hughes’ development the starting pitching is the strength of this Yankees team. If Andy Pettitte returns to form, their top four of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Pettitte, and Hughes could be the best one through four of the potential AL playoff teams.  They will be relying on them to get into the playoffs, and if they do they cannot be counted out in October if those four pitch to their potential.

Hughes is still only 26, so he should continue to improve. If he has another good season next year it will be very intriguing what kind of contract he will receive. If I were a team with a big park I would be lining up to try to sign him. Hughes has a good deal of value now, which is good because that is more then the Yankees can say about most of their young pitchers right now. The once fragile Hughes has turned into one of the Yankees’ toughest players this season.

About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on September 14, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Nice writeup…Hughes takes an inordinate amount of crap and it seems no matter how much he improves he still gets looked at as a failure. I really wish more fans would realize the tendency for prospects to flame out/not reach their potential. It’s not exclusive to Yankeeland.
    Michael Eder over at TYA had a great piece today on Hughes an why they should try and extend him. I wouldn’t mind if they tried to lock him up at the end of the year for say, a three year deal with a team option for one or two more.
    Speaking of the way some fans view him, it was mentioned on Twitter that “Hughes sl sucks”….well here’s the opening of Eder’s article, the rest is worth a read:


    Remember when Hughes was having an ugly season? Well he’s posted a 3.46 ERA (153.1 IP) since losing the cutter, a 3.17 ERA (96.2 IP) since lowering his arm slot, and a 2.84 ERA (25.1 IP) since adding the slider.”

    Gee….when you put it that way.

  2. Hughes has really been fantastic for the Yankees this year. Is he ever going to be an “ace”? Probably not. But is Hughes a contending starter. Yes.

  3. That is like people after the 2010 season, trying to say Jeter’s season of 179 hits and 111 runs scored sucked,….. because his average was only 270, even though he led the league in plate appearances,.. and the pitching was just great.

    Jeter was 2nd in the AL with Runs, 2 behind the leader Teixeira, and 11th in hits in the AL at 179,.. and only 2 players had more than 189 hits in the AL that season

    If Jeter had squeezed out 10 more hits, what would have people said?

    Sometimes people do not see the big pitcher,.. whether it be hitting or pitching.

  4. Nice article Matt, and yeah, Hughes really has bounced back and pitched great since April. If he can pitch like this in the playoffs, hell yeah, our rotation could dominate. But ironically it’s the lineup where the Bombers’ biggest concerns are.

    CC, Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes…..awesome.

    I tabbed him as my comeback player of the year for the Yanks, and he’s all but locked that up to this point. Keep it up Phil!

    • Let’s see Pettitte pitch a couple games first injury free before we have him starting a playoff game. I feel they rushed him back to begin with.

      • Oh of course. I just think if he wasn’t ready, the Yankees wouldn’t push it. His first two starts will be half-assed with pitch his pitch count, but I think he should be okay once hes stretched out and ready to go, full speed.

  5. Hughes has done a good job of making adjustments and learning about his own strengths and limitations this season. He’s never going to be a big ground-ball pitcher with his odd-throwing motion but he’s used it to his advantage and is elevating the Fastball very well this year. I think all 7 of his strikeouts last night were on high fastballs.

    He realized his Cutter sucked so he scrapped it and realized his Curve was too slow and loopy so he started to throw it sharper and with more horizontal movement. He struggles vs RH hitters so he started throwing a Slider His change-up is still a work in progress but he’s not afraid to throw it to lefties. His command has been pretty damn good with the exception of the 1 or 2 Fastballs he leaves over the middle every game that get hit for HRs.

    The funny thing is he gets tagged by RH hitters who have a whopping .949 OPS against him vs just .592 vs LH hitters. That’s an unheard of split for a pitcher that doesn’t throw a great Changeup or Splitter. I believe the reason is his fastball runs up and away from lefties which is something they don’t usually see. If the Slider becomes a pitch that he can neutralize RH hitters with he could be a solid #3 pitcher.

    • fishjam, Hughes has done a good job this year I just don’t like his style. I would put him in a trade package next year. The Yanks will have to make some changes next year to try and get younger and address their pitching, catching and outfield. I like a rotation of CC, resign Kuroda, Nova, and Pineda. Sign a free agent like Anibal Sanchez, Shields, Jackson, Feldman, or McCarthy. Let Grandy and Swisher go and put Gardner in Cf. Sign Hamilton and either Tori Hunter,Span, Heisey, Ludwick, or Choo. Line-up 1 Jeter 2 A-Rod 3 Cano 4 Hamilton 5 Tex 6 Hunter DH 7 Choo 8 Romine 9 Gardner

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